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Blur Vs. Oasis and a radical change in Iceland


February 1995 - Blur win four Brit Awards for Best Band, Best Single ("Parklife"), Best Video ("Parklife") and Best Album (Parklife). The band have begun recording The Great Escape at Maison Rouge, with Stephen Street producing once more. Starshaped (this time without promo videos) and Showtime videos released.

March 1995 - Blur re-record "To The End" with Francoise Hardy at Abbey Road Studios. The result is later released as a single in France.

May 1995 - Recording for The Great Escape is completed. "It Could Be You" is the last track to be done.

June 1995 - The legendary Mile End gig is held to over 27,000 fans. As well as all the favourites, several new tracks from The Great Escape are played for the first time.

July 1995 - Damon records a track called "Chasing A Rainbow" with Terry Hall for his next solo record.

NME, 12 August 1995August 1995 - The Blur / Oasis war begins. Creation and EMI hype the media - not just the music press, but the news bulletins too - into a huge battle between the bands. "Country House" will now become the first single. It is going up against Oasis' "Roll With It". Orginally they were to be released on seperate dates but both are scheduled for sale the same day. Damon guests on a radio breakfast show via phone where he is played "Roll With It". He dubs it "Quoasis", and starts singing "Down, down, deeper and down..." The following Sunday the Top 40 chart is read out on Radio 1, revealing that Blur have entered at Number 1. Oasis are at Number 2. "Country House" had sold 274,000 copies in the first week of release in the UK. Food and EMI hold celebrations, though Graham wants none of it and goes out to the seaside, far away from record company employees. Already Blur are starting to wear themselves out.

September 1995 - The Great Escape is released to madly enthusiastic reviews. In truth, however, the record is a mediocre follow-up to Parklife. Half of the songs sound more like parodies of Blur. The best songs are where the band get gloomy - "Entertain Me", "Yuko & Hiro" and "Best Days". Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher heightens the war between the bands by telling The Observer that he hopes Albarn and James "catch fucking AIDS and die". Blur Seaside tour, September 1995undertake a tour of British seaside towns and make a Beatles-style appearance on the roof of HMV's Oxford Street store.

October 1995 - The band plan to release the follow up to Starshaped and Showtime. However, the film was never released because the band and film makers found it too dark. "It seemed to be a just a painful reminder of things that happened to all of us," says film producer Ceri Levy.

November 1995 - "The Universal" is released as the second single from The Great Escape. The band tours Japan and later in the month start an arena tour in the UK.

December 1995 - Blur perform a triumphant set at the Wembley Arena, but relations in the band are now becoming more frayed. The band gives an interview to Adrian Deevoy of Q magazine (which is not printed until the following February) which reveal the state of affairs. He writes: "Graham is grumpy and drinking too much, he thinks Alex is being a tosser; Alex and Damon aren't seeing eye to eye, Damon thinks Alex is taking too many drugs and overdoing the pop star bit; Alex thinks Graham and Damon have sided against him and that Damon is becoming a little too megalomanic for his liking. [...] No-one can quite figure out what Dave is thinking. Graham privately suspects that Dave might be an alien." Damon also gives the quote: "The only thing we've got in common with Oasis is the fact that we're both doing shit in America." This quote looks rather silly in a couple of months...


January 1996 - Late in the month during a tour of America, Blur realize that once again the tide of critical opinion is turning against them. Oasis' (What's The Story) Morning Glory? climbs towards the US Top 10 with sales of 100,000 a week. The Great Escape will sell 122,000 American copies in total. A Blur backlash is looming in the horizon.

February 1996 - On the first of February, Damon's "we're both doing shit in America" quote is printed in Q just as Morning Glory enters the US Top 5. Blur are still touring America and recording B-sides as they do so. During the recording of "St. Louis", a huge row blows up between Damon and Graham. The next morning things are patched up, but it's clear that the band need a rest. Blur are about to undergo a complete change of style - one of the new B-sides, "Tame", points to their new direction. This song is released on the new single, "Stereotypes".

March 1996 - The American tour over, Damon takes a holiday in Iceland. The country revitalises him. He later says: "They have a sense of community there which, coming from Essex, I never had before."

April 1996 - Damon has the now famous meeting with Pavement's Steve Malkmus. He tells them that Blur have a good reputation on the US alternative scene - they are viewed as "odd, instinctive, isolationist and eccentric". Pavement are to become one of many influences on the new songs Damon is writing, along with Can and Faust. "Charmless Man" becomes the final single and third Top 5 hit from The Great Escape.

May 1996 - The Japanese import album Live At The Budokan released.

June 1996 - Graham gives up drinking the cold turkey way. "In my head I had the sign of the pint glass and the wine glass with a big red X through them," he says. Blur debut "Song 2" and "Chinese Bombs" to an ecstatic reception at RDS Showgrounds in Dublin. They then fly off from Ireland to Iceland in Pulp's plane with producer Stephen Street and engineer John Smith to work on their fifth album. The band have confirmed they won't play any gigs in the UK this year.

Summer to Autumn 1996 - While the band are away, Alex's project Me Me Me gets it's one and only record released, which was recorded earlier in the year. In Iceland, the band record some material for their new album. While there the band relations improve dramatically, and they spend some time seeing the sights with Pulp, visiting geo-thermal swimming pools ("It's like taking a bath in egg," says Graham) and riding horses at midnight in full sunlight. John Smith has a lucky escape when he narrowly avoids falling down a gigantic crevice in the deceptively solid-looking ground. The material completed, they fly back to England. There they record the final track, "I'm Just A Killer For Your Love".

December 1996 - The album, now to be known as just Blur, is mixed and mastered.


"Beetlebum" single coverJanuary 1997 - Blur begin promoting the album, giving interviews to all sorts of magazines, radio shows and TV programmes. The new single, "Beetlebum", is previewed on some shows. Critics of the band say that the band are doing a cop-out, and that the single will be a commerical failure. At the end of the month, it enters the charts at Number 1.

February 1997 - Damon and Graham fly to New York to promote the album to America. They now have a new label there, Virgin, who are more sympathetic to them than SBK were. Alex flies to Miami to play bass on Marianne Faithfull's new album. Blur is released in the UK, and gets mostly good reviews.

March 1997 - The album is released in the US. Virgin and Blur decide upon "Song 2" as the first American single. It turns out to be a very good choice. Following heavy MTV airplay, "Song 2" finally breaks Blur in America.

April 1997 - "Song 2" is released in the UK and it enters the charts at Number 2.

June 1997 - The album is proving to be Blur's most successful album worldwide. "On Your Own" is released as the third single from the new album.

August 1997 - Blur play the two V97 concerts at Chelmsford and Leeds. They are the first band to sell out all tickets and perform a brilliant set at the Chelmsford show.

September 1997 - Blur begin a worldwide tour, beginning in America. Kids who wouldn't have understanded Blur at all formerly mosh away at Blur concerts.  "M.O.R." becomes the final single from the self-titled album.

October to November 1997 - The Blur tour moves to other countries, like Australia where Blur have become big. An NME interview conducted with them in Sydney finds them in high spirits.

December 1997 - Blur end up back in the UK to wind up the tour with some arena concerts. The band suddenly announces that they are giving up touring for the foreseeable future, though they don't rule out any one-off shows. Damon tells Stephen Street that he wants to work with new producer on the next album. Street is dissapointed, but can understand Damon wanting to try something new.

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