If you happen to be a beer-swilling, gridiron-watching, violence-loving red-blooded American like myself, there’s an almost 100 per cent chance that your first exposure to Blur, the erudite and esoteric Britpop band whose lyrics focused on the minutia and England-specific realities of Britannia, was through ‘Song 2’.
‘Song 2’, from the band’s self-titled 1997 LP, had none of the hyper-literate observational Britishness of Modern Life is Rubbish and Parklife. Instead, informed by American grunge and indie rock like Nirvana and Pavement, Blur created a lo-fi masterpiece that emphasised simplicity, aggression, and universality. In America, that meant playing ‘Song 2’ at sports arenas because a bunch of drunk idiots didn’t need to know any words to shout along with the song’s “woo-hoo” chorus.
For the YouTube channel Produce Like a Pro, guitarist Graham Coxon sat down to dissect the songs origins and recording. Originally intended as a parody of grunge music meant to frighten the record company and “scare them to death”, the result wound up being so infectious and memorable that it was the album’s second single. To hear Coxon talk about it is to appreciate the still-intact disbelief that so much of his global legacy is based on a two-minute throwaway joke.
“It was a time where I was just tired of doing complicated parts, and I just wanted to make something as simple and horrible sounding. I always wanted to make as much noise as possible,” Coxon recalls. Coxon also reveals that he played alongside drummer David Rowntree during the live drum take, hitting the rim of the floor tom and producing the single bassy hit throughout the groove.
The success of ‘Song 2’ came at a time when Blur were at a breaking point. Coxon’s alcoholism and detachment from the rest of the band carried over into the sessions for their follow-up 13. By the time the band began work on Think Tank in 2001, Coxon was absent from the initial sessions and only contributed to ‘Battery in Your Leg’ before departing. ‘Song 2’ could have built Blur a massive fanbase in America, but today they have to settle for a cult following and a whole host of sports fans who don’t know the names of ‘Song 2’ or Blur, but know “The Woo-Hoo Song”.