Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Britpop is a British alternative rock movement from the middle 90s, characterised with the appearance of bands who borrowed many influences from 60s and 70s while creating big and catchy hooks, as well as the glamour of earlier pop stardom and the sense that they were creating the soundtrack to the lives of a new generation of British youth. Although incredibly popular from about 1994-1996, it has been criticised for its lack of innovation.
The movement developed as a reaction against various musical trends in the late '80s and early '90s. Acid House and the rise of Hip-Hop had led to an interest in more groove, rhythm led songs in British pop music: the classic example here, of course, was the Happy Mondays. In the wake of these revolutions, classic guitar music floundered. The shoegazing movement in the late '80s responded by producing long, psychedelic, repetitive songs, strongly influenced by My Bloody Valentine but as the name suggests, live performances tended to be exercises in endurance. After this there was a short, but crucial, movement termed the "New Wave of New Wave", which produced mainly derivative bands but which was crucial in re-orientating British pop towards "classic" songwriting.
The key "anti-influence" on the Britpop was Grunge. In the wake of the American invasion led by bands like Nirvana, RATM, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, British acts were thrown on the defensive. The American bands threw down the gauntlet, and British acts now had to prove they were in the same league, musically.
2.1 The Modfather and Modern Life is Rubbish (1991 – 1993)
Britpop evolved in the early 90s as a response to the American grunge, new wave and punk revival movements. Britpop groups were primeraly influenced by the music of the 60s and 70s, particularly British Invasion cornerstones like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. Classic Mod bands like The Who, The Kinks and The Small Faces were also cited as influences.
Another source were 70s' glam idols such as David Bowie, T. Rex, Roxy Music, and punk and new wave artists like The Sex Pistols, Talking Heads, The Clash, The Jam, Madness, XTC, and Elvis Costello. The Indie rock outfits of the 80s exemplified by The Smiths, Depeche Mode, U2, Duran Duran, The Cure, R.E.M. and The Jesus and Mary Chain were cited too. Perhaps a hidden, subterranean influence were the C86 bands: certainly, bands that were later described as Britpop, such as Primal Scream, originally started off as C86 bands.
It should also be noted that late 80s and early 90s acts, like ex-Jam frontman Paul Weller and particularly The Stone Roses' eponymous self-titled debut album, also were influential. Frontmen Ian Brown and Paul Weller with their subsequent solo releases, and their referencing of 70s rock music, played huge role on the Britpop sound, which in the case of bands like Kula Shaker moved towards psychedelia.
The term "Britpop" had been used as early as 1987 (in "Sounds" magazine referring to bands such as The Las, Stone Roses and the Inspiral Carpets). "Britpop" arose around the same time as the term "Britart" (which refered to the work of British modern artists such as Damien Hirst). But it wouldn't be until 1995 when the term exploded and was used extensively by NME, Melody Maker, Select, and Q Magzine. The word subsequently entered the mainstream media. Its influence was recognized by an article in the Guardian by the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary declaring "Britpop" as the new word which best exemplified 1995. "Britpop" was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 1997.
The Modfather and Modern Life is Rubbish (1991 – 1993)
Weller in particular is praised as the founder and initiator of the movement. His solo records Paul Weller (1991) and Wild Wood (1993) are considered seminal forces for the movement. His influence over the Britpop, coupled with his love of Mod music, had earned him the nickname "The Modfather". As well as guiding Blur, Oasis and Ocean Colour Scene through his recordings, Weller has also performed with the bands, including playing guitar on Oasis' "Champagne Supernova".
Whereas Weller brought the key ingredient of "Mod" to what would become Britpop, Blur brought several other factors to the table. Without the media attention and chart success that would later follow, Blur's 1993 album Modern Life Is Rubbish slowly shifted the British sound away from shoegazing dance music, to a quirky pop sound. In hindsight, the writing and sound of Modern Life Is Rubbish contained many of the lyrical themes, chord changes, harmonies, and decidedly british singing which would later become iconically recognized as "Britpop"
Another key early influences of Britpop, and specifically the Oasis sound, was the Liverpool group "The Real People". The former featured an Oasis-like lineup with brothers Chris and Anthony Griffith. Oasis and The Verve toured with the band. Oasis recorded their first real demo (now often referred to as The Lost Tapes) in 1993 with the help of the The Real People at their Liverpool 8-track studios.
Britpop and Cool Britannia (1994 – middle-1996)
Fans of the Britpop are divided which album kick-started the movement. Oasis’ breakthrough debut Definitely Maybe (1994), Blur's bombastic third album Parklife (1994) and Suede's self-titled (1993) debut are all contenders. These albums defined the movement and paved the way for many other acts. The Britpop hysteria rapidly gained huge media and fan attention in Britain, Western Europe and some parts in U.S.
The Britpop movement was as much about British pride, media hype and imagery as it was about the particular style of music. Suede (known in America as "London Suede") was the first of the new crop of guitar-oriented bands to be completely embraced by the UK music media as Britain's answer to Seattle's grunge sound. Their self-titled first album was released in March 1993, and became the fastest-selling debut album in the history of the UK. In April 1993, Select Magazine helped spark the upswing in British pride by featuring Suede's lead singer Brett Anderson on the cover with a Union Jack in the background and the words 'Yanks go home!' on the cover.
