Spring / early summer 1989 - Damon, Graham, Alex and Dave's new band, christened Seymour (from the J.D. Salinger character, Seymour Glass in Salinger's Seymour: An Introduction), is formed, and do their first gig at the East Anglian Railway Museum, five miles outside Colchester, in front of various friends and high on such diverse influences as The Pixies, Kurt Weill, Dinosaur Jr and Antonin Artaud's "theatre of cruelty". (The first ever rehearsal of Seymour took place at The Beat Factory on 18th December 1988. This session produced "She's So High").
August 1989 - The first journalist to take notice of them is Music Week / Sounds journalist Leo Finlay, who describes their performances as being "astonishingly tight and imaginative". In the very first review of them he writes, the band are credited as "Feymour" thanks to the article being dictated over the phone. Seymour send Food Records man Andy Ross a demo which contains "She's So High", "Dizzy", "Fried" and "Long Legged". He goes to see Seymour live at the Powerhaus in Islington, North London and is suitably impressed.
- Food Records approach Seymour, offering a record deal. All
four members meet up with the two chiefs of Food Records, Andy
David Balfe (formerly of Teardrop Explodes) at Soho
Pizzeria. Over a deep pan they discuss the deal. There are two
stipulations - before they can sign, Dave must stop wearing his
pyjama bottoms at gigs, and they must change their name. After
going through several possible names, such as "The Shining
Path", "The Government", "Sensitize" and "Whirlpool", they agree
on the name "Blur" - "a bit arty but not obscure," says Ross. Damon's management deal with Marijke Bergkamp
and Graeme Holdaway of The Beat Factory falls
through after he walks out on them, though they helped getting
Seymour/Blur a deal. Relations between Damon and The Beat
Factory had been getting "stressful".
March 1990 - Blur officially sign with Food Records. Graham and Alex give up their degrees, and the new band begins a tour of the UK. The music press start taking notice, though it is not always complimentary - "He's obviously been eating too much cheap beef," says the Melody Maker, referring to Damon's antics.
July 1990 - The tour ends in London, with gathering interest from music journalists. One of their biggest fans is another Sounds journalist, David Cavanagh, who describes their live performances as "breath-taking". The band begin recording tracks at Battery Studios, well known for being the place where The Stone Roses recorded Fool's Gold, with two songs being looked at as a possible first record - "She's So High" and "I Know" (both tracks produced by Steve Lovell and Steve Power).
October 1990 - Andy Ross' favourite Blur song, "She's So High" is chosen as the band's first single. The single is actually a double A-side with "I Know", but almost all attention goes to "She's So High". NME and Sounds both choose it as Single Of The Week. The single comes in a sleeve that features a painting by Californian pop artist Mel Ramos, of a naked woman astride a hippotamus. The poster and accompaning T-shirt, with the picture printed in full size, causes some controversy amongst students and advertisements for the single are banned in Hackney and the London Underground, and defaced elsewhere. The single peaks at Number 48 in the official Gallup chart, and Number 2 in the Streets Ahead indie chart. Another tour begins, this time to promote the single. They are supported by The Keatons, a band specialising in bizarre and outlandish confrontational tactics such as throwing honey and flour at the audience. As autumn wears on, Blur decide to get a manager - up until this point, Balfe and Ross had taken care of these various duties. There are two candidates - Chris Morrison, who had managed Thin Lizzy, Jesus & Mary Chain and Midge Ure, and Mike Collins who had managed Wire. Blur plump for Collins who offered the band the best lunch and drinks. This decision turns out to be a bad one later on...
1990 - Blur return to the studio to
record a follow up to "She's So High".
However, sessions with Steve Power prove to be
problematic, with the two songs they have chosen
as possible seconds singles - "Close"
and "Bad Day" - simply not working.
Salvation arrives in the form of producer Stephen
Street, who had previously worked with
The Smiths. Street had seen the band's video for
"She's So High" on the BBC television
programme Juke Box Jury, and had wanted
to work with them.
January 1991 - The band record two songs with Street - "Come Together" and "There's No Other Way". The second had not been marked for greatness by the band, merely intended as a throwaway, but Street makes the song "baggier" and turns it into a proper indie dance song. Balfe and Ross are delighted by the results and the song is marked as the next single.
April 1991 - "There's No Other Way" is released and the music press fall head over heels for Blur. NME, Melody Maker, Sounds and Smash Hits go mad over the single, and the video for the song - which is a parody of the British OXO adverts - gets screenings on the ITV Chart Show. The single gets a lot of radio airplay and peaks at Number 8. Blur appear on Top of the Pops for the first time.
June 1991 - The group spend the early part of the summer basking in all the press attention. They are regularly seen at the indie club Syndrome, and start recording at Maison Rouge studios for their debut album. Damon starts going out with Justine Frischmann, then playing guitar in Suede.
July 1991 - "Bang" is released as a preview of the album, and gets the NME Single Of The Week award. Blur make their second apperance on Top of the Pops. In this performance, Damon messes around with a cardboard chicken head. But "Bang" underperforms after the Top Ten success of their previous single - it only reaches 24. It's at this point that strain appears in the relationship between the band and Dave Balfe. Both parties have very different views on what kind of music they should be making. "The stumbling block was that he wanted us to be Jesus Jones", Alex would say later.
August 1991 - The first album, Leisure, is released to mixed reviews. Melody Maker gushes about "guitars like forests of burning pylons", but the NME are somewhat underwhelmed, claiming: "Blur are really pretty good. But it ain't the future. Blur are merely the present of rock and roll." The album peaks at Number 7 in the Gallup chart and Number 2 in the MRIB chart.
September 1991 - Blur are unhappy with their debut album, thinking that their B-sides have been better. They record some new material, which is a vast leap in quality from Leisure. Among the tracks are "Oily Water" and "Resigned".
October to December 1991 - Blur premiere their great
new song "Popscene" at the gigs. The band do a debut tour
of North America, starting in Toronto. At the Marquee club in
New York, they meet My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields,
who delights them by declaring that he loves the Leisure
song "Slow Down". Just before Christmas, the band play
"Popscene" on the Channel 4 show The Word.