Since we’re all about 90s nostalgia right now – and since ‘Parklife’ is a cornerstone of the genre – we thought we’d present a collection of things you might not have known about the quintessential Britpop album.
1. The band originally planned to call the album ‘Soft Porn’, and wanted to feature an image of Buckingham Palace on the sleeve.
2. Other possible titles considered included ‘Sport’ and ‘Magic Arrows’.
3. An alternative cover for the album featured a fruit and veg stall in London’s Portobello Road. Another potential shot for the album sleeve was a William Hill betting shop window that caught Damon’s attention. Initially a complete window including other sports – besides greyhound racing – was created for the cover.
4. ‘This Is A Low’ was lyrically based on a souvenir tea towel Alex James had bought Damon.
5. Before the album came out Damon Albarn said, “When our third album comes out, our position as the quintessential English band of the 90s will be assured.” He was right… kind of (hello Oasis!)
6. Alex James said that his song ‘Far Out’ was difficult to write. “I hadn’t sung a lead vocal before. When we got back from Sweden I’d written a song about the stars and the moons that had been preoccupying me. That was one of the hardest things to get right,” he said.
7. Damon reckons ‘Parklife’ is misunderstood. “I don’t think anybody understood the irony. ‘Parklife’ is an angry record.”
8. The CD booklet features a drawing by Graham of a transvestite.
Photo: Paul Postle
9. An early demo version of ‘To The End’ featured Justine Frischmann singing the parts later sung by Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier.
10. Damon on ‘Parklife’ in 1995: “It’s a loosely linked concept album. It’s the travails of the mystical larger-eater, seeing what’s going on and commenting on it.”
11. “It was an album we really enjoyed making,” recalled Graham Coxon. “When we wrote ‘Girls and Boys’ we realised that there was something worth expanding on. Damon was getting into a really good stream lyrically and we were all kind of inspired.”
12. The cover image was inspired by the fact that Damon had bought shares in a real life greyhound.
13. Graham Coxon added: “We centered in on the greyhounds because they had an aggressiveness we liked. We chose the ones with the most teeth. They look deranged, just longing to kill, and there’s a bizarre look in their faces. You just don’t get that look with a footballer – well maybe a little bit.”
14. To get ready for the shoot the band had some pints at Camden’s Good Mixer before departing for Walthamstow Dogs.
15. Chris Thompson, who helped design the cover, revealed that the band’s sartorial choices on the sleeve photos were planned. “The things they were wearing coincided with the different visuals we were projecting,” he said. “Everyone would turn up with a tie on and Alex would get told off if he had a funny coloured scarf on. It was very consciously controlled.”
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16. Alex James blames ‘Parklife’ for triggering a descent into debauchery. In his book, A Bit Of A Blur he wrote: “As Parklife gathered more and more momentum I slipped anchor and blew adrift on the shallow sea of a permanent backstage party. There was always one more place to got and I leaped into London’s deep and dark night.”
17. ‘Lot 105’ refers to the Hammond organ Damon plays in the song, acquired at an auction for £150.
18. The song ‘Parklife’ was the first time Graham had played the saxophone on a Blur record.
19. On ‘The Debt Collector’ it’s Graham that you hear counting in. You can also hear him tapping his foot and standing on a tambourine like a busker. This was because he wanted it to sound like a Tom Waits track. Phil Daniels was originally supposed to narrate this track but due to no words having been written at this stage he narrated ‘Parklife’ instead.
20.The title ‘Magic America’ was inspired by an Italian porn channel.
21. According to Alex, ‘This Is A Low’ was originally about “people taking smack.”