The Universal

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TracyJosh
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The Universal

Post by TracyJosh » 03 Jan 2018, 01:11

I'm just curious as to how The Universal was received upon release? To me it is such a bloody masterpiece. It completely blows anything else released by any British pop guitar band out of the water in 1995 or 1996, minus possibly Wonderwall. I do feel retrospectively it maybe wasn't quite appreciated for how good a song it was at the time? The lyrics, the strings, the melodies and just the overall composition is like all the best bits of Bowie, Lennon, Davies and Albarn combined. I can't believe they released that song and in the same 12 months received such a cruel backlash. The Universal should have made the band immune to any such criticism lol! In the 90s so many rock/pop bands survived with 1 or 2 huge songs on otherwise mediocre albums and The Universal has got to be in the top 20 British pop songs of the 90s.

Just feel that even over time it's under appreciated. Maybe it's slightly too complex a subject matter and lacks a bit of simplicity for being a draw with the wider public.

I really think it's up there with Life on Mars and Across the universe.

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Mallard No. 22
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Re: The Universal

Post by Mallard No. 22 » 03 Jan 2018, 04:56

My memory is that it was well received as a UK single. It got lots of airplay and went straight to the high reaches of the chart. Its epic feel was the obvious choice after the singalong of 'Country House', with Christmas on the horizon.

Though it was amidst the Britpop frenzy, up against the most memorable of Oasis and Pulp hit songs ('Wonderwall' and 'Disco 2000').

Not to mention Coolio 'Gangsta's Paradise', Everything But The Girl 'Missing', Madonna 'You'll See' and the "new" Beatles single 'Free As A Bird'.

And in pure mainstream terms, Michael Jackson 'Earth Song', Boyzone 'Father & Son', Bjork 'It's Oh So Quiet', whilst Robson & Jerome were no.1 for weeks & weeks & weeks.... :roll:
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stephen
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Re: The Universal

Post by stephen » 03 Jan 2018, 15:02

I have no idea how it was appreciated at the time as I wasn't into music or blur when it came out. Although I do remember parklife knocking around a lot more than the great escape. Parklife was an album everyone seemed to have.

Anyways..It definitely a song that is appreciated now even after the annoying advert campaign. I know a lot of associates that can relate to it, maybe more than girls and boys / parklife (song). Charmless man is another one that is often sung / hummed to.
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stephen
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Re: The Universal

Post by stephen » 03 Jan 2018, 15:06

Another thing to note is the quality in the charts around that time, obviously that could be subjective but the amount of human resource that went into a record would have been a lot larger than today's iPad generation. I think ALOT of good songs in the 80's/90's went unnoticed, so that might be why it feels somewhat unappreciated when looking back.
Westway wrote:pyongyang and mirrorball are really good

TracyJosh
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Re: The Universal

Post by TracyJosh » 04 Jan 2018, 14:30

All good points. It is crazy to think how much money was spent on music videos and campaigns back then, so yeah, chart competition was fierce. The glory days.

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Sledge Hammer
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Re: The Universal

Post by Sledge Hammer » 04 Jan 2018, 19:51

It didn't get the praise it should have at the time, no 5? should have easily been a no 1, I don't think the video actually helped the song in the mainstream.

But what a brilliant emotional tune it was, and has dated better than Wonderwall etc...
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aldamasta
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Re: The Universal

Post by aldamasta » 06 Jan 2018, 00:00

Oh yes, I don't see there ever being a time when The Universal sounds dated. Just a brilliant tune. Often squeezes a tear outta me.

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Mallard No. 22
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Re: The Universal

Post by Mallard No. 22 » 09 Jan 2018, 22:28

Yes, I was surprised when I checked up, that it only reached no. five :o .

Fair enough, that is a great position, but I thought it was number two or three.

http://www.officialcharts.com/charts/si ... 1119/7501/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

It entered the chart at its highest position. The four songs above it that week were (in ascendency) 'Wonderwall', 'Missing', 'Gangsta's Paradise' and 'I Believe/Up On The Roof' at number one.

Robson & Jerome (rightly or wrongly) were huge at the time, starring in a top TV show IIRC. The following week Boyzone's likeable version of Cat Stevens 'Father & Son' moved in to the top five, and 'The Universal' crashed down to number eleven.

