Two decades ago this week, all of Britain was in thrall to the battle between Oasis and Blur. Both bands had maneuvered to have highly-anticipated new singles to be released on the same day. And with no love lost between the bands–their Britpop feud was in full effect–the country was gripped by the race to see which of the bands would sell the most records that week.
There could only be one #1. Would be Blur’s “Country House” or Oasis’ “Roll With It?”
The NME offers up the definitive story of the week that defined Britpop mania.
Mike Smith (Blur publisher): “Britpop in general encouraged competitiveness – it didn’t take much for Noel and Damon to rise to it. Both wanted to be the biggest band in the country. So much was made in the media of posh southern kids and rough working class northerners. It was ridiculous, as none of the Blur boys came from those places. It was more a clash between art school traditions and Oasis’ classic British R&B.”
In picking the first singles from their forthcoming albums, Blur went with ‘Country House’ and a Benny Hill-indebted video directed by Damien Hirst, while Oasis chose the solid meat-and-potatoes rock of ‘Roll With It’. Neither band’s finest hour.
Smith: “I think it was ironic that the two songs that caused such big attention were not good examples of what Blur and Oasis were capable of. ‘Country House’ pandered to a certain aspect of Blur’s music and made it to be the predominant sound.”
Ross: “I remember the band were slightly reluctant to have ‘Country House’ as a single in the first place, and one or two people were reluctant about the video with Keith Allen and Page Three girls. But irrespective of how good the song itself was, it sounded like a Number One single. It’s like having a big gun. I’m not saying it’s pretty or nice, but it’s effective. It’s certainly not the best song they ever did, or probably even the best song on that album, but it served a purpose. The person who scores the goals isn’t necessarily the best player on the pitch.”
Street: “It was one of the obvious tracks to go for. I actually think it’s a very well-crafted song, I always thought the “blow me out/I am so sad/I don’t know why’” at the end, is a great bit of songwriting. And it seemed to cram into three-and-a-half minutes all the best bits of what Blur are about. From mine and Graham’s point of view, we were very unhappy with how the record was portrayed by the video – it cheapened it. I hated it, I absolutely detested it.”
Tim Burgess (Charlatans singer): “Neither band was on their best form with the singles they were putting out – ‘Country House’ almost seems like a novelty song when you look back at some of the heights that Blur have scaled, and ‘Roll With It’ is a kind of flatpack Oasis song.”