Thursday, December 3, 2009

blurred by the hands of time

I've always been an incurable Anglophile. It's one of the reasons why I longed to work at EMI in the early 90s. I figured if it was good enough for Pet Shop Boys, it was an ace place to start my plan of world domination.

Sadly, the label went through merger after merger. And although I was swiftly promoted, got to work with tons of my favorite acts, develop and run and imprint and produce records, it came at a time when the music biz was started to sputter. By the end of the century, Napster would define the game changing moment.

But back to happier times! The first act I was able to persuade the US office to bring over from the UK was EMF on the back of the success of "Unbelievable" in their home country. From there a slough of Brit bands flooded the label. There was Jesus Jones and Blur, both signed to the Food label through Parlophone in the UK. Both were picked up on the SBK imprint in the US which was part of the EMI conglomerate.

I had the opportunity to work with Blur for their first four albums ("Leisure", "Modern Life Is Rubbish", "Parklife" and "The Great Escape"). However, much like all the other international acts with whom I worked, they were deemed "too British" and would not translate well in the American market. The reality was, after merging three labels (EMI, Chrysalis and SBK) the remaining staff were largely interested in promoting their own agenda and the promotion of acts signed outside the US would only net them far less revenue.

Their biggest US success occurred when they wisely moved over to Virgin and hit pay dirt with the stroppy, frenetic energy of "Song 2" at the tail end of the grunge movement thanks to a few smartly placed commercial synch licenses. But it was hardly the kind of attention their output usually received at home. Friction and tension increased during the recording of "13" and then Graham Coxon departed leaving the remaining three to enter the new millenium with the electronic brooding of "Think Tank".

Now, with Graham back in the band, Damon Albarn's Gorillaz excursions behind him, and having just finished a magnificent return to the live stage this past summer in London's Hyde Park, here comes "No Distance Left To Run", the flim that takes fans behind the scenes of Britpop's native sons. They've managed to become a cherished and much beloved band while Oasis, their natural rivals, got the sour end of the stick. A lot of that can surely be blamed on the snarling, sarcastic lip associated with the Gallagher brothers. True, Oasis made some fine albums. But Blur were simultaneously of a time and timeless.

"No Distance Left To Run" opens at fine cinemas around the UK on January 19.

And if you'd like to experience all things live and Blur like, checkout "All The People...Blur Live In Hyde Park" the audio document of their recent, triumphant, sold out shows. Let's face it, most live albums are crap. But if you're a fan, you wanna have something to remember the experience when a bucket of sweat and and the memory of having spent money for an overpriced ticket won't do.

Does anyone really need four CDs of live material?

Anyway, everyone in the band is denying any return to the studio for an eighth longplayer which means they'll be releasing something in the near future. We're old hats at this game by this point, gentlemen. In the meantime, I leave you with my three favorite Blur singles.

The Euro yobbo, cheap disco thrash of "Girls & Boys".

The baggy, shoegazer, funky drummer vibe of "There's No Other Way".

And the lush, grandness of "The Universal" complete with "Clockwork Orange" inspired video.


  1. Would that it be so that Blur were recording again...I'm not so sure. Apparently Graham is playing live shows with Pete Doherty now, and a very recent press statement from Damon said that he was almost finished with his poppiest Gorillaz offering yet. Maybe he wants to go full steam there if the Blur record isn't meant to be. Maybe you know more than we since you have had inside info from EMI?

  2. The Universal is my favorite - and yes, a sort of uncharacteristic grandeur from them. I think that came out when I was first in London