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A brief history of 90s Britpop as told through the covers of ‘Select’ magazine

Selective memory can be a marvellous thing. It ensures we are never wrong, always right and (best of all) that we have always had such impeccable taste in music.

In Britain there were a lot of drugs about in the nineties—a lot of bad drugs—which might explain why so many of us—who lived through that heady decade—only recall the really good stuff rather than all that crap we apparently really enjoyedMr Blobby? Babylon Zoo? Rednex? Will Smith?—well, somebody bought this shit, how else did it all get to #1?

Personally, I have no recollection (officer) as to how all these records charted, but I can certainly give you a brief illustrated history of what we were actually listening to and what we all supposedly liked.

Exhibit #1: Select magazine

Select was arguably the magazine of the 1990s—the one that best represented (or at least covered) what happened during that decade—well, if you lived in the UK that is. Select had attitude, swagger and wit and was very, very opinionated. It didn’t tug its forelock or swoon before too many stars—though it certainly had its favorites.

Select kicked off in July 1990 with his purple highness Prince on the cover. It was a statement of the kind of magazine they were going to be—cool, sophisticated, sexy, sharp. Prince was good—everybody loves Prince. It didn’t last long. Over the next few months, the magazine struggled to find a musical movement it could wholeheartedly endorse. In its search for the next big thing—even The Beatles (rather surprisingly) featured on its cover.

Select threw its weight behind such bands as Happy Mondays, Primal Scream, Blur and most significantly Suede—who never quite managed the level of success the magazine hoped for. Then Select did something remarkable—rather than follow the trend the magazine decided to shape it.

In April 1993, Select published an article by journalist Stuart Maconie entitled “Who Do You Think You Are Kidding Mr. Cobain?” In it Maconie made a very convincing case for abandoning the influence of American music (grunge) and taking up with the “crimplene, glamour, wit, and irony” of local British talent.

Maconie offered up a list of bands he thought would make it big—Suede, Saint Etienne, Denim, The Auteurs and Pulp—lumping them together under the title “Britpop.” Within a year—the idea of one journalist had become a movement of disparate bands, genres and styles—from Oasis to Blur, Elastica to Pulp, Sleeper to The Verve.

Maconie’s idea gave Select their drum—one they were going to bang until everyone was deaf or the thrill had gone.

Select lasted for just over a decade 1990-2001. Its final cover featured Coldplay—which might explain where Britpop had gone wrong. Some kind soul has scanned all of the back issues—inside and out—and a trawl through their covers tells the story of what was in, what was hip, and what was “going on.”

If you’ve a hankering for the past or just want to relive the heady days of the 1990s, then check here to read, view and enjoy the whole archive of Select magazine.
Prince on the very first cover of ‘Select’ July 1990.
Something old, something new… a taste of what’s to come…
Something very old: The Beatles—but a hint of what this magazine hoped to find in the 1990s…Britpop. November 1990.
You get the feeling this bloke’s gonna feature a lot in this magazine…Happy Mondays’ Shaun Ryder, January 1991.
More Select covers for selective memories, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Live Forever: The Rise and Fall of Britpop’ with Oasis, Blur and Pulp
01:04 pm

Pop Culture


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.

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
A belated Britpop Xmas present: a brand new track by Pulp

Don’t blame the band for the late arrival of this brilliant new tune on Dangerous Minds, blame me (though they could have picked a better time to put this out than on December 26th when I’m on my hols, ferchrisakes.)

By far the best of the ‘Britpop’ bunch, you’ll probably be aware that Pulp got back together again, after a ten year absence, for a string of live dates last year.

Well they didn’t just tour. They also went into the studio with none other than LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, and laid down a brand new tune called “After You,” a power-disco-pop gem that fits snugly into the band’s canon of modern classics. It leans towards the band’s more uptight-funk sound—it’s even got a bongo breakdown—but as ever is carried along by Jarvis Cocker’s caustic with, and a delivery that combines hard-nosed snark with pure sexiness.

