And we all say / Don’t want to be alone / We wear the same clothes / Because we feel the same / And kiss with dry lips / When we say goodnight / End of the century… it’s nothing special (1)
When I was fourteen I moved schools. It was 1995, and for me, it was a whole new world. Quite apart that it was suddenly ok to be smart (which was something that took me a whole lot longer to come to terms with), there was make-up, and earrings, and Radio One – and my poor mother, who may have been happy with the fact that I was actually enjoying my education for the first time since primary school, probably didn’t know what to do with herself, when I suddenly decided to try and become a teenage girl. And the way I chose to try and fit in in my new environment was to seek to make friends with the indie crowd, a month or so in giving a girl called Ella a blank tape and asking her to record this new album that everyone was talking about for me. The Great Escape.
Blur was the band of choice for my form at school. Oasis were acceptable (plenty of people went to Knebworth, most ended up disillusioned after Be Here Now) – but if we were asked to choose in the Great Britpop Battle, it was always going to be Blur.
And you’ve been so busy lately / that you haven’t found the time / To open up your mind / And watch the world spinning gently out of time (2)
It’s a relationship that has continued, but in fits and starts. I know I love Blur, but I often forget to listen to them – and then when I come back to them I remember all over again with a rush of affection and that sense of suddenly being a teenager again – but only the good bits. I remember watching the video for Country House (on VHS!) in our classroom, every break time, brains overridden by hormones thanks to Damon Albarn’s eyes and Alex James’ ludicrous cool minutes in to last night’s Bur gig in Hyde Park, I turned to @aidey and said, ‘Yeah, still a little bit in love with Damon.’ Five minutes later, with Alex once again standing looking like he has a far closer relationship with his bass than anyone wants to think about, cigarette dangling from the side of his mouth, and it was: ‘Yeah. Him too.’ Hi, hormones, nice to see you.
girls who are boys / who like boys to be girls / who do boys like they’re girls / who do girls like they’re boys / always should be someone you really love (3)
But I’ve also grown up with Blur. I’ve gone from the boppy, bright colours of Parklife and The Great Escape through the reimagining of Blur, the beauty of 13 and the strange, wonderful weirdness of Think Tank. It felt like they grew up as I grew up, both of us getting more reflective about the world – like they fought to make sense of it as I did, but were just a bit better at expressing it. And a bit more musical.
And then you think, that really, they were kind of there all along: they were actually trying to fight to make sense of the world before I realised that you needed to do that or that you could do that with music. They were singing it back on Parklife and The Great Escape – it just got lost behind the brashness of the hit singles, just as Blur did for a few years, before they started to calm down and sober up. Because if you don’t take that step, you end up dead. And if you don’t take that step, mentally, you end up brain dead.
This is the next century / Where the universal’s free / You can find it anywhere / Yes, the future has been sold / Every night we’re gone / And to karaoke songs / How we like to sing a long / Although the words are wrong (4)
They were, really, the perfect band to wrap up the Olympics as they encompass the hedonistic joy and simple acceptance of all the people that seem to have flowed through the Games *and* the underlying sadness and disillusionment of being in Britain at the moment, as we try to come to terms with the fact that we’ve been sold a fake prosperity for the past 30 years. They let us enjoy the bread and circuses, while knowing that this is what we’re doing: knowing that the fun fills a hole and also that it can’t do it all on its own.
And so we moved from Girls and Boys, through Country House, Parklife and Song 2, through London (Under the Westway, London Loves) towards the reflective ending of Sing, End of the Century and The Universal. But just before this end, was a little moment of magic.
Tender is the night / Lying by your side / Tender is the touch / Of someone that you love too much /Tender is my heart you know / I’m screwing up my life / Oh Lord I need to find / Someone who can heal my mind (5)
It’s one of my favourite songs. It has been ever since it first stole my breath away on first hearing it (and since I was utterly baffled by the fact that the Great British public decided to buy more copies of Britney Spears than… this song). Last night, the crowd loved this moment as much as they had loved pogo-ing along to Song 2. And when Damon stopped singing, they carried on.
Come on, Come on, Come on / Love’s the greatest thing / That we have / I’m waiting for that feeling / I’m waiting for that feeling / Waiting for that feeling to come (6)
It feels like, in the last few years, we’ve reached the end of the Twentieth Century (albeit with the hangover from the Millenium party taking a few years to hit) – but on last night in Hyde Park, as we tried to sing a better truth into reality as something to hang onto, post-Olympic high, it was a little bit special.
(1) ‘End of the Century’ / Parklife
(2) ‘Out of Time’ / Think Tank
(3) ‘Boys and Girls’ / Parklife
(4) ‘The Universal’ / The Great Escape
(5) & (6) ‘Tender’ / 13