7
Feb 14

BLUR – “Beetlebum”

Popular103 comments • 9,426 views

#758, 1st February 1997

Beetlebum The question “what happens after Britpop?” wasn’t just an urgent one for the music press and the new bands courting it. It was also fairly pressing for the Britpop bands themselves, Blur in particular. Whoever’s idea it had been, the marketing triumph of Summer ’95 had a lingering and unexpected consequence: once conjured, the Blur/Oasis rivalry could not be easily controlled. The two bands were now bound together as if by some dreadful oath – each liable to be measured on the other’s latest achievements, however irrelevant the comparison.

In 1996 this had done Blur no favours. Sales of The Great Escape would have stood solidly alongside any contemporary LP – except the only one it would actually be compared to. The band, once fawned-over, found themselves exposed to less generous readings from critics – their Britpop-era work a trilogy that had dragged on too long and failed to stick the landing.

“Beetlebum”, when it first appeared, was pressed into this storyline too. Taking some faint clue from the harmonies (and, to be fair, the title) I remember some critics positioning it as a landgrab on White Album-era Beatles: the knotty, raw, arty part of the Beatle legacy that Oasis would never touch. Sense prevailed when the LP came out, and it became more obvious that the band were playing greedy catch-up with all the ideas that had come out of American indie rock in the 90s. They came to bury Britpop, not to extend it.

From this point, the Oasis link began to work in their favour, even as they played it down. Nobody would deny that in the fallout of Britpop, Damon Albarn embraced his magpie side and started hopping across projects and genres with liberated abandon. But because the band most easily linked with Blur became such a byword for bloody-minded non-invention, Albarn’s experimentation within that band was cast in a particularly friendly light. If the most readily-recalled alternative was a shambolic living museum, it’s easy to look at experimenting with indie rock, post-rock or gospel as good things by definition, rather than ask “OK, what does he actually do with them?”

So, on “Beetlebum”, what does he do with his inspirations? On a structural level, it’s rather good: Blur are writing a song using standard post-Nirvana dynamics, with surly, choppy verses that ought to flare into rage on the chorus, but instead bloom into sleepy, burnt-out neo-psychedelic harmonies. Two different parts of the alt.rock landscape, brought together on a Number One hit. It’s admirable and effective, but I also find “Beetlebum” extremely hard to like.

My problem with it is Albarn himself. As well as the social observation songs, and the character songs, he’s always built tracks around ennui and exhaustion, and often they’re his best (“To The End” and “This Is A Low” for instance). As his songwriting seemed to get more personal later in the 90s, though, I found less of a way into these songs. Perhaps because he’d been an effective observer, or perhaps just because he’d been a callous one, I could never get invested in hearing Damon Albarn bare his soul. “Beetlebum” is supposedly written to capture Albarn’s experiences with heroin, which might justify its sullen, self-enclosed feel, but even given that unpromising topic there’s no rock junkie whose drug memories I’d be less interested in. As I said on the “Country House” thread, empathy was never his strong suit – and that goes for eliciting it as well as feeling it.

However unusually-crafted “Beetlebum” is, or however odd seeing it at No.1 was (odd, though not unexpected – this is a fanbase record in an era friendly to them), I find listening to it a cold, unrewarding experience. Or I would, if not for one thing: Graham Coxon’s aggressive guitar work. Competing with Albarn’s listless vocal for too much of the song, he still gives “Beetlebum” its two highpoints. There’s that purposefully ugly, stabbing intro, his guitar scraping at a fixed point like a compass into wood. And there’s the coda, where his plaintive closing riff struggles to keep its bearings on a tide of hostile, skronky overdubs. These parts are thrilling where the rest of the song is sulky, and point to a way out of the Britpop trap that’s spurred by invention, not hurt pride.

