Destination Jam: Top 5 Britpop classics from '90s that will help you relive the golden days with fond nostalgia
Earlier this week, the BBC released its definitive list of the 50 best-selling Britpop tracks from the 1990s, using official data provided by the Official Charts Company. As expected, the band who emerged at the top of the list was the evergreen '90s playlist stalwart, Oasis, who had a whopping six songs in the Top 10. Other bands who featured in BBC Radio 2 and BBC Sounds’ Official Top 50 Britpop Songs were perennial favorites like Blur (Oasis's longtime rivals), The Verve, Cornershop, Pulp, Stereophonics, Manic Street Preachers, Travis and Kula Shaker. The majority of the songs in this Top 50 list are already familiar to British listeners, although a few might have slipped under the radar of American music lovers. But isn't that what playlists are for, uncovering hidden gems? So let's nudge our radio dials back to the golden days, when times were simpler, and reminisce on an era when British pop ruled the airwaves with fond nostalgia.
Destination Jam - Britpop edition
'Wonderwall' - Oasis
To no one's surprise, 'Wonderwall' emerged as the number one Britpop song of the '90s, with 'Don't Look Back In Anger' claiming the number 2 spot. Oasis actually managed to snag a total of 13 tracks in the Top 50 list, an unprecedented success rate. The often-feuding brothers Liam and Noel Gallagher were both rightfully revered and ridiculed for their unquestionable talent and outspoken antics during their stint in Oasis, with many fans claiming that they were the rightful heirs to the Beatles' throne in England. Both brothers embarked on successful solo careers after Oasis split up, although their solo hits were less frequent compared to their glory days. But this song is a lush masterpiece, and it has been played so many times at campfire parties and living rooms around the world, that it actually became a meme - "Anyway, here's Wonderwall". It even got banned in a local guitar shop in Manchester, the Gallaghers' home city, and it's easy to see why. The song is catchy and spirited, can be played with simple chords, and it's got a great sing-along chorus. It might be overplayed, but can it ever be erased from popular culture? We say, "maybe".
'Country House' - Blur
Blur might be have been the polished, artsy antithesis to Oasis's roughshod, radio-friendly swagger, but they were arguably just as big as Oasis in the '90s. As some fans would attest, Blur was even better at crafting songs, if you look at the sheer variety on offer in tracks like 'Tender', 'Song 2' and 'Parklife'. Although the antagonism between the two bands was blown up by the media, many fans in England started taking sides (North vs South), and a Blur Vs Oasis rivalry dominated music headlines in the 1990s. This all culminated in a chart battle in August 1995, called "The Battle of Britpop", when 'Country House' became the focal point of a gathering storm, as it was pitted against Oasis's track 'Roll With It' which was slated to release on the same day. Although Blur eventually emerged victorious with the No 1 song in the UK, Oasis would go on to overtake them in the long run with album sales. However, all's well that ends well, as the Blur frontman Damon Albarn and Noel Gallagher later became good friends. And of course, Damon Albarn went on to even greater things with the popular animated band Gorillaz, his collaborative project with Jamie Hewlett.
'Bittersweet Symphony' - The Verve
This is probably the most evergreen Britpop song on the list, since its potency refuses to fade with time. Richard Ashcroft of The Verve no doubt wrote the song's candid lyrics, "You're a slave to money, then you die", after watching his father work hard at a 9-5 clerical job and then die while Richard was still 11. By the time he wrote the song, Ashcroft had realized that money was not synonymous with happiness, and it's just as well he realized that. The entire irony of 'Bittersweet Symphony' becoming such a huge hit was that The Verve never received the royalties they were due every time the popular song was played in the mainstream media. This was because they had sampled an orchestral cover of a Rolling Stones song, 'The Last Time', and had neglected to secure the rights to the original recording, thinking just the rights to the Andrew Oldham cover would suffice. However, this proved to be a costly mistake, and it made Allen Klein, the former Stones manager, a very wealthy man at their expense. However, The Verve quickly rebounded with another No1 hit, 'The Drugs Don't Work' soon afterward, and the exposure they gained from ads that played their famous song also boosted their album sales exponentially.
'Brimful of Asha' - Cornershop
One of the most indelible songs of all time, 'Brimful of Asha' by the indie rock/fusion group Cornershop hit the UK like a ton of bricks and managed to crack the Top 60 of the UK Singles charts in 1997. But the song exploded the following year when the peppy remix by DJ Fatboy Slim aka Norman Cook sent it all the way to No 1 in the country. Fatboy Slim was reportedly so enamored by the song that he refused to charge a fee for remixing it. The track itself is a celebration of Indian film music and culture, most notably Bollywood song and dance numbers, as performed by playback singers. The eponymous 'Asha' in the song's title is a reference to the Bollywood music icon, Asha Bhosle, who has performed on over 12,000 recordings in many different Indian languages. "Asha" also means hope, so when Tjinder Singh sang "Brimful of Asha on the 45", he was referring to the message of hope that often emanated out of a standard 45, aka a 7-inch vinyl record. Even the song's refrain reinforces this comforting thought with the line "Everyone needs a bosom for a pillow, mine's on the 45."
'Common People' - Pulp
Let's wrap up this playlist with a 1995 song that has since become synonymous with English working-class culture, often being hailed as a definitive anthem for the British masses throughout the '90s and beyond. Jarvis Cocker, the frontman of Pulp, wrote this famous tune about wanting to live like the rough and unsophisticated commoners (from the viewpoint of posh people) on a Casiotone keyboard, after being inspired by a posh girl he met in a sculpture course at St Martin's college. In the song, the girl apparently longed to be part of the common folk even though she viewed herself as a genteel outsider, and Jarvis took it upon himself to remind her that all the not-so-well-off common people did was "dance and drink and screw". As Justin Myers of the Official Charts Company later put it, "Common People was typical Pulp – a biting satire of posh people ‘roughing it’ and acting like tourists by hanging with the 'common people'. Jarvis delivered his scathing putdown with glee, in an iconic music video featuring actress Sadie Frost as the posho on the receiving end of Jarvis’ acid tongue." The song was later voted the greatest Britpop song of all time in a 2015 poll conducted by Rolling Stone magazine.
Destination Jam is a daily list of songs that will keep you entertained and grooving up top in lieu of feeling drained and losing the plot. Look out for a fresh selection of great tunes from MEAWW to refresh your mood every day!