REVIEW: Kevin Cummins – While We Were Getting High: Britpop and the 90’s

REVIEW: Kevin Cummins – While We Were Getting High: Britpop and the 90’s

When buying the weekly music papers the likes of which included Sounds, Melody Maker and NME it was more than like the pictures that were displayed on the cover and within its pages that initially attracted you to buy. I must admit to being more visually enticed to the quality of pictures NME produced more than Sounds and Melody Maker, with the work of chef photographer Kevin Cummins at the heart of the NME for those years in the early 90s he was at the very heart of the action when that oft revered period Britpop became the talk of the nation what with Blur and Oasis battling for supremacy at the peak of this phenomena.  

With the help of Octopus Books While We Were Getting High; Britpop and the 90’s is a hardback A4 size chunky picture book showcasing the work of Cummins that many will recognise from this period but many of the shots are previously unseen plus there are exclusive interviews with some of the major players of the period including Brett Anderson, Noel Gallagher, Sonya Madan and Martin Rossiter who reflect on the Britpop period with a touch of whimsical nostalgia whilst at the same time probably laughing at their innocence at the time for getting so heavily involved in a musical movement that proved as popular as Spice World.

The books starts off with a foreword by Cummins plus an impressive full page picture of gig tickets, badges, photo passes which tantalises the visual palette before you see Blur in their Quadrophenia suits at the start of their Modern Life Is Rubbish phase, we also get glimpses of a young Jarvis Cocker and Suede, whilst the original line of The Charlatans can be found hiding in bushes. The red lipstick of Lush, Sarah Cracknall of Saint Etienne playing around with blown up condoms, Sice from the Boo Radleys with hair plus the likes of Dodgy and The Auteurs are all here looking fresh faced and ready for action.

The game changer here is when 5 lads from Manchester broke onto the music scene with their brash loose guitar anthems whilst they looked like a cross between The Stone Roses plus a bunch of lads ready to kick off on the way to the match. Featured here are early shots of the band with a striking shot of Liam which made its way onto the cover of NME at the time plus is now the cover shot for this very book. Dressed in a knee length leather jacket, haircut a cross between 89’s period John Squire with the shape of John Lennon mid 60’s if I remember the article that went along with the pics were of the band fighting and causing shenanigans on the road. There are further pics of the band including them wearing Man City tops whilst they show off their many pouts, including an infamous HMV in store gig that included Evan Dando, an iconic pic from the gig is featured here.

When Oasis broke onto the scene things seem to change and so a raft of further bands broke onto the scene including Echobelly, Radiohead with a wild bleach blonde haired Tom Yorke pictured here looking like he’s got his fingers in an electrical point, lead singer of Marion Jaime Harding pictured here in an iconic black and white shot, whilst the side burned newbies Supergrass look as mischievous as they are always did. Cummins also got to shoot some iconic shots of bands when the Christmas edition of NME was in production with bands dressing up as bands of bygone eras. Blur here are dressed immaculately as Blondie from their Parallel lines album cover, Albarn in a white skirt and talcum helping to cover his chest hair whilst Brett Anderson from Suede does a good turn as gun wielding Sid Vicious, curl lip intact.

Whilst the world revolved around Oasis and Blur Cummins was concentrating on shooting more of the upcoming new breed of artists breaking through these included Shampoo, Sleeper, Kenickie with a youthful looking Lauren Laverne, Kula Shaker, Ian Broudie of The Lightning Seeds standing proudly infront of the Wembley score board that displays his band name, the post Stone Roses outfit the Seahorses that featured John Squire wearing what looks like a military jacket whilst a picture of Shed Seven makes them look like a bunch of school kids that just formed a band after watching The Stone Roses, which is probably not far from the truth.

The quality of each picture featured here is unquestionably good, no blurred lines or shaky stances, instead the Cummins eye for perfection is a genuine feast for the eyes and will no doubt bring back many happy, cherished memories for many who saw these pictures from when they were initially published and have longed for a republication, plus for those that are looking to explore this visually explosive period will find everything they were looking for and so much more. A classy addition to the Britpop catalogue of publications.

While We Were Getting High: Britpop and the 90’s can be purchased via the following link

Matt Mead

Matt Mead

Freelance writer who likes anything with heart and soul
Matt Mead

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