Be Here Now, the third studio album from Manchester band Oasis, was released on August 21 1997.

You may think that a peculiar way to begin a blog post about The Universal by Blur—BritPop rivals of Oasis—but there's context here. I liked both bands and in fact Oasis will feature in another of these song stories later in the year.

You see, August 21 is my birthday and on that date in 1997 I was in Maidenhead near London. It was my first and only ever visit to the Berkshire town and in the twenty-odd years that have passed since that time I have completely forgotten why I was there.

I was staying in a flat occupied by friends of a friend and if memory serves me right we spent the whole weekend there. Since it was my birthday, I was presented with Be Here Now as a gift. It serves as a reference to that particular point in my past. I still have the CD, somewhere.


Be Here Now album art

A friend of mine at the time, Tom Pereira, travelled to see me from London. I called him Tom Bananas for no reason whatsovever.

We decided to have a night out on the town and went dancing—I know, me dancing—in an indie nightclub. At one stage Tom saved my bacon when he was able to calm an angry chap whose drink I'd awkwardly knocked out of his hand.

We'd been joined by a girl who, after several drinks, took a bit of a shine to Tom. She was probably older than him and while not out of his league, definitely from a different social group. Hey-ho though, Tom was game and so we all wandered back to whatshisname's flat.

On the way, Tom thought it would be a good idea to give his new lady friend a piggy-back. Tom was as thin as a rake and lady friend certainly packed a few more pounds.

Slim Tom's body failed to carry his passenger very far and unfortunately for both of them, and for entirely different reasons, he dropped her onto a concrete bollard. She injured her back which swiftly ended any future canoodling plans either of them had in mind.

The injured girl went home and Tom crashed in a spare room.

We put on the telly and there was live music playing. It was Jools Holland's Later (second mention this week on here for Jools). "And now, Blur!" anounced Jools. The opening bars to The Universal began.

I've got a compilation DVD of Later somewhere and the performance features on there. We watched it in the dark with the TV sound system on full volume. I'd not really seen the track peformed live before and I'm a sucker for a string section.

The late nineties was a funny old time in my life but that song reminds me of a fun weekend when it was all laughs and good times.

Years later, Blur played Glastonbury and somehow I'd become separated from my wife Lisa who watched the gig on her own. To this day I regret that happening; sorry GG if you're reading.

I think the video below is the performance we watched although my memory of it is more strings and more blue lighting.

Perhaps they played in 1997, who knows.

The Universal — Blur