Britpop? How do you define it?

James Tanner from Britpop Memories shares his thoughts on the genre and cultural phenomenon at the heart of SHE’S ELECTRIC…

This is an age-old conundrum, well I say age old……’s been discussed since about 1993!

Britpop? How do you define it?

Well for me I think it’s the description of a cultural movement that swept through the UK and then across the world in the early 90’s but with its foundations having been laid sequentially since the early sixties and the explosion of  British pop/beat bands such as the Beatles and the Stones, then into the Mod movement(s), Glam, Punk, Ska, Indie, Shoegaze, Baggy, Madchester and last but not least NWONW (New Wave of New Wave).

Stuart Maconie is the man who is credited with coining the phrase and labelling the burgeoning guitar music scene of the early 90’s as “Britpop” (note the correct spelling here, not Brit Pop or Brit-pop). This was in the April 1993 issue of Select magazine, and whether he intended to permanently label a whole generation of guitar bands or not he has certainly sealed his place in music history.

So, genre/style/cultural movement? Which is it to be? For me it has to be the notion of a cultural movement because Britpop bands are so wide ranging, from the Avant garde and sometimes hard work of Radiohead to the pop edged fun of Menswe@r and Speedy, via the Mod influenced sound of OCS and the solo career of Paul Weller. Throw into the mix the rise of British cinema, the boom in “lads mags” and music magazines (Vox, Q, Select, to name a few) and TV series like This Life, TFI Friday, The White Room and Game On and you can see the cultural influence of the time seeping out of music and across the various popular medias.

But, and this is the bit that I understand but get annoyed by; the majority of the bands spent a lot of time telling the world how they weren’t Britpop and trying to distance themselves from the stigma that sadly ended up attached to it by the media who saw Britpop as merely a lazy rehashing of old music. I say be proud that you were a part of something that meant a lot to us fans, that got you publicity that would’ve been gold dust to bands before and since, and that has created a large bookmark in the musical history of Britain. There is yet to be a successor scene (although some of the press are desperately trying to make Grime a genre to write about), and guitar music hasn’t been as good or as fun since.

Lastly who do I think is the archetypal Britpop act? Has to be Menswe@r doesn’t it? The look, the musical sound, the fact that they hung around Camden Town a lot and the fact that they were my first gig all give them credence in my eyes.

Follow James on Twitter: @Britpopmemories

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