Blur (formed 1988)
Blur is an English alternative pop band. They rose to fame in the 1990s when the UK music press created the 'Britpop' phenomenon. The lineup of the band consists of Damon Albarn (vocals), Dave Rowntree (drums), Graham Coxon (guitar) and Alex James (bass).
The Early Years: Graham Coxon and Damon Albarn were childhood friends and met Alex James at Goldsmiths College in London. Damon was already in a group named Circus, which also featured Dave on drums. The band recruited Graham and Alex and later re-named themselves Seymour. The name came from Seymour: An Introduction, by JD Salinger.
Seymour's debut gig was in the summer of 1989. An A&R man from Food Records, Andy Ross, was interested in the band, but the label disliked the band's name. Eventually, Food signed the band when the name was changed to Blur.
Blur toured the UK for four months in 1990, showcasing new songs and supporting The Cramps. In October that year, their debut single 'She's So High' was released and reached number 48 in the UK singles chart.
Rise To Success: Blur's trouble in creating a follow-up single to 'She's So High' ended when they paired up with a producer named Stephen Street. 'There's No Other Way' was the band's next single and reached number eight in the UK charts.
Blur's debut album Leisure was release in 1991 and reached number seven in the UK album chart, though it's critical reviews received a mixed response.
Finding themselves £60,000 in debt, Blur embarked on a 1992 tour of the USA, dubbed the Rollercoaster tour. At the start of the tour, they released 'Popscene', which became a pivotal point for the band, even though it only reached 32 in the charts.
Upon their return from the USA, Blur found that the band Suede had achieved a great deal of popularity since they had been away. Determined not to be outdone, and aware that his band was on the verge of being dropped by Food Records, Damon Albarn insisted on enlisting Andy Partridge of XTC to produce their next album. The sessions were a failure and the band was once again united with Stephen Street.
The resulting recordings became the band's second album, Modern Life Is Rubbish, released in December 1992. The lead single was 'For Tomorrow'. The album peaked at number 15 in the UK.
Blur's third album, Parklife became another turning point for the band. The debuts single from Parklife 'Girls & Boys' was a commercial radio hit. The album debuted at number one and remained in the charts for 90 weeks. Around this time, the UK music press had created a new phenomenon they named Britpop - a backlash to the American grunge bands that had dominated for so long. Other bands included under the Britpop umbrella included Elastica, Pulp, Sleeper and Menswear. Blur won four awards at the 1995 BRIT awards.
The press also created a rivalry between Blur and Oasis when the release of Blur's 'Country House' and Oasis' 'Roll With It' singles coincided. 'Country House' became Blur's first number one single; the first to be released from their fourth album The Great Escape. The album also went straight to number one. Though the press was initially rapturous about the release, the tide of opinion soon changed and Blur were publicly ridiculed. Relations within the band became strained.
Blur decamped to Iceland to record to the follow up to The Great Escape. The next album, entitled Blur, was released in February 1997. The debut single was 'Beetlebum', which went to number one in the UK. Likewise, its follow-up, 'Song 2' was also a hit. A collection of remixes by the likes of William Orbit and Thurston Moore, named Bustin' + Dronin' was released for the Japanese market.
In August 1998, Graham Coxon released his debut solo album The Sky Is Too High as the band prepared to record their next studio album. Blur's 13 was produced by William Orbit and was a further step away from the Britpop sound. The lyrics reflected on Damon's split from his girlfriend, Elastica's Justine Frischmann. The single 'Coffee + TV' was the first Blur single to feature vocals by Graham Coxon.
Following the release of 13, Damon formed Gorillaz with Jamie Hewlett, Graham continued to make solo albums and Alex co-wrote songs with Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Marianne Faithfull and worked with Fat Les (featuring Keith Allen).
Whilst relations in the band continued to disintegrate, they worked on the next album, Think Tank, with DJ Fatboy Slim (Norman Cook) as producer. Coxon was eventually asked to leave the band. The album was released in 2003 and Simon Tong of The Verve was hired as the touring guitarist.
Blur announced a reunion late in 2008 and in summer 2009, the band played at the Glastonbury Festival, two sold out gigs at Hyde Park, London as well as the T in the Park Festival in July.
Frontman Damon Albarn even handed out ice creams to the crowd, as Phil Daniels made a surprise appearance.
