Blur

TrackAlbum / Single    
Day Upon DayFood Records 12FOODX 29
Chemical WorldModern Life Is Rubbish
For TomorrowModern Life Is Rubbish
The Wassailing SongFood Records BLUR 6
Sunday SundayModern Life Is Rubbish
JubileeParklife
This Is A LowParklife
Tender13
No Distance Left To Run13
Go OutThe Magic Whip

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Contributor: Ant Meads

Ok, I thought I’d start at the beginning but in truth the Blur legend has been told so many times I think I may just start a little later. We all know Damon Albarn told Graham Coxon he had crap shoes, we know Seymour formed shortly after that and then after a few gigs they became Blur on the advice of Andy Ross from Food. And the rest, as they say, is history. To be honest I think it’s probably more worthwhile writing about what Blur mean to me, especially given the subjectiveness of a Top 10 song list.

I came from a family with a deep love of music; every day in the car to school we’d be listening to the 2-Tone and Reggae bands my dad loved so much as well as various Mod bands and, until I was 13 or 14, I had pretty much stolen my dad’s music choices as my own. Blur were the first band that I discovered on my own and of course, you never forget your first love. It was around 1992/93 and a lot of the kids in my school had adopted the whole Kurt Cobain thing. The grunge look was taking over our nation’s youth and I found the whole thing utterly unrelatable; the songs I’d heard didn’t really speak to me and I couldn’t identify with the look of that scene at all. I was used to people in suits singing songs about English life, be it bad weather, shitty town centres or crap schools. How did your average teenager from the Medway Towns relate to Kurt Cobain?

While I’d heard a couple of tracks from Leisure such as There’s No Other Way and Bang, the first Blur album I bought was Modern Life Is Rubbish and it’s the perfect anti-grunge album. Aside from nice pictures of the band, suited and booted in the sleeve notes, the songs pushed back against the trend to sound like you were from Seattle and embrace the same kind of Englishness that I’d known from The Specials, Madness or The Jam.

Then we had Parklife. What can anyone say about that album that hasn’t been said a million times already? Oh yeah, I guess that’s what I said I’d attempt when I agreed to write this piece! Britpop had already been bubbling away under the surface but it felt like Parklife was the record that made it into an actual genre all of its own. Songs about quintessential English culture, photos of dog tracks and four Brit awards for the band, Parklife was the record that took Blur and English guitar music back into the mainstream.

So those few years, from Leisure to Parklife were my peak Blur fandom and while I loved some of the things that followed, like Beetlebum and Coffee And TV, it was interesting when compiling this list, how little after 94/95 really affected me in the way the early Blur material did. When I started writing this, I drafted various Top 10s and shared them on social media. What was astonishing was just how many Blur fans compiled their own lists with barely one or two crossovers with my own. A testament not only to the quantity of music Blur have produced over the years but also the quality. I read their Top 10s and found myself questioning my own again. So much so that this piece has taken me over a month to write. In the end, I opted for the first Top 10 that I wrote. I stand by it, at least for today!

Day Upon Day (There’s No Other Way 12″ remix)
This song, featuring in the Blur ‘Starshaped’ film, would lead you to believe it was more accessible than in really was. Now, a quick look on Discogs will tell you that there were seventeen versions of There’s No Other Way released, probably even a few more with bootlegs. I picked up the 12″ Remix record in my early days of collecting, assuming it to be a rarity worth hundred of pounds. It currently sells for about £3.50 on eBay but the real gem was this live B-side called Day Upon Day that I played constantly. Lyrically it is nothing special at all but as a frustrated 14-year-old, the repetitive lyrics made perfect angsty shouting material.

