Universally revered in the French speaking world, Jacques Brel is widely considered to be one of the greatest songwriters and performers of all time. But despite having sold tens of millions of records and some of his songs being adapted by the likes of David Bowie and Nina Simone, he still remains subject to a modest cult following in the English speaking world.
In part 1 of this BBC documentary series, Brel’s friends and collaborators introduce us to the world of the Belgian genius. They discuss the beauty, complexity and power of his literary lyrics, as well as the extroardinary way he embodied them on stage, in the pure tradition of French chanson.
This BBC Radio 4 documentary tells the story of Riot Grrrl, the exuberant feminist punk rock movement dating from the early 90s. Angry about daily situations they were facing, such as sexual harrassment, abuse and the erosion of abortion rights, teenage girls decided to speak out and express their outrage through punk music. Away from traditional feminism, their radical activism participated in creating a whole subculture, generating collaboration around live performances and fanzines, showing everyone that girls could shout, fight and be as powerful as the boys, if not more.
(Part 2: Interview with Kathleen Hanna is available here)
Britpop’s massive success lead to a signing frenzy and a second wave of bands. But it was a party some people never wanted to end. Britpop was turning itself into a mad pop production line. Over exposed and over exploited, it became synonymous with bloated records made on too much cocaine, boorish laddism and Tony Blair’s failed promises.
The one thing that probably best represents Britop’s excitement and triumphalism is the rivalry between Oasis and Blur. Oasis made straightforward simple rock tunes, Blur focused on more intellectual lyrics depicting vignettes of life. It was the Beatles vs the Kinks. North vs south. Working class vs middle class. But in the end, which was more worth it: winning the commercial battle, or the credibility?
Pulp, Suede, Elastica… All the bands of the vibrant Britpop scene had a thing of their own. But the one thing they had in common was their distinctive britishness, whether it was the way they made music or the way they looked. This renewal in Britain’s cultural pride came to be known as ‘Cool Britannia’ and quickly caught the attention of politicians such as the young and music loving new prime minister: New Labour’s Tony Blair. By the mid 90s, the movement had completely broken into the mainstream and rock was back to the top of the charts.