Viva cool Britannia
Kurt Cobain is credited with many things, but helping to inspire Britpop isn’t at the top of the list. It was the Nirvana frontman screaming “I hate myself and want to die” in the early ’90s that caught the attention of Oasis’s Noel Gallagher and led a UK movement designed proudly to “Live Forever.” This massive musical revolution rooted deeply in British culture and pride cheerfully spit in the frowning face of grunge and — unlike the shoegazers before them — looked upward to the stars for endless promises of fortune and fame. It was initially branded “The scene that celebrates itself,” but soon took hold of a nation and beyond.
The highlights were plentiful. From Brett Anderson slapping his ass as a relatively unknown Suede gob-smacked a stuffy industry at the BRIT Awards in 1993; to Pulp claiming their pop throne at Glastonbury in 1995; to Oasis performing for 300,000 fans at Knebworth in 1996 — Britpop was a powderkeg of bratty rock and roll abandon, drawing heavily from the mod aesthetic and sound of the ’60s but re-pressed against pre-millennial tension converging with pop-culture excess. What emerged draped across the Union Jack was a cultural explosion dubbed Cool Britannia, and its swagger decorated the ’90s like nothing else.
Now 15 years after Britpop’s peak and a decade after its demise, the Phoenix asks: what were the 100 greatest Britpop anthems of the ’90s?
We assembled a team and called to order the first-ever Boston Britpop Summit. I was joined by writers Daniel Brockman, Luke O’Neil, and Michael Christopher, as well as WFNX program director Paul Driscoll, Great Scott booking agent Carl Lavin, and DJ Ken Powers of long-running Boston party the Pill (with which I am also affiliated) — a dance night born near North Station above the Penalty Box, back when Britpop was still flying proud, 1997.
Over several hours we hashed out this list of the 100 Greatest Britpop Anthems of the ’90s — setting a timeframe between Suede’s launch in 1992 and a gray area of the late ’90s — limiting our options to proper singles only. Although the first Stone Roses record, shoegaze, Madchester, and baggy pioneers didn’t make the cut, certain offshoots did, like Underworld’s “Born Slippy” — from the Britpop-bedded Trainspotting soundtrack — and New Order’s “Regret,” the band’s 1993 reflection of emerging Cool Britannia. And oh yeah, we banished Oasis’s “Wonderwall” and Blur’s “Song 2” to the bottom of the pile.
So have at it. This list is to spark debate and celebrate a scene, not settle and bury it. Don’t like our picks? In our Britpop battle, you can vote any song to the top, or cast them down with a single click. Sing along with the “Common People,” and enjoy.
Back in March, I caught up with Liam post-soundcheck in Paris, when he called to talk about his new gig, Noel taking credit for the success of Oasis, and how he is scaling back the partying -- but not to Chris Martin of Coldplay levels.
It's been more than 15 years since Britpop's heyday, and with the exception of one man – the Manic Street Preachers' Richey Edwards, who disappeared suddenly in 1995 – the rest of the cast is still trying to get by, just like the rest of us. Here's what they're up to these days...
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