Blur, artist, and swimmer explain ‘The Ballad Of Darren’ artwork

The band shared insight into the cover to celebrate one month since the album was released

Members of Blur have shed insight into the cover for their latest album ‘The Ballad Of Darren’, as has the artist and the swimmer captured in the image.

The Britpop legends shared the update on their social media pages yesterday (August 21), celebrating one month since their ninth studio album was released.

With the Instagram post, the band’s frontman, Damon Albarn, and drummer Dave Rowntree both shared their interpretation behind the cover, and revealed how it has a connection to one of their 1995 live performances.


The post began with a brief clip of someone holding the album out, before dropping it down to reveal that they are standing in the same spot where the now-famous image was taken – the Gourock Outdoor Pool in Scotland.

“The image selected for the album’s artwork is one shot by British photographer Martin Parr of a lone swimmer on a stormy day at the Gourock Lido, Scotland, captured in 2004,” the second slide reads, also incorporating a quote from the artist himself.

“It was in the summer and you have the blue of the lido but there was the grey sky so familiar in Scotland,” Parr explained, revealing the inspiration behind the photograph. “I thought this was going to be a great backdrop. I just stood there for maybe half an hour, waiting for the right person to swim by.”

As explained on a later slide, that person who swam by was a man named Ian Galt, who also shared a quote recalling why he was at the outdoor pool that day in 2004. “In 1995, I was in a terrible car crash: I was told I might never walk again,” he explained.

“But I managed to get down to the pool on my crutches – and for the first time was able to move without them. It was a blissful moment. I thought to myself, I’ll never let an opportunity pass me by again. If I’d lost the ability to swim, what would I have given for just one day in the pool?”


Blur’s own Dave Rowntree also touched upon this meaning, describing the image as “about overcoming some sort of physical situation”, while Albarn took a more philosophical approach – comparing Parr’s photograph to a “representation of Dante’s Three Kingdoms”.

“You have the distant mountains in the darkness and looming in the distance, the rough, wild sea in the background, and the calm of solitude with this individual swimming in the foreground,” he said.

“In this photo there is also an underwater base. The Russian strings are probably over there,” Albarn added, with the final sentence referring to ‘The Ballad Of Darren’’s opening track.

Graham Coxon, Damon Albarn, Dave Rowntree and Alex James perform with Blur at day 2 of Way Out Fest 2023 on August 11, 2023. Credit: Rune Hellestad - Corbis/GETTY
Graham Coxon, Damon Albarn, Dave Rowntree and Alex James perform with Blur at day 2 of Way Out Fest 2023 on August 11, 2023. Credit: Rune Hellestad – Corbis/GETTY

Towards the end of the post, the update also shares that the location where the image was taken also holds some sentimental meaning to Blur as, nearly 10 years before Parr took the photograph, the band also played a gig across the loch from Gourock pool.

Held at Dunoon’s Queens Hall in 1995, the show is described as marking “a special moment for the local community with blur selecting remote seaside towns for their tour”, and a clip of a 1995 news report covering the show is also included.

Upon its arrival last month, ‘The Ballad Of Darren’ was given a four-star review by NME, which described it as both “memorable and touching”.

“Where their last record occasionally tried to reignite the lout of the mid-’90s […] on ‘The Ballad…’ the band are muted and contemplative; there are moments of sheer heartbreak in these songs,” it read.

“Beyond the doom, there’s something resolute and life-affirming in the way this record plays out; you sense the whole momentum of the band moving as a unit, not just pieced together in separate takes like in ‘The Magic Whip’.”

In other Blur news, yesterday (August 21), the indie veterans shared a new unreleased track titled ‘Sticks And Stones’ from the new LP.

The song will be released as a bonus track for the Japanese exclusive edition of ‘The Ballad Of Darren’, and follows the band’s two other releases, ‘The Rabbi’ and ‘The Swan’, released as part of the album’s deluxe edition.

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