Fun Friday: Britpop: Why Michael Hann from The Guardian doesn’t quite understand it.

Alternative Title: Come and ‘ave a go if u think ur ‘ard enuff.

So I so this article: Britpop: A cultural abomination that set music back.

Wow. Now that is a statement.

One that I’m going to argue against venomously.

So going to take you back to the Summer of ’94. It was glorious weather, listening to music, riding my bike and eating blue ice pops. While I can guarantee you I do this age 25 now, aged 15 ten years ago, I was actually aged 5 in the Summer of ’94 (however it proves the point that no one really changes). So how can make an argument for something I didn’t experience as an adult.

At the time I wasn’t really aware of the whole music battle, Oasis v Blur, the style, the culture. All I knew, in that more simple time, was the songs came on the local radio station and I liked them. Especially Country House. I remember singing that one very very loudly. And as an adult I looked into the music of that era more and found myself liking more than I disliked. Hence I became a fan of Britpop music, the reason Ms Kesby linked me to the article. So here is my response as an adult, and a fan, of Britpop music.

(At this point I would like to state I am a Guardian reader, I’m not just disliking them because I’m part of the Daily Mail lot)

So the best place to start is at the beginning. But when is the beginning of Britpop? In the article 3 separate possible starts of Britpop are given; The cover from Select in 1993, the release of Parklife in 1994 or, the most controversial, the 1990 World Cup. Apparently the release of World in Motion by New Order was the first note ringing in the Britpop Era. According to the author it was the perfect combination of Beer, music, football and fashion. Actually the perfect combination of the above is Three Lions
. Whatever your opinion on the best football-beer-chant unlike the authors opinion I think the more reasonable start day for Britpop is somewhere in 1993, as it’s impossible to give a specific date.

Can we also look into more detail to the two bands that have already been mentioned, New Order and Lightening Seeds . Both were formed in the 80’s, released songs in that decade, gained a fan base in that decade yet had their biggest hits in the 90’s and have been claimed for Britpop by the author. It doesn’t look like the author look into the culture of Britpop. He just created his own definition. As one commenter on the Guardian website posted

Whose bright idea was it to mark the anniversary of a period in music that many people cherished with a piece by someone who clearly despised it?

The example he uses seem to not be the defining Britpop bands but just bands he seems to remember from that time. I would say it was lazily researched but I’ve been researching this blog post for about 2 weeks so I can back up my arguments, so I’m guessing he did no research at all. If he had done as much research as me I might not have felt so strongly against his argument because I would have felt it was reasonably researched.

Hann states that Britpop became a

grotesque simplification

And yet his own wording made Britpop a culture of music, football and beer. Last week BBC Radio 6 voted Common People</a> as the greatest song of the Britpop era. This is the point Hann seems to be missing. The music was for the people who had been let down by society at large, the common people

dance and drink and screw because there’s nothing else to do

Hann appears to associate Britpop with Football Hooligans and the lad culture. In fact, with the exception Pulp and Blur, the bands he mentions seems to have more in common with the Madchester Scene of the very late 80’s and early 90’s. This was a slightly different scene but in essence they came out if the same feeling. Britpop, and to an extent Madchester, and the culture created was about the people who understood the lyrics about council houses, drugs, drinking, cigs and the hopelessness felt by the people who missed out of the affluent 80’s. The 80’s that happened in London and “down south” involved yuppies, high fashion, Thatcher and the market boom. Elsewhere in the country we had the strikes, job loses, Thatcher and evictions. Notice the one thing common. But that’s an argument for another day. Hann himself makes reference to the caricature of

council flats, bad drugs and transgressive sex

and yet immediately try’s to distance Pulp from this statement. Yes his comment they were arch and wry is correct but in The Professional Cocker sings

I’m only trying to give you what you’ve come to expect.
Just another song about single mothers and sex.

Yes it may have been said a little bit with the tongue in cheek bit even at Pulps 2011 Leeds and Reading performances Cocker described Something’s Changed as

the closest thing [we perform] to a love song

This isn’t hearts, peace and love. This is reality.

When I went to watch the Manic Street Preachers the other month when they played Design for Life and If you Tolerate This (Your Children Will Be Next) they announced it as “songs from our Britpop era”. They didn’t make this a negative or a positive but that is how the band themselves described them. But the thing is I think they still relate to the genre because the Video links that they had before the show started and in between songs was showing a village in Wales that had been effected by the mining strikes in the 80’s. The boarded up houses, the abandoned mine buildings with the keep out signs on the wire fences, the feeling of a ghost town, it was something that echoed around Yorkshire.

Once again with the exception of Blur (once again, they are the exception that proves the rule) the majority of the bands that found mainstream success in the Britpop Era were “Northern”. I use this term loosely as I am aware that Manic Street Preachers are Welsh. Almost using it in the sense that London uses it which is anything above the M25 is “Northern”. Which brings me back to Mr Hann. I believe the reason he seems disinterested in Britpop is because he didn’t understand it. Yes there is North/South divide in this country and Britpop is just another incarnation of it.

Going back to Common People been voted by BBC Radio 6 as the best song of Britpop its a good point to mention this song never got to Number 1 in the chart. It was kept of the top spot by Robson & Jerome (another thing we can blame on Simon Cowell). Britpop wasn’t every bodies cup of tea when it was popular and I’m not trying to convince people to like it. But I think it’s significance is vastly underplayed and under appreciated. But music goes in phases. There was a backlash against guitar led groups in the late 90’s and sugar pop took over. Think of Spice Girls, S Club 7, Steps and their America sisters Britney Spears and Christina Aguleria. Just as Britpop named British Invasion bands as their influence (although granted oasis comparing themselves to The Beatles was the main offender) we have a generation of band now that were inspired by Britpop.

Lastly Hann mentions an equality that was created by Britpop,

one of the ironies of Britpop is that women did take a prominent role, even in the music of the lad

Really? Apart from Candida Doyle can anybody else name a prominent woman in Britpop? Please comment if you can.

So Mr Hann, Britpop was an abomination? I disagree, your just doing it wrong.


4 thoughts on “Fun Friday: Britpop: Why Michael Hann from The Guardian doesn’t quite understand it.

  1. This is a much more eloquent reply then I ever imagined i would get! And I agree with it all. Especially with the bit about me being wonderful…

    On another note, I’m gonna have Country House stuck in my head for fucking weeks – which is actually a good thing!

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