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The Best of ‘What’s In My Bag?’

Amoeba Music, the famous LA record shop, has a great little web series called What’s In My Bag? They invite well-known people into their store, let them shop around for a while, and then interview them about the albums they chose. It’s basically a non-copyright-infringing version of Desert Island Discs. There’s often a lot of hipster-y posing, but there are a fair few videos where the celeb’s genuine love of music shines through. Here’s a few of the best videos…

Noel Gallagher

Unlike the others on this list, Gallagher’s video is ad hoc. Amoeba didn’t know he was coming; they just saw him in the aisles and ushered him into the green room for this brief but enjoyable video. He’s taking a punt on some artists that are new to him, and some of his choices (Pink Floyd, Can, and David Axelrod) are fairly surprising. Never one to mince words, he guesses that he’ll find a lof of these “shite”. He also gets a Hawkwind album “to see what all the fuss is about”. I don’t think there’s been fuss about Hawkwind for about 40 years.

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The Women of Britpop

A friend of mine (a famous model) recently posted a Facebook update, expressing her wish for the band Republica to get back together. Her friends were in agreement and suggested other Britpop bands with female lead singers that should reform too. I often think that wishing bands would reform is like praying for a sequel (or even worse, prequel) to your favourite film. It will only end in disappointment. However, I would at least like to see these female artists get the recognition they deserve.

I was a huge fan of Britpop during its heyday and loved all the great singles that the genre produced. To this day, reading the track list of “The Best Album in the World…Ever (Vol. 3)” fills me with nostalgia. Among my favourite songs were Lush – Ladykillers and Sleeper – Inbetweener. There were a host of other acts with female singers/band members around at that time: Elastica, Echobelly, Dubstar, Catatonia, Alisha’s Attic, St. Etienne. Okay, so not all of these were strictly Britpop, but it shows there was a lot of female musical talent around in the 1990s. So why is it that every discussion of nineties music makes it sound like a men-only club? Perhaps it was because of the whole Blur vs. Oasis rivalry, that the female artists got pushed aside in the public’s consciousnesses. Perhaps there were other factors…

The Onion once had a headline claiming “History Of Rock Written By The Losers”. I certainly think that the history of Britpop was written by geeky male journalists. Most of the journos that championed and later chronicled the genre were men: John Harris, Stuart Maconie, Andrew Collins, David Quantick, Paul Morley, etc.

With every new musical genre, the biggest-selling acts seem to be bands made up of of white males. When Rave music broke through to the mainstream in the late 80s, the real stars should’ve been the DJs: those anonymous people in their darkened booths. But it seemed that the mainstream media needed something familiar to latch onto; so the band The Happy Mondays became the posterboys of the genre.

I’m not suggesting that people who wrote about, or listened to Britpop were sexist. It’s often just the case that people will gravitate towards music that’s performed by people of their own sex. I have a pet theory that people listen to music that they can imagine themselves playing on stage; as a sort of rock star fantasy. I also wonder if male journalists, and guys in general, didn’t really embrace these bands because they felt threatened by their forthright nature. I was certainly uneasy when Saffron from Republica went around labelling men ‘Drop Dead Gorgeous’. That’s only because she was unlikely to ever label me that.

One thing that did strike me about the less well-known Britpop bands (many of which had female members) is that they happened not to have albums that were as strong as those of Blur and Oasis. I would argue that Britpop was never about albums, just brilliant pop singles. However, the business model of the music industry at the time was built around the 45 minute album, which was a hangover from the vinyl LP era. Like not having a poster boy, perhaps without a strong album, you could never really make it big in the music industry.

Maybe now, in the days of internet downloads, these Britpop acts could actually make a decent comeback. Bands don’t really need an album anymore. You can even make it without a record label; which would be a great step in the empowerment of women in the music industry. It could be a genuine ‘netroots’ movement too, not like the press release theatre of Sandi Thom and Lily Allen: “For immediate release: this girl has had thousands of hits on her MySpace page. Did we mention she’s pretty and her dad’s famous? For more information call Regal Recordings (a subsidiary of Parlophone)”.

The one thing to take away from this rant is: that if there were more female journalists, there might be more publicity for female bands. However, like the music industry, journalism is changing too. Newspapers and magazines are unlikely to be hiring anybody at the moment; male or female. Luckily, new media is there to fill the gap for the consumer. So, if you want female artists to get ahead: get a blog.

For VW. x

Noel Gallagher Has Left Oasis…

That’s the way that the media kept reporting it. Crucially, they didn’t say ‘Oasis Have Broken Up’. However, It’s quite hard to imagine them continuing without their fearless leader. So I guess this could be the end for the band. Given that, I thought now might be a good time to look back on the band as I see it.

I wasn’t into Oasis at the time of their first album. Being only twelve years old at the time; novelty songs were more my forte. Like many people, I started to pay attention during the ‘Battle of the Bands’, when they went up against Blur’s Country House for the Number One spot. Everyone was forced to take a side. Despite living close to Manchester, I sided with Blur. I’m sure this was partly because Blur’s song was catchier, and let’s be honest: almost a novelty song. Also Blur had T-shirts which riffed on the Reebok logo, spelling out BeerOK. Ah, simple things.

I think that Oasis’s antics were what really put me off the band. Every foul-mouthed argument on radio, or drunken scuffle, would result in more coverage. Journalists would be sure to describe them as ‘Mancunian band’, as if that was some sort of justification for their appalling behaviour. I took offence at that. Besides, with band members with names like Gallagher, McGuigan and McCarroll couldn’t Manchester’s PR department have tried to shift some of the blame onto Ireland?

I did feel a certain amount of pressure to get into Oasis. Eventually I bought their second album ‘(What’s the Story) Morning Glory’ on tape, from Woolies (£10.49). At first I really liked it. I knew all the lyrics to every song, and would never fast forward through any of the tracks. It was rarely out of my Walkman, well Panasonic Personal Cassette Player to be exact.

‘What’s the Story…’ was one of only three albums I took with me on a school trip to The Isle of Arran. However, there on that remote island, away from all the media hype and social pressure, I could finally admit to myself what I really thought of the album. It was just a bit dull, really. Other musical crazes like Hippie and Punk had philosophies that people could subscribe to (‘Love everyone’ or ‘Fight the system’), but it seemed like Oasis’s songs weren’t really about much at all. That same holiday, I gave away my copy to a friend. For the rest of the holiday I mostly listened to Crowded House’s greatest hits instead. You may remember the advert for that album: ‘You know more Crowded House songs than you think you do.’

I could go on to talk about the band’s later albums, but as I didn’t buy or listen to them, it would be a bit dishonest. The critical consensus though, was that they were ‘More of the same; only less’. They seemed to be second only to The Rolling Stones for their ‘rinse and repeat’ style of music making. And from a financial point of view, I guess they didn’t feel the need to change a style that had made their music, to quote their album title, ‘Familiar to Millions’. Millions of Beatles fans that is.

Maybe I’ve been a little hard on Oasis in this post. They have made a few rollicking good tunes over the years. Also, I don’t dislike Noel Gallagher as much as some people seem to. I saw his interview on Parkinson and he seemed quite the most self-aware Rock Star ever. He was open and honest about the successes and failures of the band over the years. And now that he has been freed of the shackles of Oasis, I’m actually quite interested to see what he’ll do next. I don’t much care what Liam gets up to though.