20 Years Since Britpop?

So this is what they are saying; it’s been twenty whole years since the rise of Britpop.  I’m not quite sure I believe them.  Twenty years since the alternative became the mainstream and had its turn in the spotlight? But I object!  It only feels like five minutes since I stepped out of that teenage bedroom, walls plastered in massive posters, Super Furry Animals and Definitely Maybe and every centre fold from Select and NME.  Five years is a long time, ten years is an endless forever, fifteen, eighteen…but twenty?  Twenty??

So you know what this means, it means we got old.  We never thought we would, we never believed that it would, or could happen. But it did, it really did. And now the time that was ours, the years that shaped and inspired us and set us on fire, they are not just moments behind us, they are not just funny old photographs that we actually took into Boots to be developed and pinned to our actual walls, not our Facebook walls…they are twenty years behind us!  Twenty years gone and dusted and done.  Faded.  Sometimes.  Until you put the CD’s on of course.  Then it all comes back to life surely?  Rock and Roll Star on the school run….I Am The Resurrection when you’re cooking the dinner…

What do I remember about Britpop?  That time, that place…What did it mean to me then?  What does it mean to me now?

I had an A4 hardback notebook which I used as a diary.  The front and back covers were adorned with pictures cut from Select magazine.  Kula Shaker and Space, Oasis and Blur, Pulp and Supergrass, Elastic, Sleeper, The Charlatans, Ash and Suede…The inside covers were a scribbled mess of quotes from the songs.  Live Forever I wrote in huge letters around the edge of the pages, you and I are gonna’ live forever….We believed it too. When they said it we believed it.  Mishapes by Pulp.  Was an anthem for me and an equally oddball friend.  The lyrics told us that it was okay to be different, to come out of the darkness and shine, that this was OUR time, that we were getting revenge…We loved it.  Of course we did.  The uncool kids became cool.  The underground bands were now on Top Of The Pops thrashing guitars with their hair in their eyes.  We didn’t have to pretend and go out and try to look like them, because we already did, because we always had.  They had always spoke for us and about us, but the time for shuffling your feet on the dance floor with your head hanging low was ending.  Fashion had swung in our favour.  Parka coats and John Lennon glasses.  Flared jeans and tracksuit jackets.  Band t-shirts.

So Britpop, what was it?

It was British.  It was a time.  It was music and attitude and naughtiness.  It was a backlash against the mainstream and the banal.  It was original songs written by original artists who played their own instruments.  It was going back to basics.  It was Rock and Roll.  It was guitars and drums and Indie kids.  It was ours.

I remember…the excitement…that music we liked was in the charts, was on TV, winning! It felt like victory and affirmation.  And as they coined the phrase and the ball rolled on, there was more and more and more of it…and it kept on coming and it kept on lifting us up, showing them what real music was; it was heart and soul and guts and truth and obsession.  Love letters with lyrics circled….we see things they’ll never see….today is gonna’ be the day….and on it went. What was it to me?

It was getting ready for a night out in my teenage bedroom, drinking Hooch and Two Dogs, singing along to Supersonic, pulling on jeans, and it was the morning after, lying in bed with the music still going, writing the lyrics around the edge of the pages of my diary…because it was okay to say; I need to be myself, I can’t be no one else! It was an entire pub full of people on New Years Eve singing and swaying and hugging to the strains of Champagne Supernova, it was love in everyone’s eyes…It was going to see Pulp with my best friend, it was geek chic and being accepted, it was ribs crushed against the barrier while the crowd surged and pushed behind you, it was being at the front, and watching Jarvis strut his freaky stuff, thin as a whip, lighting a fag and handing it to a fan and telling us all to be careful because he didn’t want anyone to be hurt, and it was us afterwards, and in our bedrooms, singing along to Mishapes, no we don’t look the same as you…and we don’t do the things you do…but we live ’round here too, oh really?  It was Disco 2000 because that year would surely never come, and if it did, then we would have grown up…and it was Common People like us, like us…

It was paying a dodgy bloke a tenner to get into Glastonbury, lugging crates of beer and manky tents, it was a cramped hot car ride and marmite sandwiches, absinthe around the fire, passing out…it was in the middle of Super Furry Animals when they sang The Man Don’t Give A Fuck and we all screamed along and someone drove a truck into the middle of the crowd and everyone was climbing on it…no he don’t give a fuck about anybody else…it was Gomez and the most beautiful sunset I’ve seen in my life…it was Travis, singing Why Does It Always Rain On Me…in the rain…It was me stood on my own at the back watching Blur…

It was Blur versus Oasis but we loved them both so we couldn’t possibly lose…It was in the newspapers and on the TV, and on TFI Friday and The Big Breakfast.  It was Shine compilations and making mix-tapes….The Longpigs and St.Etienne and Echobelly and The Stereophonics….taping stuff and swapping them about, listen to this, you have to listen to this.  Summer BBQ’s and turning the tape over constantly…

It was Uni life and the discovery of a dark club, off the beaten track, where everyone looked a happy mess and held their pints aloft with every good song that was played…Spiral staircase up to the heroic DJ, every request received and praised, puke in the toilets then back out to dance again….shuffling back and forth, swigging cheap beer and a massive sense of belonging, here, among your own, vest tops and jeans, hair piled high, eye liner thick.

I guess it faded out towards the end…and we grew up.  We did grow up.  We got jobs and flats and had babies and not much time.  We moved on, without realising it at the time, without admitting that it happens to us all, that our time back then had been short and sweet and ours alone.  Music shifts on, turning its attention to the next generation, to what they want and need.  And that’s not for us, not really, even if we nod to it and approve of it, it’s not ours and we know it.  Our time was then, and our time has gone.  So now we are like our parents were, rolling our eyes at how far things have drifted, how alien things seem, with downloads and itunes and the death of Top of The Pops and how old fashioned our physical CD’s and cassettes seem now…We sometimes feel disjointed and confused, that this happened, that time passed and we actually aged…I mean Christ!  Really?  How did that happen without us noticing?  How did we let it?  It feels like it’s our fault…We let go and gave it up.

And now they point out that it’s twenty years…everyone is like, oh my god really? Twenty years, two decades, that makes me feel so old… so it’s time to talk and think about it all again…to dust off the memories and the CDs just for a little while maybe, just to have a smile and a laugh, and remember. And I know what I will remember; music and songs that felt like they had been written just for me, aimed and directed just at me, that they meant something just to me and would follow me through my life, year after year after year, and that every time I play them, every time a certain drum intro kicks in, every time a certain guitar solo starts up, I get that tingle all over again, right down the spine and right back up again.  I shake out my body and I can’t help but smile, and kids or no kids, I am singing right along, as loud as I like and there is that one word that stands out to me, like it did back then, maybe because of the guy who snarled it best, maybe for other reasons, for what it stood for, what it meant to every geeky Indie girl or boy who found victory, just for a short while, their obsession validated, their passions approved by the mainstream…shiiiiiiiiiine….because that’s what Britpop was and that’s what Britpop did, it shined, and we shined with it.

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