If the Hacienda was the clubbing mecca for Madchester then Blow Up performed the same function when Britpop fever took over the nation.
Blow Up is still pulling in London’s cool crowd two decades after it started but now founder Paul Tunkin is coming back up north for dates in Preston and Hebden Bridge.
“It’s really great to get out of London and it is really exciting,” says Tunkin. “We’ve done international dates over the years in Japan, and the US a few times, but it is exciting going out into the regions as times are so different now and we can connect with people again.
“When we used to tour we didn’t have so many acts on the Blow Up label so there is a good synergy between the club nights and promoting our acts.”
Big Boss man, Baltic Fleet and Alpa 9 are the live acts, but what will Tunkin be playing on the decks?
“I’ll play some 60s library music as I’ve done four compilations of that since 1996 under the Exclusive Blend brand which were based on the KPM, Amphonic, Telemusic and Chapel l Music labels.
“I did the Blow Up A Go Go record focusing on the best of British dancefloor with lots of 60s British pop of that era so there is the connection from that to glam, punk and Britpop. There is a pop element on the night and it’s not like a specialist event like a Northern Soul all-nighter as we just mix it up really.”
Part of the secret to Blow Up’s longevity is its central role in creating the Britpop movement that ended up with Blur and Oasis scrapping it out for the coveted number one single in a chart battle that enthralled the nation.
“It was about making a statement against what was around at the time like the American grunge bands and an indie scene that didn’t have that much flair to it,” recalls Tunkin. “It was about making a positive statement and it certainly caught on.
“I was working in Camden’s Out On The Floor record store just prior to Britpop so I got to know Graham from Blur and Huggy Bear who all came to the club. So all the elements came together in an underground way and then the media picked up on it so waves of new people came along.
“The energy was there and it really kicked off at the start of 1994 for us where we felt a wave of something big coming in.”
Britpop was probably the last big wave of British music that crossed over from the clubs to the mainstream as Oasis sold squillions of records while Blur and Pulp flew the flag for the art school crowd.
“Bands formed in the club and it became a focus for what they called Britpop. Bands like Menswear formed in the club as they came up from my Southend club to become Blow Up regulars, and did the classic thing of then forming a band. It was a hugely exciting period lasting until the summer of 1995 which was the peak for me.
“It was the last big period where British music overtook the nation and there they were working in the mainstream and changing things. It was like the post punk bands in the early 1980s that came from a punk perspective but started writing pop songs.
“Hopefully some of the things the club did brushed off on the bands around it.”
By Paul Clarke
Blow Up featuring Baltic Fleet and Alpa 9 play Preston Continental on February 28, 2014 and then travel on to the Trades Club Hebden Bridge on March 1, 2014 where Big Boss Man headline.