BBC celebrates 20 years of Britpop with Champagne Supernova of programming
For me, this is the week 20 years ago that the musical tectonic plates shifted. On the Tuesday, Oasis played live on Radio 1 for the first time and on the Friday morning we heard the news of Kurt Cobain's death. It was as if one scene had announced it had arrived, as another began to lose its way."Steve Lamacq
There will be a week-long return of the legendary Evening Session on Radio 2, a range of documentaries, plus interviews with artists who were pivotal to the movement, plus a top-30 countdown on 6 Music asking listeners to vote for the song that sums up Britpop for them.
Britpop at the BBC will also live online at bbc.co.uk/britpop where fans will be able to hear all the programmes in the season, see exclusive archive clips, view a photo gallery, and test their knowledge in a Britpop quiz.
Bob Shennan, Controller of Radio 2, 6 Music, Asian Network and popular music TV says: “To mark the 20th anniversary of Britpop, the BBC is uniquely able to raid its own incredible television, radio and picture archives. And through our current line-up of presenters - including those who lived, breathed and were central to the scene two decades ago - Britpop at the BBC will be bringing this era back to life once more.”
In the wake of the US grunge scene, which invaded the UK in the early 90s, new British groups such as Suede and Blur spearheaded the Britpop movement by writing and singing about topics and concerns that were uniquely British, evoking the essence of their 1960s counterparts like The Who, The Kinks and The Beatles. Soon the scene was brimming with a wealth of bands including Oasis, Elastica, Pulp, Supergrass, Sleeper and The Verve. Together, they brought British alternative rock back into the mainstream. Britpop had it all: rivalry, polo shirts, cigarettes and alcohol, parkas and cool haircuts – all with great music at its heart.
Steve Lamacq says: “For me, this is the week 20 years ago that the musical tectonic plates shifted. On the Tuesday, Oasis played live on Radio 1 for the first time and on the Friday morning we heard the news of Kurt Cobain's death. It was as if one scene had announced it had arrived, as another began to lose its way. Without Kurt, grunge lost its momentum, while Britpop was building by the week. Blur's Girls And Boys was all over the radio ahead of the release of Parklife and Elastica had just had their first hit. But this was the week when you thought 'music's coming home'.”
Britpop at the BBC on Radio 2 sees the mighty duo of Nineties radio - Steve Lamacq and Jo Whiley - reunite for the Evening Session (Monday 7 to Thursday 10 April, 8-10pm) which aired on Radio 1. From the BBC’s iconic Maida Vale studios in London, there will be sessions from Chvrches and Sophie Ellis-Bextor, who will be covering Britpop classics, plus more artists to be announced.
Supergrass frontman, Gaz Coombes, and poster girl of Britpop Louise Wener from Sleeper will be live in the studio with Jo and Steve reminiscing about those heady days. Plus, there will be highlights from the Evening Session archive, including Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker co-hosting with Jo Whiley as well as performances from the original shows. And throughout the week in the Evening Session on Radio 2 and his daily 6 Music show, Steve will be hosting the Britpop Timeline, an insightful and in-depth look back to highlight the historical moments that formed the cultural and musical landscape of Britain, from the unofficial Britpop beginnings in 1993 through to Oasis’s momentous gig at Knebworth in 1996.
Jo Whiley says: “I will always jump at the chance to work with Steve. He is my radio ‘other half’ and we did fight the Britpop wars together, after all. Presenting the Evening Session at the height of Britpop meant that we interviewed some fantastic characters, from Noel to Damon, Justine to Jarvis, and witnessed some seminal moments in the history of music, and made some wildly inaccurate predictions as to the future of music. It was a great time to be a DJ on UK radio but, as ever, when you're in the eye of the storm, you are blissfully unaware. It's only in hindsight that you appreciate what a privilege it was to live and work through such an exciting time for British music.”
Over on 6 Music, Steve Lamacq hosts a week of special programmes in his daily show from 4 to 7pm. On Monday 7 April he is joined by Gaz Coombes, who talks through Supergrass’s seminal Britpop album, I Should Coco. Steve takes Gaz back to the release of their debut album in 1995, with archive clips of the band’s first visit to Radio 1’s The Evening Session to promote it. Other gems from the BBC Archive in his shows across the week include Elastica playing Mr And Mrs, with Justine Frischmann offering a unique insight to the youthful excitement of the Britpop era. To add a retrospective on the pinnacle of the Britpop movement are the people behind the biggest bands - Alan McGee of Oasis and Andy Ross of Blur. They’ll be giving a present-day insight into the media frenzy that surrounded their bands’ legendary 1995 chart battle.
And listeners will be able to have their say by choosing 6 Music’s Favourite Britpop Anthem. Steve will be asking them to vote from Friday 4 to Thursday 10 April at bbc.co.uk/britpop for the one song which sums up their Britpop experience. The grand finale will be a Top 30 Countdown on Friday 11 April in which Steve will reveal who has triumphed in the poll. This will be accompanied by a live blog on the website documenting the chart.
