Here we go again.
This time I’m just going to say it.
Oasis were not Britpop.
Stand down “lads”, this one just isn’t for you.
This one is for people who care about, and who understand, how important pop was to Britpop.
People who were on the floor at Blow Up, people who were doing British Image #1 before the spray paint was even dry, people who had “Fox Base Alpha” as a permanent fixture on their turntables, people who understood what “Back In Denim” was saying…this one is for us.
Shampoo are, regularly, derided and dismissed by blokes.
The sort of blokes who really love bands where other blokes play the sorts of songs that blokes like. Songs that sound exactly, and I mean exactly, like the songs other bands of blokes were playing ten, twenty, and thirty years before.
These blokes don’t understand why a band like Shampoo exists.
They say things about them that they never say about bloke rockers.
The tone is sneering.
You can make your own minds up about why.
I’ve made up mine.
Shampoo were sexy, sadistic, and swashbuckling.
Not my words, the words of the sleeve to their debut single, “Blisters and Bruises”. A single that arrived before anyone even knew what Oasis were, or why they should care. It was also released before Elastica, for example, had released their first single.
Nobody could ever describe Oasis as sexy.
Men in football manager coats and trainers are never, ever, sexy.
And all the greatest pop music is made by people who are sexy.
It isn’t about looks.
It’s about attitude.
It’s about confidence.
It’s about swashbuckling sadism.
“The fact is this is the sound of the urban British savage running amok in the playground with lipstick and gunpowder. An unsophisticated scratch of the nails down the back of all things predictable and neat.”
Can you imagine describing Dodgy as the sound of “urban British savage(ry) running amok”? Or Cast as “lipstick and gunpowder”?
Kula Shaker as the “unsophisticated scratch of the nails down the back of all things predictable and neat”?
These bloke rocking beat makers were all things predictable and neat.
Four blokes? Check.
Copy of “Rubber Soul”? Check.
Slavish devotion to Weller? Check.
“Blisters and Bruises” is one of the key moments in the Britpop story. With co-writing credits with Lawrence, sleeve notes from James Brown, released on Icerink (Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs label) and with their pre-band history running a Manic’s fanzine, they could have been the template for everything good that fell under the Britpop banner over the next few years.
Unlike the blokes who loathe them, Jacqui and Carrie were actually at the last party. They weren’t sitting in their bedrooms drooling over bands that even their parents had long ago given up on, they were right at the centre of things. At the right clubs, hanging out with the right people, appearing on Top of the Pops, big in Japan. They didn’t read the NME, they were in the NME.
People like me got it from the get go.
They were a riot.
A bouffant headbutt of riot grrrrl, new wave, punk, and pop aesthetics, chords, beats, and dreams.
Just watch the video for “Bouffant Headbutt” and tell me that they didn’t leave their mark on the scene that came after.
When they talked about their influences they didn’t talk about The Beatles and The Droning Bones. They talked about The Sex Pistols, Gary Numan, Beastie Boys, Take That, East 17. Tongues in cheeks? Maybe. But probably not. They just understood that if you love pop music, then you love pop music, and you don’t give a fuck about whether the blokes think any of it is “cool”. That’s the dictionary definition of being cool, ironically.
It’s easy to laugh, it’s easy to mock, it’s easy to go with the herd and bleat on repeat the silly things the other sheep are saying. It takes real guts to do what Shampoo did. Step out from the fringes, write songs, get a deal, play gigs, take the shit from lager drinking boors, make the charts, grab the cover of a magazine, live the dream.