The Britpop Story, BBC4

by | Aug 16, 2005 | All, Reviews

What to say if you liked it

A pertinent reappraisal of one of the most vibrant eras in British music.

What to say if you didn’t like it

A pallid reappraisal of one of the most vacuous eras in British music.

What was good about it?

• Some excellent music such as the Smiths’ The Queen Is Dead, Suede’s She’s Not Dead and Line Up by Elastica.

• John Prescott’s former aide revealing the as-yet-unelected Tony Blair’s synthetic efforts to leech off the Britpop phenomena. Blair to Damon Albarn: “Hi, I love Parklife. So what’s the scene like out there?” Although this sanguine introduction was somewhat spoilt by Alastair Campbell rudely insisting that Albarn didn’t change his views in the future and start calling Blair a “w**ker”.

• A good standard of contributor including Blur’s ex-guitarist Graham Coxon, Oasis’s

former record label boss Alan McGee, Justine Frischmann, once of Elastica, and Sleeper’s singer Louise Wener. However, Wener lost points by using the phrase “post-modern”, the fake intellectual’s badge of insincerity, nebulous nomenclature which has no meaning and no definition. Alternatively, if you know what “post-modern” actually means, email us and enlighten us (Note: this offer is not open to anyone who has actually used “post-modern” on TV, radio or in print; anyone taking or with a degree in philosophy; anyone who has ever uttered the word “eclectic”; or anyone who thinks Nietzsche was anything other than the dullest writer who ever lived. Thank-you.)

• Despite his occasional errors, John Harris was an engaging presenter who enhanced the tale with his own memories and perceptions.

What was bad about it?

• John Harris got off to a dismal start when he proclaimed Nirvana’s Nevermind was released in autumn 1992, which was a year after it actually hit the streets.

• The forced analogy between the drab music scene of the early 90s and John Major’s accession to Prime Minister.

• John Harris claiming Blur and Suede helped “throw off the dominance of Grunge”. Grunge never dominated anything other than the music press; Nirvana were undeniably magnificent, but the rest – Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots – were debilitating and dreadfully derivative and no more “dominated” the UK music scene than Mary “dominated” this year’s Big Brother. The only other decent band grouped as Grunge was Alice In Chains, but they were Heavy Metal.

• Harris not stamping down with authority on those bands who snared themselves on the coat tails of the genuinely talented bands such as Shed 7 and Menswear – a One True Voice for the Converse trainers brigade.

• In order to align, and consequently exaggerate, Oasis and Blur’s impact on the nation’s culture Harris drew a comparison between their ascension and the parallel popularity of lad’s mags like Loaded (we’ll give him that) and football (which we won’t). You can understand why there’s so much dispute over the veracity of the Bible when the history of modern culture from just a decade ago can be so warped and twisted to suit the agenda of middle-class marketing men who would have you believe that before 1993 the only people who attended football matches did so with the grime from t’coalpit still thick on their skins and schools were brimming with kids, only too eager to spend lunchtime flicking tiddlywinks, who had yet to be seduced by the “Beautiful Game” (Copyright Pele and his limited English lexicon) until the Premiership made football “sexy” again. A picture of Damon Albarn in a Chelsea kit is not the archetype of Britain’s adoration of football. Idiots.

• The programme didn’t shift outside the environs of London. Even the anecdote about Oasis focussed exclusively on their trip to Camden Town. But this is typical of all media-wrought phantasms; if it doesn’t exist in London, it doesn’t exist at all.

• “The biggest chart war in 30 years” between Blur and Oasis. If the songs had been, say, Universal and Live Forever, the hype may have been justified; but Roll With It v Country House was the musical equivalent of two babies in nursery tossing the noxious contents of their nappies at one another.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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