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Britpop - they were crazy days but they made me shine

The Charlatans were one of the most influential Britpop bands, says our music writer Annie Lees.

The Charlatans were one of the most influential Britpop bands, says our music writer Annie Lees.

  • by Annie Lees
 

I was sceptical about writing anything about this at first for the fear of it becoming just another thread enabling the Britpop naysayers, consequently completely missing the point of last week.

I can fully appreciate that it wasn’t every ones bag, and I am all for a constructive debate, but some of the negativity that has been bandied about, some quite vehemently has been bordering on extreme.

I have even read that us music writers are doing the public a disservice by revelling in nostalgia, even that nostalgia is somehow stunting the progression of modern music, I don’t quite know how that is supposed to be but, hey, an open mind is a happy mind and there is nothing like an over-thinker to kill a music buzz.

1994-1997 were special years to me, remembered with much fondness and very much moulded me into the person I am today. I am not ashamed, I have no quibbles about writing about it and telling my children about it, after all, what better gift can you instil in your kids than musical memories, the opportunity to listen to that music with their ears and broaden their musical knowledge.

Don’t get me wrong, my daughter has some iffy CDs in her collection, in between the Beatles and Verve albums I spy a Little Mix and a plethora of ‘Now’ albums. But that’s her journey, as was mine.

She makes her own choices, she has ears, but she will happily sit and flick through my ipod and is quite open to music from 20, 30, 40 years ago.

I am eternally grateful to my parents for the music knowledge they imparted down to me, I can’t claim to like everything they do but when I do hear it always pricks my interest, it’s part of who they are, their musical DNA. It’s given me a deeper knowledge and, In some ways, brought us closer, it certainly never stunted my appreciation of music as a child and I will always endeavour to do the same with my kids.

But on the flip side, and after spending many hours reading the positive blogs and articles on said anniversary, I was so overwhelmed by the heart-warming response from some people who are citing this brief window in musical history as a life-changing moment in time. And with that it seemed only apt that I drop in my two penneth.

Without this reading too much like a wedding speech, I firstly want to thank the Beeb for embracing last week with gusto. A one-off on BBC4 would have done me but to have a week’s worth of good music (and some sketchy debates) coming out of my TV and wireless was splendid.

I find the whole argument of whether Britpop was or wasn’t any good tiresome. I speak as someone in their mid-thirties who grew up in the thick of it. I speak as my mother and father speak about growing up in the 60s and 70s and how formative it was to the way they are today.

No-one is claiming that Britpop changed the world, or that before Britpop teenagers were bereft of inspiring music because we all know that simply isn’t true. If I were ten years older I would probably be writing this about the 80s.

But I’m not, I’m 34 and I think I speak on behalf of most people in my age bracket who got caught up in Britpop that, at that time and at that young age, Britpop was life changing. TO US.

I have no interest in whether or not Liam had a brew with Tony Blair, he could have been sipping margheritas with the Dalai Lama for all the impact it had on me. I couldn’t care less for band wars, inter-Britpop relationships, genres and chart positions, Britpop won us over with the music alone.

And that was the premise of the whole time for me. I was 15, I had no musical inspiration. Pop music was on thin ice as Take That were all but done. The late 80s dance scene had burned itself out and there was a gaping hole in the industry for something. Something inspirational. I hate to stereotype bands with eras but Shoegaze and Madchester had been around for some time, bubbling underground, never really hitting the mainstream.

Britpop was merely a sub-culture of that for me. How it went on and developed in such a short time after that really couldn’t have set it any further apart in the end but with bands such as Ride, The Charlatans and The Stone Roses as catalysts, the natural progression is obvious.

Now this is where I do get on my soapbox. As I said, I have no interest in genres or ‘this band weren’t Britpop because blah, blah, blah...’. Two of the first albums I purchased were Up To Our Hips and Carnival Of Light (The Charlatans and Ride respectively). Alongside Change Giver (Shed Seven), Definitely Maybe (Oasis) and Parklife (Blur). I then went on to see all of these bands live (excluding Ride) several times over the next three years. They were all out there, they were all on the front cover of the Melody Maker and more importantly they were all making records, the veterans all beautifully dovetailing in with the newbies.

They were out there one as much as the next, regardless of whether they had been around for one year or ten years. Pulp had been around since they discovered the wheel and they are topping all Britpop polls? Can you imagine that time without those records? No One To Another (Charlatans)? No Birdman (Ride)? No Sally Cinnamon (Stone Roses)? They were the very foundations of Britpop upon which bands like Oasis were forged, so without them there would have been no Britpop. They were Britpop.

But that was the beauty of the time. Many wonderful, talented excited bands falling under the Britpop umbrella. Some great, some not so great but without all of them together it wouldn’t have been quite the same.

The danger of big polls like we saw last week is stereotyping which is why I listened on happily not really paying that much attention to the numbers. It’s all opinion and mine may be only one of a small minority on such matters, but my second wedding dad-esque tip of the cap is to the bands that, in my humble opinion, were greatly overlooked last week.

I have mentioned The Charalatans, Ride and The Stone Roses, the Daddies of Britpop. But let’s take a minute for bands like The Seahorses, Kula Shaker, Dodgy, Heavy Stereo, Swervedriver, McAlmont & Butler, Kenickie, Super Furry Animals, Whiteout, The Wonder Stuff, The Levellers, Skunk Anansie, Hurricane #1, Garbage (its gone from wedding speech to Oscars acceptance speech now, I apologise) amongst so many others, but what essentially ended up being the Blur and Pulp show in BBC4’s Britpop review left me somewhat sad for those who had gone unmentioned.

I’m sure they wont lose any sleep over it, mind.

It’s been a fantastic week revelling in history. New acquaintances made, memories shared. And one thing that I have most definitely taken away with me is the knowledge that Britpop is most definitely not dead.

Annie , of Fleckney, is the Mail’s online music writer.

Follow Annie on Twitter, @Annie_beth.

 

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