How John Robb made up the word 'Britpop'!

How I named Britpop

How John Robb made up the word 'Britpop'!

There are so many claimants on the word ”œBritpop’ that you would actually think it was one of the great terms for a musical genre! There seems to be more people claiming they made up the word than bands running around in the 20 year old scene!

Over the years the other claimers have made me smile. They are genuine in their belief that they came up with the term and that’s cool.

The latest round of BBC Britpop docs have the fine broadcaster Stuart Maconie as the inventor of the word in 1994 in a Select article but then they would as Stuart is presenting the programme!

Unfortunately this is a bit like Columbus  ‘discovering’ America despite the fact that millions of people were already there.

The word Britpop, like the word punk, has a longer history…

In 1987 I was starting to write for the now defunct music paper Sounds and out and about reviewing live gigs. I was the half crazed music lunatic who was everywhere, running around gigs, parties, rehearsal rooms watching bands, writing about bands, playing gigs, writng reviews and lyrics and scraps of paper, never sleeping and living full on – music was 24/7 (how life has changed, maybe not..ummm¦)

One rainy summer evening I was watching the Stone Roses play with the La’s and felt that the La’s were going to be massive, that they were going to be THE band that led this revival of northern guitar bands and the Roses would fit into their slipstream.

The week before Sounds had done a cover feature on the new British punk underground and called it britcore. Very smartly (!) I did a swift pun on this and dug out a word I had already used in my Rox fanzine in the early 80’s (and David Stubbs had used in Monitor fanzine as well apparently but do fanzines count in this debate!?) and termed this new northern mini explosion of guitar bands that was emerging pre-baggy (that would also include the early Inspiral Carpets etc) Britpop.

Every now and then I would return to the word, kicking it about, sticking it into reviews in Sounds. That’s what we did then- make up words for a laugh and see if they would stick, some did (got a few more examples like ‘noisenik’ and ‘œScallydelic’ etc) and some would fail miserably. The Britpop word sort of hung around and bounced around through the baggy days always slipping through the papers’ subs picky fingers and slowly began to stick and get used by other reviewers and a few years later it became part of the parlance of music press writing without anyone noticing and plenty of people thinking that they had made it up!

Suddenly in the mid nineties it shot into the mainstream when it became the term for the new music scene built around Oasis versus Blur with the help of Pulp – in other words the rest of the country working out how to do the Manchester baggy pop thing (but that’s another story) and Britpop was everywhere from book titles to worldwide magazine front covers to TV documentaries.


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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. yes, I recall a certain Guardian journalist who swears he made up the word ‘Britpop’ while at Melody Maker… name rhymes with Uncle Fester… ;)

  2. […] them with all the British bands were doing their version of the Stone Roses under the banner of Britpop the mentors and the masters were still beavering away in Rockfield in Wales trying to make sense of […]

  3. I have just been reading The NME Interviews – Best Of The 1970s. There is a Sex Pistols interview in there from 1977 by Charles Shaar Murray. One quote from the piece is “At home the Sex Pistols are public enemies. In Sweden they’re an important visiting Britpop group”. Sorry John


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