Top Ten Moments That Defined Britpop

30 Apr 2019
photo: Jill Furmanovsky via rockarchive.com

What springs to mind when you hear the word Britpop? The Union Jacks, the fringes, the Verve and Elastica. From country houses to common people, the 1990s UK indie-scene was the last time Britannia truly ruled the waves musically-speaking and we’re still living with the cultural aftershock today. You know what they say about Britpop? If you can remember any of it, you probably weren’t there. Well, thankfully some of us do remember. And for those who don’t, here’s a helpful timeline to refresh their memories.


October 22nd 1990 – The La’s re-release “There She Goes”

First released in 1988, the La’s proto-Britpop classic “There She Goes” eventually found chart success when a remixed version was re-issued in 1990 – arguably predicting the scene more than five years before it happened. With its sunny, sixties-inspired instrumentation and retro video, it was an early frontrunner of the musical revolution that was about to grip the UK.

W3Schools.com Photo: Jill Furmanovsky
1992 – Primal Scream win Mercury Prize for "Screamadelica"

British music’s most prestigious prize started in 1992, and who did the first prize go to? A summer-of-love meets indie-rock outfit from Scotland, with an album that sounds as fresh today as ever. Primal Scream were a lot of things alongside Britpop, but the commercial and critical response to this record pointed to the huge successes British guitar music was capable of.

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May 31st 1993 – Alan McGee Signs Oasis

Having already signed Primal Scream and managed Jesus and the Mary Chain, Alan McGee’s place in British music’s hall of fame was already nailed on. However it was a chance gig in Glasgow that really secured his reputation as one of Britpop’s chief architects. Oasis might have been third on the bill but McGee, who wasn’t normally early enough to see support acts, knew he was witnessing something special. “The first song was really good,” he’s since remembered. “Then the second was incredible. By the time they did this fantastic version of ‘I Am the Walrus’, I'd decided I've got to sign this group, now.”

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March 29th 1993 – Suede Release Their Debut Album

Having been the most talked about band in the British press for months, the anticipation for London-based Britpop pioneers Suede’s self-titled debut album was palpable. No wonder then, it went on to become the fastest-selling debut album in British history in almost a decade. It was a success that launched them as the first of the “Britpop Big 4” (more on the other three to follow). While the band soon since distanced themselves from the movement, lead singer Brett Anderson has since described it as “the last time guitar music was a real force”, in conversation with the NME.

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April 1994 – Britpop Rules the Charts

If you had to pinpoint a moment when the various threads of Britpop finally came together, it would have to be April 1994. Oasis released their debut single “Supersonic”, Blur released their third and most successful album, Parklife, and Pulp dropped His ‘n’ Hers, the album that saw them break into the mainstream. Later that year Oasis would release Definitely Maybe, which went straight to number one. Britpop was on.

W3Schools.com Photo: Suede /Pat Pope, John Cheeves, Phillip Williams
September 1994 – Pulp record John Peel session

Pulp’s John Peel sessions, eventually released as a double-album in 2006, featured the first preview of a song called “Common People” which would go on to become the band’s defining hit. Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker’s contribution to Britpop is unparalleled, through his snappy dress-sense and witty lyrics which captured the day-to-day details of life in Britain. “It was an anthem,” Cocker has said of “Common People” since. “A class anthem.”

W3Schools.com Photo: Oasis Supersonic Video
August 14th 1995 – Blur and Oasis fight for number one spot

The Battle of Britpop came to a head as the movement’s two biggest bands – who had been facing off in the press – both released singles on the same day. In the end “Roll With It” by Oasis was beaten to the number one spot by Blur’s “Country House” by a margin of around 50,000. Not that this bothered Oasis for long. Later that year they released “Wonderwall”, which dwarfed both songs with its mammoth sales and Transatlantic appeal.

W3Schools.com Photo: Jarvis Cocker in ‘Pulp: a film about Life, Death and Supermarkets’
May 12th 1996 – Britpop Football Derby

File this one under: er, did that actually happen? Not content with battling it out in the charts, on this May day in ‘96 Blur and Oasis (who added a recently solo Robbie Williams to their team) took to the Mile End Stadium in East London as part of a Music Industry Soccer Six tournament. Despite subbing Jarvis Cocker in for the second half, Oasis lost their clash against Blur, who were then knocked out in the next round. The overall winners? Reef.

W3Schools.com Photo: Liam Gallagher, Damon Albarn / David Cheskin © Jill Furmanovsky
August 10th 1996 – Oasis play Knebworth

With support from Kula Shaker, the Chemical Brothers, the Charlatans, the Prodigy and Manic Street Preachers, Oasis played to 250,000 people over two nights at Knebworth – a gig so huge it had its own radio station playing non-stop Britpop hits. Crazier still, four percent of the population had applied for tickets, meaning Oasis could have sold out another 18 shows of the same size. Britpop had never been this big before, and never would be again.

W3Schools.com photo: Jill Furmanovsky via rockarchive.com