Demon of Britpop

Britpop was a 1990s musical style that favoured an ‘ironic’ or flattened version of working-class British life inspired by the 1960s – booze, birds and ‘having a good time’.

There is a myth that the movement had to save Union Jack iconography from Morrissey’s fascism.

To recap – in August 1992 Morrissey played 1 of 2 gigs at Finsbury Park, London with the band Madness, who allegedly had a strong skinhead following. While singing Glamorous Glue, Morrissey thrashed the Union Jack around the stage as the crowd reportedly yelled homophobic slurs at him and threw missiles. He refused to play the second gig. The NME interpreted this as Morrissey being racist.

In contrast, The Rolling Stones hired Hell’s Angels to be security at their gig in Altamont, San Francisco in 1969. While they were singing Sympathy For The Devil, a fight broke out and the Hell’s Angels stabbed to death an 18 year old black audience member, Meredith Hunter. This was interpreted by everyone as ‘the end of the 1960s’.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidchiu/2019/12/03/altamont-at-50-the-disastrous-concert-that-brought-the-60s-to-a-crashing-halt/?sh=3ddd92ab1941

The Union Jack had always been used extensively in UK pop promotion.

In 1990 New Order released a song for the World Cup with the English football team. Its chant ‘En-ger-land’! became popular without any agonising about it encouraging England’s underbelly of football hooliganism and racism.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19596766

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2021/feb/08/english-football-is-consumed-by-racism-and-hatred-can-the-cycle-be-broken

The 90s would see two more hit football anthems, Three Lions (Football’s coming home) by Baddiel, Skinner and The Lightning Seeds, and Vindaloo by Fat Les (We’re England, We’re gonna score one more than you, England!).

Sentimental longing or arrogant bragging, both songs were celebrations of fandom.

Morrissey’s football song – from Your Arsenal, the same album as The National Front Disco – was ‘We’ll Let You Know’ – sinister, mournful, violent – it was anything but a celebration.

How sad are we?
And how sad have we been?
We’ll let you know
We’ll let you know
Oh, but only if you’re really interested

You wonder how
We’ve stayed alive ’til now
We’ll let you know
We’ll let you know
But only if you’re really interested

We’re all smiles
Then, honest, I swear, it’s the turnstiles
That make us hostile
Oh-wah, oh-wah, oh-wah, oh-wah, oh-wah

We will descend
On anyone unable to defend
Themselves
Oh-wah, oh-wah, oh-wah, oh-wah, oh-wah

And the songs we sing
They’re not supposed to mean a thing
La-la-la-la, la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la
La-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-la-la
La-la-la-la

We may seem cold
Or we may even be the most depressing people you’ve ever known
At heart, what’s left, we sadly know
That we are the last truly British people you’ve ever known
We are the last truly British people you will ever know
You’ll ever, never, want to know

Morrissey was excluded from Britpop not because he was the dark side, but because he reminded them that the dark side existed when they wanted to use the fig leaf of irony to enjoy the pride and thrill of being loutish, lustful and national.

I crave extremes. I want to be THAT famous, or THAT known. The only reason I’m in this is to make great rock’n’roll records, for the hell of it, and I’m concerned that everybody thinks I’m this politically correct, right-on woman. (Louise Wener, January 1995, Melody Maker)

We are intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich as long as they pay their taxes. (Peter Mandelson, New Labour strategist, October 1998, Financial Times)

https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/cool-britannia.html