Updated: Feb 20
Difficult thing satire, particularly in an age of corruption, as we are in now, falling down our staircase of infection, hysteria and loss.
Get satire right and laughter is your friend forever (Noel Coward and Oscar Wilde will forever be applauded for their ability to entertain on the attack), get it wrong and you’re suddenly the darling of the very people you are so energetically lampooning. Cole Porter discovered that more than half a century ago and Blur fell into the same trap of success as the 20th Century soured into glorious malaise. Nobody cares, it seems if you are taking the piss, just so long as the joke is a) funny and, b) underscored with a cracking disco beat.
Just as Girls & Boys has, even if it was nicked from David Bowie’s Fashion, which itself was another (somewhat crueller) satire and which again, was hugely popular.
Because it could be danced to.
Girls & Boys, which can also be danced to, is one of the signature songs by Britpop sometime sensations Blur (even though Blur pre-figured Britpop by a couple of years). It is the song which, for a while came to define the band, and which is fun, invigorating and something to shout about (until Blur got a bit moody and started to sniff their nose at their very successful creation). It is the lead track on Blur’s third uber-album, Parklife, originally released on 7 March 1994 (reaching Number Five in the singles chart), was the band’s first Top Five single release and signalled that it was lift-off time for the Colchester boys.
As a song, Damon Albarn and chums withering putdown of class-flattening pansexuality and celebrate-it-now hedonism is a shot at tweaking the nose of the party culture in the UK, as epitomised by stag parties and group outings to Mediterranean islands and the growing attraction to the slightly chilly destinations of the newly liberated Eastern Europe. It’s the budget-airline song and bang on the money as a vulgar result.
The much-quoted irony, of course, is that the slightly spiteful lyrics of Girls & Boys (Look at you, you pigs! Getting drunk! And touching each other!) became something of an anthem for the young, beach-rushing consumers freshly liberated from any sense or obligation to class consciousness. Clever, relaxed kids, the new hedonists, as they especially were, and they know a good tune when they hear it.
Something there to make Girls & Boys lever-puller Graham Coxon even more annoyed.
The kids loved it, however, on first release and radio DJs certainly adored it (particularly at Radio 1, which was going through one of its Year Zero phases at the time of the song’s single release and needed something with a bit of aural life to cling to). Plus, the clubs loved it. Everyone loved Girls & Boys.
Except for Oasis, obviously.
Formed in 1989, it would take a while for the slightly artsy Blur charabanc to get going, but once it did the group would give those northern upstarts the Gallagher brothers a run for their money, as Blur became one of the biggest bands in the UK during the Britpop moment of the mid-1990s, before New Labour and the threat of commercial reality came and put a stop to all that creative possibility old nonsense.
A seeming lifetime of style changes and pushing and shoving amongst the band members followed, as frontman David Albarn rushed about with a megaphone, shouting Leftish insults at a media not particularly interested in what he had to say, though the fans kept the single sales cooking. A brief flirtation with American success would eventually come and the axe would be somewhat uneasily buried with those naughty Gallagher boys. There would also be a certain bored sermonising on the fatuous state of, you know, “the culture” by Albarn, as the critics got sniffy (The Great Escape album being just the overblown folly they were waiting for) and various band members went walkies. But the late 90s were essentially Blur’s, Wonderwall or not.
As a musical Polaroid of a moment when much seemed possible and the sun was apparently always shining, Girls & Boys is as good as it gets.
So, shame on you for liking life so much and getting drunk, that thumping beat and winningly irritating Albarn vocal admonishes, and all we could do was move our feet, thinking it would be like this forever.
Which it sort of was, until 2020 came along.