Blur showed they haven't missed a beat since their BritPop heyday on Saturday night when they played a hit packed set at the BST festival in London’s Hyde Park. The gig began with singer Damon Albarn handing out ice cream cones to fans in the front row, in celebration of the band’s comeback album The Magic Whip.
Damon Albarn during Blur’s BST Hyde Park gig.
The band opened their set with ‘Go Out’ from their latest record, with Albarn telling the crowd, "Let's have it.” "Thanks so much for coming back to see us again," the singer added later. "It's great to be back in Hyde Park. It's like home - well, it is home really. I love it here. I really love it here.”
Continue reading: Blur Prove They're Well And Truly Back With Hit Packed BST Hyde Park Set
It's perhaps fitting that my prevailing memory of this year's Isle of Wight Festival will be guitars. This was after all the 45th anniversary of Jimi Hendrix's legendary performance on the Island, something that was being widely celebrated by festival organiser John Giddings and his team across the site. Fender, for example, brought some specially designed guitars to the party for artists including You Me At 6 to play, and there was also a world record attempt for the most number of people in one place to be wearing a mask, the face in question was naturally Hendrix himself. Despite that backdrop, it was some of the guitarists who played across the weekend that demonstrated the power of the instrument and reinforced that guitar based rock isn't on its last legs as some have speculated over the past few years.
The festival got into full swing with a Stones-esque swagger on Friday afternoon when The Struts took to the Main Stage. Their enthusiasm signalled a continuation of their set from the previous year's festival, indeed they are an ideal opening act when you want to energise a crowd. Their appearance at Download the following day, will no doubt have had a similar effect. There seemed to be a Rolling Stones theme to many of the acts getting the festival underway. Over in the Big Top The Ruen Brothers covered 'Miss You' during their rousing set that was well received.
The first moment that sent a shiver down my spine this year was the Counting Crows though. The guitar line to 'Round Here' sent a wave of excitement across the main arena. It was a strong opening statement in a nine song set that featured the likes of 'Mr Jones', 'Miami', and 'Rain King' into which singer Adam Duritz dropped some Elbow lyrics as a nod of the hat to Guy Garvey. If Counting Crows' guitars weren't haunting enough, it was actually The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach whose riffs were the most powerful and elemental of the day. The dirty Blues grit of Auerbach's playing was like a roll of thunder that saw the heavens open to drench the crowd in torrential rain. While much of the set was dedicated to material culled from 'El Camino' and 'Brothers', rather than recent record 'Turn Blue', the band's graduation to a headlining slot was well deserved and warranted. The final song of the set 'Little Black Submarines', which builds from a delicate solo performance to a dramatic climax, utilised every trick in the book for The Black Keys' expanded touring band. If Patrick Carney's drums and Auerbach's guitars are the perfect union on record, it seems their live shows rightly now have the power to command top billing with the inclusion of bassist Richard Swift and keyboardist John Clement Wood.
Continue reading: Isle Of Wight Festival - 2015 Live Review
The IoW organisers attempted to break the world record for most masks worn simultaneously at one place to commemorate the 45th anniversary of Hendrix's set.
Amid the fun of four massive headliners over three nights – The Black Keys and The Prodigy sharing the slot on Friday, Blur on Saturday and Fleetwood Mac on Sunday – the IoW chiefs had been encouraging the 50,000 festival-goers to buy cut-out Jimi Hendrix masks in order raise money for its nominated charity WellChild.
IoW made the world record attempt to commemorate the 45th anniversary of Hendrix's 1970 set
Viewers loved the return of Chris Evans’ chat show, although Lewis Hamilton put some to sleep.
'TFI Friday’s' 20th anniversary special proved a smash hit for Channel 4 yesterday evening (June 12th) pulling in a massive 4.3 million viewers. Host Chris Evans returned for the one-off special episode, with guests including Jeremy Clarkson, Blur and Lewis Hamilton.
Chris Evans returned as the host for the show’s 20th anniversary special.
The show was on such a roll that Channel 4 even gave it an extra 15 minutes after it ran over its allocated time slot. Chris Evans certainly seemed to enjoy his time hosting the show again, tweeting, "Did that really happen last night ? My wife has the MOTHER of all hangovers - hilarious,” on Saturday morning.
Continue reading: 'TFI Friday' Special Comeback Episode Is A Ratings Hit For Channel Four
Blur had to temporarily halt their show in Blackpool.
