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Last Updated:  Monday, 3 March, 2003, 15:04 GMT
Britpop boom and bust laid bare
by Ian Youngs
BBC News Online entertainment staff

Liam Gallagher in Live Forever
Liam Gallagher: He was "surreal, slightly menacing, very tender"
The rise and fall of the mid-1990s Britpop era is charted in a film documentary, Live Forever, which premières in London on Monday.

When Britpop ruled the airwaves and Cool Britannia was in full swing, it felt to many that the air of excitement and optimism would, as the Oasis song put it, live forever.

But the joke in the title of this documentary is that, while examining the rise of this cultural phenomenon, we now know that it actually did not last very long at all.

Many of the stars who are interviewed for the film, like Blur's Damon Albarn and Pulp's Jarvis Cocker, are seen ruefully looking back at events that made their lives hell and strangled their creativity.

The people who seem to have been least affected by it are Oasis' Gallagher brothers.

Liam Gallagher admits that he can hardly remember his band's record-breaking Knebworth concerts of 1996, let alone let their success ruin his life.

According to the documentary's director and interviewer John Dower, Britpop and the wider cultural optimism became "a large, alluring bubble which very suddenly burst".

There was this feeling that Britain rocked again - but that was the problem
John Dower
"So we thought we just about got the right time to start tracing the fall-out from that," he told BBC News Online.

The film pins the start of that cultural creativity to the late 1980s and early 90s.

"Generally, the 80s were rubbish - there was just this feeling in 80s Britain that it was all just synthetic," Dower said.

"And then when you got bands like the Stone Roses and Happy Mondays that came along, it was great music with attitude."

His film also looks at the wider social reasons for the flurry of activity - starting with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's long reign.

"I think people had just had enough. This generation spent their whole time under a very divisive Tory government and when it looked like they were staying for good, people just took refuge in hedonism," Dower said.

Oasis came along a few years later and the cultural revolution gathered pace - but one of the lasting messages of Live Forever is how, once the mainstream media and major record labels picked up on it, pop ate itself.

"There was this feeling that Britain rocked again - but that was the problem, it became so quickly caricatured with terms like Britpop and Swinging London and Cool Britannia that it ended very quickly," Dower said.

Jarvis Cocker on Live Forever
Jarvis Cocker was interviewed in a sleazy motel
Albarn is seen refusing to talk about the infamous chart battle with Oasis, and a clip of his chirpy self at the time illustrates how jaded the Britpop circus has made him.

"Only us in Britain could turn a battle of the bands into a class war. It all became pantomime after a while," Dower says.

Meanwhile, Cocker says that he endured the most difficult year of his life after Pulp hit the big time. That led to his album about the pressures of success, This Is Hardcore, in 1997.

Liam Gallagher, seemingly oblivious, is seen having the meaning of the word "androgynous" explained to him several times.


The Oasis singer was "surreal, slightly menacing, very tender" in real life, Dower said.

"He gave me a big cuddle at the end. A misunderstood man, I think."

That was only after Dower had to stop the interview to ask Gallagher to stop being so intimidating.

But Dower says that a trip abroad made him realise that characters like Oasis' singer could not have come from anywhere but the UK.

"There's a lot of bad things about this country, but I was struck by the fact that we're good at eccentricity," he said.

"We do throw up these great cultural figures. You can't imagine the Gallaghers coming from Germany or a Swiss Jarvis Cocker."

Oasis tribute band Wonderwall on Live Forever
Oasis tribute band Wonderwall: Stole the show
For the filming, Dower took his interviewees to the places with which they are most associated - Noel Gallagher speaks from a huge throne-like chair in Knebworth House and Cocker sits on a single bed in a sleazy motel.

"TV documentaries have got very lazy and there are no thoughts of placing them somewhere that's a little bit more evocative than musicians sitting next to a mixing desk," Dower said.

But the stars of the show are Oasis tribute band Wonderwall, who open the film and whose "Liam" and "Noel" are seen drinking cheap supermarket lager first thing in the morning and bickering like the Gallaghers themselves.

Dower said they were even thrown out of their hotel on the eve of the première in true rock 'n' roll fashion.

"But the great thing about them is they're not wannabes," Dower says.

"They're doing it for the same reason that Liam and Noel and Jarvis are doing it - they believe in the music."

The film goes on release on 21 March.

Britpop movie holds première
03 Mar 03 |  Entertainment
Britpop lives forever
13 Nov 02 |  Entertainment
Have Oasis run dry?
15 Apr 02 |  Entertainment
Oasis: 10 years and rolling
05 Oct 01 |  Entertainment

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