In 1994 and 1995 other Britpop and similar style acts started to appear - Mansun, Elastica, Radiohead, The Verve, Supergrass, Primal Scream, The Auteurs, The Boo Radleys, Pulp, Suede, Space and The Divine Comedy. Some of them were new, others already established acts who benefited from association with the movement. In 1995 the Britpop movement reached its zenith. The famous "Battle of Britpop " found Blur and Oasis as prime contenders for the title "Kings of Britpop". Spurred on by the media, the "Battle" was headed by two groups - Oasis' brothers Noel and Liam Gallagher representing the North of England, and from Blur, Damon Albarn and Alex James representing the South. This "Battle" was epitomised when, after some back-handed marketing, Oasis' Single "Roll With It" and Blur's "Country House" were released in the same week. The event caught the public's imagination and gained mass media attention - even featuring on the BBC News. In the end, Blur won, selling 274,000 copies to Oasis' 216,000 - the songs charting at number 1 and number 2 respectively. However, in the long-run, Oasis' album (What's the Story) Morning Glory won the popular vote over Blur’s The Great Escape, outselling it by a factor of 4 or more. In the UK, What's the Story spent over three times as long on the charts (a total of three years) and outsold Blur's album over four to one, selling over eighteen million copies. Oasis' second album is widely considered to be the definitive Britpop album capturing the essence of the attitude and the Cool Britannia movement. (In Britain and Ireland it became popular for a time when asked "What's the story?" (lit. "How are you?"), to answer with "Morning glory".)
The Britpop movement was also symbolised in 1994-1995 by the outwardly happy, poppy sing-along summer anthems of such bands as Dodgy's "Staying Out for the Summer", Supergrass' "Alright", Sleeper's "Inbetweener", The Boo Radleys' "Wake Up Boo" and Echobelly's "Great Things". Although the majority of the bands associated with Britpop were English, there were exceptions. Super Furry Animals, Catatonia, Manic Street Preachers and Stereophonics were Welsh. This even led native media to call the rise of Welsh Bands "Cool Cymru" an answer to "Cool Britannia". Others like The Gyres, Travis and Belle and Sebastian were Scottish. There were also Irish acts and not to mention the infamous Gallagher brothers, who were Irish descendants. Thus the movement and Britpop hysteria engulfed not just one province or city; it wrapped the entire region and was established as a definitive British movement in musical and spiritual way.
Britpop weakens (late-1996 – 1998)
In late 1996, the movement and hysteria started to subside due to high expectations, burnout and drug fuelled lives among the bands - common traits from the inspirational acts of the 60s and 70s. It received some late impetus from Radiohead and The Verve, who weren't previously considered to be Britpop acts with their respective 1997 albums OK Computer and Urban Hymns, both of which were widely acclaimed.
Other acts including Suede, Pulp, Supergrass and Cornershop made some challenging records, but Britpop was on the way out. Initiators like Oasis and Blur turned their backs on the movement scene. Be Here Now, Oasis' third album, although selling strongly to a still loyal fanbase, attracted strong criticism from critics and record-buyers for its overproduced sound. Blur's self-titled fifth effort was very well received but marked a departure from the familiar British rock style of Parklife and The Great Escape and a lurch to the American music in the style of Pavement.
Fall of the Britpop (1998 – 1999)
Eventually, by the late 90s, the movement was considered to be a spent force musically. The transitional figure here was ex-Take That, Robbie Williams who had his first number 1 hit in 1998. Williams owed much to Britpop (many of his most famous songs being co-written with Guy Chambers ex of Britpop band "The Lemon Trees"), but he represented a move away from rock and towards pop in the music buying public's taste. By the year 2000, girl and boy bands like Sugababes, S Club 7 and Westlife dominated the charts, and thus Britpop was over.
However despite the fall of Britpop those few established acts like Oasis, Radiohead, Blur and Supergrass contunued to make music and still are enjoying relative popularity among fans and critics. Blur continued to move away from the movement with their subsequent releases, parting company with longtime producer Stephen Street and guitarist Graham Coxon in the process. Ironicly a couple of years after Coxon left, the latter realigned with Street to record his most successfull solo records. Oasis remained popular amongst their loyal fanbase, but later albums failed to achieve the heights previously set, and they also suffered the loss of longterm members Bonehead and Guigsy in 1999 and long-time drummer Alan White in 2004.
Suede soldiered on, releasing two more albums, but eventually called it quits in 2003. Pulp entered in a big hiatus, while The Verve, after losing key guitarist Nick McCabe, also split, although their frontman Richard Ashcroft subsequently forged a successful solo career. Radiohead, never the most strongly associated band with the movement, radically changed their sound with subsequent records and abandoned all pretence of being a Britpop style band.
Second wave of similar acts (2000 – present)
After the initial wave died, new groups started to appear in early 2000s. Bands like Muse, Travis and Coldplay drew inspiration from the earlier sound. Albums such as Showbiz and Absolution (Muse), Parachutes and A Rush of Blood to the Head (Coldplay), and The Man Who and The Invisible Band (Travis) showed lesser or greater Britpop influences. In 2003 and 2004 bigger influx happened of more new acts. Bands such as Doves, Franz Ferdinand and Kasabian showed Britpop influences in their work. The last couple of years other acts like Elbow, The Libertines and Keane have also come to the fore, with music, influenced by Oasis and Radiohead.
Timeline of the movement
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See also: List of Britpop musicians
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