There have been a few britpop documentaries made as I write this in 2013. Live Forever isn’t the best, but it was the first. Director John Dower, an unashamed fanatic, gets to pick the brains of his britpop heroes over 80 minutes.
The film starts promisingly at Spike Island as Waterfall by The Stone Roses plays. Then your heart sinks as you realize that there is no footage of this gig at all. We are then introduced to a bunch of lads knocking out a cover of Rock n Roll Star in a rehearsal room. We’ve all been there right?! And their bass player is better than Guigsy.
The brilliant Jon Savage describes how the Stone Roses lost their nerve and Nirvana took over. A visibly distraught Damon Albarn (Graham had just left blur as his interview was recorded) describes his distaste of the Americanism that had crept into British culture during the early 90s.
Liam Gallagher comes across as an arrogant oaf during his interview. He is however responsible for two or three genuine laugh out loud moments – more of that later. Noel meanwhile sits upon a throne (a THRONE!) and demonstrates yet again why he is the king of the anecdote, lovingly describing the improbable beginnings of Oasis.
The first of several jarring moments comes when the excellent rendition of Supersonic off of Channel 4′s The Word slows down as the camera lovingly pans around a club called the Atlantic Bar. Bittersweet Symphony plays over shots of Cool Brittannia – bit early for that?! Turns out that this is a foreshadow of how messy things are about to become and we cut back to a New Labour advert from around 1995.
By the point that Jon Savage describes how he nearly cried with joy during the Some Might Say TOTP (Top of the Pops) performance, I paused the film and played that single in full. Having had a few lagers I relived the excitement of Acquiesce and how unbeatable Liam sounds on Headshrinker – good times.
Peter Mandleson appears on the screen and the party is over – for now. The Masterplan plays over images of Blair, and Noel’s very public endorsment of New Labour at the 1996 Brit awards. Everybody looks drunk and giddy.
At this point Jarvis appears for the first time. His observations are worth the price of admission alone and four tracks from This Is Hardcore are played throughout the film. Party Hard is perfect for this initial rush of excitement circa 95/96. Glory Days is played as Labour win the 97 election – a new dawn? The Fear and This Is Hardcore perfectly sum up the hungover clear up of Brit pop around 98.
The blur vs Oasis saga is dragged over again. This was a well worn tale even before this – the first Brit pop retrospective. Noel and Damon are still smarting from the 95 chart war. Damon especially looks battle worn and really doesn’t want to relive the days when Oasis records would get played everytime he walked into a bar or a shop.
It’s at this point during the film that I find myself thinking where’s the live at Knebworth DVD? Surely that will be released in 2016 for the twentieth anniversary?!
Jarvis has a finely tuned bullshit detector, and he sums up the reality of brit pop fame thus;
‘The reality was rubbish… the celebrity world that has opened it’s doors to you just seems really shite.’
Both Jarvis and Damon describe the excessive cocaine use and Beetlebum plays over shots of the Millennium Dome. The ultimate example of the sort of folly cocaine use can land you in. You can imagine the minds behind the dome snorting up and saying ‘yes, we’re inventing the future!’ in a Jarvis stylee.
The inevitable happens and what was so brilliant in 1994 becomes so naff in 1997. Liam and Patsy’s Vanity Fair cover, Noel’s visit to Downing Street etc…
However, I would argue that Noel (as a vocal Labour supporter) doesn’t really need to justify the Downing Street visit. But he does justify it by hilariously recounting being invited to ‘the Prime Minister’s house for a drink whilst dressed as an Afghan clown at five in the morning.’
Liam gets a lol by saying that he didn’t want to go out that night anyway but perhaps the film’s funniest moment is when the director probes Liam’s thoughts on the subject of androgyny. He just keeps asking him about his supposed androgynous appearance, while Liam shoots him a look that has seen many tabloid photographers end up in hospital for the night.
The film ends on a sour note. Having been filmed around 2002 there is a very real sense that British guitar music is just not exciting anymore. Liam describes S Club Juniors as ‘good little kids’, Noel describes the current scene as ‘fooking rubbish’ and Reach by S Club 7 plays over the credits.
Jarvis and Damon look thoroughly bemused by it all.
In 2007 another documentary was made by the BBC for it’s 7 Ages Of Rock series. This film had a much happier ending because at that time a second wave of britpop was in full flush and a fuller cast of players were interviewed.
Noel was still on his throne though!