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Brit Flop

Submitted by on February 15, 2015 – 1:29 pmNo Comment

Not long now to the Brit Awards. Feb 25th is the date for your diaries. Excited? Noel Gallagher is. He’s getting himself giddy by saying he’d rather drink petrol straight from the nozzle than listen to Alex Turner out of the Arctic Monkeys… rrrrrrrrrrrrock n rrrrrrrolll!!!! Which reminds me, our mate Rob Pollard sent us this piece reflecting on what Brit Pop might have been.

 

Britain in the 80s was a dark and violent place for the working-class. Unemployment was high and aspiration was at an all-time low. The harsh reality of Thatcher’s Britain had bitten harder than anyone could have imagined and the gloom seemed unlikely to be lifted. It’s often in times of social despair that art becomes increasingly important and for the match-going lads in late-80s Manchester who were suffering at the hands of Conservative rule, music played a huge part in breaking up the monotony of life, even it was only for fleeting, drug-fuelled moments spent in the Hacienda watching their favourite bands at the weekend.roses bw

The Stone Roses were very much part of the new scene being born in Manchester during that time. Ten years after Thatcher began ripping the spirit out of the north, they were emerging with a fresh sound that captured the imaginations of young Mancunians. Their self-titled debut album went on to become one of the most revered in modern times, with a sound which created a sense of freedom and togetherness amongst a set of young people who’d only known despair. Their early gigs are now firmly entrenched in Manchester folklore, with those in attendance united in their belief that The Roses felt like a band they owned and who spoke for them. Ian Brown’s anti-establishment attitude resonated, and the colours created by John Squire’s guitar lit up and otherwise gloomy picture. Manchester’s youth finally had something to enjoy.

Their Spike Island gig in 1990 encapsulated that sense of escapism. As 27,000 fans dressed in the kind of ‘baggy’ clothes that had become synonymous with the band crammed next to the Mersey Estuary for a performance that would be mythologised over the coming decades, a feeling of unity and happiness not present in everyday life pervaded. Ecstasy and weed flowed, and the sense of freedom not felt at music events since the 60s was far more important to those in attendance than the poor sound that was being wafted all over the place by the wind. In technical terms, the gig was a disaster; symbolically, it meant everything.

However, The Roses didn’t last, their anti-Thatcher movement curtailed by infighting and drug taking. A protracted legal battle prevented them recording for years, leaving a space for others to fill. A generation who had waited so long for a band like The Roses to save them had their heroes snatched from their grasp in no time, and the psychedelic sounds and acid-house culture that had felt so real and all-consuming died when the band went into hiding.

American grunge became prominent, but the pendulum swung back towards British music when another Manchester band, inspired by The Roses, came along and filled the void. Oasis, led by two brothers with a genuine couldn’t-give-a-fuck, wrote simple rock n roll music that celebrated working-class culture and set about romanticising parts of British life Thatcher had tried to destroy. Music had ambled along passively and submissively since The Roses’ premature death and Oasis kicked the doors down and announced their arrival with an album that stuck two fingers up to the Tory Party and set free a generation of aspiration-less young men and women.

They were joined by London’s Blur, a much more middle-class outfit, but one which rejected the Americanisation of British culture and glamourised all the great things about British style that had seemingly been forgotten. The two ended up involved in a chart battle the likes of which hadn’t been seen since The Beatles and The Rolling Stones vied for supremacy in the 60s, and Britpop was born.1404156818759_wps_19_Prime_Minister_Tony_Blair

For some, Britpop represents a period in music which saw British artists reclaim supremacy in the music charts and which was all about booting Conservative policy into the weeds and offering hope to young people who had known nothing but Thatcherism. For too long Britain had been strangled by a Tory government hellbent on destroying working-class heartlands, when all of a sudden a bunch of outsiders who had a far more acute understanding of what Great Britain represented came in and made working-class culture cooler and more authentic than the high-brow art that had for too long reigned.

Tony Blair recognised this and hung on to the coattails of Britpop, harnessing the feeling of hope and freshness that mirrored his campaign ethos. Noel Gallagher gave him a ringing endorsement at the Brit Awards in 1996, and by 1997 Labour had won a commons majority of 179 – their most comprehensive election win in history. Britpop and New Labour had seemingly destroyed the conservatives forever. Rarely had music and politics been so entwined.

For others, though, Britpop was a hugely cynical and ultimately unsuccessful period, a manufactured movement defined by middle-class appropriation of working-class culture. Rather than being a vehicle for political change, critics say it acted as a cover for the continuation and hardening of Thatcherite principals. While neoliberalism was being extended and entrenched, and Britain was being deregulated, privatised and swamped by greed, Britpop was too busy indulging in cocaine parties and enjoying photo opportunities at 10 Downing Street to do anything about it. Life, for those involved, was fun – too much fun to recognise the horrors being realised around them. Britpop and New Labour promised so much but ultimately neither delivered anything positive or long-lasting.

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