The Story of Pop: 1999 (Chapter 32)

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Deconstructing the sights and sounds of the UK charts twenty years ago, this is our weekly series of posts we like to call The Story of Pop: 1999. This week: a fledgling Scottish indie rock act make the grade to the big leagues via an iconic Glastonbury performance…

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Some bands and artists really are the overnight success that took several years to become so. Just ask Glasgow indie rock band Travis. Formed in 1991, consisting of Fran Healy, Dougie Payne, Andy Dunlop and Neil Primrose, and named, like fellow Glaswegians Texas, after a character from the film Paris, Texas, they had been steadily building a fanbase before securing their record deal with Sony offshoot Independiente in 1997.

Their first album, “Good Feeling” had come out that same year and produced a respectable five top 40 hits in the process. Singles like ‘More Than Us’ and ‘All I Want To Do Is Rock’ were much more harder edged than the material that would follow for them in later years, and a little out of step with the dominant ‘Cool Britannia’ sound of Britpop that Oasis, Blur and Pulp were having success with at the time.

How different things were in the 18 months that passed between then and the release of their second album in 1999. It’s commonly agreed that the Britpop bubble burst in August 1997, around the time Oasis released the fast-selling but quickly returned ‘Be Here Now’, a record that was supposed to be the defining album of the time, but later revealed itself to be the sound of a band believing their own hype a little too much and doing a lot of coke into the bargain – and we don’t mean the diet variety.

As even Blur gravitated towards lo-fi American rock, and Pulp even further away from their art school leanings, a void was suddenly there where guitar bands were concerned. And little did Travis know that it was theirs for the taking. Produced with the renowned Nigel Godrich and Mike Hedges (Manic Street Preachers, Natalie Imbruglia), their second album ‘The Man Who’ had gone top 5 and had already spun off its first two top 20 hits in ‘Writing to Reach You’ (#14) and ‘Driftwood’ (#13).

The album was modestly selling and finding an audience before a vital roll of the dice occurred when they were asked to perform at that year’s Glastonbury festival. They played a track in their set on the Pyramid stage that was being touted as a future single just as the heavens decided to open up. That song was, of course, “Why Does It Always Rain On Me?”

It was a performance that immediately made them both the talk of that year’s festival and their hailing as the new saviours of post-Britpop guitar music. Sales and critical appraisal of ‘The Man Who’ immediately took a U-turn as a result, the album eventually climbing to number one for an eleven week stay, selling 2.6 million copies in the UK and becoming the year’s third biggest selling album. “Why Does It Always Rain On Me?” then subsequently raced into the UK top 10 upon its release on 2nd August twenty years ago this week, and even two decades on has remained a firm festival favourite to be proud of.

Don’t forget to follow our playlist on Spotify – updated weekly so you never miss a song from the story of pop in 1999. And you can leave your memories of the songs below in the comments or Tweet us, using the hashtag #StoryofPop1999.

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