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Tag Archives: Britpop

Southwards Bound – Part 1

Mid-1990s I lived in London. The timing was impeccable; it was the year that Blur released Parklife, Pulp finally broke through with His’n’HersManic Street Preachers released the seminal The Holy Bible, and Suede completed Dog Man Star (one of my all-time favourite albums to this day). I was on the periphery of all these things, but a brief moment in time I lived where a major cultural shift was gathering strength before sweeping away everything in its wake. It is so odd to return to London now because the London of those halcyon days no longer exists. I have been back many times since the 1990s and, every time I visit London now, it feels like the city is slipping further and further away. London still exists but its heart is now on the outskirts of the city.

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Shades of grey in the Bloomsbury area

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Pomp & circumstance in Hyde Park. I was walking back from an appointment at the embassy.

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Assyrian stone relief; British Museum. These depictions of sheep are important to Indo-European linguists, by the way.

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Early highlight: Soviet revolutionary ceramics at British Museum.

After spending less than two days in London chasing my own tail, meeting with embassy staff, and doing research in the British Museum, I left for Cambridgeshire where my good friend Joanne Scrace lives. Staying with her proved to be the perfect antidote to all the razzmatazz of the capital (sorry, had to get another Pulp reference in there).

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It spooked me slightly how much this looks like where I grew up.

After staying with Joanne & her gorgeous family, my batteries were recharged and I went to teach Nordic Knitting at Cambridge’s beautiful The Sheep Shop.

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Beautiful display – The Sheep Shop was full of gorgeous samples.

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Sarah of The Sheep Shop – full of warmth and personality.

I had a fabulous time teaching the class – the students were smart and asked on-the-nose questions. I am only sorry that I could not stay longer and get to know everyone better. Hopefully this won’t be my last time teaching in Cambridge!

I’ll leave my return to London and my second class for another blog post. I have much to share – including some details about an exciting KAL and a brand new design.

Children of the Echo

We are children of the echo. Born just after some kind of explosion, and doomed to spend our lives working backwards to try and get as close as we can to the moment of that Big Bang.

(..)

But the whole point of the Beatles is that they were ordinary. Four working-class boys from Liverpool who showed that not only could they create art that stood comparison with that produced by “the establishment” – they could create art that pissed all over it. From the ranks of the supposedly uncouth, unwashed barbarians came the greatest creative force of the 20th century. It wasn’t meant to be that way. It wasn’t officially sanctioned. But it happened – and that gave countless others from similar backgrounds the nerve to try it themselves.

(..)

People of my generation felt this obscure pang – this feeling that we’d somehow missed out on something amazing. So we tried to make it happen again – but exactly the same. You cannot do a karaoke version of a social revolution (good fun trying though). What changed in the interim? Why was Br**pop doomed to failure? Too many factors to go into here, but one was: too much information. Too much reverence. Wearing the same clothes and taking the same drugs will not make us into Beatles. It will make us fat and ill.

(..)

We, the children of the echo, should get a life. We, the children of the echo, should know better. Time to move on. Imagine that.

Jarvis Cocker on The Beatles is a very, very good read.

Be There Two O’Clock

It’s a new week. And I completely forgot to write about the highlight of the previous week. Friday night my partner and I had an impulsive dance-a-thon in our living room when we realised that BBC4 was showing footage of Pulp headlining at Glastonbury 1995.

When we first met, D. and I initially bonded over our shared love for early to mid-90s British guitar pop (some call it the ‘Britpop‘ era but, really, that name was a media construct). Nowadays that era gets boiled down to “so, were you into Blur or Oasis?” because that was the huge (and nonsensical) story of the day. Did you hum along to Country House by cheeky middle-class Southern chaps Blur or did you bellow along to Cigarettes & Alcohol by authentic working-class northern lads Oasis? People knew who you were by which one you preferred – nevermind that Blur’s drummer eventually became a Labour activist/politician and the singer from Oasis now dabbles as a fashion designer.

