The Battle of Britpop

These days I like to think that I’ve acquired quite a broad musical taste, but I still find myself returning to the songs and artists which I grew up on. For me, that was music of the Britpop era. Being born in Ireland in the mid-1980s meant that by the time I reached ten I was right smack in the middle of Britpop Mania. This was during the summer of 1995 and I remember my musical eyes being opened wide thanks to The Battle of Britpop – the chart war between the rough-and-tumble Mancunians Oasis against the clever-clog ‘mockneys’ of Blur. Politically, Ireland may have been working hard to secure peace between its North and South, but for a ten-year-old me, the only North-South divide I cared for was that of English pop music. Oasis from the North against Blur from the South.

At lunch time in the school yard small arguments would break out between Blur and Oasis fans. I was always a Blur fan, but I kept tight-lipped for fear of standing-out. My school was one where football came first, and for the last five years it seemed that everyone had followed Manchester United. A team who, over that period, had bounced back-and-fourth between first and second place in the English Premier League. At lunchtime the schoolyard would be a red sea of United Jerseys, and a giddy crowd of ten-year-old boys would form circles in the yard and start chanting the words to Roll With It by Manchester local-boys Oasis. I’d like to say that I stood nobly by my boys Blur but the truth was I was young and starting to learn about how great music could be. I’d cheer along with the rest of them, then run home quickly and secretly practice the lyrics to Blur’s Country House from a stolen copy of my sister’s Smash Hits magazine.

In the end, Blur were the band who would win The Battle of Britpop – their single outsold Oasis by 58,000 copies. But when Blur won the battle they would go on to lose the war, as Oasis’ album (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? would greatly outsell Blur’s The Great Escape. Perhaps, the real victory though was for us, the ten-year-old boys who got to learn to love music at such an exciting time. When writing this, I went back to check if all my dates were correct and found out that  The Battle of Britpop actually took place in August of 1995, a time when I wouldn’t have been in a school yard. I still clearly remember a Blur / Oasis rivalry and the crowds of kids singing Roll With It in the playground, but nostalgia seems to have gotten hold of my memory and allowed me to re-imagine much of what happened at the time. Still, if the soundtracks this good I think I’m happy to let it.

How about you – Blur or Oasis?

Philip

February 7, 2011