“POWER TO THE PEOPLE”
John Lennon, 1971
This essay aims to investigate research carried out into the Britpop era of the mid-90s in Great Britain in relation to politics and its impact on national identity. In order to achieve this aim several points such as Thatcherism, New Labour, popular music and national identity will be looked at.
Who are we?
The term national identity is defined by Encarta (Microsoft® Encyclopedia 2007) as
the continuous reproduction and reinterpretation of the pattern of values, symbols, memories, myths, and traditions that compose the distinctive heritage of nations, and the identification of individuals with that pattern and heritage.
Humans are formed fundamentally by the culture, in which they grow up (Hall, 1990). They take values and conceptions from this culture and are citizens of a nation. A nation is a symbolic community, in which there is usually a uniform language, rites, symbols and representations and national cultural institutions (Reis, 2000). A strong cultural identity, part of any national culture should be an aim of every nation as every nation should aim for a ‘we-feeling’ as opposed to ‘them and us’ (ibid.).
Britain under Thatcher
For most of the 80s, Great Britain remained stuck in the same cultural moment (Harris, 2003a). Britain’s first female Prime Minister, Thatcher (1979-1990) impacted on every fibre of British life (ibid.). Great Britain in the 80s was politically in sync with America and Thatcherism was to Britain what Reaganism was to the United States (Phillips, 2004). Thatcherism was based on individualism (Foley, 2000) and incorporated factors such as decreased state intervention, free market economy, monetarist economic policy, privatisation of state-owned industries, decreased direct taxation and increased indirect taxation, opposition to trade unions, and a reduction of the size of the Welfare State (ibid.). All this led to a growing inequality and disillusionment in the British society (Heath et al, 2001; Christopher, 2006) and enforced the ‘them and us’ culture rather than the ‘we’ –culture (Reis, 2000). “Conservativism was the way and you better step in line or face the wall”, Phillips (2004, p.1) explains the spirit of that time. In Live Forever (2001), Noel Gallagher explains it thus:
I think a lot of young people had accepted Conservativism, dull culture and daytime telly, smoking spliffs for a living and going to football matches and that was it, Britain was dead in the 80s.
The Roots – Swingin’ 60s
It was just at this time when the Britpop era emerged. The term Britpop was defined by the media in the mid 90s as way of describing the musical style and visual aspect of bands such as Oasis, Pulp and Blur (Bennett, 1997) who were followed by smaller bands like Suede, Elastica and Menswear (Harris, 2003a). Many researchers (Bennett, A. 1997; Bennett, P. 1998; Harris, 2003a) have stated that the roots of the Britpop go back to the 60’s with bands such as The Beatles, The Kinks and The Small Faces to whom the term ‘British’ can easily be linked.
Oasis has always been closely linked to The Beatles. Noel Gallagher as the songwriter adapted quotes linked to The Beatles for his songs such as “I’m gonna start a revolution from my bed” from John Lennon in connection with his bed-inns (Hewitt, 1997). Furthermore the intro to “Don’t look back in Anger” is replicated from John Lennon’s “Imagine” as noted by Bennett (1998). Blur are said to be closely linked in especially with The Kinks. This becomes particularly obvious when comparing lyrics. The Kinks` (1967) lyrics to “Autumn Almanac”
I like mi’ football on a Saturday, Roast beef on a Sunday, I go to Blackpool on my holidays, sit in the open Sunlight.