I've never read anything by John Harris before, but after reading the superbly detailed and imaginatively researched BRITPOP!, I picture him as a kind of Theodore K. White of music journalism. He is careful to place the phenomenon inside a political and social context which included the passing of the Thatcher kingdom and the birth of "New Labor" as exemplified by the triumph of the young, music loving prime minister, Tony Blair. And paralleling also the rise of the Young British artists llike Damien Hirst and or Tracey Emin.
Against this changing backdrop of society and expectations, a new breed of British bands appeared all at once to world consciousness. Oasis, Blur, Pulp and more seemed poised to take over the world the way that the Beatles, Stones and Kinks has once dominated rock 30 years before. And yet within a few years, all this excitement had dried up, and the Gallagher Brothers were now seen only as a pair of drunken louts who slagged everyone they could, even their own wives and girlfriends. Harris is good at depicting not only the appropriation strategies of these bands but the way they knew how to play themselves in the media against their American or Australian counterparts for maximum effect, culminating in the episode where Jarvis Cocker showed up at a Michael Jackson TV taping to denounce the black R&B singer, or the way that Noel Gallagher assailed Kylie Minogue for being a "lesbian," or so he said.
The Koran says, "In our beginning are our ends," and this book Britpop! proves it over and over and over and over.
Well done, John Harris.
on November 5, 2011
Too often rock history books are let down by the writer not the subject. Not this time. It's sex (well, not all that much other than Justine Elastica gettin' it on with Damon Blur and that Morrissey clone guy from Suede), drugs (did these bands learn nothing from the excesses of their heroes in the '60s and '70s?) and rock and roll (well, other than the first Oasis album, maybe bits of the Elastica album and Blur's woo-hoo Song No. 2...not much there either really).
The writer, though, captures the whole scene with a keen eye for how things got hyped up and how they all fell apart. I also loved the fact he respects the background of Brit music scene by filling those with ears younger than my ancient New Wave ones in on a bit of the pre-Britpop era '80s and even back to those New Wave '70s. The way the Labour Party co-opted the Britpop vibe is classic (who's using who now?) and even worth a book on its own.
Amazing read--blitzed thru it in two days straight. That's what a page turner this is. Absolute must-read for any fan of music.
on November 21, 2011
If like me, you were a student during the Britpop era, and spent many nights dancing badly, drinking, and chasing girls, chances are you were also a fan of this music. This book provides a wry analysis of the music, the personalities and the wider movement, It explains the origins of and linkages between bands. In short, if you liked the music, you'll love this book.