Okay, so that’s a bit provocative. The sounds and influences that eventually coalesced into Britpop had been around in the Stone Roses released their debut record in May 1989. And let’s not forget about Suede’s retro-glam sound of 1993.
But this is the 20th anniversary of the release of the single that heralded the true beginning of Britpop:
“Girls and Boys” was officially released in the UK on March 7, 1994. And it took Britain by surprise.
Blur had been written off by most, an early-90s flame-out band that couldn’t live up to its initial promise. And for a while, it looked like the band would break up. But then Damon Albarn looked around and saw how big grunge was getting in the UK. “Cultural imperialist Yanks,” he thought. And this is what steered his inspiration towards writing songs with a distinctly British appeal.
Here’s his famous NME quote: “If punk was about getting rid of hippies, then I’m getting rid of grunge!” It was a noble idea, but no one gave him much of a chance of succeeding.
And then Kurt Cobain killed himself.
That was the tipping point, the thing that opened the door for something new.
After Cobain died, the wind went out of grunge’s sails. Momentum would carry things for another 18 months or so, but a lot of the popular enthusiasm for the music began to wane. And then, on April 25, 1994–three weeks after Kurt’s death–Blur released Parklife, one of the most British-centric rock albums of all time. The album was embraced by all ages in the UK, setting the stage for a flag-waving, viva Britannia party that would run for several years.
Read more on the effects of the release of “Girls and Boys” at The Guardian.