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Comments

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  1. 31
    Rory on 7 Feb 2014 #

    All this talk of the influence of Pavement on this track, and nobody’s mentioning the influence of Reykjavik? True, there are other tracks on Blur where the influence is a bit more overt (or so it seemed to me at the time), but the album always conjured up Iceland more for me than America, country stylin’s notwithstanding. An imagined Iceland, sparse, cold, glacial, punctuated by hot springs and volcanic eruptions, with occasional (woo-hoo!) Vikings.

    I was totally absorbed by “Beetlebum” at the time; it seemed the best kind of sharp left turn, and a fine new direction. The album was a mixed bag, though; on some tracks it was a 180-degree turn back to some of the sounds of Leisure, on others it just fell flat. Nowadays the only tracks I have much time for are its singles and “Death of a Party”.

    Still, “Beetlebum” sounds good to me, and I think I’d give it the edge on “Song 2”, though as I always listen to them together I never have to choose. I like Albarn’s woozy vocals, I like Coxon’s riffs, I like the synths insinuating themselves into it at the two-minute mark, I like its echoes of raw Beatles, and I love the last two minutes. 9.

  2. 32
    Rory on 7 Feb 2014 #

    #29 “shame they never made a seventh album” – oi!

  3. 33
    AMZ1981 on 8 Feb 2014 #

    I remember reading at the time that when Blur arrived to promote the new album in Israel that country’s cultural minister attacked the band for not being Britpop anymore. I don’t think it was clear at the time that the first wave of Britpop was over and that what worked in 1995/6 wouldn’t work in 1997. I think there were a lot of people whose reaction the album was `what the hell are they doing`.

    Beetlebum is not my favourite Blur song, not is it my least favourite. I prefer it to Song 2 (which I never liked) but my two favourite tracks on the fifth album are Death Of A Party and Strange News From Another Star, both non singles.

    Interesting Blur headed a top 40 that week which featured quite a lot of new entries from British guitar bands. Placebo were in at four with Nancy Boy (perhaps a better indicator of where alternative music was heading) and lower down you had Skunk Anansie (a band I always thought should have been bigger), Gene and the Boo Radleys.

    #26 Beetlebum wasn’t quite the biggest nosedive by a number one single – Iron Maiden went 1-9-32 but did have the buffer of an extra week at number one. Three weeks in the top forty by a number one would not happen again until 2005 and a bigger dive would not occur until 2007.

    And finally, Blur probably wouldn’t have appreciated the comparison but they were not the first band to re-invent themselves at the height of their success in order to avoid becoming a parody of themselves. I don’t want to bunny but next chart topper bar one …

  4. 34
    Billy Hicks on 8 Feb 2014 #

    Nah. Nothing special, nothing to hook me, in general not an Blur era I’m fond of. Even Song 2 was (and continues to be) overplayed so much hearing it now is less like listening to a song and more a two-minute cliche. Either that or an advert soundtrack.

    They bounced back in 1999 with Tender and Coffee & TV though, up there with their best. As mentioned earlier a frustratingly hit and miss band, they go from massively moving me to irritating the hell out of me.

  5. 35
    Elmtree on 8 Feb 2014 #

    For me, a big part of its charm is that it’s not a song obviously crafted to be a megahit. It feels like one of those tracks in the middle of an album that everybody who comes across it loves and wishes was better known (hi, He Thought of Cars) got promoted to lead single: a real demonstration that Blur had confidence in their fanbase and lot of confidence in what they were doing. Or maybe Albarn just wanted it at the top of the release schedule because it was all about him.

    I wonder what Noel thought when he heard it-did he care how smoothly superior it sounded to tracks he still had time to tinker with? Was he too coked up to take it seriously?

  6. 36
    Garry on 8 Feb 2014 #

    In 1997 I joined the student radio station at the University of New England in Armidale, NSW. One of the first things I did was to search for all Blur albums thus released. Unfortunately all albums released between 1994 and 1997 and of any decent quality had been nicked.

