The year is 1994 and I am sat in my friend Tracey’s living room, in full on grunge-era floral skirt and Doc Martens combo waiting for a Red Dwarf repeat to come on. Suddenly, from Tracey’s cool older brother’s room I hear a sound I’d never heard before and I fall in love. Not with Tracey’s brother, I hasten to add, but with the swirling guitar sound and falsetto backing vocals of Star Shaped, from Blur's 1993 album Modern Life is Rubbish.
From that moment on, I was hooked. My illicit tape copy of Modern Life is Rubbish soon became a shiny CD copy with my Christmas money. It became the soundtrack of my 15 year old life, along with morsels of Suede's Dog Man Star and The Sisters EP by Pulp. The release of Girls and Boys, and later their third album Parklife, bought Blur to the attention of the masses and accompanied much of my GCSE revision. The 15 year-old me was always quite obnoxiously keen to point out how much I'd loved them before they had hit the Top 10. Secretly, however, I was thrilled to see one of my favourites gather music awards and accolades and their saturation of the music channels when singles were released was a boon for a obsessive like me. I loved every track but my favourite was definitely To The End - I remember thinking it impossibly romantic and tragic!
NME and Select Magazine featuring 'the boys from Essex' were essential reading as I progressed from secondary school form-room gatherings to college canteens debates. I remember sitting with my friend Jo, carefully planning how much of our dinner money we had to save each day in order to be able to afford a forthcoming Blur special edition of Select on its day of publication.
Indeed, Jo (far left) and I chose to immortalise our love of the band in 1995, in our choice of outfits when appearing on MTV in the audience for my favourite TV show at the time, Most Wanted with Ray Cokes (below).
In November '95, my Dad drove my friends and I to Sheffield Arena to see the band play live. I was almost speechless with excitement about it all and I was completely unable to sleep the night before. I wasn't impressed with the support act - The Britpops Orchestra - who played orchestral versions of Blur hits, but even this didn't dull my enthusiasm. Seeing the band play all my favourite tracks and singing my heart out amongst hundreds of other fans was overwhelmingly exciting. I remember hugging equally enthralled fans from all over the country in the stands and crying at the end. I also made the rookie mistake of buying a knock-off t-shirt outside the venue which, unsurprisingly, didn't make it through one wash at home before it fell apart.
The Great Escape, released in the height of Blur's popularity initially didn't seem to make the same impression on me as their previous albums. In more recent times the majesty of The Universal and the ironic, Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band-like nature of Ernold Same have ensured they became iPod favourites but, at the time, I wasn't blown away.
Unfortunately, by the time that the self-titled Blur was released in 1997 I had started University and become a pretentious bore, putting aside such fun to develop my understanding of blues and folk music.
The later albums 13 and Think Tank passed by without me even noticing. In retrospect, I missed out.
|David made me these replicas of the milk cartons|
from the Coffee & TV music video and gave them to
me as Christmas presents.
Meeting David in 2010 and finding out he was a massive Blur fan too (amongst other things) was fantastic. He sent me Look Inside America on a mix CD and it made me go back and re-evaluate the 'missed albums' somewhat. Whilst they might not be solid gold, some of what I now count as my all time favourite Blur tracks are on them including Coffee and TV, Tender, No Distance Left To Run and Beetlebum.
I was heartbroken to have missed another chance to see Blur live when they played a select handful of reunion gigs in 2009. Watching their headline performance at Glastonbury that year on TV just rubbed salt in to the wound of not getting tickets, but I live in hope that there will be more gigs announced at some time. If they do, I'll be there for sure.