1980 and all that: 1995

Blur - Country House

There are people who will, from time to time, announce – with no awareness of their own apparent – that a song changed their life forever.

Which is, of course, utter nonsense.

Meeting the love of your life, having kids, moving to another part of the world. These are things that can, do and should change your life.

A three minute thirty second pop song by a bunch of blokes just a few years older than you simply has no right to have the same effect as the birth of little Maisy, your marriage to Jo or the day you packed it all in and headed out to the bright lights of Lichfield to work in the accounts department of a spade manufacturer.

But they’re funny little things, those three-and-a-half-minute pop bubbles. Despite all the apparent hyperbole, songs will, given the right circumstances, change your life.

For me, the song in question is Blur’s ‘Country House’.

It’s not a particularly cool statement to make. The band themselves soon distanced themselves from the whole thing, thus igniting the touch-paper that led to the self-destruction of Britpop, care of Oasis’ Be Here Now (more on this in approximately two years’ time).

But in that time, at that moment, ‘Country House’ by Blur was the only thing that could matter. I would hear it belting out from the radio in my younger sister’s room. It got regular airings on Severn Sound, just as it did on practically every other radio station back in 1995.

Of course, it wasn’t just about the song itself. Back in ’95, two years prior to the Britpop-alypse that came with Liam and Noel’s overinflated egos it was all about THE BATTLE OF THE BANDS. Damon vs. Liam. Alex wearing an Oasis T-shirt on Top of the Pops. ‘Country House’ vs. ‘Roll With It’.

As far as I can recall, this was the last time there was a battle of the bands – trite, contrived and pointless as it now seems. Where once you had Mods vs. Rockers and Progs vs. Punks, it all seemed to come to an end with two sides of the indie community laying into one another over who was better: Blur or Oasis.

But it gave fans of both camps a sense of belonging, a sense of identity. Which can only help when you’re finding yourself and working out who you are as a teenager.

A few years later, I recall an ill-fated attempt to create a new BATTLE OF THE BANDS with Coldplay vs. Toploader. I can’t remember who won that but, surely it couldn’t have been Coldplay; they couldn’t fight their way out of a used wet lettuce.

What, precisely, was it about ‘Country House’ that made me forgo a life (thus far) of listening to Glenn Miller and Graham Kendrick? When recalling it, I always like to tell myself that it was the discovery that pop music didn’t have to be all about lovey-dovey romance and Celine Dion singing that she’d always love you.

But then, I’d already made this discovery, thanks to songs like ‘Sailing on the Seven Seas’ and ‘River of Dreams’. By that point, I’d also been exposed to smatterings of pop’s great library care of James (‘Sit Down’) and Queen (pretty much all the hits).

So it can’t have been (entirely) that.

Maybe it was just that the song sounded so much like fun. Maybe that’s it. It was attractive because it was just such a fun sounding record.

It’s a rather strange revelation for me given that my preferred form of music generally gravitates towards the miserable (insert any Tom McRae song here), but in ‘Country House’, Blur seemed to be inviting me into a new, exciting world, a club of which I could be a member and have a right royal good ol’ time.

From there it was but a short step to Pulp, Supergrass, Ocean Colour Scene, Kula Shaker and, of course, Oasis. From then on, there was an explosion into all kinds of different directions: The Beatles, Ben Fold Five, The Divine Comedy, Pink Floyd and The Kinks.

Then onwards towards anything and everything: an Icelandic band called Amiina, Joe Strummer and the Mescarellos and Midlake.

It annoyed me for a long time that I never got to see Blur play live. Following their apparent dissolution after Think Tank, I kind of assumed a Blur gig would just not be forthcoming.

So when they did reform and played Glastonbury in 2009 it was an incredibly moving experience – even with what a nearby reveller referred to as Alex James’ “sweaty pits” clearly on display.

When Damon Albarn nearly broke down during ‘To The End’, I nearly joined him. I wasn’t the only one.

Pop music shouldn’t be a game changer. It shouldn’t have that sort of power over you.

But it does.

Oh yes. It definitely does.

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