    It would take me a few years before hearing an entire album, starting with Parklife and the Great Escape. Even now Blur and 13 are the two albums I am least familiar.

    Of the self-titled album, Beatlebum passed us by. I remember hearing M.O.R. but I mostly remember Song 2. And I mostly played Song 2 – it shared a floppy disc with a bunch of promos for use in the cart machine. It became out default time-out track for those announcers who got their sums wrong and had an odd couple of minutes before the end of their shift.

    I didn’t really register Beatlebum until I saw the clip. My memories are the framing camera shots and Alex James, slouching around, summing up the entire feel of the track. James scared me when I first saw it, while somehow the other three simple didn’t register. There was something uncaring, self-destructive there. No hint of cheese or exquisite bass work from Thinktank.

    The song itself is fine, and strangely distinctive in an era of guitars – I see there are several coming up in the next couple of years. But it’s not one of my favourite Blur tracks. I’m glad Blur got a second number one, but I am surprised to learn it was this.

  7. 37
    swanstep on 8 Feb 2014 #

    For all its timely Beatles and US influences, ‘Beetlebum’ has always struck me, both musically and lyrically, as at bottom a reworking of Blur’s first single ‘She’s So High’ (and I dare say that SSH’s 12″ B-side ‘Sing’ is abstractly paired with ‘Song 2’). And that’s to say that B is a return to Blur’s pre-Brit-pop roots, and a dialing back of their Kinks influence more than the radical left turn it’s sometimes felt to be. More dissolute and sinister than SSH (here the gal’s not just hopelessly high, you are and she’s shooting you up), B is also a lot less catchy than SSH, hence all the remarks that it feels more like an album track than a single. My experience is that B never sounds good when listened to in isolation, but that it sounds better and better when you listen to it either repeatedly or in sequence with lots of other Blur stuff (recreating an album-like context for it). Tom’s score of 5 seems to me about right or even a little generous for the first, radio-style impression that B leaves, whereas a high 7 seems right once I give it a long, album-like ride through headphones. All Blur fans of course follow the latter course with the track, but this seems a little unfair since every other #1 has to make its own bones. It’s a frustrating situation, so I give B a compromise rating:
    6

  8. 38
    23 Daves on 8 Feb 2014 #

    #19 I’d agree with the ‘winter’ feel of the single absolutely. In fact, it brings back some very specific memories for me. Around this point, I lived within walking distance of my place of employment. Well, I say “walking distance” – any reasonable person would have taken the bus rather than traipsed for forty five minutes across London in the winter morning and again in the evening, but I was broke and needed to save money any way I could. During those horribly cold days when my face would go numb, which only felt harsher the closer you got to the Thames, there were incredible amounts of flyposters for “Beetlebum” everywhere. Somebody at EMI had obviously dropped a lot of banknotes into the hands of some shady flyposting organisation. They were in some fairly unlikely places, too, for example under the railway bridges near Clapham Junction on Latchmere Road (in other words, not just Camden or areas near gig venues and record shops).

    On top of that, I think this single had a “99p during its first week of sale” deal going on, so its sudden topple from 1 to 7 in the charts makes total sense. Loads of hype + cheap first week of sale + fan base eager for new material = in-and-out number one hit, of which there would be many more to come in the future from other acts. After all the effort, it probably would have been deeply embarrassing for everyone concerned if this hadn’t knocked White Town off the top. When I heard the chart rundown on Radio One the week after this was number one, I actually thought there had to be a mistake – surely no record could topple from the top that quickly?

    Does anyone else remember Chris Evans’ response the first time he played it on the radio as well? I don’t know if he was otherwise distracted, but there was an awkward bit of silence and then he said “and that was… er… Blur’s new single?” then there was no further comment on the matter. I must admit the first time I heard this I didn’t really ‘get it’ either, it took another couple of listens to really begin to love it. Plus unfortunately, it’s one of those records which doesn’t seem to reveal its potential through a tinny transistor alarm radio, which is surprising given its lo-fi elements.