Waiting on this empty day
It’s just the same as any day
An’ although I got nothing to say
I’m going to say it anyway
Day, day upon day, day upon day
Day upon day

Chemical World (Modern Life Is Rubbish)
The pay me girl has had enough of the bleeps, so she takes a bus into the country.” I simply adore that opening lyric. In one line it hits on the mundanity of modern life and the desire to escape it. The song is one of those near perfect four minute pop hits and one of the standout singles from Modern Life Is Rubbish. The story goes that Blur were on the verge of being dropped by their label after an abysmal American tour. Damon Albarn went home to his parents for Christmas and wrote Chemical World and For Tomorrow. Those two songs allegedly saved Blur’s career and they certainly pointed them in the direction that would lead to the success of Parklife. I love Chemical World for what it represents; a massive turning point in Blur’s history and a fine example of the kind of song Damon can apparently knock out in a few hours in between the turkey and the Queen’s speech.

For Tomorrow (Modern Life Is Rubbish)
Another track from the album that defined my musical choices for the next decade. I suffer from severe anxiety and depression. Back then, it was undiagnosed but I spent weeks and weeks at a time unable to leave the house, such was my fear. For Tomorrow is one of those songs that, as well as being a perfect little pop tune, spoke to me directly:

He’s a twentieth century boy, with his hands on the rails, trying not to be sick again and holding on for tomorrow

As a teenager dealing with all those problems, this song became a mantra for me. My life was about little more than ‘holding on for tomorrow’. In many ways it still is.

The Wassailing Song
This medieval Christmas carol was recorded during a break in the Modern Life Is Rubbish sessions and given away at a Christmas gig in 1992. It featured briefly in the film ‘Starshaped’ and is more or less forgotten, treated as something of a novelty, even by he most hardcore Blur fans. It makes my list for one reason; I’m a record collector and as a Blur fan this is my holy grail. It was a single sided 7″ released under the name ‘Gold Frankincense and Blur’. Of the 500 copies that were pressed and given away, a vast majority were damaged when a man dressed as Santa tried to hand them out one at time to the drunken Blur fans in attendance. Every so often the record pops up on eBay for a couple of hundred pounds and I consider its worth to me personally. I can never quite justify it so that’s why, although perhaps a little self indulgent, The Wassailing Song makes my list.

Sunday Sunday (Modern Life Is Rubbish)
It’s probably hard to find a song that better articulates the Blur that I fell in love with than Sunday Sunday. It’s got a hint of the Kinks with just a dash of Chas and Dave and it all comes together as this perfect expression of Englishness. Or at least Englishness as I understood it at that point. I look back on it now and perhaps my musical taste has matured enough to recognise its lack of subtlety but at the time this was my anthem for proving that England was great and America wasn’t. Who could possibly relate to Pearl Jam as a teenager when compared to Damon singing about roast dinners and Sunday strolls! I think this song paved the way for them being able to include Bank Holiday on Parklife. It’s a statement of intent as much as anything else, a war cry. The sound of a band that had been hurt by America and wanted to let it know that it had moved on and didn’t care and that we were having much more fun without them anyway!

Jubilee (Parklife)
I’ve chosen two songs from Parklife and neither of them is the probably obvious title track, or Girls And Boys. It’s not that those two songs aren’t brilliant, it’s just that for a few months they were utterly unavoidable and you heard them everywhere. For a while, I liked it when Blur became bigger. My dad knew Parklife and there’s a quite wonderful sense of validation when your father likes something that you do. From then on though it just seemed to get out of control and in truth I was pretty sick of Phil Daniels’ voice! The album, though, remained a constant on my record player and Jubilee is another example of the band speaking to a certain part of my personality. Whilst I hadn’t yet graduated to butane abuse, I was becoming well aware of that growing feeling of isolation. I know all young people hit it at some point, that feeling that no one understands you, that you don’t quite fit in anywhere. Jubilee was me for longer than I would have liked but at least it soundtracked that spell nicely.

This Is A Low (Parklife)
It’s a song based on the shipping forecast. What more can I say really?! I think it’s a beautiful record and hearing the band talk about it probably makes me love it all the more. They talk of listening to the shipping forecast on their American tour to remind them of home. This song kind of sums up what Blur are capable of, a beautiful ballad out of almost nothing.

