‘Leisure’: How Blur became ‘the first big band of the 90s’


Released in the summer of 1991, Blur’s debut album Leisure is often cast as a teenage anomaly among a hulking body of work whose “Britpop” branding belied the art-rock aspirations lurking beneath the surface. Like British rock music itself – which was losing importance as the Manchester-led “baggy” scene died out – Blur was still in search of an identity at the start of the decade. Soon, however, they would be at the forefront of a whole new movement that would define 90s British music.

Listen to “Leisure” here.

“The First Great Band of the 90s”

With five producer credits, a strong contribution from David Balfe, co-founder of Blur’s label Food, and the combined contribution of the four very different personalities that made up the band, HobbiesThe birth of was more difficult than its title suggests. For his part, Balfe was keen for Blur to hold on to what was left of baggy indie-dance crossover appeal, while producer Stephen Street, who helmed seven of the album’s 12 tracks – and would continue to see Blur through their career albums. – saw the band’s potential to become to their generation what one of its former proteges, The Smiths, had been to the independent kids of the 80s Blur themselves, who had originally formed under Seymour’s name in late 1988, a year after the Smiths’ implosion, felt challenged to appease all parties while retaining some of the more awkward aspects of the songs they had written in their first incarnation. and that they were. now bringing in the recording sessions for their debut album.

“It was pulled in different directions,” drummer Dave Rowntree later confirmed to DJ, rock critic and Blur biographer Stuart Maconie. “Graham [Coxon, guitar] feared it was too pop to the exclusion of the Seymour-style weirdness he had fun on. Balfe was worried that this Seymour side of things would make us enemies… Damon [Albarn, frontman], I think, was trying to keep everyone happy and push us in a more song-focused direction. He wasn’t sure he could build a career on that unpredictable savagery that we had live so he was trying to transition it all to more of a songwriter and musician base and I was with him on that .

“The best guitarist I’ve worked with since Johnny Marr”

Writing in his memoirs, A bit of blur, Alex James recalled that the band’s early songs “had been well-honed over the shows, and in the studio there wasn’t a lot of writing to do. It was just a matter of playing the songs well. But although they’ve earned a reputation as a raucous live performer – with an unlikely stint supporting cult American psychobilly band The Cramps on their CV – Blur’s “unpredictable savagery” was tamed on their debut single, She’s So. High, released in October 1990 as a double A-side with a song called I Know.

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