Hello, everybody! My name’s Hank and I host Obscurity Knocks on Tuesdays at 4pm. The general idea is that I believe there’s a great deal of pop music out there that people would love if they knew it existed or remembered it. Now, that’s my general sales pitch. I love pop music, and so does everybody, but what I love more than music--more than anything, really--is a good story. Tomorrow, we’re doing an episode of this sub-series by the name of Obscurity Shines, which marries my love of pop music and my love of stories. Each one of these specials delves deep into a forgotten musician or subgenre, and this week and next, in honor of our program director, Kyle, we’re doing a two-part Britpop episode. But folks… and this sounds like an infomercial… that’s not all. I’m pleased to announce that starting Tuesday (April 20th) and ending Tuesday (April 27th) it’s officially Britpop Week, baby.
So, what is Britpop? I catch a lot of flack for this. It comes up a lot on the show, and I’m beginning to find that not many of my listeners are familiar. The basic gist is that after Margaret Thatcher left office, a vacuum became apparent not just in pop culture, but in culture collectively. Thatcher’s Britain bore this unease and sadness into the working class, so the 80s in Britain were kind of dank and dismal and void of any fun for them. They were forced to look stateside for entertainment, but in the process the country was becoming Americanized and losing its identity. They missed the days of The Kinks, their songs about the sunset on Waterloo, and David Bowie’s distinctly British swagger. Uniquely British artists who made it cool to be so, the rest of the world be damned. It was time to get back to basics. Then, in 1993, Suede’s debut album tops the charts. Its singles have been getting serious word-of-mouth praise, what-with their sleaze, fun, and stark contrast to grunge and the UK’s own Acid House, and from there, Cool Britannia is born. A hundred bands come out of the woodwork to board this steam-train to promise, and as the country comes of age for the first time since the sixties, the world takes notice. But nothing gold can stay, as they say, and as commercialism, fandom, nationalism and political exploitation reared their ugly heads, the biggest movement of the nineties was already a dead one walking. From its humble beginnings to explosive conclusion, Cool Britannia (and Britpop its accompanying genre) told a fascinating story of not only musical history, but sociopolitical history as well, and one that has, at least on our side of the pond, remained largely buried.
Every day at 1pm during the week, we’ll be playing an important album from the heyday of Britpop, bookended by this lengthy story on the Tuesdays surrounding it. The idea is to not only tell the listeners a real doozie, but to bring them some music that’s fallen largely into obscurity over here, and most importantly, to educate one “Kyle Petronio” before he graduates. It’s been a huge and ill-advised undertaking, considering I have essays I should be writing and tests I should be studying for, but this is a doozie. And if you’ve got any taste at all, you’ll love its music.