Don’t look back: 10 moments in Camden’s Britpop history
17:00 29 April 2014
This month marks 20 years since Britpop took the UK music industry by storm. London was once again the home of rock music and Camden Town and Primrose Hill became the Britpop epicentre, Harriet Orrell discovers.
April 1994 – the month it all started
The tragic suicide of Nirvana’s legendary frontman Kurt Cobain marked the symbolic end of Grunge and left a gap in the industry for something new. That month saw the releases of Oasis’ debut single Supersonic, Blur’s Parklife album and Pulp’s album His’n’Hers.
Jarvis Cocker’s band had been around for nearly a decade before their fourth studio album finally received the acclaim it deserved. It was reviewed in the Ham&High by Andrew Mayers who wrote: “Pulp must take pride of place and this album is evidence of a volcano of precocious talent and bags of style.”
Creation Records signs new band Oasis
Independent record label Creation Records, based in Regent’s Park Road, Primrose Hill, signed Oasis in 1993 and they enjoyed meteoric success. Oasis epitomised the era and the band’s accomplishment was unprecedented for an independent label like Creation Records, positioned right in the middle of it all.
The Britpop love triangle
Suede frontman Brett Anderson met bandmate Justine Frischmann while they were studying and the pair lived together for a time in Finsbury Park. The band enjoyed little success while Frischmann was a member.
She eventually split from Anderson and left Suede to fall into the arms of Blur frontman Damon Albarn and did not see Anderson again until she saw Suede play at the Underworld in Camden in 1992.
Oasis plays their breakout London gig
The boys from the North played their debut London performance at the Water Rats in Gray’s Inn Road, King’s Cross in January 1994. The venue has a history of live performances from internationally acclaimed acts prior to their commercial success, such as the Pogues and Katy Perry. Bob Dylan also played his first UK gig at the Water Rats in December 1962.
The Good Mixer, Camden is the centre of Britpop
A small two-roomed Irish bar in Inverness Road, Camden Town, was the place to be for anyone who was anyone during the Britpop era.
The Good Mixer was where Firschmann and her band Elastica signed with Deceptive Records and also where Menswe@r are said to have formed.
Oasis and Blur’s famously bitter rivalry may have begun at the Good Mixer. When Oasis met guitarist Graham Coxon for the first time, one Gallagher apparently said: “Nice music, sh*t clothes.”
NME awards reincarnated as the Brat Awards
Riding the Britpop wave of 1994, NME kept in with the style of the genre and renamed their music awards ‘The Brat Awards’ as a satirical nod to the Brits.
Iconic music hall The Forum in Highgate Road, Kentish Town, was awarded Best Venue having hosted renowned bands Pulp and Oasis.
Proving Britpop was the genre du jour, bands such as Suede, Elastica and Radiohead all walked away with awards.
In 1995 Noel Gallagher and Meg Matthews moved from Arlington Road, Camden Town and into a seven bedroom house in Steele’s Road, Belsize Park, that he affectionately named Supernova Heights.
This house was the core of the hedonistic world of the “Primrose Hill Set” where Britpop heroes would join models and movie stars in outrageous parties. Liam and then wife Patsy Kensit moved into nearby Elsworthy Road.
Oasis forced out of Abbey Road studios
The band began recording their third studio album, Be Here Now, at Abbey Road Studios, in St John’s Wood, in October 1996. A few weeks later, frontman Liam Gallagher found himself on the front pages of the tabloids after one of his legendary all-night benders and the band were forced to move the recording to a less paparazzi-friendly location in Surrey.
Liam in trouble. Again.
Due to its close proximity to Creation Records, the Pembroke Castle, in Gloucester Avenue, Primrose Hill, was often frequented by musicians synonymous with Britpop. Liam Gallagher lived up to his bad-boy image by throwing punches at an insistent paparazzo and breaking his camera on the steps of the pub.
Britpop was becoming known less for its music and more for the musicians and their lives off-stage.
Creation Records closes its doors
After defining the mid-1990s with sex, drugs and rock and roll, Britpop was winding down.
Creation Records enjoyed 26 years of success with bands such as Oasis, My Bloody Valentine and Super Furry Animals before owners Alan McGee and Joe Foster finally called time.
The independent label dissolved in December 1999 marking the start of the decline of the witty, sardonic genre.