Profiles in Weirdness: The Britpop Derby Of 1996

The year was 1996. In America, Braveheart was the bestest film ever, Bill Clinton was re-elected with the lowest voter turnout since 1924, the trial of O.J. Simpson was underway, the Solo Cup ‘Jazz’ pattern was emblazoned on everythingAND THAT’S HOW WE LIKED IT!

tumblr_oq0ylyCZ4U1to8rl9o1_500

Meanwhile, in Old Blighty, a music scene that had gotten a bit stagnant after the demise of acid house was suddenly filled with fresh piss and vinegar by the intense rivalry between the Mancunian enfants terribles, Oasis, and their slightly more respectable London counterparts, Blur.

Blur had been the first to climb to top of the emerging Britpop scene with their 1994 album Parklife, which would go on to be certified quadruple platinum in the U.K. and has been critically desribed as having articulated “the mid-’90s Zeitgeist and produced an epoch-defining record.” However, something darker and rowdier was stirring in the North. Oasis, led by the mercurial Gallagher brothers Liam (an alleged saboteur of Manchester United players’ cars) and Noel, came snarling out of Manchester, with their debut album Definitely Maybe debuting at number one on British charts by September 1994.

By 1995, the two bands clearly resented each other, with tensions boiling over when Damon Alborn crashed a party to celebrate Oasis’ ‘Some Might Say’, which did not sit well with Liam Gallagher. The UK music media, usually so shy of controversy (not really), threw gasoline on the fire by playing up an alleged cultural subtext of too-clever-by-half posh Londoners versus rough-and-tumble Northerners.

CHOOSE YOUR FIGHTER

giphy
this dodgy bastard
blur 2
or this absolute muppet

This being the entertainment business, the bands decided to settle the feud once and for all through an angry dance-off releasing dueling singles on the same day. Blur narrowly won the battle of Country House versus Roll With It, with 274,000 singles sold to Oasis’ 216,000. But, as with the Hatfields and McCoys of yore, the beef continued.

Tell ya what, boys, if you can’t settle it on the charts, why don’t you TAKE IT TO THE PITCH?

And so, on May 12, 1996, the bands laced up their boots and took the field at Mile End Stadium in East London to participate in the second annual Music Industry Soccer Six tournament for charity. The Gallaghers, perhaps the world’s most prominent Manchester City supporters, added recent boy band escapee Robbie Williams to their sky blue side (this relationship did not end well) to take on a certain Famous Chelsea Fan and the Blur Boys.

Several pitch invasions by delirious fans delayed play, but it was 2-0 Blur by halftime. Oasis subbed in Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker in the second, and they valiantly pulled one back. But it was too little, too late for the Mancs. Blur’s run as football heroes was cut short in the next round, and total unknowns Reef (WHO?) went on to win the tourney for the second year in a row. Blur did go on to secure second place in the 1998 tournament.

CODA

While the general theory among Britpop aficionados is that the scene died along with Princess Diana in August 1997, both bands’ connection to soccer continues to this day.

Blur’s Song 2, released in 1997, remains inexorably linked to soccer going back to its inclusion on the FIFA 98 soundtrack, and is probably one of the greatest all-around sports anthems of all time. WOO-HOO!

More importantly: Wonderwall by Oasis lives forever as the traditional serenade of players and supporters following a Minnesota United FC victory — a tradition that has been in place since the club was under a different name and playing in a different league. Although rumor has it that some other rinky-dink club in England has taken to stealing our moves.

Are there more chapters to come in this rock-n-roll and footballing rivalry? I SAID MAYBE…..

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