  9. 39
    Another Pete on 8 Feb 2014 #

    It may of reached number 1 on the 1st February but the coldness as mentioned at #19 and Rory’s imagined Iceland #31 plus that plodding repetitive bass counting down the days to payday makes this sound like the audio equivalent of January. A brave choice for a lead single that paid off especially given how later singles from this album On your own and M.O.R. could be considered more transitional from their last album. I always thought the reason Song 2 wasn’t released as the lead single was to avoid a ‘Madness of King George’ non-existent prequel situation. 7

  10. 40
    leveret on 8 Feb 2014 #

    Oof, (5), that’s harsh! Very harsh. I can’t get my head around that. To me, this was a blessed relief from the gor-blimey, luv-a-duck music hall tendencies of the Great Escape era, although the following album was very patchy. It might not be Blur’s very best single, but it’s certainly the prettiest. So many great elements in this – the chugging intro, the burbling analogue synth that surfaces just before the 2 minute mark, the glide into ‘..and when she lets me slip away’, the melancholic chorus that manages to retain the Kinks influence without the twee elements Blur were sometimes prone to borrow from 60s English pop, the woozy extended outro. A gorgeous record. (9).

  11. 41
    Ed on 8 Feb 2014 #

    @28, @34: I am pleased I am not the only one to have nice things to say about Tender, which is one of my absolute favourite Blur songs, up there with – and the antithesis to – Girls and Boys.

    I have never been a huge Blur fan, but watching Damon Albarn grow up in public has been strangely compelling; partly because we are roughly the same age, I guess. The mournful disillusioned songs are more potent because we’ve heard the bouncy cheery ones that came first, and the early songs are more poignant in retrospect because we know what’s coming next.

    I am sad that we won’t be getting to Tender on Popular – like Beetlebum, it was another bizarre irruption into the charts – although by the sounds of it I should be glad that Tom won’t be giving full rein to his opinion of it. It was kept off the top by a very worthy bunny, though.

  12. 42
    Query on 8 Feb 2014 #

    It should be noted that 60s influences were a common thread in a lot of American indie rock of the early and mid-1990s. The already-mentioned Elephant 6 are a particularly good example – especially The Olivia Tremor Control, of course – and the very influential Dinosaur Jr. are another. Even lo-fi stalwarts like Guided by Voices wore their Kinks love firmly on their sleeves, noticeably so in the classic Bee Thousand (1994). In that sense the Beatles pastiche in ‘Beetlebum,’ whether direct or indirect, is particularly ‘clear’ but not unusual.

  13. 43
    Tom on 8 Feb 2014 #

    #41 I don’t like “Tender” but I don’t hate it as much as Matt DC does – I just couldn’t resist a cheap dig at its chorus. In fact, I think I actually bought it, unheard, just because it was 99p on cassingle and I was interested in what a Blur song called “Tender” would sound like. It struck me at the time as an OK knock-off of Spiritualized, maybe if I went back to it now – having not listened to Spiritualized in years – I’d hear more there, or at least hear how it uses gospel differently (as it doubtless does).

    It’s been interesting on this thread hearing people talk about how they preferred New Blur and found Damon’s journey into maturity compelling or sympathetic – it’s forced me to think a bit harder about why I feel the opposite, or at least, why I don’t give him the benefit of my very large doubts.

    First off there’s a “what do I want from Damon Albarn?” question. I read somewhere – maybe it was a point Bowiesongs made – about the occasional attempts to market Bowie with “now here’s the real Bowie” style moves, the chameleon at last takes off his mask etc etc. And the problem with those is, why do I want to see the real Bowie?, his career has been built on a demonstration that (in his case) artifice and artfulness is more interesting than being ‘personal’. And I get a similar feeling with Albarn – the relative success of Albarn as cynical observer and pastiche merchant makes me care all the less about the Real Damon and his Big Feelings.

