When Britain Was Last Great!

This week I was pleasantly surprised to learn that my favourite band of the 1990’s, Terrorvision, have released their first new album for 10 years.  This momentous news set me off on a trip down memory lane to the time when I believe Britain was last able to hold it’s head up high and call itself Great!

For Brits the 1990’s didn’t actually start until 1994 when Oasis released their first single, Supersonic, kicking off the Britpop movement and everything that followed including Brit-Lit, Brit-Art, Cool Britannia and, of course, Girl Power.  At the time I wasn’t consciously a Britpop fan, I was part of a far more exclusive movement known to virtually no-one as Brit-Rock that worshipped the likes of Terrorvision, The Wildhearts, Therapy?, Skunk Anansie, Joyrider, Baby Chaos, Feeder and 3 Colours Red.  Back then I remember going to a gig virtually every weekend and emerging sweat soaked and shivering into the Charing Cross Road and a throng of white-vested revellers who were waiting to get into G.A.Y at London’s legendary Astoria.  Me and the boys would stagger, blindly from the venue towards the station hoping we would have enough time to purchase a Double Whopper with Cheese before the last train home but we’d often-as-not miss it and be forced to stand, in the freezing cold until the next day’s trains began running…ah, happy days :-)

I realise of course that every generation thinks they had it best, even people who grew up during the war, and that’s apparently something to do with the way your brain develops during those impressionable teenage years.  Nonetheless, I am convinced the 90s was the best time to grow up in Britain and I’d like to tell you why…

1. Music
We made GREAT music in the 90s, whether you were into Britpop or rock those tunes were made to last and it’s a rare occasion that I can get through the whole of Oasis’s “Whatever”, Blur’s “This Is A Low” or Terrorvision’s “Some People Say” without shedding a tear or ten.

2. Trainspotting
Okay, it may not have been the second coming of the British film industry as some had hoped but this film, the performances in it, the book it was based on, the soundtrack and the overall aesthetic brought us international acclaim from critics and audiences alike.  And if I absolutely HAD to sleep with a man…I would still choose Ewan McGregor!

3. Hi-Fidelity by Nick Hornby
This book introduced an entire generation of ‘lads’ to literature which is why it was sometimes referred to as lad-lit but it sparked a publishing phenomenon and made me feel a whole lot better about being so anal over my CD collection.  Speaking of which, I miss CD’s too but that’s for another post…

4. Lad’s Mags (& Ladettes)
Long before Loaded, FHM, Maxim and the like turned into not-so-soft porn rags they were actually fairly witty and smart reads featuring, briefly, some women of note who, as well as looking good, had something to say.  Unfortunately because these women had, y’know, a personality they were branded with the slightly derogatory term ‘Ladette’ but I’d still have a drink with Sarah Cox, Zoe Ball and Gail Porter any day of the week.  Well, maybe not Gail Porter cos…y’know…

5. Girl Power
Yes it was contrived and no it didn’t mean anything of substance but if you’re going to create a slogan to sell records then why not make it a positive message for young women, eh?  Rihanna could learn a thing or two!

6. Pickled Sharks or The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living
No I didn’t get it either… I went to see it… I still didn’t get it… BUT IT DOESN’T MATTER!  Britart was cool and by extension so were we.  Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Sarah Lucas, they were all arseholes but they were the most creative, innovative and alternative arseholes in the world at that time and by Jove they were British!!

7. The Word
Genuinely live and genuinely dangerous, The Word was a late night Channel 4 TV Show custom built for the post-pub crowd featuring acerbic hosts, interesting guests and awesome music including Nirvana and Oasis’s British TV debuts and a legendary L7 performance plus vomit inducing segment “The Hopefuls”…and you thought the X-Factor contestants were desperate!

8. Tony Blair & Cool Britannia
I wasn’t quite old enough to vote during the 1997 election and, to be honest, didn’t much care about it but I did like the fact that this Tony Blair was young, good looking and (smirk) radical!  He could have been our Kennedy but now…now he seems to have turned into his own caricature, looking more devilish by the day.

9. Optimism
The net result of all this creativity in music, films, literature and the arts was optimism.  In the 90s I felt like I could be anything, not just because I was young and naïve but because lots of Britons just a few years older than me were out there being SOMEthing, I’m not sure that’s so true now.  Without an industrial sector and excluding finance the only thing Britain has left in abundance is creativity so I hope we recognise and reward it because from Shakespeare to Adele it’s what makes Britain GREAT!

There you have it, I’m sure I’ve missed out a ton of your favourites but I’m going to blame that on the brain cells I destroyed drinking White Lightning in Tugmutton Common from 1994 – 1998!  If you’d like to jog my memory I’d love to hear from you so drop me a comment below and all the best, Nx.

P.S. If you’re wondering why it’s not a Top 10 that’s because my other favourite thing of the 90s was Friends.  Yeah, yeah, I know I’m supposed to say Seinfeld but balls to the hipsters! I loved Friends and even got the box set for my birthday last year but it’s not British and thus did not make the list.