I have always thought Britpop was a bit like another famous British institution, the Carry On… movies. Both had likable and identifiable characters: Sid James, Kenneth Williams, Hattie Jacques, Joan Sims and Charles Hawtrey in the Carry Ons; and Damon, Jarvis, Noel and Liam in Britpop.
Both produced populist entertainment that was at once nostalgic and contemporary. The Carry Ons offered traditional music hall humor, poking fun at British institutions like the army, the National Health Service, education, unions and foreign holidays. While Britpop drew its influence from Sixties’ pop (Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Kinks), and mixed it up with a punk rock swagger.
The Carry Ons came out of drab, gray, post-war Britain, while Britpop was more of a media construction, a handy (or possibly lazy) way to categorize the very disparate talents (Oasis, Blur, Pulp, Powder, The Boo Radleys, Menswear, Elastica, etc) that appeared during the drab, dull years of Conservative political rule during the 1990s.
Britpop was pitched as a nineties reinvention of the “swinging Sixties,” with two bands—Oasis and Blur—dominating the pop charts (much like The Beatles and Rolling Stones once did). There was a much publicized “fight” for the number one spot in 1995. Blur won with the single “Country House,” Oasis came in second with “Roll With It”—they may have lost the battle but Oasis eventually won the war.
If you have ever wondered what all the fuss was about, or why those days back in the 1990s were an exciting time to be young, British and full of hope for a better future, then this documentary Live Forever: The Rise and Fall of Britpop will explain all. It’s a wonderfully made and very entertaining film that brings together Noel and Liam Gallagher, Damon Albarn, Jarvis Cocker, 3D (Massive Attack), Louise Wener (Sleeper) and artist Damien Hirst, amongst others, to discuss, pontificate and reflect on why Britpop was arguably the last great musical movement from the UK—which says much, as it is now twenty years ago. If you haven’t seen this documentary, it is certainly worth seeing, once. Enjoy.