“Video Killed the Radio Star” revisits the 90s-era “Battle of Britpop” rivalry between Blur & Oasis

By on April 18, 2018

The ’90s-era “Battle of Britpoprivalry between Blur vs. Oasis continues to this day with these two excellent episodes from the UK’s excellent Video Killed the Radio Star series.

Watch ‘em both over on our Night Flight Plus channel, then pick the band you think offered their fans the best music videos: Blur or Oasis?

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Photo illustration via James Grebey (SPIN)

“Video Killed The Radio Star” is a short-format music documentary TV series — each episode is roughly twenty minutes long — originally created for Sky Arts, an arts-oriented UK-based subscription channel.

Each episode delves into classic music videos and the people who made them, through in-depth and anecdotal interviews with music video directors and sometimes even with appearances by the artists themselves.

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Blur‘s “Video Killed the Radio Star” episode highlights some of their best-known videos: “There’s No Other Way,” “Parklife” “Country House,” “The Universal,” “Song 2,” “Coffee & TV,” and “Tender,” filmed lived at London’s Hyde Park in 2009.

It features interviews with the directors, too: Dave Balfe, Pedro Romhanyi, Damien Hurst, Jonathan Glazer, Sophie Muller, Hammer & Tongs (the pseudonym of British director/producer duo Garth Jennings and Nick Goldsmith).

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One highlight is the video for “Parklife,” filmed beside the Pilot pub in Greenwich, featuring an appearance by British actor Phil Daniels (best known to Americans as “Jimmy Cooper” in Quadrophenia and “Danny” in Breaking Glass) as a “double-glazing” salesman.

Blur’s Damon Albarn acts as his assistant, while Dave Rowntree and Alex James appear as a couple (the latter in drag), while Graham Coxon carries a placard reading “Modern Life is Rubbish,” the title of their previous album.

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The Oasis episode offers an often humorous look at several of their video classics, with behind-the-scenes info provided by the obstreperous Gallagher brothers, Noel and Liam.

There’s also especially insightful commentary from director Nigel Dick, who directed “Wonderwall,” “Don’t Look Back in Anger” (featuring legendary British actor Patrick Macnee from the 1960s TV series “The Avengers”), and “Champagne Supernova.”

Dick has directed over over 340 music videos, including Guns N’ Roses‘ first five videos.

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Additionally, director Dawn Shadforth discusses her video for Oasis’s “The Importance of Being Idle,” their second consecutive #1 single in the UK to top the charts with Noel, not Liam, on lead vocals (the first was 1996’s “Don’t Look Back In Anger”).

The music video stars Welsh actor Rhys Ifans, who American audiences may recognize as Hugh Grant’s scruffy housemate “Spike” in Notting Hill (1999), or from the excellent foreign spy drama series “Berlin Station,” currently airing on the cable channel EPIX.

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The video for “The Importance of Being Idle” pays homage to early ’60s black & white British “kitchen sink” dramas, particularly Billy Liar.

Ifans plays a funeral director who leads a funeral procession down Caradoc Street in East Greenwich, London (it’s his funeral).

The Gallaghers play funeral parlor owners Shadrack & Duxbury, while Gem Archer, Andy Bell and Zak Starkey Oasis appear as lazy, card-playing morticians.

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Read more about the Blur vs. Oasis rivalry below.

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The Blur vs. Oasis rivalry began in early May, 1995, when Albarn attended Oasis’s celebratory party at the Mars Bar in Covent Garden in London’s West End,  thrown for their first #1 UK single, “Some Might Say.”

Liam Gallagher got in Albarn’s face and screamed, “Number fookin’ one!,” which Albarn took as a challenge his band had to beat, even though both bands actually had a lot of mutual respect for each other.

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When Blur’s next single, “Country House,” was re-scheduled to be released on August 14, 1995 — the same day as Oasis’s “Roll With It” — writers and editors for UK music rags seized the opportunity to ignite a “Battle of Britpop” rivalry.

NME‘s “British Heavyweight Championship” cover story (August ’95) pit Blur’s four middle-class suburban London art-school kids against Oasis’s five hard-drinking, blue-collar working class lads from Lancashire who liked to pick fights.

Creation Records’ Alan McGee would later say, “Oasis, being Oasis, decided to hate them. And Blur, being Blur, thought it was a game, but Oasis actually fucking hated them at the time!”

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Each band felt obligated to give provide provocative quotes to the press, which further exacerbated the country’s pre-existing class-obsessed “North-South” divide.

Their respective record company’s marketing and promotion departments also encouraged music fans to pick one band over the other.

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Blur’s “Country House” would end up outselling and out-charting Oasis’s “Roll With It,” charting at #1 and #2 respectively.

Then, Liam Gallager told the Observer “I hate that Alex and Damon,” before he added, “I hope they catch AIDS and die” (he quickly regretted saying it and later apologized).

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At NME’s 1995 Brit Awards, held six months later, Oasis performed a snippet of Blur’s “Parklife” under a new title: “Shitelife.”

Their rivalry continued for years afterwards, until the UK music press and the band’s fans grew tired of the faked-up buffoonery.

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Oasis’s Noel Gallagher later admitted to the BBC’s Mark Lawson:

What really annoyed me was that everyone blamed [the rivalry] on us because we were seen as the manipulators. In the end, we all sold a lot of singles off the back of it, and we all became wealthy because of it, so I’m really not complaining.”

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Read more about the Video Killed the Radio Star music video series here, including Elton John’s classic video featuring leather boys, mimes & kissing clowns, and director Alex’s 1987 film Straight to Hell, a paella western starring Joe Strummer.

Watch the Blur and Oasis episodes of Video Killed the Radio Star on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.