Blur's gig at Blackpool's Empress Ballroom had to be halted on Wednesday when the front barrier separating the crowd from the stage gave way. The collapse, triggered by a mosh pit, occurred during the evening's second song, There's No Other Way.
Blur had to temporarily halt their show at Blackpool's Empress Ballroom
Singer Damon Albarn stopped the song and asked fans to take a step backwards. He explained that the barrier was faulty and that safety had to come first - however, after another attempt to restart the song the band left the stage altogether.
Continue reading: Blur Halt Blackpool Gig after Barrier Gives Way During Mosh Pit
We preview some of the top acts on the bill this year.
Summer festival season kicks into high gear this weekend with the first big event of the calendar taking place on the south coast. Tens of thousands of people will be heading to Seaclose Park on the Isle of Wight for a bill, which is top heavy on heritage acts that bring with them a sense of nostalgia. While recent years have welcomed the likes of Jay-Z, Calvin Harris and Kings Of Leon to headline, this time round it seems big names with an even bigger back catalogue are being used as the main attraction.
However, many of the headline acts seem to be experiencing a renaissance of sorts. For example, Blur, whose new album 'The Magic Whip', their first since 2003, has won critical acclaim. The former Britpop poster boys will take to the Main Stage on Saturday night in the knowledge that this is one of the first times that UK crowds will get to see this new material given the live treatment. You can expect a set heavy on those new songs, but peppered with all the classic singles, certainly a formula for a memorable festival appearance. It's a similar story for The Prodigy who'll headline the Main Stage on Friday after The Black Keys. Both acts have played the festival in recent years and here they're repeating the joint top billing that was given to Biffy Clyro and Calvin Harris last year. As with Blur, The Prodigy's new album, 'The Day Is My Enemy', has revived interest in the band following an extended period out of the spotlight. Elsewhere, Fleetwood Mac will bring proceedings to a close on Sunday, bolstered by the return of Christine McVie to the band, a set covering Rumours era gems like 'Don't Stop' and 'Songbird' is a strong possibility.
The ever-cheeky Blur bassist gave an interview to The Independent in which he spoke about Blur and Oasis' rivalry, the future of his group, and cheese (obviously).
Few Britpop figures were as memorable as Blur’s Alex James. With his trademark bass guitar pose of one foot on the front-of-stage speaker and cigarette nonchalantly dangling out of his mouth, he’s always admitted to loving every second of fame.
Now, in a new interview with The Independent, James has suggested that there could be room for both his reformed band and a reunited Oasis in today’s music scene, even going so far as to say that the two former rivals could play together in the future. But only if Oasis supported them!
Alex James gave an interview to The Independent
Continue reading: Blur's Alex James Hopes Oasis Get Back Together: "They Can Support Us"
After receiving near-rave reviews, the album has debuted on top of the UK Chart.
Remember Blur? The British rockers are back this week and topping the charts for the first time in a decade. Magic Whip, Blur’s first album in since 2003’s Think Tank was inspired by their travels in Asia.
Blur's latest album has been 12 years in the making.
The four-piece, which includes frontman Damon Albarn, guitarist Graham Coxon, bassist Alex James and drummer Dave Rowntree, first announced plans to release a new album back in February.
Continue reading: Blur's Latest Album, Magic Whip, Shoots Up To UK Number 1
The band will showcase 'The Magic Whip' in full at a free show in Brooklyn this Friday (May 1st).
To support the release of their new album The Magic Whip, Blur have announced that they’ll be playing a free concert in New York later this week on May 1st.
The British group, promoting their first album in over a decade, will appear at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn in an event sponsored by Converse Rubber Tracks, and will play the record in full alongside a selection of their greatest hits.
Blur at the Q Awards
Continue reading: Blur To Play Free Show In New York On Friday
There’s still over three weeks to go until ‘The Magic Whip’s’ release, but the critics are already welcoming Blur back with open arms.
The countdown until the release of Blur’s much anticipated comeback album is on and the early reviews are showing this one will be well worth the wait for fans. The Magic Whip is the band’s first release in 12 years and was produced by Stephen Street, the man in the studio behind the group’s most successful period.
The Magic Whip is Blur's first album in 12 years
The album was recorded in May 2013 when the band found themselves with five free days in Hong Kong after the cancellation of the Tokyo Rocks Music festival. While singer Damon Albarn was skeptical that any of the music would ever see the light of day, guitarist Graham Coxon opted to work further on the recordings with Street back in Britain.