Blur – In session for Mark Goodier – 1992 – BBC Radio 1 –
Blur to end the week on a high note. In session for Mark Goodier at BBC Radio 1 in 1992.
Blur formed in London in 1988, the group consists of singer Damon Albarn, guitarist Graham Coxon, bassist Alex James and drummer Dave Rowntree. Blur’s debut album Leisure (1991) incorporated the sounds of Madchester and shoegazing. Following a stylistic change influenced by English guitar pop groups such as the Kinks, the Beatles and XTC, Blur released Modern Life Is Rubbish (1993), Parklife (1994) and The Great Escape (1995). As a result, the band helped to popularize the Britpop genre and achieved mass popularity in the UK, aided by a purported chart battle with rival band Oasis in 1995 dubbed “The Battle of Britpop”.
After discovering they were £60,000 in debt, Blur toured the United States in 1992 in an attempt to recoup their financial losses. The group released the single “Popscene” to coincide with the start of the tour. Featuring “a rush of punk guitars, ’60s pop hooks, blaring British horns, controlled fury, and postmodern humor”, “Popscene” was a turning point for the band musically. However, upon its release it only charted at number 32. “We felt ‘Popscene’ was a big departure; a very, very English record”, Albarn told the NME in 1993, “But that annoyed a lot of people … We put ourselves out on a limb to pursue this English ideal and no-one was interested.” As a result of the single’s lacklustre performance, plans to release a single named “Never Clever” were scrapped and work on Blur’s second album was pushed back.
During the two-month American tour, the band became increasingly unhappy, often venting frustrations on each other, leading to several physical confrontations. The band members were homesick; Albarn said, “I just started to miss really simple things … I missed everything about England so I started writing songs which created an English atmosphere.” Upon the group’s return to Britain, Blur (Albarn in particular) were upset by the success rival group Suede had achieved while they were gone. After a poor performance at a 1992 gig that featured a well-received set by Suede on the same bill, Blur were in danger of being dropped by Food. By that time, Blur had undergone an ideological and image shift intended to celebrate their English heritage in contrast to the popularity of American grunge bands like Nirvana. Although skeptical of Albarn’s new manifesto for Blur, Balfe gave assent for the band’s choice of Andy Partridge (of XTC) to produce their follow-up to Leisure. The sessions with Partridge proved unsatisfactory, but a chance reunion with Stephen Street resulted in him returning to produce the group.
Blur completed their second album Modern Life Is Rubbish in December 1992, but Food Records said the album required more potential hit singles and asked them to return to the studio for a second time. The band complied and Albarn wrote “For Tomorrow”, which became the album’s lead single. “For Tomorrow” was a minor success, reaching number 28 on the charts. Modern Life Is Rubbish was released in May 1993. The announcement of the album’s release included a press photo which featured Blur, dressed in a mix of mod and skinhead attire, posing alongside a mastiff with the words “British Image 1” spraypainted behind them. At the time, such imagery was viewed as nationalistic and racially insensitive by the British music press; to quieten concerns, Blur released the “British Image 2” photo, which was “a camp restaging of a pre-war aristocratic tea party”. Modern Life Is Rubbish peaked at number 15 on the British charts.
As a reminder of their 1992 period, here’s the session they did for Mark Goodier at BBC Radio 1.
It’s Friday, crank it up.