Remember Britpop? Course you do. Floppy fringes, Fred Perry tops and all, a time before Snapchat and Twitter, a time when a chart contest between Oasis and Blur was deemed newsworthy. No, really. Last week, BBC 6 Music DJ Steve Lamacq presided over the Britpop top 40 countdown, voted for by 30,000 listeners and I was heartened to learn that my Britpop No.1 was also the listeners’ choice, beating both Oasis and Blur into the bargain…
I lived through Britpop from start to finish. I drank in our university bar with Pulp, who seemed to play there every other week. I watched Damon Albarn develop his particular brand of singing. I sat slack-jawed as the country memorised Wonderwall and sang it at every given opportunity for years. And I saw Radiohead supporting Kingmaker, leaving after a couple of songs declaring them “a bit crap and loud”. This was my time and these were my bands, so I was more than a bit giddy to hear about the countdown.
Included were some of my other top picks – Echobelly, Elastica and Sleeper – all of whom had singers to swoon over. I met Louise Wener three years ago at a book signing and nearly stopped breathing as my crush on her flooded back into my body, rendering me speechless. Her britpop memoir was an eye-opening read, exposing the sexism and rank behaviour of other bands. Having read that and also Alex James’s memoir, my love for Blur took a nosedive and never recovered.
In contrast, my love for Pulp and Jarvis Cocker has always been true. I once walked into him in a London shop and he apologised to me, for he is that kind of man. Jarvis and Pulp encapsulated the era, writing quirky, funny and poignant songs to sing along to that didn’t drag their knuckles on the floor. Theirs was an intelligent, richly layered indie-pop, taking in drugs, bad hair days, meeting your old friends and hooking up with a rich kid. Pulp were everyone’s favourite in-joke and their songs spoke to us, so it seemed apt to me that their Britpop anthem Common People took top spot.
Of course, Oasis and Blur featured in the top ten for that is the way of the world, but The Verve’s stellar Bittersweet Symphony took second spot, proving that the universe isn’t such a bad place. Other notables in the top 40 included Suede, Catatonia, Shed Seven and The Divine Comedy. And Menswe@r only at No.34? Come now, people. However, listening to the whole top 40 transported me back to my youth and left me with a grin as wide as London slapped on my face. It was only missing Cud and Paris Angels to achieve perfection.
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