Lamacq’s weekly Roundtable (Thursday 10 April, 6-7pm) takes on a Britpop twist with three influential people of the time - Jo Whiley, journalist John Harris, and Menswear drummer (and now 6 Music presenter) Matt Everitt - who will come together to review some releases.
6 Music presenter and former drummer for Menswear, Matt Everitt, has interviewed some of the biggest names in the world of music for his series, The First Time With. Now, for Britpop at the BBC he will be speaking to… himself! This very special episode will run across the week in Shaun Keaveny’s Breakfast show.
Matt explains: “In The First Time With Matt Everitt, I’ll be speaking to someone who is, in my opinion, one of the most important figures in Britpopular music – Myself. Always a huge influence on me personally, I’ll be asking myself all the important questions that no interviewer has ever wanted to. How few chords can you get away with on a Britpop hit? (One, apparently.) How did it feel having a musical career shorter than the lifespan of a Mayfly with high cholesterol? How much of the whole torrid affair can I remember? And do I think I’ll ever be reuniting with myself?”
Additionally, across the week there will also be an array of documentaries on Radio 2, 6 Music and BBC Four, including:
How Britpop Changed The Media, Sunday 6 April, 1-2pm, BBC Radio 6 Music: Miranda Sawyer looks at Britpop's explosion into the mainstream alongside Young British Artists such as Damien Hirst (who studied at Goldsmith's with Blur's Alex James and Graham Coxon) and new magazines like Loaded (started by ex-NME journalist James Brown). The press realised that these musicians could shift papers and started putting them on the front covers; Tony Blair invited Noel Gallagher to Number 10, and magazines such as the Modern Review declared that pop music should be put on a cultural par with opera.
Miranda says: “Britpop was more than Blur v Oasis. The explosion of alternative home-grown talent, of genuine British stars, forced the UK mainstream to change the way it viewed indie music. From being a niche experience covered by specialist magazines, pop became our biggest culture, covered seriously by every media outlet from The Sun to The Economist. Britpop changed the media and it never changed back.”
This documentary will be followed by a debate in the Jeremy Vine Show (Monday 7 April, 12-2pm, BBC Radio 2), looking at how Britpop changed Britain, and whether it was a force for good or bad.
And in Britpop: A Very British Pop (Monday 7 April, 10-11pm, BBC Radio 2) Stuart Maconie traces the rise of Britpop from its beginnings in Camden to the front room of Downing Street, exploring why it happened when it did and its legacy on British music today, with the help of Roger Daltrey, Suede’s Brett Anderson and Mat Osman, Blur’s Alex James, Auteurs’ Luke Haines and Sleeper’s Louise Wener.
Not Just Britpop (Tuesday 8, Wednesday 9, Thursday 10 April, 10-11pm, BBC Radio 2): This era was an exciting and vibrant time for music, but not all of it was made by guitar bands that were signed to indie labels. This three-part series looks back at the dance, pop, and R‘n’B and hip hop scenes during 1994-1998. Zoe Ball, who started on the Radio 1 Breakfast Show in 1997, opens the series looking at how the worlds of dance music and Britpop regularly crossed paths - from the early upset of M People beating albums by Blur and Pulp at the Mercury Music Prize in 1994, to Noel Gallagher teaming up with the Chemical Brothers for ‘Setting Sun’, and the emergence of Big Beat. Looking at pop, Mark Goodier, who presented the Official UK Top 40 for much of the Britpop era - including one of the most famous chart shows of all time on Sunday 20 August 1995 when he revealed that Blur had beaten Oasis to number one - remembers the tears when Take That split up, the girl power of the Spice Girls and an unlikely music phenomenon called Robson and Jerome. And Trevor Nelson, who joined Radio 1 in 1996 where he presented the UK’s first ever national R‘n’B show, Rhythm Nation, looks at how the UK tried hard to export Britpop to the States with little success, but that the Brits couldn’t resist the R‘n’B and hip hop they sent us in return.
And BBC Four (Friday 11 April) raids the BBC archives for this show, which is a rich treasure trove of the joy and the time that was Britpop. The show features the girls (Elastica, Sleeper), the boys (Suede, Menswear) and many of the others who contributed to five years of Cool Britannia, Blur vs Oasis, and Camden being the centre of the universe.
On 6 Music across the week there will be further Britpop programming from the BBC Archives, including:
Oasis - What's The Story? (Sunday 6 and Monday 7 April, 4am) – Oasis’s Liam and Noel, Alan McGee and others tell the story of the band and their success. Mark Radcliffe takes a canny look at the trials and tribulations of the Gallagher brothers and what was one of the biggest British bands of all time. This two-part series was first broadcast on Radio 2 in 2002.
6 Music Live Hour (Monday 7 April, 3am) - Blur, recorded at Glastonbury in 1994, plus BBC sessions from Lush and James. This programme will be presented by Chris Hawkins. The 6 Music Live Hour programmes throughout the week will also feature classic Britpop sessions.
Radio 1 Evening Session - 4 April, 1995 (Tuesday 8 April, 1am) - Another chance to hear highlights of the classic episode in which Jarvis Cocker of Pulp co-presented with Jo Whiley. Other classic Evening Session shows will be broadcast throughout the week.
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