Is Robbie Williams right about nineties indieIt only took one comment from Brett Anderson from Suede and all hell broke loose, well not excactly all hell but a now retracted Robbie Williams blog on his own site about boy bands v indie.

His stout defence of boy bands has now been retracted but was he right? or were those famous insecurities rising to the surface? was the errant Take That member who we once saw run around after Liam Gallagher at Glastonbury and released several records that sound like a weird cross between boy band and indie like a thrilled fan getting a bit tetchy about his lack of acceptance in indie world? and does ‘indie cred’ mean anything any more? isn’t it all varying degrees of pop music when you look at it?

The whole handbags affair started when Brett Anderson had a go at pop music in a recent interview, saying that there “has always been crap pop music” and that the current popularity of boyband One Direction comes as a result of skint record labels creating stars by committee and taking the easy option.

Former king of pop Robbie Williams took umbrage at this and in a psycho analysts dream typed his missive in block capitals claiming that “Any quarter-decent three-chord knobheads could and did get a deal in the ’90s. I won’t name names because it would be unfair on… Echobelly, Shed 7, Symposium, Menswear, Sleeper, Hurricane Number 1, Ride, The Bluetones, Northern Uproar, Chapterhouse, Curve, Salad, Adorable, Cud, Spacehog, Kula Shaker, The Audience, Powder, King Maker and Geneva.” Geneva came in for particular criticism with Williams calling them “sub-Suede” and adding: “Can you imagine?”

What is really impressive is his in depth knowledge of smaller indie bands- was he actually a fan of of the genre or did he spend all afternoon on wiki looking up band names- we very much doubt that anyone can remember that many boy bands names!

The missive continued “Should I go on? Cos I could and they sure fucking did. There were a few special indie bands then just as there are in every generation and just as some pop bands are useless, some are magnificent. I feel sorry for the people who are too bigoted to appreciate the latter. The world’s a lot more exciting with One Direction in it and more hearts will genuinely race at a new 1D album than they ever have or will at any Suede album in any period.”

To be fair he obviously had a rethink and wrote a second blog shortly afterwards stating “It would appear that I’ve gone off on a tangent not entirely created by Mr Brett Anderson of pop combo Suede. It won’t be the last time this happens and it felt good to get it off my chest. Thank you Brett, Suede’s new album ‘Bloodsports’ out now.” He adds: “It’s good too.”

Was Robbie right though? or should you leave this blogging business alone until you are sure what you are doing? does pop music and the record labels crush all other musics or were the nineties a time of two thriving music scenes? is there much difference between boy bands and the poppier end of indie music?

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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. He has a point. The majority of those bands are what was once referred to as “student” music. You’d see them trawling round the Uni/Poly circuit with a couple of decent singles and then a year later they’ve disappeared. I read through the list and tried to recall a third or fourth single from any of them…and failed.

    That’s OK. I don’t need to know more than Nice Guy Eddie, Sleep Easy or Blackerthreetracker to like the band, but, beyond a certain point, they’re as formulaic as the pop bands.

    Brett Anderson has a point too, about design by committee and recession A&R, but again, how is that any different from the decisions used to sell as everything from Take That to Boyzone?

  2. Aside from the fact that he’s a pathological attention-seeker who owes his entire career to other people, he is absolutely correct that most nineties mainstream guitar music (can we please stop misusing the word “indie” to mean anything with a guitar that’s not country or punk or metal etc?) was dreadful, but plucking a list of largely unconnected bands from somewhere shows he knows about as much about music as I do about molecular biology (which is nothing, in case you were wondering). He must have got that list from somewhere, because does anyone aside from their own families remember Salad or Geneva?

    It’s true many of those bands are exactly the sort of lad-and-dad-friendly sixties-obsessed throwbacks that made Britpop one of the biggest and most depressing backlward steps ever to happen in guitar music: however these were, I seem to recall, the very sort of bands Robbeh was hanging round with back in the day desperatley trying to be cool and make out he was something other than a variety show act. I bet if you look deep into his eyes you can still see Chris Evans bounding down the stairs shouting “Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush” while Ocean Colour Scene crank up a tired old chunky dad-riff and the orange people squeal.

