Monday, March 8, 2010

Singles Club: Blur, 'Beetlebum'

'Beetlebum' has been sticking with me for the better part of two weeks now. In my head, on my YouTubes, through the computer speakers. I'm not quite sure exactly what it is but there are a few healthy candidates. It could be because I recently rewatched Live Forever. Maybe it's because I have been reading bit of a blur by Alex James on and off the past half month. But it's probably as simple a fact as it's a brilliant song.

'Beetlebum' is the lead track, first single off of 1997's Blur. It was their second number 1 in the U.K ('Country House' being the first). There was heavy speculation for years that the song was about drug use, specifically heroin. According to Wikipedia, where I get all my facts, Damon Albarn admitted as much in the recent documentary No Distance Left To Run. Further speculation persists that it's about Justine Frischmann from Elastica, who dated Albarn in the 90's, and who has been public about her battles with substance abuse.

The timing checks out. Justine places her junkie years from 1996 to 1998. 1998 was the year her and Albarn split. 'Beetlebum' was recorded in 1996 and released in 1997. Whether Albarn was writing the song from a different perspective is still uncertain, but the lyrics appear to be from someone who had experienced heroin first hand.

The video for 'Beetlebum' is just as great as the song itself. The opening notes on record sound real bouncy and the video accomodates for this as it shakes up and down with Graham Coxon's guitar. Other things I like: the still frames of the band as the song builds into the chorus. The relaxed nature of Alex James as he sits and confidently lays down the rythym. Albarn rolling around on the floor right before singing the closing lines 'He's on, He's on, He's on it'. And then the final tracked shot that pulls away from the building the band is playing in and turns and floats above Camden. A beautiful scene that is so simple, but always strikes me as having had to be hard work to film.

Blur is probably remembered by the uninitiated here in the States as the start and end of the bands catalouge and not for 'Beetlebum' but for 'Song 2'. And of course Damon has found much greater success here with his Gorillaz project than he ever could have dreamed of with Blur. It's unfortunate that Blur didn't catch on more in America like Oasis, but they did leave quite the Britpop time capsule for future generations to discover. 'Beetlebum' is only scratching the surface.

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