Yes, it was in that very moment when Blur made the decision to move forward the release date of their single Country House to the very same day as Oasis were due to release Roll With It, all gloves were off. The media spiralled into a frenzy in the summer of 1995, and it became forever known as ‘The Battle of Britpop’, and in doing so, a new music movement was born.
It didn’t take long in hitting the TV news and instantly we had Liam’s bushy unibrow and Damon’s cheeky chappy grin placed head-to-head on the cover of every newspaper and magazine. Soon, sides were taken. Were you residing in the Blur camp or the Oasis one? Of course, this meant so much more than which was the better song. Both songs, while pop catchy, were certainly not either of the band’s finest work at that point. Thanks to the press, this fast became a battle of the social classes in Britain. We had the rough, working-class Northerners versus the university-educated, well-spoken Southerners.
Very soon it became apparent that this was not just a PR stunt to boost record sales. As the release date loomed, their animosity grew towards each other. In an interview with The Observer when Noel was drawn out on the subject at the time, he commented he would like to see Damon Albarn and Alex James “catch aids and die”, a remark he had to publicly apologise for and distance himself from. We even had images of Liam, squaring up to Damon during music and charity events.
In the week running up to the release date, it was featured on the BBC and ITV’s main 10 o’clock news as a headline story. We were all watching and waiting, ready with our cash in hand to purchase just one of those singles, either on cassette or CD, in our local music store.
The moment came, both singles were released for sale and the result came in on Sunday the 13th of August 1995. We were all glued to Top of the Pops on our boxes. In keeping with the Britpop theme, they had Pulps front man, Jarvis Cocker, as one of its presenters. The top ten countdown was on. 5, 4, 3 and in at number 2 was… Oasis. Jarvis then announced Blur as the victors while welcoming them on stage. They went on and performed their new UK number one single while Alex wore an Oasis t-shirt. It was later revealed that Country House had outsold Roll With it by over 58,000 copies.
Now, more than a quarter of a century later, that animosity has been replaced by mutual respect. Liam tweets encouraging messages and Noel has even joined Blur on stage to perform a duet of Blur’s Tender at a charity event in London in 2013.
Unless you lived it, it’s impossible to grasp that urgency and pleasure in owning your own music. Albums and singles that would sell out on the same day or week of release and then having to wait for new stock to arrive. Knowing, as you watched your favourite song bounce up and down the charts, you had something to do with that, and feeling proud of the fact. We will never live to see the likes of ‘The Battle of Britpop’ again.
For more memories of the 90s and noughties, read Jen’s column in this week’s Northside People and South People Newspapers.