The Rock’s Backpages Flashback: London Loves Blur
They've just won the Outstanding Contribution at this year's Brit Awards. 18 years ago — when Paul Moody interviewed them for NME (March 5, 1994) — Blur were about to boss Britpop with the imminent and brilliant album Parklife——Barney Hoskyns, Editorial Director, Rock's Backpages
High up on the roof of London, above the glow of soft-porn peepshows and beetling black cabs, above the fluorescent record shops and the rush-hour crush of Piccadilly, a dazzling red and blue neon screen flashes out its message over and over again.
Freddie Mercury, Buddy Holly and Mick Jagger, forced to watch the skies forever from the upper balcony of the Rock Circus waxwork museum, stare up in silent homage, blinded over and over again by its silent mantra.
Hundreds of feet below, Damon Albarn's eyes are gleaming almost as much as his solid silver identity bracelet.
"See that? Next time we'll be up there with that lot!"
And all the while, the message keeps flashing: "LONDON LOVES BLUR... LONDON LOVES BLUR..."
"It's like asking us what do we stand for? What do we stand for? So we don't lie down all the time!" — Damon , NME, July 1991
Blur have gone around the bend. Quite literally. Rewind two days and the Colchester four are immersed in a studio bunker buried in a side street behind the British Museum. Deep within its confines there is a mixing desk containing Blur's forthcoming "difficult" third album. Damon (Puma trainers, cream Harrington jacket, Bash Street haircut) swivels in a Mastermind chair, Alex adopts a slouch worthy of Dionysus, Graham stares bug-eyed into the middle distance. Drummer Dave goes to collect the sugary tea. Within five minutes, however, Damon is switching the tape recorder on and fending off imaginary brickbats.
"The thing about this album is that in a lot of ways it's a massive departure from the last one," he says. "If people are scared of that, there's not much I can do about it. I just can't think of anything more boring than doing the same thing over and over again."
But by changing so radically, maybe you'll only succeed in exchanging the fans you've got for new ones, a la Modern Life Is Rubbish...
Damon momentarily affects the look of a 12-year-old who's just been told his birthday party's been cancelled. Alex, his mind miles away on a yacht in the Aegean, looks up from within the sofa and whispers his first words of the afternoon.
"Maybe we will. Perhaps that's the tragedy of Blur..."
What we're really discussing, of course, is the new single 'Girls And Boys'. This, if you haven't already heard it, is not your average single plucked from a forthcoming album. It's not even your average Blur single, if there is such a thing.
It is simply bonkers. A biscuit tin drum machine rattles out an into, a Chad Valley synthesiser bleeps along frantically behind it, and suddenly Damon's barking along on top in sexy robot-cockney about the carnal pleasures to be had on the soaraway fun holidays of Club 18-Dirty. It's Bill Wyman's 'Si Si, Je Suis Un Rock Star' in bed with Devo, with the windows wide open and the sheets reeking of suntan oil. Pop Muzik. Everybody's doing it.
"Yeah, it's about those sorts of holidays," enthuses Damon. "I went on holiday with Justine last summer to Magaluf and the place was just equally divided between cafes serving up full English breakfasts and really tacky Essex nightclubs. There's a very strong sexuality about it. I just love the whole idea of it, to be honest. I love herds. All these blokes and all these girls meeting at the watering hole and then just... copulating. There's no morality involved, I'm not saying it should or shouldn't happen. My mind's just getting more dirty. I can't help it.