Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Dos: Day 212
Sat. Aug 10, 2012
Someone please explain to me why “The Universal,” the best song from The Great Escape was not on blur’s original Best Of compilation circa 2000? I always thought 1995’s “The Universal” reflected the fear of the up and coming millennium and blur’s place in the music world at the turn of the century, making it the perfect song for a hits collection?
In truth, “The Universal” was the sound of Damon, Graham, Alex and Dave, collectively, distancing themselves from the blur vs. Oasis chart battles of the 1990’s, as Damon Albarn explained when he said, “They had it set up as working-class heroes vs. middle-class berks and naturally the assumption is that the working class is more real, so it deserves to win?”
Why did it take blur so long to break in the States? It seemed that most of the songs that Albarn had written were too British for and most Americans to understand as Albarn described when he said, “When you’re dealing with people who don’t understand you and don’t like your music, it gets to be a bit frustrating.” But 1995’s The Great Escape is where blur started to break through. Albarn crafted cerebrally eccentric pop songs like the hilariously brilliant “Country House.”
But there was something about “The Universal” that was different and more eternal than most blur songs of the past. When explaining the meaning of “The Universal” Albarn said, “I do find it very hard to let go to just allow myself to be a complete ghost. I wish I was a ghost sometimes. “The Universal” is like that. It goes, “When the days seem to fall straight through you/just let them go.” It’s probably negative.”
I believe “The Universal” is more about the beautiful global sport of international football. One of the things I share in common with Albarn is our love of soccer, as Albarn said when he explained, “Football teaches you to win well you have to learn to lose as well. The fact of winning, drawing or losing is a relief and a release. Football gives you a clear sense of achievement.” Something I learned recently is to harness my joyful passion for the world’s most beautiful game. Since I discovered my own love of professional soccer, it has become like my faith, football has taught me to let go and appreciate my love and my life even more. Win, lose or draw, we, supporters of our favorite sport, watch and play football for the love of the game. “That’s why I play football. It’s a saving grace.” Albarn said. “I know it sounds like the most ridiculous thing but, if you play football, you’ll know what it means. Football has given me the simplicity that I’m always trying to find. I just want to be a simple person. I just want to be normal.”
When asked by Steve Sutherland if there’s nothing that football can solve? Albarn responded. “No of course there isn’t, but then again, there is. It’s called football. It doesn’t solve anything between men and women but I think it can solve most things between men and men.” I can bet you that Damon’s love of footy is what ended the blur v. Oasis rivalry and sparked a kinship between Albarn and the brothers Gallagher both are devoted Manchester City football club fanatics.
It begs the question if soccer can quell the egos of blur and Oasis imagine what football can do for warring nations? Maybe football can be the spark on the pitch that can begin to ease tensions around the globe? Blur’s 1995 single seems to echo Damon Albarn’s love of “The Universal” game of football.
The good news is that “The Universal” finally made an appearance on a blur hits collection, 2009’s Midlife: A Beginners Guide to blur. Whether it’s about football, love or fear of the future, 1995’s single from The Great Escape is definitely a turning point in the musical career of blur. I love the video, especially the Korova Milk Bar tribute to The Clockwork Orange. The clip, of this blur single, made this top 5 hit one of their most universally popular songs to date. “The Universal” was the beginning of blur cementing their legacy from being a quirky Brit Pop band to one of the most influential acts of 1990’s. As soon as you hear those glorious strings, you’ll feel so lifted by the greatness of this blur classic, you will not want to ever let go of “The Universal.”