As Creation Records boss and the man who signed Oasis, Alan McGee observed the famous Britpop chart battle of 1995 between Blur and Oasis from its epicentre. “Did I think it was stupid? Yes. Do I think that it worked? Unbelievably. Am I glad that it happened? Completely,” he tells Mark Beaumont…
“They were the champions, we were wanting to be the champions and Damon brought us in the ring. To be fair, Damon invented the fucking whole battle of Britpop. By him doing that, it became like a Beatles vs Stones thing. It wasn’t before, because they were a bigger band than us. And they beat us because they had the EMI marketing machine behind them, whereas we had some little indie fucking guy giving out fucking cards.
So they won that one and, of course, history rolls many ways. ‘…Morning Glory’ definitely sold, because we ended up on the fucking national news and it was the working class boys from Burnage. We went on and sold 21m copies worldwide.
I think it was Ignition [artist management company] more than anybody that decided they were gonna go head-to-head. I actually thought it was dumb, but it was a dumb move that worked and it put us on the football pitch. Oasis were building in their own way, but whether we would have got that kind of exposure – the national exposure, to be in the news and stuff like that – I’ve got my doubts. I think we would have been big in music – we would have been headlining Reading and all that kind of stuff – but without that Blur-Oasis moment, I’ve got my doubts.
Oasis knew they were number two, Blur were number one, and it was the bands coming together to build hype. Oasis, being Oasis, decided to hate Blur. And Blur, being Blur, thought it was a game. But Oasis actually fucking hated them at the time! They really fucking hated them. I used to go see Chelsea a lot in the ’90s and used to regularly meet up for a pie and Bovril with Damon at half time. I think he was unaware that Oasis were quite serious about it – how much they hated Blur. We used to talk about things like musicals, you know. Damon was what Damon was – kind of motley, kind of like middle-class kid trying to be working class.
He wasn’t so much up for a tangle, he was up for a bit of shenanigans and he probably didn’t realise how serious Oasis were. We knew what was coming and I think there was a barcode issue. BMG stayed up for 24 hours putting loads of new barcodes on. That was a week before, so I don’t think the barcodes got in the way, although history maybe reckons that it’s the barcodes that were the issue.
Delusionally, we probably thought we were gonna win at some point during that week. I wasn’t with the band when the results came in, but I used to get the charts results before anyone else, because the NME used to phone me up all the time. I used to hear about 12 o’ clock. I was living in the middle of London at the time, and I got told that we were number two, phoned up the boys, and then I just got on with the day. Went to the Tate Modern and looked around the gallery. Knowing the band, they probably got fucking wasted. In what, they would have got wasted, whether they won or lost.
Did I think it was stupid? Yes. Do I think that it worked? Unbelievably. Am I glad that it happened? Completely. That’s as much as I can tell you. What defined the Britpop age were three things, really – it was that moment, Knebworth, and then I think Princess Diana dying, which killed the moment. We’d put out ‘Be Here Now’, then Diana died and the country went off Britpop.
If you ask little kids now who they’re into, they’ll probably tell you Blur, over Oasis, because Blur are kinda cool, and Oasis are kind of not cool, at the moment. It is what it is.”