D. and I pledged our allegiance elsewhere (much to the frustration of a former boss of mine who thought she could pinpoint me by asking the Blur/Oasis question) and we both preferred Pulp and Suede.

Pulp used sparkly pop songs to deliver social commentary via great story-telling.  Suede glamorised working class struggles whilst referencing Byron and Andy Warhol and playing with androgyny. Suede soon descended into cringe-inducing banality (tellingly around the time their guitarist left to pursue other musical interests – he is now a record producer) but I still love their first two albums. Pulp’s frontman, the charismatic Jarvis Cocker, now works as a broadcaster for BBC, and Pulp recently reformed to do some UK festival dates in 2011.

William Shatner(!) has done a great(!!) cover version of Pulp’s most famous song, Common People, and Nick Cave has turned their anthemic Disco 2000 into something heartbreakingly beautiful. My favourite Pulp album is His’n’Hers from which Do You Remember the First Time? is taken (lyrics obviously NSFW). I cannot believe that song is now 16 years old and I’m in my mid-30s.

Time has been somewhat kinder to Pulp than Suede, but for old time’s sake here is Suede doing a cover of The Pretenders’ Brass In Pocket, a live version of So Young (still my favourite Suede song – so much gloomy romanticism!), and the awesome The Killing of a Flash Boy which will forever remind me of living in London in the mid-90s. Looking back it is unbelievable they got away with something like this at a multi-corporate awards ceremony or that my mum approved of me loving them so damn much.

So, yes, we danced around the living room in a totally cool mid-90s minimalist way. And it was the absolute highlight of last week.

(And in case you did wonder..)

Lost Boy? Lost Girl.

Pop culture and I have an on-off relationship. I mostly attribute this to growing up in Nowheresville, Denmark, in a family obsessed by 1940s and 1950s American popular entertainment (think Frank Sinatra, Vincente Minnelli films and the Great American Songbook), so when I went to school and was surrounded by kids immersed in current music, I was woefully lost. It took me about three months to figure out what song the kids were singing in the playground and, as my family rarely went to see current films, most 1980s teen films completely passed me by. I’m reminded of my 1980s pop culture black hole as most of my peers are reminiscing about The Lost Boys and License to Drive in the wake of Corey Haim’s death. I finally saw The Lost Boys some six or seven years ago. It is undeniably an entertaining slice of comedic vampire horror, but I was obviously way too old to connect with it. So, in an odd way, Haim’s death does sadden me but my sadness is reserved for that young girl who failed so miserably at fitting in at school and not a shared piece of pop culture fading away reflecting our mortality etc.

But watch this space once people like Ewan McGregor (oh, Trainspotting, the film that defined my generation and demographic segment), Jarvis Cocker (playground singing? No, massive dance-floor singalong) or even Douglas Coupland (whose early novels spawned a mild obsession mid-1990s) start ‘shuffleing off this mortall coile’. I’ll be right here bawling my eyes out and wondering what happened to that bright-eyed lit student girl with the funky charity shop clothes.

A few random links:

Finally, I have promised to mention that Lucky 7 Canteen on Glasgow’s Bath Street is super-keen to host knitting groups. They’ll keep lighting up and be very happy to serve delicious food/drinks to discerning knitters. Ask for Mel if your knitting group needs a new hang-out.

Popscene!

Tonight’s Never Mind The Buzzcocks featured the lead singer of mid-90s Scottish indie band Geneva. Boy, did that make me feel old..

Here’s the forgotten(?) gem of “No One Speaks” from their first album:

.. now where did I put my miniskirt, green glitter eyeliner and 70s vintage shirts? Hey, hey come out tonight.. (YT link)

More trips down memory lane; looking back I really liked my music angsty, eyelinered and vaguely androgynous:
+ Sleeper: Inbetweener
+ Strangelove: Time For The Rest of Your Life
+ Suede: The Drowners
+ Subcircus: 86’d

(Darth Ken, don’t you dare leaving a snarky comment containing a picture of me in full indie girl gear)