With the Gallagher brothers occupying much of the word count in music sections columns globally in the past six months or so, it’s somewhat imperative to examine what propelled the be-fringed, irritable Manchurians into the public eye. Back in a magical time referred to as “The 90’s” the weekly Top 40 charts actually meant something (Jesus Christ, imagine that?). For a prolonged period in 1995 the two Britpop behemoths of Oasis and Blur duked it out to secure the coveted number one position in the UK Charts. The duel between the two bands has become somewhat legendary, mainly due to the massive egos involved and alleged bad-blood between the two iconic groups, but what actually happened?
Everything effectively came to a head in August of ’95, with both bands releasing brand new singles on the same day in an effort to oust one another and secure their position at the top of the ladder. Blur had faltered their way through the early 90’s with the release of debut album ‘Leisure’ in 1991 and follow up ‘Modern Life is Rubbish’ in ’93. Neither records achieved huge success, but the groups’ third studio effort, ‘Parklife’ marked a monumental turning point in the fortunes of the Damon Albarn fronted outfit. The hit-soaked LP brought commercial success to the squeaky clean Southerners, with singles like ‘Girls & Boys’ and titular track ‘Parklife’. The album debuted at number one on the British Album Charts, staying on the chart for a grand total of 90 weeks. Blur had arrived, the group had unknowingly transitioned from an artsy, left of field alternative band into a pop-sensation effectively overnight.
Elsewhere in the UK, an up-and-coming ensemble named Oasis were in the throes of a heady gestation process. The group, under the dictator-like stewardship of older Gallagher brother, Noel, created an inherently raw, simplistic tone and sound. Gallagher constructed a simple, formulaic Oasis blueprint for success, consisting of predominantly open chords, fused with subtle distortion and drenched in a nonchalant, f**k off attitude. In May of 1993, the band were scouted by well-known label owner Alan McGee during a gig in Glasgow. McGee immediately presented the band with a contract and in April 1994 the group released their first single, ‘Supersonic’. The band dropped their much-lauded debut album ‘Definitely Maybe’ in August of the same year. Controversy permeated every aspect of the bands existence as constant aggro between the Gallagher brothers led to gigs being cancelled mid-set, stage walk offs and full on violent confrontations. This element combined with the groups hedonistic lifestyle led to Oasis becoming the perfect foil to the far more wholesome Blur.
Thus led to what is now known as ‘The Battle of Britpop’ in August in 1995. The tabloid press gleefully latched onto proceedings, presenting it as a class war. The chic, left-wing sensibilities of Blur pitted against the northern, grittiness of Oasis. The lines were drawn and the trenches were dug. Oasis had scored their first number single of April of the same year with the now renowned anthem, ‘Some Might Say’ and some were indeed saying that they held the aces in the run up to D-Day. On the 14th of August Oasis released straightforward rock number ‘Roll With It’ whilst Blur dropped the inherently poppy ‘Country House’. In hindsight, it’s rather ironic that this hotly contested skirmish revolved around two of the lesser singles from each group. Punters flocked to their respective high-streets with the furore becoming the focal point of that evening’s 10 O’Clock news. Blur outsold Oasis by a margin of around 58,000 copies but in typical Oasis fashion, the brothers Gallagher did not take the news easily. Claims were made from the Oasis camp that issues with the barcodes on the CD sleeve prevented some sales from registering properly whilst also stating ‘Country House’ sold better as it was cheaper at £1.99 compared to Oasis’ £3.99 single. The press absolutely lapped up the spiel horsed out by the Gallagher’s whilst Blur revelled in their victory. Noel Gallagher even went as far as to say that he hoped Blur vocalist Damon Albarn and bassist Alex James would “catch AIDS and die” the following month. So yeah, it was all taken in good sport really.
As the old cliché goes, Blur won the Battle, but they didn’t win the war. Following their first number one single, Blur released their fourth LP, ‘The Great Escape’ to rave reviews. However, Oasis unleashed the effervescent ‘(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?’ a month later, a record which propelled them to international stardom and 2 nights at Knebworth in ‘96. The rowdy Manchester group broke America with hit singles like ‘Wonderwall’ and ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’. Oasis would ultimately be crowned Kings by the British media.
The Battle as it was, was nothing more than a beautifully concocted media storm intended to feed the tabloids. The two hottest tickets in town were exploited in order to sell front pages to punters who predictably lapped it up. The rise and championing of Oasis ultimately signalled a change in British society, the groups continued popularity saw a sharp rise in what we now refer to as ‘lad’ culture. The working class man was now the poster boy of a nation. In 2017 however, it is the almost cerebral, culturally aware work of Albarn and Blur which stands the test of time and has acutely influenced a plethora of indie and alternative acts since the 2000’s. Oasis or Blur was realistically a matter of substance versus style, and for the better part of a decade the Gallagher’s had everyone hoodwinked. Hindsight is 20/20 however, and it’s plainly evident that Blur have, after all, won out.