How The Trainspotting Soundtrack Gave Us A Perfect Snapshot Of 1996 Music

1996 was a transformative year for British music, with Britpop in full flow and old-fashioned pop pop making a counter play. So while Oasis dominated the singles chart, a group called the Spice Girls stormed in and stomped all over their guitars.

Amid the resurgence of British music and sport (England’s football team reaching the semi-finals in the European Championships), a British film captured the zeitgeist at the cinema too: 1996 was the year music-mad director called Danny Boyle turned Irvine Welsh’s salacious novel Trainspotting into a hit movie.

The film, which followed the lives of a group of heroin addicts living in Edinburgh, was accompanied by two volumes of carefully curated songs in which the music served the film perfectly, bringing scenes to life in the most heart-stoppingly visceral way. The hit soundtracks championed the UK’s alternative music legacy and became a clever sonic snapshot of 1996. Here’s how…

It made Underworld’s “lager, lager, lager” chant mainstream

Underworld may have officially formed in Cardiff in 1986 but the dance duo didn’t ignite the collective consciousness until the release of their 1994 album ‘Dubnobasswithmyheadman’. A little-known B-side, ‘Born Slippy’, became the band’s signature tune following its inclusion on the Trainspotting soundtrack. As legend has it, Danny Boyle came across it while browsing in HMV one night and had a Eureka! moment, before adding it to the comp. Nowadays, you’d be hard pushed to find a Brit over a certain age who doesn’t know the words to this epic, chantalong anthem.

It deified the king of ambient music

Brian Eno’s ‘Deep Blue Day’ accompanies what one of the most harrowing and notorious scenes in the whole film, the bit where a comedown-heavy Renton (Ewan McGregor) dives into a shit-filled toilet bowl in a desperate attempt to retrieve his opiate suppositories. When he finally does fish them out, it’s a transformative moment, one immortalised by Eno’s soporific, lap-steel ambience. And it’s strangely blissful.

It shows off Britpop’s best bits

You could say every music scene or movement comes with its murky side and Britpop was certainly no different: for every Oasis, a Northern Uproar. Trainspotting cherry picked the very best of the emerging scene, including Elastica, Sleeper, Blur and Pulp with respective tracks ‘2:1’, ‘Atomic’ (a Blondie cover), ‘Sing’ and ‘Mile End’.

It pays its dues to the ‘old guard’

The big artists of the mid-’90s took inspiration from the past – a little too clearly, in some cases – and the Trainspotting soundtrack did the same, featuring perfectly selected tracks (across two volumes) from artists including New Order, Heaven 17, Iggy Pop, Joy Division and Fun Boy Three.