Development Deal: Blur
If there’s one thing that a quick look at the current state of television and movies will tell you, it’s that there’s not much need for original ideas when there’s so much out there ready and waiting to be adapted, updated or just outright ripped off. That’s why we’ve decided to help in that process with a series which offers up some of the things we’d like to see being brought to big screen or small. This week’s suggestion? A musical based on the music of Britpop band Blur.
What Is It?
For a generation of British pop kids, Blur were iconic; one of the lead bands of the 1990s Britpop movement with the so-called “Life Trilogy” of albums (Modern Life Is Rubbish, Parklife and The Great Escape) providing character studies and cultural commentary amidst music that mixed up British pop music history from the days of Music Hall through the Beatles, the Specials and everything in between, the band – with lead singer and songwriter Damon Albarn, who’d later go on to greater international success with Gorillaz – reinvented itself as Britpop died with the eponymous Blur album, taking as much influence of the 1990s alternative American scene, and then again with 13, a muddied, sprawling emotional mess of an album centering around Albarn’s break-up with his longterm girlfriend. After that, things started to go wrong for the band with lead guitarist Graham Coxon leaving, a final album (Think Tank) that hinted at new directions left unfulfilled, a break-up and then a reunion of sorts years later for some concerts and a couple of new songs, before things were finally laid to rest seemingly permanently.
What Could It Be?
I found myself, on Netflix and bored the other week, watching the Bee Gees’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band movie. It was a bad idea – My watching the movie, that is, not the movie itself, because while the movie is at best misguided and filled with 1970s excess killing the 1960s production and appeal of the Beatles’ music, the idea of basing a musical around one particular band’s output is a relatively good one (Across The Universe, which is essentially a 2000s-era update on the Bee Gees’ effort, is better but not by much). Considering the narratives and cast of characters already in place in a lot of the output from Blur’s 1990s heyday (The “Life Trilogy” alone offers up Colin Zeal, Bill Barrett, Jubilee, Ernold Same, the unnamed “Charmless Man,” Dan Abnormal, Mr. Robinson and so on), it doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch to be able to imagine a movie made from Blur music.
Add to this the nostalgia appeal that the band currently enjoys – This summer will see the release of a 21st anniversary box set of the band’s material to date – and there seems to be more traction to the notion of a Blur musical. And why not? The band has always had a theatrical aspect, and there’s a history – if not necessarily a proud one – of reworking pop acts’ discographies into crowd-pleasing musicals that trade on nostalgia and familiarity to hit the emotional high points when necessary (Hi, Mamma Mia!).
A Blur musical would, ideally, be a movie that mixes some form of “realism” with the magical realism of the musical genre; something that nods towards the sadness and melancholy of songs like “This Is A Low” or “For Tomorrow,” but is ultimately optimistic – Whoever heard of a depressing musical? – and filled with the self-aware humor of the band at its best. Phil Daniels, the actor who provided vocals for both the hit “Parklife” and the lesser-known “Me White Noise,” would have to make an appearance, of course, and other well-known British actors/celebrities could appear as Easter Eggs for the faithful or Great British Public, depending on which side of the Atlantic you’re on. It would make sense to go for a director plucked from those who’d directed a Blur video during their career; personally, I’d go for Garth Jennings and Nick Goldsmith, AKA “Hammer & Tongs,” responsible for the wonderful “Coffee and TV” video, as well as the under-appreciated Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy movie from some years back:
A Blur musical, if done right, would have all the ingredients for a successful musical: Nostalgia, an uplifting message and really good music that you’d be singing to yourself for days afterwards. And, when it comes down to it, who doesn’t like a good musical? It’s a winner – So someone, really, should make it happen.