Here’s to more brand new Pulp tracks in 2013!

Pulp “After You”


BONUS! After the jump, the entire, two hour Pulp headline set from the 2011 Reading Festival.

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Cornershop return with ‘Cornershop and the Double ‘O’ Groove Of’ ft Bubbley Kaur
12:01 pm


Riot Grrrl
Bubbley Kaur

Cornershop are back, with a new album Cornershop and The Double O Groove Of, and a strangely hypnotic video of young men getting their hair cut for the track “Supercomputed”. The album has been 6 years in the making, with funds being cobbled together via the website Pledgemusic (even though the band self-released the album Judy Sucks On A Lemon in 2009).

Cornershop and The Double O Groove Of
is a collaboration with the Preston-based Punjabi singer Bubbley Kaur, who takes the lead vocal on most tracks, and has never made an appearance on record before (bar the 2004 Cornershop single “Topknot/Natch”). This seems quite incredible as she is a great find. And according to music biz legend, it never would have happened were it nor for the interjections of a friendly London cab driver. Cor blimey guvnor!

Cornershop ft Bubbley Kaur - “Supercomputed”

Cornershop ft Bubbley Kaur - “Topknot”

Cornershop ft Bubbley Kaur - “Don’t Shake It”


It’s hard to fathom that his band have been around for twenty years now. I first remember hearing about them back in 1992, when they were then associated with the British arm of the Riot Grrrl movement, and openly took on Morrissey for the sentiment of tracks like “Bengali In Platforms”. It thrilled me that a bunch of young Asian men would adopt as their name the most hackneyed stereotype of Asian people then going. While their Riot Grrrl contemporaries faded away, Cornershop have stayed the course, finding commercial success later in the decade and critical acclaim with their dance side-project Clinton - even though they have been lumped i with various scenes over the years they have risen above it all. I have recently begun to compile a top ten list of great British guitar bands from the 1990s that excludes Britpop acts - Cornershop are definitely on that list.

Cornershop and The Double ‘O’ Sound Of is available to buy from Amazon. More info on Cornershop at their official website.

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Wallace Wylie’s ‘Death Rattle: The Travesty of British Alternative Rock in the 90s’

Consider this the perfect accompaniment to “Whatever Happened To Alternative Nation?” This excellent article, by writer Wallace Wylie and published on Everett True’s Collapse Board, centers around three bands (The Stone Roses, Primal Scream and Oasis) and the negative impact they had on the British music industry and general media in the 1990s. In contrast to Steven Hyden’s US-focused articles, Wylie sticks striclty to the UK and does a really great job of skewering that shower of shitty hype we had to endure called “Britpop.” This represents my feelings about the period pretty much exactly—yes, there was LOADS of great and interesting music being made at the time, but for the most part it was not being made by white men with guitars.

It should be obvious to almost everyone by now that Oasis really weren’t very good, and this is coming from somebody who bought into the hype early and even attended their monster concert at Knebworth. Definitely Maybe remains their best release, with the album coming across as rather varied (by Oasis standards) and tuneful. This was before Noel settled in to writing all his songs in the same Let It Be-derived tempo. It isn’t really necessary to go into detail as to why Oasis were substandard. This has been done elsewhere and will continue to be done for a good while yet. Their limited talents soon ran dry but not before they had kicked open the door to a million soundalikes who popped up every other week on the front cover of NME.

We were constantly being told by the press that we were living through a musical golden age to rival the Sixties (aaargh! why is always the fucking Sixites?! booo-ooring), and while I do think the 90s was a golden age of sorts, I am glad that hindsight is x-ray and cuts through all the bullshit. There were many, many groundbreaking things going on in the world, yet the British music press seemed content to just curl up into a little ball murmuring “Beatles, Stones, Beatles, Stones” ad nauseam. Remember, this is the era that saw the launch of backwards-obsessed magazines like Mojo and Uncut, and the calcification of rock culture into a rigid set of rules to be adhered to. It sucked. But hey, don’t take my word for it. Read what Wylie has to say…

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment