“But the success that came with Parklife (1994) and The Great Escape (1995) was hard to cope with. It all started with the sex and sun anthem Girls & Boys. “We knew we had a ****ing big hit single,” grins Alex, and in a whirl of merchandise madness, Graham chuckles at opportunities missed: “We should have done dolls. We should do that now, but how we really look. Like, old.”—2012 Brit Awards Programme
A depressing tour of the States led to homesickness, which Damon decided to deal with creatively. “I missed everything about England so I started writing songs which created an English atmosphere,” he explains. Modern Life Is Rubbish (1992) set out their stall for Adidas wearing, chirpy chappy Britpop. For many, this was the band at their best:
"That was when we really discovered ourselves and stood up for ourselves," says Alex. "We were just young and…not rich, but we did have everything we wanted. All we wanted was to get drunk and play our guitars really loud.
Resident guitar hero Graham Coxon agrees. “Blur made me most happy when we were all in a good mood and laughing…when, musically, something clicked into place and we found a mini world inside the music.”
“Coxon is fidgety during his interview, full of nervous energy. As soon as he’s said what he has to say, he springs from his chair, on the move, trying to track down a missing milkshake he ordered a half-hour earlier. Albarn is another animal. With every one of his carefully carved quotes, he sinks deeper into his alcove nest, until he’s practically reclining. He’ll be up and running like his partner soon enough - he’s flying to Sundance to catch the premiere of Ravenous. But Iceland, where “you can actually drink the tap water, actually catch huge salmon right in the middle of Reykjavik,” has helped teach this city slicker a valuable millennium-angst lesson. “I’ve just slowed down,” Albarn says purposefully, like a tortoise crossing the finish line. “I’ve realized that you’ve got to go at half speed if you’re ever going to have a chance of taking on the world. You’ve got to move a lot slower than everyone else. So you train yourself - I generally speak a lot slower, walk a lot slower, I just do everything slower.”—New Music Monthly, April 1999.
I played sax with Damon [Albarn} on some of his songs that he'd done. It was obvious he could write songs, he seemed to be a totally natural talent, but as far as I knew he hadn't listed to that much music. He'd heard 2-Tone, The Jame and his mum played a lot of Dylan. SO there were a lot of songs there, but I wasn't really aware that he was a music fan. He was in his own world. We both got into Talk Talk's Spirit Of Eden. That was a big album for us.
Did that lay the foundations for Blur?
The Velvet Underground's Loaded definitely did. I'd moved to London and Damon was a tea-boy in a studio so we took advantage of that. It was a drum machine, Damon hammering a bass or piano and me on guitar. You could tell The Velvet Underground was an influence just from the drum machine, it was doing the Moe Tucker beat. Damon was going through a period of madness. He would stay up all night tinkling away on a piano and write some pretty insane stuff. That was when the seed of Blur started.
Graham Coxon, The Soundtrack of My Life. Q, April 2012.
“As a rule, Thursday night was party night. In Devon, we would jump in the sea first thing on a Friday to cure the hangover. There was a near miss when I spotted a geography field trip walking down the cliff to where most of Blur were splashing around naked in the water.”—Ben Hiller, on recording Think Tank. Q, April 2012.