Laugh at Britpop if you will, but it was the unforgettable and glorious sound of my youth

It was confident, witty and just as much fun for girls as it was for the boys



For today’s thirtysomethings, there are few dates as culturally significant as 20 August 1995. Even if they cannot remember where they were that sunny Sunday evening – I can, I was standing over the radio in the kitchen, listening to Mark Goodier and giving my sister a Chinese burn – they will remember which side they were on.

Blur vs Oasis was the cultural battle of, if not a generation, then certainly of a few balmy weeks around GCSE results day. Never mind that the two candidates for No 1, “Country House” and “Roll with It”, represented the banal, nah-nah-nah nadir of both bands’ magisterial output.

Never mind that the Nine O’Clock News reported on the “chart showdown”, thus setting in motion the decline of an only ever mildly rebellious indie movement that would puff itself out two summers later with Noel Gallagher sipping champagne flanked by Tony Blair and Mick Hucknall at Downing Street. Never mind that the vast majority of Britpop fans, including me and my sister, at daggers drawn that night, really quite liked both bands. You had to pick a side, and in doing so, define yourself.

Were you Blur – wry, southern, cocky, melodic? Or Oasis – epic, northern, cocky, melodic? These, for better or worse, are the binary spats on which identity and culture are built. Mod or rocker. Beatles or Stones. Coronation Street or EastEnders.

What is there for the youth to take sides on today? Hot vampire vs hot werewolf. X Factor winner vs novelty Christmas record. Towie vs MIC. There are no chart battles, only the Wanted and One Direction trading PG insults on Twitter. Or maybe I’m just old. Certainly I am the right age to be excited by the news this week that Oasis might reform to play Glastonbury in June. Blur did it in 2009: there is a score to settle.

If Britpop looks a bit daft today, 20 years on from the release of its seminal album Parklife, which pop culture phenomenon doesn’t, two decades on? And Britpop was a phenomenon, arguably the last significant movement in UK music. It was confident, witty, democratic and just as much fun for girls as it was for boys.

During the years between 1994 and 1996, there was an explosion of new guitar bands the likes of which has not been seen since. Ash, Bluetones, Cast, Dodgy, Echobelly, Feeder, Gene, Kula Shaker, Lush, Menswear, Northern Uproar, Pulp, Rialto, Supergrass, the Verve... Indie misfits became the mainstream and Britpop was everywhere.

It filled the shelves at Woolworths, the covers of magazines and endless episodes of The O Zone. It finagled its way on to the evening news, into stately homes and, on one absurd evening at the Brits, Michael Jackson’s stage.

For a 14-year-old with a poster of Damon at the dog track above my bed, Liam at Knebworth on my wardrobe and a pencil case covered in Tippexed band logos, this was a thrilling state of affairs. As a schoolgirl in Cheshire, the druggy, empty realities of the Camden scene – exhaustively relived by its various players these past few anniversary weeks – meant nothing to me. The Dublin Castle and the Good Mixer might as well have been in the Maldives. I simply loved the songs and loved the mouthy boys in parkas and mouthy girls in slogan T-shirts who sang them. A lot of the time they made me laugh.

It is tempting to look back and decry Britpop; even the name is naff. Its critics will dismiss it as throwaway, or worse, backward-looking and brattish. Perhaps. It was also the music of my teens and, like most adolescent choices, does not bear too much adult scrutiny. Menswear and Kula Shaker are best forgotten. Suede, Blur and Pulp still sound magnificent.

Oasis, if they do play Glastonbury this summer, will be as much of a teary triumph as their old rivals were five years ago. Because once upon a time, they spoke to me and to thousands of other teenagers. I can’t really remember what they said, or whether any of it meant anything, but the beauty of pop music is that that does not matter one bit.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executive - Call Centre Jobs

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Day In a Page

Read Next

i Editor's Letter: A royal serving the nation

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
David Cameron met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko prior to the start of the European Council Summit in Brussels last month  

David Cameron talks big but is waving a small stick at the Russian bear

Kim Sengupta
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn