I fell out of love with music, specifically pop music, around about 1983. As punk fizzled and splintered I had liked the Human League, Heaven 17, Bunnymen, Teardrop Explodes, Fire Engines and The Associates but as they all imploded or rested no-one seemed to take their place. Prince, Wham and Culture Club took over the NME. I was not in tune with any of them. By the time The Smiths came along they seemed a lone half-decent band in a world I no longer understood.
So I just ignored everything. I now know I missed out on good music ~ there is always good music, you just have to seek it out sometimes, it is not always spoon fed. I just stubbornly refused to look.
And then, one day in 1993 I heard For Tomorrow on the radio. Blimey, a band influenced by Bowie, I remember thinking. I quite liked it. A couple of months later I was at a party and heard Modern Life is Rubbish for the first time. It was an epiphanal moment. Here was a band I understood, at last I awoke out of darkness.
Not only did this lead me to Pulp, Supergrass, Portishead, Radiohead (I heard Pop is Dead on the radio at the same time and loved that too though the band now disown it) and Oasis, Blur proved to be not a flash in the pan but a group that I would come to love almost as much as The Kinks over the following decade.
And now they’re back. With Graham Coxon. Hurrah! I hated the idea of a Blur without him and feel Think Tank their most unsatisfactory album (my brother thinks it their best).
Now, apart from the fact that these scamps who had come up with Modern Life is Rubbish dressed like me and my pal Mark (Fred Perrys, tweed jackets, turn-up jeans and docs) they wrote absolutely fantastic ballads/slow songs. Not in the manner of Scott Walker, but still lovely, wistful songs that clicked perfectly with me.
And this is the basis of my dream Blur set list. This is for their secret warm-up show in an intimate venue. I’m there with my girlfriend, a few of my pals are there too with their wives/husbands, I can see Jarvis across the room, he nods a silent hiya to me. I wave back. The room is dark, candlelit, we’re sat at tables and we’ve bought a bottle of fizz for the occasion.
And here is the set list with nothing faster than the wig-out at the end of Country Sad Ballad Man. Not necessarily ‘unplugged’, this is a proper gig, just achingly beautiful, occasionally delicate songs from a great band. Tomorrow I’ll present the set for the park. It’ll be louder, I promise.
Well, you know you’re not going to get Song 2, so the order is pretty interchangeable, but I think 1992 from 13 would be a good place to start. Mournful, ghostly vocals, with Graham doing plenty of droning feedback. It’s superfluous to say I love this song as I do so with the whole set, but this still sounds so different to me.
Badhead and End of a Century will pick the mood up a bit. I remember playing side one of Parklife for the first time. By the time I’d got to track 6 I’d heard both of these for the first time and I knew it was a masterpiece. Fifteen years on, I can see the flaws, but still stand up to anyone who claims it’s not an important or great album, even though it may prove to be their Sgt Pepper. Here’s a demo of Badhead. Nice.
Country Sad Ballad Man and Strange News from Another Star, both from Blur (the fifth album) followed by Mellow Song from 13.
Fade Away. I love the whole More Specials feel of this song complete with Rico horns. I think The Great Escape is too easily dismissed. It again is flawed but is a pretty good, if not great, pop album. It’s the only track from this tonight. I almost included Best Days but never liked Universal.
Young and Lovely. Indeed. Not on any album, this languishes on the b-side of 1993’s Chemical World.
Blue Jeans and Miss America from MLiR followed by the best two tracks from Think Tank; Out of Time and Good Song.
Birthday, the only track from the first album. A throwaway, but still rather nice. It was this or Wear me Down. Heck, let’s have both. They’re getting paid enough I imagine. Not heard Wear me Down for ages – it’s brill.
Tender. Remember all the codswallop about this being the best song ever when it was released? I did think it was rather wonderful though. Not heard it for a while, I think it’ll take me somewhere I don’t necessarily want to go, but still a great song. I suppose Damon might not wanna go to some of these places again either!
The gig ends with This is a Low and Resigned, which close Parklife and MLiR. An utterly beautiful finish to each wonderful album.
Of course there’s encores. They’ve done just over an hour and they’ve still not done one of the greatest love songs of all time. Now they have ~ Graham’s You’re So Great from 13. ’nuff said. Followed by Look Inside America.
They go off again and come back for one last time to play Alex James’ wonderfully quirky Barretesque ditty to the starsFar Out and To The End. Perfect.