A LAZY STROLL DOWN MEMORY LANE : 45 45s AT 45 (35)

ORIGINALLY POSTED ON MONDAY 7 APRIL 2008

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The first time I can ever recall Blur was seeing their video for early single There’s No Other Way on TV and more than anything else it was made memorable by the lead singer’s truly awful bowl-style haircut. The song was no more than a standard bit of indie-pop of its time that sounded pleasant enough on the radio and gave the kids something to shuffle around to on the dance-floor. That was early 1991.

The band then disappeared off my radar and I thought nothing more of them. Then about a year later, I picked up a 12” single of theirs in a bargain-bin for 99p. It was called Popscene and it was a radical departure away from the previous single that I had known about – it was fast and dynamic with a horn section blaring away in the background and quite unlike anything else being released at that time.

Again its hard for younger readers to imagine that music fans were once completely dependant on the likes of the NME every week or Q magazine every month to keep abreast of what was happening. All I could gleam was that Blur were trying to crack America without any degree of success, and Food Records were threatening to drop them. Then I read that their second LP had been delayed, partly because sessions with Andy Partridge hadn’t worked out.

In May 1993, they released the song that I’ve selected at #35:-

mp3 : Blur – For Tomorrow

I didn’t actually buy this single – it was a time when I had stopped buying vinyl, and wasn’t prepared to be ripped off at £3/£4 for a CD single when the album would soon be available at £10-£12. So I wasn’t someone who contributed to it reaching the giddy heights of #15.

I listened a lot to the LP Modern Life Is Rubbish, and felt sorry for Blur that the success they craved and deserved continually seemed out of reach. It was a fantastically inventive LP, not unlike so many others by XTC which was hugely ironic given the sessions with Andy Partridge had been ditched in favour of working with Stephen Street of The Smiths/Morrissey fame.

But then out of seemingly nowhere monthly glossies in particular began to take an interest in the band. The fact they were articulating an argument against grunge, which was just about everywhere at the time, struck a chord with a number of emerging young journalists looking to hitch their star to a different wagon. Thus the seeds of Britpop were sewn…

The attention given to the band became justified with the release in 1994 of the single Girls And Boys, a celebration/parody of the particularly British style of hedonism known as an Club 18-30 Holiday which gave the band a Top 5 success and further platforms to slag off the influence of America on British music. Other singers and bands started doing the same – and if you want a perfect example, just check out the song The Campaign For Real Rock by Edwyn Collins – one of his finest ever recordings, and one whose lyrics became part of a series called Poems On The Underground (one of my most treasured possessions is one of the posters from the underground signed by Edwyn…tune in next Monday for more on this!!).

Blur released the LP Parklife in 1994 and went mega. Then they went head-to-head with Oasis for supremacy, and while the single Country House won the initial battle, The LP The Great Escape lost them the war.

The band went off and re-invented themselves yet again. Comeback single Beetlebum struck a chord with many, although I always found it a bit too-Beatlesque to be wholly enjoyable. Then came ‘Whoo-Hooooo. When I Feel Heavy Metal…’

Song 2 is something I will never tire of, and would probably have been the single of choice from Blur, except for one small fact.

Back in May 1994, just before Girls and Boys/Parklife took the band to new heights, myself and Mrs Villain went to see Blur at a now demolished venue called the Plaza in Glasgow. It was an old-fashioned dance hall, and not widely used by touring acts. It was one of those magical gigs where the band hit a high on the first song of the night and never let the momentum drop. The highlight however was For Tomorrow which everyone was now beginning to realise should have been a classic that hung around the charts for months, only we were all too busy either shoe-gazing or listening to Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden.

It was a genuine hairs on the back of the neck moment….and that’s why For Tomorrow got the nod over Song 2.

The irony of Somg 2 is that it became huge in the States thanks in part to its adoption by so many sports franchises as music to accompany clips played on large screens in baseball, basketball, ice hockey and American football stadia. It was maybe as well that no-one dug too deep to find the anti-American sentiments that were being expressed just a few years earlier…

Blur haven’t officially broken up. Damon has enjoyed great success with his spin-off bands, Graham has become a bit of a cult act with his solo LPs, Alex has written a book, and Dave…..well he seems to be enjoying himself in his own techie-driven world.

We might yet see another album from them in due course. Or maybe not.*

*   that was a real sitting-on the fence prediction back in 2008 wasn’t it?????

 

4 thoughts on “A LAZY STROLL DOWN MEMORY LANE : 45 45s AT 45 (35)

  1. They’re still going strong, me and the missus saw them last week in Abu Dhabi and they were superb. Played pretty much a Greatest Hits set but the highlight was This Is a Low which was spine-tingling.

  2. Yeah, very good fence-sitting indeed! I have to say though, back then I never thought they’d record together as a foursome again. If I listen to No Distance Left To Run, Damon’s love song to his lost friendship with Graham, I find it hard to imagine how they would come back from that. As time went by it seemed even less likely.

    I don’t really know how or why they started talking again after so much water under the bridge, but I’m glad they did because A) You Should Always Keep In Touch With Your Friends and B) The Magic Whip is one of this year’s best albums.

  3. Of the Partridge demo’s I’ve heard Sunday Sleep (Sunday, Sunday) is the one that shines. It’s a bit more Kinks and has a great brass section much more to the fore than the final version. What might have been…

  4. My favourite Blur song. Always thought it was a homage to the Kinks, in particular Waterloo Sunset. Damon’s lyrics conjure up similar images to Ray’s.

    I would love to have heard ‘The Lost Album’ as they’d planned it. Some of the rejected tracks that ended up as b-sides were just brilliant. Modern Life is Blur’s best album, some cracking tracks (Oily Water!), a great feel to it too. Still, I’d like to know what it could have been.

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