In the pop music world, the summer of 1995 was dominated by the ‘Battle of Britpop’ as Blur’s Country House and Oasis’s Roll With It were released on the same day and went head-to-head for the right to top the UK singles chart.
Blur emerged as the winners of this particular battle, outselling Oasis on the week by 270,000 to 220,000 to claim bragging rights and the top spot. But it’s often forgotten that Blur were hardly chart-dominating behemoths. Country House was their first number one single – indeed, only three of their previous 11 singles had made the top ten (There’s No Other Way, Girls and Boys, Parklife). And ultimately Oasis won the war in terms of overall commercial success, notching up eight number one singles to Blur’s two (a music geek award if you can name their other chart-topper – see below) and scoring one more number one album (seven versus Blur’s six).
Never mind that, though. Country House is a rare Blur foray away from their alt-rock roots towards a more mainstream pop sound – bouncy, fun and mildly sardonic. The song was written about the band’s former manager, Dave Balfe, who quit their record label to buy a house in the country, and tells the tale of a man who quits the rat-race for a quieter life in a big house in the country.
The song’s video was directed by the artist Damien Hirst, a contemporary of band members Damon Albarn, Graham Coxon and Alex James at Goldsmiths’ College in London. It features Keith Allen (Lily’s dad), Little Britain‘s Matt Lucas and Page 3 model Jo Guest and includes visual nods to both Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and Benny Hill.
Lead singer Albarn went on to enjoy further success with Gorillaz – a ‘virtual’ band whose members were never seen in person and represented on stage and in videos by cartoon avatars – scoring six top ten hits including the 2005 number one DARE. Meanwhile bassist Alex James is now well-known as a farmer and cheese-maker. It’s a long way from the band’s rock-and-roll heyday, isn’t it?
* Blur’s only other number one single? 1997’s Beetlebum.
A song for Saturday