“You won Blur. Enjoy the money, I hope it makes you very happy. Dear Lord, what a sad little life, Blur.” – Liam Gallagher.
With the majority of us being born in the early 2000s, the biggest cultural war of the 90s is only a mere tale, whispered from the lips of historians and middle-aged trench-coat-wearing weirdos you find hanging around HMV, but back in the day it was big news; Who would win the battle of Britpop?
Let me transport you back to August of 1995, a year that I can only presume was dominated by the bucket hat, bootcut jeans, and either having a Liam Gallagher haircut or rocking athleisure like Damon Albarn. Their respective Britpop bands were going head to head in a chart war after Blur moved their single Country House to be released on the very same date as Oasis’ Roll With It. How provocative of you Damon! The North-South divide had never been so cruelly exposed, as rough and gritty Northerners cheered on for Oasis, whilst posh hipster Southerners swore allegiance to Blur.
It has to be said that both Country House and Roll With It are fantastic tunes, but also very different. Country House has a cheeky Britpop tone, whereas Roll With It is a bit more Rock’n’Roll, which almost begs the question as to whether these two bands should have been pitted against each other anyway. Regardless, Blur won the battle after selling 274,000 copies, with Oasis selling 216,000. Blur bassist Alex James famously sported some Oasis merch in a display of triumph at the band’s 1995 performance on Top Of The Pops, marking them the kings of Britpop. But how long did this legacy last? So maybe Blur won the battle, but did they win the war? After 27 years, I think it’s high time we update those history books and see how well the bands have kept up their legacy.
The answer is no. Immediately Oasis’ (What’s The Story) Morning Glory outsold Blur’s The Great Escape, and let’s be honest, almost 30 years later, the former album is still one of the best examples of British music ever, with hits like Wonderwall, Champagne Supernova, and Don’t Look Back In Anger. It’s a given that these songs will appear on the playlist at every uni house party, whereas Song 2, although great, just isn’t as popular with the students of today! Sorry, Blur!
Up until 2009, there wasn’t much news coming from either side. Super cool guitarist Graham Coxon left Blur after a growing dejection with the band, and they all went their separate ways. Both Graham and Damon kept up the legacy of musical geniuses, with Damon focusing on the mega-famous band, Gorillaz. On the other side of the pond, Alex James was making cheese, and drummer Dave Rowntree became a Labour party councilor, kind of undermining the coolness of the band but what can you do, eh?
With Noel and Liam still bickering throughout the noughties, the band finally reached their end after Liam’s laryngitis meant the headliners couldn’t perform at V Festival in 2009. This resulted in an almighty argument which led to Noel writing on Oasis’ website, “It is with some sadness and great relief…I quit Oasis tonight. People will write and say what they like, but I simply could not go on working with Liam a day longer.” What a sad day for music, and if you’re in the mood to get even sadder, you should watch Snow Patrol fill in for the band at V Festival, as they cover Wonderwall and Champagne Supernova with a mournful perversion that the era of Oasis had died. For me, their break-up very much sums up the legacy they’ve left behind of fraternal fighting, anger, and aggression. As someone who has only really ever known Oasis as a divided band, the fighting is always a subconscious part of the listening experience.
Funnily enough, Blur reformed in 2009, playing a special concert in Hyde Park and a string of festivals. They also released the album The Magic Whip in 2015. The band is currently on hiatus again, but it seems a few odd reunion appearances could be likely as they are all seemingly still besties!
Without Noel, Oasis alumni Liam, Gem Archer, Andy Bell, and Chris Sharrock carried on making music under the name Beady Eye. You’ve probably heard of the band, but unless you’re a superfan, you’re unlikely to recall any of their songs. Similarly, you’ve definitely heard of Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, but naming one of their songs? Nah, too hard. Tbf, Liam Gallagher has gone on to have a successful solo career, and if we were going to crown any of Oasis or Blur as being the most successful in the last decade, it would definitely be Liam!
It is absolutely fair to say that both Oasis and Blur were the front runners of the Britpop movement, and have found themselves on very similar and successful paths since, but almost 30 years on, it seems Oasis has the edge. Despite the breakup, the Mancunian band has always been a staple of British culture and has influenced a new wave of indie rock bands such as Arctic Monkeys and Catfish and the Bottlemen. Although Blur has given us many major tunes, it’s a testament to Oasis’ legacy that they have stayed relevant for so many years!