“Blur Are Shite”: Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite Recalls That T-Shirt

In an exclusive extract from his new book, Spaceships Over Glasgow, Stuart Braithwaite recalls dressing up as an alien with the Super Furry Animals and telling the world exactly what he thought about the music of Blur

Glastonbury is more of a city than a festival. There are people in every direction and the sheer number of tents was awesome. Our friends Super Furry Animals were playing on the same stage 

as us on the Saturday night. They had people in alien outfits, designed by the artist Pete Fowler, who would come onstage with them for their finale, ‘The Man Don’t Give A Fuck’. They asked if any of us fancied donning an alien costume, so me and Martin volunteered. Their show was immense, with the massive crowd going bananas for their futuristic psychedelic rock. Dressed in an alien costume, I experienced being on that massive stage for the first time. In a moment that will live with me forever, as we stood on the stage, someone, presumably having lost their way or their mind, drove a van right through the middle of the crowd. Thankfully, and somewhat miraculously, no one got hurt during the madness. It made what was an already surreal experience ever stranger. I’d never been to a festival as big as Glastonbury and standing on a stage in an alien costume in front of tens of thousands of people was about as mad as it could get. 

The next day, the day of our show, was a daze. Closing the festival was extremely daunting. We had always believed our music belonged on big stages, but I had never really thought about the reality of it until it actually happened. Tons of our friends were there. Arthur Baker came and filmed us, as he did at a lot of our shows back in the day. Our old friend Sam Brumbaugh was there as well and agreed to introduce us, in a silver cape of course. The hours before we played seemed like something from a dream and we were very nervous. I think Dominic might have actually been sick, but when the moment came and we got onstage, everything clicked into place. We opened with ‘Mogwai Fear Satan’, starting with the guitar gently building into a crescendo. Then, when the drums came in, it was clear the crowd were on our side. Me, Barry and John had hatched a plan to take some E about halfway through the show. It wasn’t the wisest move in retrospect, but I suppose that, in our minds, we were in some way being professional by not taking them before the gig. When we got into the second half of the set I started coming up and my legs felt like jelly. There was a small moment where I thought I might lose it but, like getting a skidding car back under control, I managed to keep hold. While we played ‘Helicon 1’ I remember staring out at the oceans of people and just feeling completely at ease. It might have been the E but it felt like a truly perfect moment. We finished with ‘Like Herod’ and the cacophony of apocalyptic noise that we’d taken to ending it with. The crowd had been amazing, especially considering that for many of them it would have been the first time they’d heard us, never mind seen us play. 

After we played, it was a total celebration. We were deep in backstage reverie when someone came up and asked if me and Dominic wanted to go on the radio. Radio 1 had been broad casting from the festival all weekend and John Peel wanted to know if we fancied going on air. Despite being drunk as hell and wasted on E, I said yes. I’d last seen John Peel the year previously when he was in Lanarkshire filming a TV show called Sound of the Suburbs. The Delgados had mentioned to him that the hotel he was staying at was a five-minute walk from my parents’ house. He got my number and invited me down for dinner. It was really kind of him and he was wonderful company. He’d always been so supportive of the band and I didn’t want to turn him down now, whether I was out of my gourd or not. Mary Anne Hobbes, an other big supporter of the band, was on too. Me and Dominic sat in on the show, blethering away to them both, blissfully unaware of the masses listening at home. I remember at one point, Jools Holland was playing a song on a piano next to us and it dawning on me how utterly bizarre the whole experience was. I’ve very little recollection of it, but what I do recall seems like something from a dream. 

In the week after Glastonbury we were asked about doing a new T-shirt to sell at our appearance at T in the Park in Scotland. We had never been big fans of Blur – I thought they were OK musically but when we saw Super Furry Animals support them in Glasgow, they had bank adverts on the screens in between the bands and it felt extremely wrong. Their anti-American English nationalism also grated, as did their fake cockney accents. Back then it’d be fair to say they were the antithesis of what we felt was good in the world of music. Earlier in the year we’d been offered a festival but because of the travel the only way we could do it would be if Blur let us travel back on the plane they were hiring. They said no, which in hindsight was no surprise as I’m sure we were castigating them in every interview we did atthe time. That was probably the moment when what had been a withering dislike of Blur escalated into a full-blown detestation. Our T-shirt seller at this point was called Valerie Deerin, an old pal from Lanarkshire. She was definitely not someone who suffered fools. Valerie held a similar disdain for Blur and so when the question was raised as to what our new T-shirt should say, Valerie declared, without hesitation: ‘Blur Are Shite’. We all thought this was really funny and agreed to make said shirt using the Come On Die Young font on a grey T-shirt. It was super childish but I honestly didn’t think anyone would really notice. 

They did notice

On arrival at T in the Park it appeared that our daft T-shirt had most definitely attracted some attention. Blur were the head liners on the main stage at the same time as we were playing the tent. What had seemed like a particularly childish prank now seemed a fairly big deal. What we should have done was sell the T-shirts and never mention it again. But readers, that is not what we did. I was asked for a quote for a story about it by NME and I didn’t hold back. I said that not only were they shite but having a qualification in music I could prove it. All patent nonsense of course, but to those not familiar with my somewhat acerbic sense of humour it probably read like I was some kind of malevolent psychopath. Blur were (and are) far from my favourite band, but it really wasn’t worth all the hassle that ensued. For weeks the music press letters pages were full of furious Britpop fans aghast at the temerity of anyone casting aspersions on their heroes. The whole debacle added a sense of surrealism to what should have been a pretty standard show. 

There was some other drama before the gig when Andy Dimmack, my guitar tech for the night, was felled by one of the plethora of mirror balls that we had adorning the stage. Thankfully he escaped with nothing worse than a sore head. My parents came along that day and as well as bumping into a quite spectacularly spangled Arab Strap, who’d just been for a drug fuelled ride on the fairground, were probably rather perplexed over the palaver we’d conjured. Martin added to the drama by spray-painting ‘Blur Are Shite’ on the fencing surrounding one of the stages. We’d be endlessly amused as we saw various anagrams of the slight around the country for years to come as the panels were redeployed at other festivals. I recall my mum saying to me that we shouldn’t feel the need to be saying stuff about other bands because people really liked our music in its own right. She was of course right, but I was too young and daft to hear it. Commotion apart, our show went really well. It was a real homecoming after a great start to the year. We had sold a lot of T-shirts but possibly at the expense of a lot of people taking our music seriously. I’m not entirely sure it was worth it, as funny as it was at the time. 

After all, who really gives a fuck what Mogwai think about Blur?

Spaceships Over Glasgow: Mogwai, Mayhem & Misspent Youth is published by White Rabbit Books. You can read Clare Archibald’s interview with Braithwaite at the Quietus today

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