Britpop at the BBC

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To celebrate to 20th anniversary of the Britpop music scene, the BBC have various programmes and other features. These are all described, with links to podcasts, on the Britpop at the BBC site. It is taking place all week, but I’m not sure how long the podcasts of the programmes will be available. There is quite a bit of historical content, with various protagonists reflecting back on the Britpop scene. It’s been quite insightful listening to descriptions of the records being made, the excitement of being in the movement and also the problems and difficulties that came with the scene.

One of the features they have resurrected for the week is the Evening Session radio programme. It originally broadcast on BBC Radio One in the evenings through the mid-90s. It’s strange listening to the show now, this was a programme I listened to most nights from 1994 through to 1995. It was how I kept up with music and the Britpop music scene coincided with my mid to late teens. I give a lecture on my second year module on music scenes, and we focus on how individual biographies intersect with broader cultural movements. This lecture forces me to recall how my own biography intersected with Britpop. It’s a soundtrack that has stayed with me (even in my sociology), and provided the cultural backdrop to a period of my life. In the lecture we reflect on how cultural experiences and personal experiences are defined by the broader cultural moments in which they are lived.

These radio programmes are clearly nostalgic, but they still provide some interesting reflections on the scene. Culturally, it’s interesting to look back and to listen to the music 20 years on. Some of it has aged surprisingly well – ‘This is the sound of youth’ by These Animal Men still sounded great (there is a BBC session for this band here) There is also some interesting material here that might allow for some sociological insight into how music scenes develop. In the case of Britpop it’s interesting to hear about the central and knowing part that media forms played in the formation and development of the scene. Developments and changes at BBC Radio One seemed to coincide with Britpop (would the scene have happened without these changes?) and there was also the need for content for a much larger music press (with journalists keen to design scenes and categorise music). And then there are the usual narratives about the end of Grunge and the rise of British optimism. I’m a bit more sceptical of these last two. At least they didn’t fit with my experiences.

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