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Monday, July 19, 2010

BP #5 - The Start of Blur

Damon Albarn - Vocals
Graham Coxen - Guitar
Alex James - Bass
Dave Rowntree - Drums

The band formed in college where childhood friends Albarn and Coxen meet James. The drummer, Rowntree was added to lined up later. They performed as a group under the name Seymour (after a J.D. Salinger story). The small record label Food Records picked them up but insisted they change their name. Blur was picked from a list of possible names that the record company came up with.

Their first single She's So High entered the top 50 in the UK (sorry it can't be embedded - it appears Blur don't like to share) and their second single There's No Other Way went top 10 making Blur instant pop idols. You can see and hear the influence of 60's British psychedelia; and also the influence of the Stone Roses and the Madchester scene in these two early videos. Their first album Leisure was released in 1991 and was well received but critics wrote them off for the most part as too teenie bopper. This clip gives a nice history of the band and shows them (lip syncing) in their first TV appearance:

The next single Popscene was an utter failure. The band was attempting to come up with it's own sound, even with it's harder edge it couldn't compete with American grunge:

Popscence was released to coincide with their first US tour. The tour bombed and the band had lots of infighting. The only positive that came out of the US tour was Albarn's steadfast approach to embracing and writing music from a British perspective - antigrunge. When the band returned to England, Suede was on top of the charts and outperforming Blur. This drove them crazy (Albarm was now dating Justine Frischmann - Brett Anderson's ex-girlfriend). Damon may have gotten the girl, but Suede was getting the press.

So back to the drawing board and the studio. Blur worked on their third album Modern Life Is Rubbish for over a year and half. They ran into producer and label problems, but this is when they really began to form as a cohesive unit and develop their sound. They embraced their Britishness and followed in the footsteps of The Kinks, The Small Faces, and The Jam. Modern Life Is Rubbish only made it to #15 on the UK charts and did nothing in the US but it made them a band of the British people and paved the way for their breakthrough.

Blur were also the hipsters of the London scene at this point and begin making headlines for their partying antics. check out this hurting TV show and how coy and cool Damon and Graham are.

Modern Life is Rubbish single - For Tomorrow (live)

The Breakthrough: Blur - Parklife
interview from the time of the Parklife release

Parklife single

The songs and album hit on all cylinders and covers the history of British rock from British invasion to disco and new wave. The album entered the UK charts at #1 and took Britpop to a whole new level. They certainly overshadowed Suede now. The success of Parklife opened the doors for dozens of other British bands including Oasis, who Blur would battle for chart supremacy in 1995. The album had 4 hit singles, won them 4 Brit awards, went triple platinum, and was on the top of every UK magazine end of year chart. The single Girls and Boys even went to #4 on the US modern rock charts. I can remember seeing the video on MTV and hating it for how "lame" and "gay" it was. It was so different then what I was listening to: Stone Temple Pilots, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones.

Weeks later I was buying the album and couldn't get the song out of  my head.
Great inteview of Damon at the time of Parklife:sweet hairdo by the interviewer (yaeh I had the same deal, except curly on top)

The success of Parklife lead to even harder partying which means harder drugs and alcohol in excess. Damon was also getting the bulk of the attenion which also lead to hard feelings between him, Alex James, and Graham Coxen. It was a great party, but in the end all of this would take its toll on the band - but for now Blur were on top of the world.

Next Time: Oasis


  1. Jenny loved Blur when they first came out (she had the There's No Other Way single). I liked them later on. As a Yank, though, I was always on the Oasis side of the fence.

  2. I was all about Oasis in college. Liked Blur but loved Oasis....all this time later I still listen to Blur regularly and rarely listen to Oasis (except Wonderwall).