Something Changed: 20 years since Brit Pop

Twenty years since Brit Pop. What’s changed?

It’s about 20 years since the emergence of Brit Pop. For those of you too old, too young or too disinterested to care, Brit Pop was a time somewhere between Grunge and hair straighteners.  It was quirky, upbeat, loud-mouthed, yet a lot more polite than Punk. It somehow encapsulated the tidal wave of feeling that now a long Tory reign was due to collapse, things in the UK could only get better.  Pulp, Blur, Oasis, Lush, Shed 7, Elastica, even (to my shame) Menswear. I turned it up loud.

I embraced Cool Britannia. Girls who were boys who liked boys to be girls smelled of CK1. Working-class people swaggered and swore and became rock n roll stars. Nice middle-class bands had no shame in expressing political views that leaned to the left. We wore short dresses with union jacks on the front and felt brilliant, not bigoted.

Three years later, as I was about to graduate, the rock n roll stars told us to vote for Tony Blair. With no idea as to the charmless man he was about to become, we did in our droves. We really believed that the time for them had passed and that it was now time for us. There were lots of us, and only a few of them. They didn’t stand a chance.

But the victory was bittersweet. The working-class rock stars got rich. We thought we deserved a bit of that action. We turned down the Brit Pop and turned up the bling. As we started to crave the Cristal, we said farewell to the champagne supernova, and hello to Champagne Socialism.

With that, we invaded Iraq, got jobs in banks and started bashing anyone who needed benefits. The Cool Britannia bubble burst, but we barely noticed as we invested our energy into blowing up the housing bubble instead. We worked harder and faster and longer to buy homes with mortgages so large that our Grandparents thought we must be rich. But we weren’t.

We blamed people with very little for our lack of time and expendable cash and ensured that they got even less. We didn’t want to sleep with common people anymore, we wanted to ridicule and hate them as if they were pantomime villains.

There was a brief respite when comedians seemed to be cool,  but then they started playing stadiums and told us not to vote, and things went quickly downhill. On the other hand, they had a point. Last time we all bothered voting, it ended with us looking a little stupid. If there is one thing cool people don’t like, it’s looking stupid. Which is why, I suppose, they sit nonchalantly on the sidelines looking slightly annoyed, but not actually doing very much at all.

Now, as I look back through my rose tinted spectacles and forward through the eyes of a mother, forever fearful of what the future holds for the next generation, the thought of me declaring that things are no longer as cool as they were in my day is rather laughable. Seriously, if I start thinking things are hip and groovy, then they most definitely are not. And actually, Brit Pop, while it was quirky and upbeat and loud-mouthed, let’s face it, it wasn’t quite punk, was it?

I listen to some of the soundtracks of the current generation. Each generation has had its dross music, but if you see beyond the X-Factor crew and the twerking, there are still a shed load of tunes, voices, and lyrics that could be forming the next tidal wave of change.

Should anyone be bothered to ride the wave, and willing to take the risk of looking stupid should it all go wrong, then I advise them to turn up the music, sing the songs loud, and sing them together. There are lots of you and only a few of them. They won’t stand a chance.

24 thoughts on “Something Changed: 20 years since Brit Pop

    • Abby Boid says:

      Love a bit of the 80s Clare. Super exiting time. I do listen to some Brit pop albums over and over. Oddly, the bands I most loved then – oasis, blur – I don’t have much time for now. But some other groups have really stood the test of time. Saying that, There will always always be room in my heart for Jarvis but now I am more a ‘his n hers’ gal, rather than the more popular ‘different class album’. .


  1. josandelson says:

    Nice post, Abby. Excellent potted assessment of societal ambitions over last 20 years. Great (and scary) to see Jarvis Cocker looking only a bit older than my son! I was punk generation, but that had its backlash too despite my orange hair, ripped t-shirt, skirt with burn holes and the mostly inane, bolshy song lyrics that passed for anarchy. Still, it all provides waves of energy that shake us up now and then. Even the ‘In the Night Garden’ theme tune gives me a bit of a lift these days, though I’d like to see Derek Jacobi riding shotgun in a supermarket trolley.


    • Abby Boid says:

      Thank you Jo. I am jealous of your punk days, although I did have fun at the Brit pop time. Music is so evocative, and therefore important isn’t it? For reasons I won’t go into I have a real soft spot for the archers theme tune… Don’t tell anyone though!


  2. Olivia FitzGerald says:

    Loved Elastica and blur (rather than Oasis). I saw blur in concert in 1994 or was it 96? In Belfast. Got caught smoking cigarettes.. Ha Ha! Good times! Loved your post as I had forgotten much of this.


    • Abby Boid says:

      Thank you so much. I was all about oasis at the time, but I find they haven’t stood up to the test of time for me. Elastica, on the other hand, is still played very regularly.


  3. Le Coin de Mel says:

    Fab post. Oh dear, 20 years… thought I was too young to know what you would be talking about but no, that music I loved and still love was released 20 years ago. oh dear, time really flies! Mel


  4. littlemansmum says:

    20 years ago. Thats scary. I was only 10 then, 13 when Geri wore the union jack dress. I was always blur more than elastica and actually went to see blur and pulp in concert, with my dad. Can’t say I’ve listened to it much recently, I might have to dig out my old cds x


  5. Actually Mummy says:

    Oh dear I’m afraid I’m even before that time! This all makes my Duran Duran days seem a bit frivolous, but I took it very seriously. I do remember wearing a lot of CK1 though 🙂


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