Today marks 25 years since the release of Parklife by Blur. I know, has it really been 5 years since Parklife turned 20? Where does the time go?
Joking aside, I’m an absolute sucker for nostalgia and very few records invoke more sentimentality from me than Parklife.
I was 11 in 1994. Until that year the only albums I owned were a Smash Hits compilation and a Technotronic Remixes cassette. I didn’t know it at the time but I was in desperate need of a band to fall in love with. I’d been cherry picking from my brothers’ record collections up to that point but it wasn’t until hearing the likes of Blur in ’94 that my lifelong love for music was really ignited.
Memories can change to suit a narrative but I definitely got a CD player for Christmas ’94 and Parklife was one of the very first CDs that I can remember playing on it. The CD in question wasn’t mine of course. I didn’t get the album for Christmas myself as there was already one in the house. But you’d better believe I taped a copy, and that TDK-90 went everywhere with me.
One specific memory of my early Blur fandom has never left me. I remember sitting at the back of the school bus talking excitedly about Parklife when a girl in the conversation asked “do they have any other albums?” “No, I don’t think so…” I foolishly interrupted. How little I knew.
Parklife, as I’d go on to learn, was of course Blur’s third LP. They’d previously had a hit single with There’s No Other Way and earned a cult following with second album Modern Life is Rubbish, but that was all news to me at the time. If my brothers didn’t have it or it wasn’t played on Radio 1 I didn’t know about it.
I couldn’t have been alone. It wasn’t until the songs from Parklife hit the airwaves that Blur really announced themselves to the nation. The likes of the title track and singles like Girls & Boys and To the End elevated the band into becoming a household name. It’s clearly their most successful and popular album, and I have no shame in proclaiming that its my favourite Blur album too. Sometimes the most popular records strike a chord for good reason. They’re just great.
Blur obviously went on to further successes. I love pretty much everything they’ve done, especially the likes of their self titled album with Beetlebum being a particular favourite of mine. But I keep going back to Parklife as it’s just ingrained in my conscience. From start to finish, it’s a terrific set of songs. Everything just seems to be where it needs to be. Even the artwork is special to me. I always wanted to go to the Dogs since getting into Parklife and was lucky enough to have a night out in Walthamstow before it came to a close. The spirit of that album was definitely on my mind that night and I was happy to be treading a worn path once visited by my heroes.
I’m very aware that that comes down to sentimentality. It’s clear that the album has moved into nostalgic territory for me now. I find listening to Parklife different from say listening to OK Computer despite there only being a few years between them. When I listen to OK Computer I still just hear the magnificent music, but when I listen to Parklife I’m taken back to a time and a place.
When Graham Coxon started playing the opening bars of End of a Century at Blur’s reunion show at Hyde Park in 2009 I started welling up. Hearing Damon sing “she said there’s ants in the carpet…” produced a lump in my throat that was only remedied by singing along with scores of thousands of likeminded people. Parklife really has brought me a lot of joy and there’ll always be a bit of my heart devoted to it.
Last month I revived this old blog with what I’m calling my ‘100 Club’. The 100 Club being a small selection of bands and artists who’ve amassed at least 100 songs in their back catalogue that I have a genuine affection for. Each month I’ll be sharing a new Spotify playlist dedicated to the artist in question, pulling together what I consider to be their 100 best songs. Obviously it’s not practical to sit and listen to 100 songs in one sitting but I’m hoping these playlists act as a one stop place to dip into some great music and showcase some impressive bodies of work without having to navigate the duds.
David Bowie was my first inductee and now I’m adding my childhood heroes Albarn, Coxon, James and Rowntree to the Club.
Parklife, I’m sure you won’t be surprised to find, is represented here in its entirety. You may question the inclusion of so many songs from the generally lesser favoured debut album Leisure but I genuinely like it and I still listen to those songs to this day. I might have bumped one of them to make room for stand alone Blur rarity ‘Fool’s Day’ if I could but that wasn’t to be found on Spotify so it couldn’t make the list. I’ve included it here as a special mention.
Thanks for reading and if you’ve got this far I hope you’ll indulge me and check out the best 7 hours of Blur.