We are in the middle of the 90s, in England, and people is very much looking forward to someon that would fix everything. Grunge had invaded the radios and costumes around the planet and the old Albion was tired of being no longer the center of the musical world. After the unrepeatable 60s, the fantastic 70s and the interesting 80s, in the 90s still nothing significant emerged to fight the Yankees who, with no respect for the Queen, is colonizing again the old masters.
The much coveted next big thing, on which many were already betting, could have been Suede, brought to the top charts in 1993 and publicly acclaimed as the true defenders of British pop. Their call to arms in defense of English Pop is reminiscent of the great artists from the past and places them in the British tradition, which starts from The Beatles and arrives to The Smiths. Unfortunately, their race will stop in a few years, with various problems of line up and drugs that will stop the ascent. But still, the way was defined.
Blur, formed in 1989, release Parklife in 1994 and jump directly of the top charts, proving that Britpop (that’s how they called that new genre that tries to mix pop melodies and rock sounds with killer refrains) is real and it’s time to acknowledge it. In the same year, Oasis debuted with Definitely Maybe and the Noel brothers, with their rock attitude better defined than Damon Albarn’s band, started to sell much more than their rivals.
In the newspapers we are fully back to Beatles Vs. Rolling Stones and everybody is happy to feed the rivalry between the two groups. And if the rivalry starts more like a marketing tactic, soon it will get real.
The Gallagher brothers come from Manchester, they bring in all the discomfort of a difficult childhood and a violent adolescence, and they cannot resist to the press invitations to provoke Albarn and associates. In addition, the leader of Blur, coming from a good London family, is the perfect target the suburbs’ bullies from Manchester: they don’t miss an opportunity to mention them, showing that this rivalry is something very real.
The next albums are planned for 1995, and everyvody already decided that these release will finally define who is the alpha male of Britpop. Noel, apparently drunk in an interview, wishes to Albarn to get AIDS, and of course Damon doesn’t take it very well.
Roll With It, the single that will anticipate Oasis’ (what’s The Story) Morning Glory, is scheduled for August, while Country House, Blur’s answer, is expected already a few weeks earlier. Albarn takes the lead and succeeds to postpone the release to the same day of the rivals, proving that even for him the matter has become personal.
The battle of the singles sees Blur coming out as winners, but it was a momentary win: Oasis‘s (what’s the Story) Morning Glory actually defeated The Great Escape in sales and conquered the Britpop throne. And if that wasn’t enough, Oasis easily reached the American Top Ten, while Blur could barely enter that chart, proving once for all the success of (what’s The Story) Morning Glory.
Damon Albarn, humiliated and defeated, realizes at that point that he cannot beat the Gallaghers on their own ground and starts to plan something bigger, moving towards a sound evolution that, from 1997’s Blur onwards, will cross the path with his various parallel projects like Gorillaz, getting progressively far from Britpop and, in fact, overcoming it.
Meanwhile the legit masters of the English scene must fight new opponents such as The Verve and Radiohead, who in 1997 publish their most famous works and put Oasis in real troubles: they still succeed to release a successful record like Be Here Now, but they also start to show some repetition album after album, slowly approaching the split that will come soon, triggered by the disagreements between the two leaders.
Many years have passed and the relationship between Damon Albarn and the Gallaghers seem to have returned to decent, civilized levels. But we still remember it as the rivalry that marked the history of pop in the 90s.