This was the first time Blur made the front cover in the music press – before they’d even released their first single! It was published in the 7 July 1990 issue of Sounds, a defunct weekly music paper. The article is by Leo Finlay, who was an early champion of Blur (when they were still performing as Seymour he reviewed a gig for Music Week, but because he dictated the article over the telephone they were listed as Feymour instead!) Blur returned the favour by playing at Leo’s wedding (check out this link – look how young they are!) Sadly Leo is no longer with us, but Blur have never forgotten the help he gave them early on: single Song 2 was dedicated “to the memory of Leo Finlay – a special friend & cool person”.
Blur have been British music’s worst kept secret for months. They’ve attracted rave reviews from all quarters, been hailed as The Next Big Thing, and now they’re on the cover of Sounds. All without the benefit of a record or a full year’s experience! But anyone who thinks this is the result of record company (in this case Food) hype, has obviously yet to see the band play live.
They are, of course, breathtaking. Comparisons thus far have been drawn with everyone from The Stone Roses to The Undertones and My Bloody Valentine. Needless to say they sound bugger all like any of the aforementioned, but share a skill for writing classic pop tunes and turning them into dynamite live.
I first saw Damon, Graham, Alex and Dave almost a year ago when they were operating under the name of Seymour. Then it was singer Damon hunched over a mini-keyboard, plinking out an insane piece of Satie-esque doggerel, while the others built and demolished a wall of noise, that caught the ear.
Their set was astonishingly tight and imaginative for a debut gig, and even headline act New FADs – probably the only UK act who can touch them live – found it hard to follow. But just as they were starting to get a name for themselves, Seymour vanished and the guys were back as Blur.
What’s the difference between Blur and Seymour, then?
Damon, in typically forthright mode, is unequivocal about the answer: “The difference is Blur are going to be hugely successful.”
Alex: “Seymour were just this big esoteric thing.”
“Whereas Blur is more focussed,” adds Damon without a hint of a smile.
Seymour was a very anoraky-type name.
“Oh, yeah,” mumbles Damon, “it was given to us by someone in an anorak.”
“Blur was just a good name, and that’s important for getting into the press. We just moved away from the idea of people in college being in a band.”
“We weren’t aware that Blurt existed really,” he adds.
“The first time I saw their name in a paper, I thought it was a misprint and it was us,” continues Dave, drummer and the band’s old timer at 25.
Blur are convinced that they are going to be massive. They find it inconceivable that they won’t sell millions of records. And while their arrogance seems to echo that of the pre-hysteria Stone Roses, they’ve got enough charm to carry it off.
So you see yourselves as a big chart act?
Damon: “Yeah… it’s inevitable. We’re just a band who are gonna sell records to people, and the only way you can gauge that is through the charts.”
Graham: “You don’t play with the charts in mind, but they are something that happen.”
Damon: “Put it this way, we’d like a lot of people to buy our records… and they will.”
Holed up in a Willesden studio, Blur are spending up to 18 hours a day recording their debut single. As yet they’re undecided between ‘She Is So High’, a majestic rhythmic classic, and ‘I Know’.
Damon: “It’s gonna be played in the clubs before it’s released to get a bit of a vibe going, but it won’t be a dance remix or anything.”
Graham is equally adamant: “We wanna be in control of the sound, we don’t want anyone else fiddling around with it.”
“Our idea of a 12-inch is playing ten minutes of a song and packing loads of ideas into it,” insists Damon. “Obviously the music is paramount. We have no intention of duplicating our live sound. The record should be something great, while live is more of an exhilarating thing.
“There’s gonna be more mileage on the record. Live we can’t play more than four instruments at a time, but here we’re able to overdub and get a brilliant sound. It’s just nice that we’ve gained all this experience playing around without having a record.”
“We’ll be disappointed if it doesn’t chart,” finishes Damon, and the nods and grunts around the table prove it.
All the band are big music fans, but are reluctant to name names.
Graham: “We talk about The Who and The Kinks and The Beatles, but you can’t do that all your life.”
Damon picks up the thought: “We’re not about telling people what they already know, we wanna tell them about us. That’s why we’re in a band, this band… that’s why we’re doing interviews.
“I’m not really interested in other bands, I don’t enjoy going to see them. I do like music, but it’s not important to us as Blur. It’s not relevant. Of course there have been great songwriters, but we’re just trying to start it all over again.”
Damon takes credit for writing the songs and lyrics but states, “It’s not me saying, This is how it’s going to be guys. I finish writing the songs, and then Graham takes over and makes them psychedelic,” he adds before collapsing in laughter.
“No I don’t make them psychedelic,” Graham says haughtily. “I just use my head for music and nothing else, he (Damon) does the other job.”
It’s easy to believe this: Graham is one of the country’s finest guitarists. He won’t readily accept the accolade, but Blur’s sound on any given night stems from his six strings.
A recent Bath gig saw him whip up a demon psychedelic rage, caused in part by an excessive intake of Newcastle Brown, while on other occasions he and Alex have come up with the kind of dance rhythms that Happy Mondays could only achieve with a flock of so-called producers.
Live, Blur are one of those bands where you just have to check out what each member is doing. They may be tight as f***, but there’s always room for improvisation, and Dave (whose drumming hero is My Bloody Valentine’s Colm Ó Cíosóig) never fails to get the beat going.
Damon, however will always be the star of the show. Current shows find him dividing his time between a 19th Century harmonium and centre-stage dancing lunacy. In his more excitable moments he has been known to knock both bassist and guitarist offstage, and the only mystery so far is how he has avoided serious injury from his antics.
“I’m a bit embarrassed by it really,” he admits. “But I just feel like doing it. It’s not very ordered. I’d like to be able to dance properly, but jumping around like a lunatic is the only thing I can do with any feeling.
“These days I steer clear of Graham cos I’m terrified of him killing me. Alex just pushes me off the stage. One gig we did, I jumped up on his shoulders, the stage was about four feet high and he just decided to jump. It was like a double stagedive with bass guitar, everyone got out of the way… and I got quite badly damaged.”
If I didn’t think it would backfire on them, I’d claim Blur have the potential to be Britain’s biggest export since The Beatles, but what does that mean anyway? They’ve got the looks, the attitude and the songs to be massive.
Only an ill-conceived tour of post-tremor Iran can stop them.