Live Forever Britpop album cover

Live Forever Britpop album cover

There are so many claimants on creating the term ”œBritpop’ that you would actually think it was one of the greatest terms ever for a musical genre!

In 2022 there seems to be more people claiming that they made up the word than bands.

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 tell the story on their terms!

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 John Robb was writing for the now-defunct music paper Sounds.  That year Sounds had done a cover feature on the new British punk underground and called it ‘britcore’.  Britpop was a piss-take on this and a reference to a word John Robb had already used in his early eighties fanzine, Rox which had been picked up and used by David Stubbs had used in his Monitor fanzine as well.

In the late eighties, Robb often used the term to describe the new northern mini-explosion of guitar bands that was emerging pre-baggy as well as slightly later on bands like St. Etienne.

Every now and then in the late eighties/early nineties, he would return to the word, kicking it about, sticking it into reviews in Sounds. That’s what writers did then- make up words for a laugh and see if they would stick like other Robb-isms like ‘noisenik’ and ‘œScallydelic’ and ‘pop/noise’. Some would fail miserably some became the narrative.

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.

Maybe people genuinely thought they had come up with the term six years after it had started its journey c/o John Robb…

 

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5 COMMENTS

  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

    • Yeap, the OED have this as the first recorded instance of the word (as an adjective). As a noun: 1986 Playboy Apr. 26/3 Sharkey became quite a big deal in England with a sound square in the middle of Eighties Brit pop. So, both predated John Robb.

      • Surely the first use of the term was in ‘British Tree Review of 1928’… ‘the Brit Oak is mighty but the Brit Poplar is majestic!’ Hence the term Brit pop.

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