Feel the Noise: The Music That Shaped Britain, review - Where have all our great pop characters gone?

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·2-min read
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Marc Bolan and T.Rex burst onto the British music scene in the 1970s - Granada
Marc Bolan and T.Rex burst onto the British music scene in the 1970s - Granada

Wherever you stood in the Oasis v Blur battle of the 1990s, you have to admit that Liam Gallagher describing Country House as “Chas and Dave chimney sweep music” was a good put-down. It was one of many memories revived in Feel the Noise: The Music That Shaped Britain, a feature-length documentary that deserves a bigger audience than it will find on BritBox.


Narrated by Lauren Laverne, it set out to chart the movements – from Cliff Richard’s version of rock’n’roll to the present day, by way of glam rock, punk, acid house and Girl Power pop – that had a significant impact on British society. That’s a big remit for a single programme and, in truth, would have been far better served by a series.


Essentially it was one of those “look back at the decades” clip shows interspersing archive footage with talking heads. But it was well put together, and lifted by the quality of the contributors. No random B-listers here, just a roll-call of musicians including Sir Cliff, Joan Armatrading, Johnny Marr, Peter Hook and Nick Mason, plus journalists and DJs with interesting things to say (and magnificent bird’s nest hair, in the case of the legendary Annie Nightingale).

The Gallagher brothers in 1999 - Abbie Trayler-Smith
The Gallagher brothers in 1999 - Abbie Trayler-Smith


Galloping through the years meant we got a brief explanation of The Beatles breaking through in an era when “England was on top of the world”, and 10 minutes later listening to Noddy Holder and Paul Morley talking about the grimness of the Ted Heath years, and soon on to Glen Matlock describing the charts of the mid-1970s: “It was all, like, Genesis and Yes and Barclay James Harvest singing about hobgoblins.”


More time was devoted to the Oasis v Blur chart battle than to The Beatles, probably because this was an ITN production and they had more news footage of the former (it seems quite mad now to think that something so trivial occupied a slot on the News at Ten). Whole episodes could have been devoted to 2 Tone, or 80s pop stars and their attitude to Thatcher, but blink and you missed them.


It did make you reflect on the current state of music. Marr recalled his discovery of T.Rex: “When I heard it I wondered why the traffic hadn’t stopped. It was like an atomic bomb going off.” Ed Sheeran’s ballads don’t quite have the same effect, do they?

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