Blur Even the best bands, the biggest bands, the most important ones, are cosmic accidents, and a worldbeating career can hinge on a brief encounter. Blur’s story begins at Colchester’s Stanway Comprehensive School in the early ’80s, and a feisty collision between recent East London transplant Damon Albarn and local lad Graham Coxon. An alliance was born, intense and challenging. At lunchtimes the two would obsess over The Jam, 2-Tone and Quadrophenia – prophetic in more ways than one. Later when art student Coxon joined Albarn’s pre-Blur band Circus, he brought instant guitar ideas and a bass-playing pal from Goldmith’s Alex James, who adjudged the music “shit” but could smell fun a mile off. The drummer, Mohawk-coiffed computer programmer Dave Rowntree, stood slightly left of Tony Benn and beat the tubs like a savage. Together they became Seymour and then Blur: architects of a resurgence in British music.
Their first Number 1 album, Parklife, stayed in the charts for a mammoth 90 weeks and the following year, the band won four Brit Awards, a groundbreaking crossover moment for alternative music. Britpop had reached its peak, but Blur was moving on, into the sonically scuffed territory of the Blur (1997) album and another monolithic single, Song 2. Albarn and Coxon were back on the same page, as the destabilising lunacy of Britpop’s 24-7 maelstrom subsided, and Blur’s continued exploration of the recording studio culminated in 13 (1999), their most experimental incarnation since the deconstructions of Seymour. Tender and No Distance Left to Run saw a rueful Albarn sifting the rubble of his eight-year relationship with Elastica singer Justine Frischmann while the record’s pop hit Coffee & TV, was sung by Coxon. Combustible, like all creative combinations, Blur could sometimes take their differences out on each other but on stage their cocktail of personalities made for spectacular pop events, What they’re doing when they’re not being Blur… Alex James’ musical projects outside of Blur have included Me Me Me (with Stephen Duffy) and Fat Les, makers of 1998’s Number 2 hit Vindaloo. He has written music with Marianne Faithfull, Sophie Ellis Bextor and Betty Boo. Dave Rowntree runs his own computer animation company, Nanomation, and has directed episodes of Channel 4 TV comedy series Empire Square. Graham Coxon is the founder of Transcopic Records and the author of six solo studio albums Damon Albarn partners artist Jamie Hewlett in virtual band Gorillaz, creators of the multi platinum selling Gorillaz (2001) and Grammy-winning Demon Days