Over twenty years ago now, there was quite a storm brewing within the UK music industry. The Spice Girls were taking over the world, the rave scene had people going crazy, and the Britpop war was just beginning to boil over. The Britpop era was defined by revolutionary scene-leaders Blur, and the charismatic yet incredibly rogue Oasis, who crashed into the scene with their debut album ‘Definitely Maybe’, the UK’s fastest-selling debut album ever. However, it quickly became apparent that there was a growing resentment between the two Britpop giants.
At the time, both bands were in a transitional period. Blur achieved monumental success in 1994 with their single ‘Parklife’, cementing their place as one of Britain’s best rock bands after struggling in the early 90s. Meanwhile, fans were eagerly anticipating the release of a second Oasis album, following the enormous impact of their debut, ‘Definitely Maybe’.
Up until the Spring of 1995, the respective bands had been fairly well mannered towards each other, but with the Mancunian band securing their first Number 1 single, with ‘Some Might Say’ in April, things were about to change. Damon Albarn told the NME: “I went to their celebration party, y’know, just to say ‘Well done’. And Liam came over and, like he is, he goes, ‘Number fuckin’ One!, right in my face.”
Damon Albarn, frontman of Blur explained in the Blur documentary, ‘No Distance Left To Run’ that Noel Gallagher used to take the piss out of him, and it would genuinely hurt him, he stated: “They were like the bullies I had to put up with at school.” As for Liam Gallagher, he was notoriously mouthy and arrogant, and at one point was even rude about Albarn’s girlfriend at the time, Justine Frischmann of Elastica. Damon thought: “If you want a battle, we’ll give you one.”
So when the chance came about to get the better of the Gallagher brothers and co., Albarn’s competitive side got the better of him. Blur and Food Records/EMI noticed that Oasis had suddenly put a new single on the release schedule, weeks before they were due to start promoting their second album (What’s The Story?), and so Blur moved their release to go head-to-head. The competition immediately caught the eye of the media, who as always, seeked the chance to twist the knife, titling it “The Big Chart Showdown”. The narrative was a dream come true for the press: the rough, working-class, no-nonsense Northerners versus the pretentious, university-educated, hipster Southerners.
During the week leading up to results, there was news leaking that Saddam Hussein was preparing nuclear weapons, there was a mass genocide in Bosnia, and Mike Tyson was making his comeback fight, but the Battle of Britpop was everywhere. You couldn’t turn on a news channel without it being featured. It was front-page news all around the world. The two bands colliding together really was a focal point for defining a generation.
The end of the week had finished, 20th August 1995, and the results were in. In the best week for UK singles sales in a decade, and amid claims that Oasis sales were hit by faulty barcodes, Blur pipped Oasis by 270,000 sales to 220,000. The battle had come to an end, and Blur had come out on top.
The Battle of Britpop was exceptionally hostile at times, but it captivated the nation, reinvigorated the UK music scene, and defined an era, whilst the legacy of the two bands still lives on to this day. Perhaps the best way to credit how colossal these two bands were, is to point towards their still relevant music careers, with Liam and Noel Gallagher both enjoying incredibly successful solo careers, and Damon Albarn fronting his Grammy Award winning outift Gorillaz. But for what it’s worth, an Oasis reunion would be far more popular than a Blur comeback.