    Second, there’s a wider issue, which is that the big feelings of twenty- and thirty-something rock dudes are the most overvalued coin in the music world, at least critically. But I’ll try to leave critical profile out of it. It seems to me, though, that there is a set of tropes associated with the now-see-the-real-me move – slow, self-serious songwriting; more direct and plain-spoken language, a move instrumentally away from ‘mere’ rock or pop, stripping things down and/or borrowing from other music, particularly older and religious traditions. To its credit “Beetlebum” doesn’t do much of this, but “Tender” certainly does. These are tropes I’ve never liked, as a glance at entries for “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, “Imagine” etc shows! – so I know this is a big aesthetic blindspot for me, which a lot of people don’t share.

    (Though actually this makes me realise again what a fantastic record “Like A Prayer” is – it’s a now-for-the-real-me move which slows things down, reaches for gospel, gets serious, and then becomes an amazing disco party anyway.)

    And the third thing is Damon’s voice, which was never my favourite part of Blur anyhow, but becomes really grating for me around this time. 1997 was also when diffident indie singing – which had always been there and will always be there – stopped being something I ignore or listen past and started becoming an actual deal-breaker for a lot of bands. That’s partly down to my own tastes changing, but in the mid-90s indie rock gets infected by a case of the Buckleys which it’s never quite shaken – and high-register singing as a way of conveying quite how sad and serious the vocalist is really comes in.

    (There are big exceptions to all this – no preference is entirely watertight – but thinking about what I like those are the best reasons I can come up with for why post-Great Escape Blur is SUCH a turn off.)

    (“Coffee And TV” is lovely, though.)

  14. 44
    Tom on 8 Feb 2014 #

    (& I get one more chance to come to terms with Damon Albarn on a #1 hit record, so this story might yet have a happy ending…)

  15. 45
    Auntie Beryl on 8 Feb 2014 #

    #44 He’s tenuously connected with another. He’s in the video and made the tea, I think.

  16. 46
    Rory on 9 Feb 2014 #

    Re Swanstep @37, I’ve been conscious in this 95-97 era that some of my ratings are those of a fan, particularly for the Blur and Prodigy tracks; it’s hard not to end up at 9+ when they’re tracks you’d “never tire of hearing” and “certainly own”. But others are no doubt doing similar with their own fan favourites, so I figure it all comes out in the wash – and someone has to represent the fan’s side in the scoring. And why not, for these fan-driven number ones?

    I’m thinking I should expand on my Iceland point: I felt that way at the time because it was a point of note in some reviews that this and the album were recorded in Reykjavik as well as London, which prompted speculation about how the place had influenced the sound. A bit like how Band on the Run is forever linked with Lagos.

  17. 47
    Conrad on 9 Feb 2014 #

    I like this one. Up there with There’s No Other Way and Girls and Boys. I preferred them doing syd barrett, suited Albarn’s English whimsy voice. They got very very boring around this point though, the LP was an unlistenable dredge.

  18. 48
    Conrad on 9 Feb 2014 #

    The Beatles references – the acapella chorus lead-in is mores why don’t we do it in the road, than don’t let me down, although the overall feel is more the latter

  19. 49
    tm on 9 Feb 2014 #

    ” the big feelings of twenty- and thirty-something rock dudes are the most overvalued coin in the music world, at least critically” Christ didn’t we learn this lesson painfully over the 17 years between then and now. That and the one about the high vocals and the slow songs and…the horror, the tepid beige earnest horror…

  20. 50
    Ed on 10 Feb 2014 #

    @49 That’s funny: I was about to say exactly the opposite! I agree that rock dudes’ big feelings were a dominant presence from – when? Bob Dylan, I guess. But it felt like this was precisely the period when they were becoming almost entirely irrelevant.