Blur were mid-tour at the time, albeit in the UK. The video was on 'Top of the Pops' in the week of chart entry. They also did a live Jools Holland TV appearance.
Last edited by Mallard No. 22 on 17 Jan 2018, 06:23, edited 1 time in total.
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stephen
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Re: The Universal

Post by stephen » 10 Jan 2018, 09:04

Fair enough with Gangsta's Paradise. That was a hit.
Westway wrote:pyongyang and mirrorball are really good

Styopa
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Re: The Universal

Post by Styopa » 10 Jan 2018, 16:21

The chart position of 5 reflects the fact it was released after the album had been released. A lot of people who may have bought the single already owned it. It would have charted much higher had it been chosen as the lead single, which is quite an interesting thought actually.

I'm more surprised to read that Stereotypes, as the third single charted at 7, whereas by way of comparison Parklife (also a third single) reached only No. 10

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AdvertBreak
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Re: The Universal

Post by AdvertBreak » 11 Jan 2018, 20:44

Lol this was one of the leading eras for fanbase singles, where the fans buy a single up in the first week and it ends up going to #1 but because its barely crossover a success besides the fan base it slides fastly out of the chart thereafter, which is a practice that would continue to be prevalent until the download era. The Universal was justabouts a crossover success whereas Stereotypes wasn't.

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Mallard No. 22
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Re: The Universal

Post by Mallard No. 22 » 17 Jan 2018, 06:38

Yes I agree that if 'The Universal' had been the first single release from the album (and in that respect prior to the album) it would have charted higher. This happened with the equally epic 'Tender' in 1999.

But in summer 1995 Blur needed a bouncy single to capture the holiday audience, and also because it was decided to battle Oasis in the chart. It was this single, and this chart battle, that properly established Blur beyond indiedom.

'Parklife' (the album & single) was very well received, and their most memorable work, but was one of the building blocks that got them were they were by the time of 'The Universal'.

As such, I suspect a routine single like 'Stereotypes' reached no. 7 through sales to the newly Blur-aware casual buyer who did not have 'The Great Escape' album, and the core fanbase (that Advert Break refers to) that bought everything Blur released.
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TracyJosh
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Re: The Universal

Post by TracyJosh » 17 Jan 2018, 12:19

.... Imagine they had gone with The Universal as their first single from the album and thus it was the contender in the battle of britpop. Would have been a risk but perhaps it would have attached more prestige to the song if it had proved victorious. Country House was too safe an option though. Alex James and Stephen Street both said how when they premiered it at Mile End, by the second chorus the crowd was singing it back and bouncing up and down just as much as they were to the likes of Parklife and Girls and Boys... Always a clear indicator you have a hit on your hands.


On a slightly different note, I watched the MTV Europe performance of The Universal where Damon is sporting a cane and looking rather out of it. He sings the song incredibly well though! Someone in the comments section says he had badly cut his foot and was heavy duty painkillers and also needed the aid of a cane to walk, can anyone else back that up? I thought it was maybe just a prop to carry on with the Clockwork Orange reference in the video given it was the MTV Awards..

stephen
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Re: The Universal

Post by stephen » 17 Jan 2018, 12:58

I've read many sources that claim it was staged but who knows :/
Westway wrote:pyongyang and mirrorball are really good

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Mallard No. 22
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Re: The Universal

Post by Mallard No. 22 » 23 Jan 2018, 06:43

TracyJosh wrote:.... Imagine they had gone with The Universal as their first single from the album and thus it was the contender in the battle of britpop. Would have been a risk but perhaps it would have attached more prestige to the song if it had proved victorious. Country House was too safe an option though.
I think 'Country House' was the right choice for the chart battle. It was catchy and suited to the time of year, thus captured the wider audience. I remember shop assistants singing it when I was buying something in Argos :D

Ditto, Oasis 'Roll With It'. Neither song was really the greatest work of the artist, but at this time they had to reach out beyond the student campus.

'The Universal' was a deeper song (as was 'Wonderwall'). Blur and Oasis could release such songs once they had 'got' the public.
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