On Saturday, March 23, 2013 at London’s Royal Albert Hall, the Britpop wars were finally put to rest when Noel Gallagher, Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon (with modfather Paul Weller on drums) performed Blur’s “Tender” together at the fourth night of the Teenage Cancer Trust benefit concerts, as curated by Gallagher. The event has generated a much-shared photo that is making the Facebook rounds on the pages of people of a certain age, who are reacting with what could only be called glee that is tempered with at least a dash of disbelief. For those not initiated into or too young to remember the halcyon days of Britpop, here’s why it matters.
To put it in context, Oasis singer/songwriter Noel Gallagher asking Albarn and Coxon to join him on stage for a song is the musical-world’s equivalent of signing a Middle East peace accord. Theirs was the last great feud in the history of British music — unless One Direction and The Wanted agree to really have a go at it, like proper rock stars, for their next promotional cycle. Things went to such extremes in the darkest days of their ‘90s press-driven rivalry that Noel Gallagher told a reporter he hoped Damon Albarn and Blur guitarist Alex James would “catch AIDS and die.” Retracting that comment in 2006 didn’t quite settle the Blur vs. Oasis feud for the media but this single song, or more accurately a single happy face photo during a charity gig, seems to have finally done the trick, a mere 20 years later.
Royal Albert Hall (@RoyalAlbertHall) March 25, 2013
While America in the ‘90s was in the throes of grunge adoration, with the media pitting Nirvana against Pearl Jam in a grudge match that didn’t actually exist (Nirvana vs. Guns N’ Roses was the real hatefest), across the pond they were celebrating Oasis vs. Blur. The outspoken Gallagaher brothers formed Oasis, which was more of the working man’s band, devotees to the sound of the Beatles and the hedonistic swagger of the Rolling Stones. They were music industry outsiders, hailing from Manchester in the north of England. In a country where class and caste still matter, the Gallagher brothers are from a family of plumbers with a mother who worked as a lunch lady in the school cafeteria. Noel started in music as a roadie for Inspiral Carpets. Not long after Oasis formed they signed to the indie label Creation, backed by Alan McGee. He was the A&R man behind beloved bands like the Jesus and Mary Chain, Primal Scream and My Bloody Valentine. But the Gallaghers had, and constantly stated, bigger ambitions that were immediately realized when their first album, Definitely Maybe, entered the U.K. charts at No. 1.
Speaking to MTV in an undated (but clearly shot in the ‘90s) red carpet interview, Gallagher said, “Are you asking me if I’m happy? Listen, I’ve got 87 million pounds in the bank. I’ve got a Rolls Royce. I’ve got three stalkers. I’m about to go on the board at Manchester City [Football Club]. I’m part of the greatest band in the world. Am I happy with that?” Gallagher pauses to creep closer to the lens and begins screaming, “No I’m not! I want more!”