It's the 20th anniversary of the birth of Britpop and there is a lot being said about it. I read a piece the other day that, quite frankly, made my blood boil. I would link to it but I can't find it and you wouldn't thank me anyway as it's very long, deeply dismissive and, in my humble opinion, written by someone with a holier than thou attitude about the whole decade. Or in simpler terms; a load of bollocks by a total bell end.
The thing that really got my goat amongst the accusations of Britpop causing cultural contamination that is still poisoning us to this day (?) and the routine dismissal of many talented people who made some excellent music was the lack of any real acknowledgement that a whole load of people had a whole load of FUN during the mid 90's. I know I did, and it know my friends did too. They were truly halcyon days. Obviously, a lot of that was due to my age at the time and where my life was at, but for those of us with a penchant for "alternative" music it was a time where we rose up and took over the mainstream. It was glorious.
Growing up my musical tastes were firmly rooted in the 80's, I loved ( and still do) the electronic music of the time. Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, Erasure, Pet Shop Boys, New Order, OMD, Nik Kershaw, Human League, etc. That was my bag. By the start of the 90's though, many of these were floundering or sounding a bit tired. Not Depeche Mode obviously who were entering their imperial phase. Musically speaking I was a bit lost in the early nineties, I didn't really get the whole Rave scene (which, looking back, was a bit of a shame) or Grunge which completely passed me by. I did discover Del Amitri who, although dismissed by many as MOR, would act as a bridge for me from my synthesised adolescence to my guitar based adulthood.
Then came Blur and Oasis. You could argue that Parklife changed my life. I loved that album and it opened my ears to new possibilities. The defining moment though came a little later on...
I had recently had a change of department in my workplace. I was working with a chap called Carl, who was always telling me about the bands he'd been to see and who he was listening to. Well now I was sharing an office with him ( it really wasn't an office, it was more a large indoor shed that we called "The Barn") and listening to his CDs. One day I was taken by what I was hearing and asked Carl who it was. Shed Seven he told me. Now, oddly enough I had heard of them because I'd played on the same bill as them (sort of) some 18 months before at Fibbers in York when I was fronting a band while living in my native Wakefield, but that's another story.
Anyway I liked what I heard and then Carl told me they were playing in nearby Northampton soon and I should go. So I did.
Now it's not like I'd never seen live music before, I was a veteran of over ten years of concerts. All kicking off with Kajagoogoo at Leeds town hall in 1984. Post-Limahl I should point out, it's not like I wasn't cool! You'll note the word "concert", for that's what all the performances I'd seen had been.
When I went to see Shed Seven at the Roadmender in Northampton, well that my friends was a gig. I still consider it my first proper gig. Hundreds of people packed into a sweaty little room, no seats anywhere, no video screens and no synths. Instead there was a moshpit. I'd never seen a moshpit before (not much call for a moshpit when you see Erasure) and the experience completely blew me away. It was utterly thrilling and somehow made the thumping music visceral, primal even. Myself and my friends (and even the ex-wife) went on to become seasoned moshers after that. We spent the next two years or so going to loads of gigs, literally hundreds. Sometimes we'd do four in four days. Sometimes we'd sit at home at tea time with nothing planned before getting frustrated, checking the NME gig guide and going off at the drop of a hat to see some band somewhere. Memorably we once went all the way to Portsmouth to see Super Furry Animals in such an ad hoc fashion.
So back to Shed Seven. They'll always hold a special place in my heart after that first gig but there is more to them than that. Alright, so they were never gonna be Radiohead or have the cultural weight of Blur or Pulp but they did have some cracking tunes. Dolphin, Disco Down, Getting Better, She Left Me On Friday ( she also, most excellently, "rode off on a donkey"), Chasing Rainbows to name but a few. Most of all though they were a really great live band, I went on to see them many times after that first night in Northampton and they never, ever disappointed. You were guaranteed a fun night, jumping around with your mates to some great songs bashed out by four guys who clearly cared about making sure everyone did just that.
Today and back in the day you'd rarely see their name without the prefix: Britpop also-rans. My prefix is: The mighty.