(Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Britpop is a subgenre of alternative rock that originated in the United
Kingdom. Britpop emerged from the British independent music scene of the
early 1990s and was characterised by bands influenced by British guitar pop
music of the 1960s and 1970s. The movement developed as a reaction
against various musical and cultural trends in the late 1980s and early 1990s,
particularly the grunge phenomenon from the United States. In the wake of the
musical invasion into the United Kingdom of American grunge bands, new
British groups such as Suede and Blur launched the movement by positioning
themselves as opposing musical forces, referencing British guitar music of the
past and writing about uniquely British topics and concerns. These bands were
soon joined by others including Oasis, Pulp, Supergrass, Sleeper and Elastica.
Britpop groups brought British alternative rock into the mainstream and formed
the backbone of a larger British cultural movement called Cool Britannia.
Although its more popular bands were able to spread their commercial
success overseas, especially to the United States, the movement largely fell
apart by the end of the decade.
Style, roots and influences
Britpop bands were influenced by British guitar music of the past, particularly
movements and genres such as the British Invasion, glam rock, and punk
rock. Specific influences varied: Blur and Oasis drew from The Kinks and The
Beatles, respectively, while Elastica had a fondness for arty punk rock.
Regardless, all Britpop artists projected a sense of reverence for the sounds of
Stylistically, Britpop bands relied on catchy hooks and wrote lyrics that were
meant to be relevant to British young people of their own generation. Britpop
bands conversely denounced grunge as irrelevant and having nothing to say
about their lives. Damon Albarn of Blur summed up the attitude in 1993 when
after being asked if Blur were an "anti-grunge band" he said, "Well, that's
good. If punk was about getting rid of hippies, then I'm getting rid of grunge." In
spite of the professed disdain for the genres, some elements of both crept into
the more enduring facets of Britpop. Noel Gallagher stated in a 1996 interview
that Nirvana's Kurt Cobain was the only songwriter he had respect for in the
last ten years, and that he felt their music was similar enough that Cobain
could have written "Wonderwall".
The imagery associated with Britpop was equally British and working class.
The Union Flag also became a prominent symbol of the movement, and its
use as a symbol of pride and nationalism contrasted deeply with the
controversy that erupted just a few short years before when former Smiths
singer Morrissey performed draped in it. The emphasis on British reference
points made it difficult for the genre to achieve success in the US.
Peak of success
Cover of the 12 August 1995 issue of NME
advertising the "British Heavyweight Championship"
battle between Oasis and Blur
A chart battle between Blur and Oasis
dubbed "The Battle of Britpop" brought
Britpop to the forefront of the British press in
1995. The bands had initially praised each
other but over the course of the year
antagonisms between the two increased.
Spurred on by the media, the groups became
engaged in what the NME dubbed on the
cover of its 12 August issue the "British
Heavyweight Championship" with the pending
release of Oasis' single "Roll With It", and
Blur's "Country House" on the same day. The
battle pitted the two bands against each
other, with the conflict as much about British
class and regional divisions as it was about music. Oasis were taken as
representing the North of England, while Blur represented the South. The
event caught the public's imagination and gained mass media attention in
national newspapers, tabloids, and even the BBC News. Blur won the battle of
the bands, selling 274,000 copies to Oasis' 216,000 - the songs charting at
number one and number two respectively.
During this time the new electioneering saw the emergence of the young
leader of the Labour Party - Tony Blair. Blair represented the new face of the
dreams and wishes of the British counterculture and many acts like Oasis
admired him. Noel Gallagher also appeared on several official meetings - even
being invited to Downing Street on one occasion, along with Alan McGee from
Creation Records - and expressed his support for Blair.