Blur’s Parklife is 18 years old today! An ode to Blighty aimed at girls who are boys who like boys to be girls who do boys like they’re girls who do girls like they’re boys, Parklife was a wry, anthem-filled album that championed mockney Cockneys, a day at the (greyhound) races and…er…the shipping forecast.
All the people (so many people!) went out and bought Parklife that it became a pivotal moment in mid-ninteies UK culture, influencing not only the sound of music for a generation of now mid-30 something indie lovers, but also a revivalist fashion sense that saw all things Union Jack celebrated under the banner of Britpop.
Here, Brandish goes beyond the music to highlight just what made Parklife so seminal. Pop on the Spotify album playlist below and read on!
Britain, Britain, Britain. The Small Faces, The Kinks, the Blitz spirit, Carnaby Street, fish and chips. We’ve got a lot to be proud of as Brits, but in the early-to-mid 90s we’d all been swept up in a wave of Americana. Dreary grunge dominated the airwaves, and in the immortal words of Morrissey “it [said] nothing to me about my life.” However, the 1993 self-titled debut from Suede sent a shiver down the spine of the lumberjack-shirted invaders from across the pond, paving the way for a more sophisticated, theatrical Anglo-influenced sound. Picking up the Brit-focussed imagery of their own 1993 album Modern Life is Rubbish and refining it into flag-waving call for patriotism, Parklife made us all realise it was as cool to be British in the 1990s as it was in the swinging 60s.
The umbrella of Britpop would later open the floodgates for a wave of copycats and bandwagon jumpers (Menswear, Gene et al) and became a contrived export marketing tool of worldwide proportions following the Spice Girls Brit Award performance and Geri Halliwell’s infamous Union Jack dress, fuelling champagne socialists and ill-conceived political partnerships. But for a short while, and in no small part thanks to the popularity and imagery of Parklife, Britain was back on the map for all the right reasons.
“We wear the same clothes cos we feel the same “ sang Blur’s Damon Albarn on End Of A Century. And indeed we did, and Albarn did a fair bit to direct what we were all wearing too. After re-inventing themselves out of the ashes of baggy into Dr Martens-wearing mod warriors for Modern Life Is Rubbish, Albarn and co went a little more Carry On colourful for Parklife.
Clearly inspired by the 1970s sportswear of BBC Superstars, tracksuits from the likes of Kappa and Adidas were in, as well as Adidas Samba trainers, a little bling with a sovereign ring, polo shirts and parkas. Though pulling in brands from all over the world, it was quintessentially a melting pot of UK fashion trends from across the previous 30 years. And not a greasy mullet or plaid shirt in sight..
THIS IS A LOW
If Britpop did only one thing well it was its championing of British idiosyncrasies. It’s no better illustrated than in the swirling, epic closer to Parklife, This Is A Low. A floating journey around the the British coast, it referenced the antiquated shipping forecast radio broadcast, framing the album’s geographical pride. Pop it on now; it’ll give you goosebumps.