    However the inclusion of some great and very-much-not-Britpop bands such as Ride and the astonishingly underrated Adorable rather undermines a point with which I for one – as a fan of many subgenres of independent and/or guitar music over the years – would otherwise concur.

  3. The start of the 90s was great lots of cutting edge stuff going on, as soon as Oasis came along and the once quite good Blur came up with the whole britpop thing it all went to shite, Indie became mainstream and it took 15 years to recover, but somehow never the the same.. 1995 started 10 years of Awful indie, Awful Pop music and awful everything!!

  4. It was a vaguely interesting rant for sure but nothing out of the ordinary for Robbie. He’s kept a lid on this sort of outburst for a while having seemingly mellowed as time goes on but, still, to my mind pretty typical him. Maybe I’m being soft but I think these rants come out of low confidence as much as attention seeking, and insecurity about his own place in things. These were the bands he seemed to crave attention from in the mid-90s as at one time he sought to lose the pop credentials he now seems keen to defend for 1D.
    And I think that’s why we all know this is some personal bitterness behind this. But still, an interesting point posed I think in the line “The world’s a lot more exciting with One Direction in it and more hearts will genuinely race at a new 1D album than they ever have or will at any Suede album in any period.” Brings it all back round to what the marker of success is in music – quantity of records shifted or quality for its own sake? I’d say that if music / a song / an artist connects to even one person then its succeeded as it’s art, and art is about connection not units shifted globally.
    And can I name as many boy bands as he names 90s small time guitar bands? Yes, I think I probably can. I grew up reading Smash Hits as well as the NME and Sounds. Some boy bands were rubbish all the time, some weren’t. Bit like guitar bands really. Or punk bands. Or girl bands. Or you know, music, generally.

  5. Interesting he doesn’t mention Oasis, who he spent years ‘following around eating all the crisps’, according to Liam Gallagher. Sour grapes Mr Williams?

  6. …… it’s all about individuals tastes and opinions….. In my opinion Chapterhouse and Ride were excellent…..the “knobhead” bit is immature name calling ….. and I’m sure fans of all of the bands mentioned would vehemently disagree with him…….. each to their own……

  7. Williams’ comments could be said about every music movement that’s ever been. In amongst the great bands of the 60s, 70s and 80 there was also lots of shite. The advantage of the earlier decades is that time filters out the rubbish. In 20 years time, we’ll all have forgotten about nonsense like Hurricane #1, Menswear, etc. Meanwhile some of the excellent bands of the 90s will continue to be played and loved.

  8. yeah right Robbie – taking bricks to Brixton is the just one line from the most dreadful pop song ever (Candy) – now p*** off and stop trying to get attention you complete ***** – oh and by the way this man said nothing about Hillsboro until it became ok to

  9. robbie williams is a complete wanker and totally overrated as a singer. In my opinion, a lot of the ‘indie’ bands of the 90’s were utter shite but we don’t need a fuck wit like Williams to tell us that. At least the ‘indie’ (god, i fucking loathe that word now) bands were proper bands with instruments and as shit as they may have been they are not as bad as unspeakable crap like take that and one direction. Today its all much of a muchness, boy band, indie band, all the same crap loved by shithead morons like chris evans and steve wright, pop music is as good as dead now, its all part of this awful fucking celebrity/entertainment/charity barrage of shit.Robbie Williams is so synonymous with everything that is crap. The annoying prick needs battering and i make no apologies for that statement. On a slightly more important note, filth like Williams and that piece of shit Gary Barlow are also tax evading twats who then tell us to give to charity, that is the real obscenity. FUCK RED NOSE DAY,FUCK ALL CELEBRITY-DRIVEN CHARITY

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  13. This is what too many years on psychotropic drugs do to a persons mind.
    I haven’t heard this guy say anything relevant in over 20 years. It’s always the same poor me story.
    The 90´s had many brilliant bands that innovated the music scene. I think those guys had a better time the the singback pretty boys who got butt**** by their managers, while stealing money from school girls.

    Suede played for years and years before becoming successful. Take that just had to suck the right people off, and it was right off to hollywood after that lol


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