Tender (13)
I haven’t included much beyond 1994 in my list. It’s not like Blur weren’t still great, they really were. It’s just that the earlier stuff is what prompts the greatest memories. Tender is a special song though. It’s the moment that my little band, that I’d supported for years, shouted down Oasis fans for, became the ‘real deal’. Tender was the song I heard on the radio and couldn’t believe it was the same band. The connection between Damon and Graham that came across, felt magical to me. After The Great Escape it was clear to fans that the band had gone in a very different direction to the one Graham probably wanted. Tender is the moment that the band truly pulled together and matured. Over the years they had produced various sounds but this was the first time they felt like a real band. I don’t particularly like U2 or R.E.M. but they are bands with anthems, and anthems that cross genres and generations. Blur had released anthemic songs but their appeal as anthems was really just to teenage indie kids. Tender made them so much more than that.

No Distance Left To Run (13)
For me, this is arguably Damon Albarn’s greatest triumph as a song writer. As much as I bang on about how relatable the early Anglocentric Blur music is, this song is one I connect to perhaps more than any other. Written about Damon’s split from long time partner Justine Frischmann, it is hauntingly beautiful in the way it deals with the acceptance that you crave when a relationship ends: “I hope you’re with someone who makes you feel safe in your sleeping tonight”. It’s a beautiful melody and the emotion in Damon’s voice allows you to feel a real connection to him in a way that perhaps I hadn’t since the release of For Tomorrow six years earlier.

Go Out (The Magic Whip)
I’m not sure how many people would include anything from the latest release in their Blur Top 10 but for me that album is magical. Go Out is more than just a song. For years Blur fans had hoped for new material; a reunion between Damon and Graham passed by without anything more than a few hugs. Next up we had a couple of massive live shows and then they all went back to their day jobs. It kind of seemed like the moment had passed. The reunion shows seemed more like an opportunity to properly say goodbye to the band. And I wasn’t knocking that at the time. It was beautiful to see the band back together and back to their best. Then on the 19th of February 2015, 6 Music announced that Steve Lamacq would be talking to the band, that they had a new album on the way and then they played the first single from it, Go Out. I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about that moment. A new Blur record was on its way and Go Out was suddenly being played on repeat. Everywhere. Blur were back and they were still better than every other band in the world!

 

Blur official website

Veikko’s Blur Page – fan site since 1998

Blurballs: the ultimate source of all things Blur

Blursongs – from A Song to Song 2 (and more)

Damon Albarn official website

Graham Coxon official website

Alex James Presents …

David Rowntree facebook

Blur biography (iTunes)

Ant Meads suffers from Depression, Anxiety and OCD. Music offers him a wonderful escape from the seemingly never ending battle with his own brain! Ant writes about mental health issues for a variety of charities but, ever so occasionally, tries to put into words his love of music. He grew up on Ska, matured through Britpop and fell off the edge of the earth following bands like the Libertines around for a few years. Writing and music are the two constant pleasures in Ant’s life, combining them is a delight.

TopperPost #510

4 Comments

  1. John Hartley
    Mar 31, 2016

    Very enjoyable read, Ant. Not a massive fan of Blur, but ‘This Is A Low’ I reckon to be their finest few minutes. Followed closely by ‘Badhead’ and ‘Coffee And TV’. But the actual music is only brought to life by your experiences. Keep holding on!

  2. David Tanner
    Mar 31, 2016

    A great post Ant, rightly putting Modern Life is Rubbish at the heart of things. My favourite Blur album by a long shot.

  3. Keith Shackleton
    Mar 31, 2016

    Excellent job, and well done for being able to commit on ten songs.. it’s really difficult. Magic Whip is really strong. I’d like to echo David also: Modern Life Is Rubbish is most definitely not rubbish. As for the top ten, I’d have to find some room for End of a Century, and a top three would be For Tomorrow, Low and No Distance. The rest.. my god, that would change on an almost daily basis.

  4. David Shaw
    Apr 1, 2016

    Nicely done! I still prefer Parklife (no “Girls and Boys”?) over Modern Life, but different strokes and all. Looking forward to your next contribution.

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