I Was Britpopped: The A-Z of Britpop
The Guardian called the Britpop movement: "a cultural abomination that set music back". Others hailed it as a phenomenon; a fad as oppose to an actual movement. What isn't up for debate however is the incredible wave of talent that Britpop had established right the way through the decade - Oasis and Blur being the main culprits.
Cover illustration by graphic designer and illustrator JP Cuison
While Nirvana were dominating headlines during the dawn of the 90's, it was the passive aggressive overthrow from Colchester outfit Blur that sparked a revolution to kill off American grunge and put Blighty on a higher pedestal. They did just that, reviving the Madchester movement and eventually forming the backbone of a much larger cultural movement. It's only fitting that we look back on a period of music that re-established melodic, guitar-based British pop music and beautifully destroyed it.
Jenny Natasha and Tom Boniface-Webb have done just that with the release of their book, I was Britpopped: The A-Z of Britpop - the only existing A-Z guide to Britpop - which takes a thorough look at the genre-defining era of music, from the most iconic releases right down to the most popular clothing brands in the scene; personal accounts and experiences; its forming in 1992 - and its eventual demise in 1998.
We caught up with the book's curators:
1) How did the idea for the book come about?
"My co-author Jenny first came up with the idea for a book about Britpop. She mentioned it to me, and it seemed like a good idea for us to write it together. We met about ten years ago through music, played in a band together for a few years, so always had music in common. Being such big fans of the Britpop era, we were always talking about it, and the book was basically just one that we would want to read ourselves...
Once we'd decided to start though, I promptly moved to New Zealand, so there was quite some distance between us, which I think strangely enough actually helped encourage us to write the book, treating it partly as a way to stay in touch. We started a shared google-doc and it just went from there. It took us about 2 years in the end all told, which was good because the timing of it seemed just right. We wanted to get it out in time for the twentieth anniversary of Oasis playing Knebworth (10th & 11th August 1996), but circumstance pushed it back to the end of that year...
The twentieth anniversary of the era's peek time does seem to have had some kind of cultural significance with many of the bands reforming and playing at nights put on by our good friends at the Star Shaped club night; the excellent Oasis documentary film Supersonic; and new music from Blur and the Stone Roses among others. It seems that we're part of the zeitgeist and that's a great feeling. This is a real passion project, but one that we're seeing resonate with fans of the scene, who are feeding back to us some amazing things already. We just want to get the book out there to a wider audience."
2) Why the Britpop era of the 90’s as oppose to the new romantic scene of the 80’s?
"One of the main reasons for writing the book was because we are products of the Britpop era. We love most genres of music, and the new romantics are right up there, but we were too young to enjoy that scene the first time around. When Britpop started we were in our early teens and alongside raiding our parents' record collections were beginning to discover new music for ourselves. We were incredibly lucky that the music scene that exploded at this time was indie music that crossed over into the mainstream, pop music was actually cool. It's such a cliched thing to say but it doesn't feel like there's been anything like Britpop since, not on such a scale anyway. The second wave of Britpop - the Kaiser Chiefs, Arctic Monkeys, Razorlight etc - all had a pretty big impact, but none of them were ever on the news at ten because of the hype surrounding the release of a single. Even my grandmother knew who Oasis were...
It's not that we are particularly populist - in fact in the years immediately after Britpop we actually became quite anti-mainstream - it was just that the music that was released as we were coming of age had such a huge impact it was felt around the world, and is still revered today. It's the ultimate form of nostalgia for us, and hopefully acts as an informative guide to the era for those not familiar to the scene. In fact someone wrote to us from America the other day thanking us for filling him in on the world around the music that he loves."
3) At what point were you "Britpopped"?
"It was important to us to get the book out there in our own way, and so this meant raising the money to publish it ourselves, because trying to find a publishing house would initially be so tough and such a drawn out process in the current climate. We wanted to prove we had an audience and so asked people to send in their videos telling us when they were Britpopped, and it worked really well. There were some great stories, and my own one is just one of many great experiences that people had. Mine came - as so much does in the life of a young man - trying to impress a girl. I'd heard people ask each other whether they preferred Blur or Oasis, so I asked the girl and she said Oasis. So that Christmas I got the tape of Morning Glory and listened to it religiously to try and get in her good books. It didn't work out with the girl, but I found something much more lasting that day. Oasis led me to Blur and before I knew it there was a whole world of new music to explore. I bet that girl has no idea how much I owe her!"
4) Favourite band/memory from the Britpop era?
"Jen would say seeing Oasis at Knebworth - which she writes about in the book - and I can't really compete with that. It's to do with the changing times, the dominance of the internet and the compartmentalisation of society, but there hasn't been a band like Oasis for twenty years. They sit in a line of groups that include The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Sex Pistols, Nirvana, NWA, that acted like proper rock stars, and also really changed music for good. There is just too much content out there these days for the same thing to happen again, bands just don't exist in the same way any more. This is both good and bad. It's great to have so much content so easily accessible, but the mystique surrounding rock bands has been all but lost, and the audience's tastes have become diluted, being spread across so much, that's so easy to get to. I remember skiving off school so that I could buy the latest Oasis single from HMV when they opened at 9am on a Monday morning, having waited months for it to be released. It was harder to get hold of, so it meant more. I would love to see the same thing happen again and really hope that it does. The Arctic Monkeys are probably the closest thing to that these days, but it does feel like they exist in a silo, and have retreated from association with the mainstream in recent years. Come on guys, wherever you are, pick up a guitar and try and piss some people off!"
Anyone interested in purchasing either of the two limited edition prints (a UK map of Britpop-band origins and a Britpop album timeline) can email Iwasbritpopped@gmail.com