Look Back in Anger

In 1997, Britpop was going to eclipse the Beatles, and the P.M. was king. What happened?

In April 1997, Blair won the general election. He had remade Labour by calling it "New" but moving it toward the center. And he had revitalized it by aligning himself with the hard-playing working-class lads and the by-thy-bootstraps dreams of their pop idols. Though the ideas were inherently conservative, it wasn't until years later that the photo op came into full view. The lightning of youth collided with the needs of the elected, and all the kid got was a gracious handshake.

Today, Downing Street signifies a far more serious scandal. The recently leaked Downing Street memo contains the minutes of a secret 2002 meeting of high-ranking U.K. officials. One of the items discussed was the American attempt to "fix" intelligence data on Iraq to conform to military objectives. The story hasn't exactly made waves stateside, but in the U.K., it became a symbol of the nation's tumbling prestige and a sad remark on Blair's pliancy.

There is nothing worse than the relinquishing of cynicism for idealism, only to return to cynicism. One hears this slow retreat toward disappointment in the latest album from Oasis, entitled Don't Believe the Truth. It's a surprisingly great record that alternates between Liam Gallagher's rainbow-chasing love songs and Noel's middle-aged tales of disappointment. It is hard to imagine a band known for such corny, infinite cheer as "Live Forever" and "Wonderwall" sounding so deflated. "The Importance of Being Idle" struggles to find peace of mind in loneliness, while the Velvet Underground-riffing "Mucky Fingers" wonders about all "the lies you've learned." The twirling "Part of the Queue" finds Noel escaping to the city, only to find that the city isn't so great after all.

According to Harris, there was one thing Gallagher wanted to ask Blair that day at 10 Downing. "I did ask him about the Liverpool dockers," Gallagher remembers, referring to a group of striking workers who were dismissed for refusing to cross a picket line in 1995. "His words were 'We'll look into it.' And I said, 'Yes, you probably will, won't you?' And that was the end of that."


Hua Hsu is a student in the history of American civilization at Harvard. He writes forSlate andThe Wire.

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