Britpop in the ’90s was a friendly scene. We abandoned all formalities, and many of us were known only by our first names. Meet some of the bands we were introduced to during that great decade.
My Name Is: James (1982-)
James formed in 1982 in (a rented room in?) Whalley Range, Manchester. Early incarnations of the group were named Venereal and the Diseases, Volume Distortion, and Model Team International. After recruiting Tim Booth as singer, they renamed themselves James after the innovative Irish writer, James Joyce. While James was popular in Manchester’s post-punk scene throughout the 1980s (even supporting the Smiths on their Meat Is Murder tour), they became most successful during the 1990s with a slew of hit singles including, ‘Come Home,’ ‘Sit Down,’ ‘She’s a Star,’ and, of course, ‘Laid.’
My Name Is: Gene (1993-2004)
Gene was one of the more sophisticated bands to emerge from the music scene in the 1990s. They owed much, including its name, to the Smiths. Allegedly, they were named after the Smiths’ 1983 b-side ‘Jeane.’ With their poetic lyrics drawing from the same well of loneliness and yearning and Martin Rossiter’s vibrato vocals, they consistently courted comparisons to their heroes. At least Moz never headbutted comedian Paul Kaye! Gene were the recipients of the first NME Brat Award for ‘Best New Act’ and were heralded as Melody Maker’s ‘Brightest Hope’ for 1995. They were best known for their debut single, ‘For The Dead,’ ‘Sleep Well Tonight,’ and ‘Olympian.’
My Name Is: Jack (1992-2002)
Jack’s orchestral pop was heavily influenced by Scott Walker (they even worked with his producer, Peter Walsh) and were frequently compared to Pulp and the Divine Comedy. Their debut album, Pioneer Soundtracks, garnered excellent reviews but received little airplay, resulting in poor sales over their entire career. They were best known for their singles ‘Kid Stardust’ (a tribute to Charles Bukowski), ‘Wintercomessummer,’ ‘White Jazz,’ and ‘Biography Of A First Son.’ Frontman Anthony Reynolds collaborated with electro-folkster Momus in a group called Jacques, named for French songwriter Jacques Brel, that was described as ‘Jack’s eccentric brother.’ Since Jack’s split, Reynolds has been a solo artist known by — what else? — Anthony. But who exactly was Jack?
My Name Is: Marion (1993-)
Marion is one of those British bands that suffered for being overhyped by the music press and ended up being one of the major should-have-beens on the scene. Jaime Harding and co. adopted the name Marion in tribute to Harding’s gran. The Macclesfield quintet were hailed as possible successors to local stars the Smiths but never achieved the success predicted for them. Many have pointed to the so-called ‘curse of Morrissey’ (supposedly Morrissey’s praise is fatal — tell that to Suede and Gene). They intensified their connection to the Smiths by recruiting their former manager, Joe Moss, to handle their affairs. They also had guitarist Johnny Marr produce their sophmore album, The Program; recorded singles with Smiths’ producer Stephen Street; and even opened for Morrissey! They were best known for their first single, ‘Violent Men,’ ‘Sleep,’ ‘Toys For Boys,’ and ‘Let’s All Go Together.’ Undoubtedly, Harding was one of the more captivating voices of the era.
My Name Is: Travis (1990-)
This band of Glaswegians named themselves after Harry Dean Stanton’s character, Travis Henderson, from the film Paris, Texas. Travis is part of the post-Britpop scene along with Ocean Colour Scene, Kula Shaker, and Embrace. They captured the spirit of British rock with their back-to-basics sound, very much in contrast to the earlier glam of art school Britpop. Whatever they did, it worked; their albums shot up the charts, and they continued to release hit single after single. Critics seemed to adore them as much as the fans, if the plethora of accolades and awards they collected are any proof.
My Name Is: Seymour (Blur) (1988)
Childhood friends Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon left Colchester and formed a band with Alex James during their university years in London. Their original name was Seymour, inspired by J.D. Salinger’s Seymour: An Introduction. In November 1989, they were on the verge of signing with Food Records. Food hated the name Seymour and offered a list of alternates from which the lads chose Blur. And the rest, as they say, is history.
My Name Is: Geoff (Suede) (1989)
In their teens, Brett Anderson and Mat Osman, half of future Suede, were in a garage band called Geoff. After heading off to university, the group added Justine Frischmann and soon recruited guitarist Bernard Butler through an advertisement in the NME. But, how in the world did something as glamourous as Suede start out as a Geoff? Too bad they didn’t send a demo over to Rough Trade’s Geoff Travis!
My Name Is: (The) Jennifers (Supergrass) (1991-1993)
Before they were Supergrass, they were the Jennifers. As the Jennifers, Gaz Coombes and brothers Nic and Danny Goffey were young members of the Oxford indie/shoegaze scene. They released one single, ‘Just Got Back Today,’ on Suede’s record label, Nude, in 1992. The single is still a hot number for collectors.