    Perhaps I can only say that because I have barely listened to any Coldplay – I know the Kraftwerk-y one, and the other one – and I am not sure I even know the name of that group that had the song that was played on the X Factor a lot. Snow Patrol?

    So I am prepared to believe that my impressions are not necesarily an accurate representation of the state of the culture.

    But IIRC, there is some actual data that proves by science that rock’s presence in the charts fell off dramatically after the 90s. I am not saying that made the charts better, or worse, or that it made rock better or worse. But I think it does show that rock’s power as a cultural force was fading fast. More on this coming up very soon….

  21. 51
    Ed on 10 Feb 2014 #

    Here you go. I knew it was here somewhere: http://freakytrigger.co.uk/ft/2013/11/pop-science/

  22. 52
    Tom on 10 Feb 2014 #

    I think there HAS been a drop-off – to the extent that the hunt for Big Dude Feelings these days bypasses rock entirely (hi Drake!) which is progress of a sort. But the best-reviewed album of 1997 was OK Computer, and The Boatman’s Call (a classic “time to get personal move” too) wasn’t far behind, not to mention Spiritualized and a bunnied band coming up later this year. It was a pretty good year to be an (alternative) rock dude with feels.

  23. 53
    Tom on 10 Feb 2014 #

    It *is* interesting tho how in the 00s rock dude feels lose their critical respectability to an extent but remain very firmly popular – Travis, Coldplay, Snow Patrol were all huge (Snow Patrol’s big hits are proper chart monsters which we won’t be covering here only because the singles chart got so bad at picking up on drivetime radio slow-burn hits – one of them shows up as a cover, though.)

  24. 54
    Ed on 10 Feb 2014 #

    It is interesting, yes. Hypothesis: men have emotions that traditional models of masculinity make it difficult for them to express, or maybe even understand. So there is a perennial demand – and indeed need – for music to help them deal with those feelings, regardless of critical fashion, or other social and cultural changes.

  25. 55
    Fivelongdays on 10 Feb 2014 #

    Not much I can say about this one that hasn’t already been said. I rather like it, and it seemed like they were doing something different. Something as relatively uncommercial as this getting to number one – and just after dear old White Town, too – made 14-year-old me (who was in the grasp of the start of what would be his own personal I’m Alternative, Me era – see my comment on the Stiltskin thread if you really want to know) rather happy. And we all thought the title was a swipe at Oasis. Come on! We were rude provincial teenagers, not a smart, sophisticated urbanite, like wot Damon Albarn was.

    7.

  26. 56
    hardtogethits on 10 Feb 2014 #

    #43, Tom – your fourth paragraph is spot on – there clearly is an emerging core set of “real me” characteristics for the songwriter – and that’s what I was trying to describe in the thread on Forever Love, and the way it took its cues from Jesus To A Child. It seems the plaintive sincerity of JTAC reaches out to many, and fair enough. Furthermore, it clearly satisfies the ‘authenticity’ requirement that many people seek, too. I wonder if, in the case of JTAC, it’s the depth of personal experience* on display which overcomes the “slow, self-serious songwriting; more direct and plain-spoken language, a move instrumentally away from ‘mere’ rock or pop, stripping things down and/or borrowing from other music, particularly older and religious traditions.” – setting it apart from Bridge Over Troubled Water; Imagine etc?

    *is ‘pain’ too simple a word?

  27. 57
    Tom on 10 Feb 2014 #

    George M did his big “real me” move with Listen Without Prejudice years earlier I think – JTAC has the serious subject matter and big feels but it’s a slow jam synth track at heart and (as I tried to get across in the review) what sets it apart is that the music it reaches for is very much earthly – a slow bossa nova I.e a dance tune: that sense of movement is the making of the track musically (keeps it interesting) and thematically (instead of being a move away from pop into feels its the reverse – using a music of the body to begin a process of recovery) (cf my Like A Prayer comments – salvation via pop gets the big Tom scores; running from it into the authentic doesn’t)

  28. 58
    Cumbrian on 10 Feb 2014 #

    One of the great things about coming here to discuss music is that, sometimes, when I’m really struggling to order my words, someone will articulate what I’m feeling better than you ever could. When it comes to Beetlebum (and Blur post TGE) I concur with pretty much everything that thefatgit said at #27 – though I don’t agree about Song 2.

