Throughout this series, the aim has been to obtain witness accounts of the significant figures in the Britpop revolution of the mid nineties. However what failed to occur to me was that Britpop may have been nothing more than a marketing campaign created by record companies and music producers who grouped together a number of bands to maximise sales. Formed in Hounslow during the early nineties and originally known as The Bottlemen, The Bluetones consisted of Mark Morriss on vocals, Adam Devlin on guitar, Scott Morriss on bass guitar and Ed Chesters on drums. Inspired by a whole host of different artists and styles throughout the ages, Morriss never took notice of their musical contemporaries and instead cultivated a unique style and sound that helped to define a generation.
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With a formidable musical legacy behind him, it’s very surprising to learn that music hadn’t been Mark’s first passion as a keen footballer, he had trials for Crystal Palace and he and his brother Scott had shown promise from an early age. Yet an accident with a tree in 1986 resulted in a knee injury which would sadly put a premature end to his sporting career which came as a significant blow to his aspirations but sporting’s loss ultimately became music’s gain. Having such a sporting background offered Mark vital experience of ploughing bucketloads of passion and enthusiasm into something and benefiting from the results. Discovering a flare for music, he was able to easily swap the competitive world of football for the enigmatic spotlight of music and by 1993, Mark had formed The Bluetones and set his sights on musical domination.
Despite forming between 1992 and 1993, The Bluetones’ debut album Expecting To Fly was released in February 1996 following the release of their Number Two single Slight Return a year previously. When compiling the album, there were a few tracks which the band thought of as potential singles. However, in the hands of the record producer, they always knew that they would have very little say on which tracks would be released as singles. The song Slight Return was never on The Bluetones’ radar as a single and was merely a track filler on the album. Therefore it came as something of a shock when it reached number two in the charts only to be beaten by Babylon Zoo’s Spaceman. For some unknown reason Slight Return perfectly suited the mod renaissance of the mid nineties and gave The Bluetones their biggest hit to date. Like it or not, the band were now right at the epicentre of the Britpop explosion.
Still in the era when Top Of The Pops was a significant rite of passage for any musical act, Mark realised the importance of this show in gauging national popularity. This was one of the only times that The Bluetones found themselves among other bands from the Britpop era and despite their rockstar status, the band was never fussed about being associated with other bands of the time. Britpop by its very nature was a concept created by powerful record companies and the mainstream media and had very little to do with the protagonists themselves. Therefore it’s extremely difficult for musicians to identify as Britpop simply because of the second hand nature in which it was created. Instead, Mark believes that it was something for the fans to argue over because it actually had no effect on the performers.
So you might be feeling a little cheated that we leave Beyond The Title’s celebration of Britpop in what appears to be a slightly negative way. However, the fact that The Bluetones are still making music and delighting audiences up and down the country remains testament to their extraordinary repertoire of soft rock anthems. Yet there’s also something deeper about this enduring popularity that is testament to the longevity of this specific musical genre. For a short period in the mid nineties, British music ruled the world with messages of positivity, escapism and optimism. Call it Britpop, soft rock, self celebratory guitar pop or self indulgent rock and roll, this little movement was to change the face of popular culture and make music more potent than ever before. It was a great pleasure to end our collaboration of Britpop with the formidable Mark Morriss and may The Bluetones have many more “Slight Returns in the years to come.