    Also, I thought the dead cut of the (as mentioned elsewhere) brilliant coda sounds more like someone belching.

    As this is it for Blur, as far as #1 singles go, there’s a few other things that I have been wrestling with. I can’t agree with what seems to be the general consensus that the self titled album is patchy at best and rubbish at worst. It’s probably the one of their albums I listen to the most. Essex Dogs (is he taking Jarvis on at his own game here?), Death of a Party, Strange News From Another Star, You’re So Great plus Beetlebum are all excellent in my view. I don’t think the album was well served by its singles but even those are good for giving Graham his due. 13 is even better in some respects but not something that I listen to as frequently – rightly or wrongly, I find that Blur to be easier to start to listen to with some of the more difficult stuff backloaded, so I am warmed up for it. 13 has Tender right up front (but goes on too long) and then is a bit more strange almost straightaway, so I find I need to actually make an effort to sit and listen to it. It does have my favourite Blur track on it though – Trimm Trabb just builds and builds and builds until it rocks out hard at the end and Graham’s guitar sounds like a dying moose.

    In the end, I probably saw Blur 2 or 3 times live. The last was a revelation though. I managed to score a ticket to one of the 5 gigs they played in support of Think Tank at the (dearly departed) Astoria*. Without Graham, and with bunny Simon Tong on guitar, they totally re-ordered the sound from the times I had seen them previously – when they had been quite balanced. Now the guitar was way at the back and Alex was the lead instrumentalist. It was superb, really pushing his basslines up to the front and showcasing how good he could be. About the only guitar band gig I have been to where you actually could have danced to what they were playing.

    I never found Blur easy to love but I don’t regret spending my money on them. Damon’s affectations piss me off a bit sometimes but Graham was always there to counterbalance my disdain with something interesting to listen to.

    Finally, on the discussion about “real man” guitar band feelings. I get where you’re all coming from but aren’t you ignoring the elephant in the room for the likes of Travis and Coldplay and so on. Yes, Buckley was important – and Radiohead to an extent – but without Wonderwall and Don’t Look Back In Anger being so enormous, would record companies have invested so much in finding these acts (i.e. they are the bands found by those that were the counterparts to the A&R men who took boisterous, mid-tempo rock, as the Oasis touchstone)? As evidenced by, for instance, Travis ripping Wonderwall off on the lead single from their biggest album.

    *I loved The Astoria and miss it dearly. The right size venue for you to be able to see reasonably clearly even if stood at the back and the acoustics were really good, as far as I can remember. If I ever saw a gig there where, if the band was crap, it was the venue’s fault, I can’t remember it.

  29. 59
    James BC on 10 Feb 2014 #

    For me the Blur album suffers by comparison with Graham Coxon’s solo album Happiness in Magazines, which is similarly noisy and guitar-led (obviously) but simply has much better songs. The lack of Damon’s vocals doesn’t damage the sound at all.

    I’d like to know what a solo Coxon rendition of Song 2 would sound like – does anyone know if he’s ever performed it?

  30. 60
    Cumbrian on 10 Feb 2014 #

    #59: Interesting. Personally, I found Happiness In Magazines to have similar peaks to Blur but the rest of it sort of floated by without making much of an impression. I preferred Love Travels At Illegal Speeds.

    Dovetailing The Astoria and your Graham Coxon/Song 2 point – the last gig I saw at The Astoria was Graham Coxon on the Love Travels… tour. He didn’t play Song 2 then – mind you, that was only one gig. Obviously can’t speak for the rest of his tours.

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