Blur's Graham Coxon

Last year, Blur guitarist Graham Coxon released his first solo LP, The Sky Is Too

High, on his own record label. The album, on which Coxon plays all the instruments,

was reportedly completed in less than a week.

Blur's eponymous fifth album (1997) became the band's first hit LP in the U.S. The British

pop-rockers are preparing to further infiltrate the United States market later this month

with the release of a new album, 13, and a March 29 performance on "Late Show

with David Letterman."

Coxon was born 30 years ago today in Rintein, West Germany. He played with future

Blur drummer Dave Rowntree in such bands as Idle Vice and Mr. Pang's Big Bangs in

Colchester, England. Coxon introduced his former school chum, singer/keyboardist

Damon Albarn, to his college friend, bassist Alex James, and in 1989 the four guys

formed the band Seymour in London.

Seymour performed around London, and their demo tape attracted the attention of Food

Records (run by journalist Andy Ross and former Teardrop Explodes keyboardist Dave

Balfe). The label agreed to sign the band on condition that it change its name. The group

chose the name Blur from a list provided by Food.

Blur's debut LP was 1991's Leisure, which produced the minor U.K. hit "She's So

High" and the top-10 "There's No Other Way." The album was fairly well received in

Europe, but some journalists predicted a short life for the band because its music fit in

with the then-dying Manchester Brit-pop scene.

The punk-influenced single "Pop Scene" (1992) was the first sign that Blur were

branching out from the swirling sounds of "Madchester" pop-rock, although the song

failed to catch on and Blur moved away from punk on their next album, Modern Life Is

Rubbish. That LP spawned "Chemical World," a minor alternative-rock hit in the U.S.

Parklife (1994) transformed Blur into a superstar act in England and produced the

U.K./U.S. dance hit "Girls and Boys." Despite the track's success, the LP failed to chart in

the U.S., but it marked the first popularity of British indie-guitar bands such as Oasis,

Pulp and the Boo Radleys.

"Country House" became Blur's first #1 U.K. single, but its album, The Great

Escape, was overshadowed in England by the huge success of Oasis' (What's the

Story) Morning Glory?, an LP that also hit in the U.S.

Blur then did much soul-searching and nearly disbanded before deciding to focus their

next effort on American underground rock, a genre long championed by Coxon. Though

the group's 1997 self-titled LP initially met some resistance on the part of U.K. Blur fans,

the album got a second wind on the British album chart after U.S. indie-rock lovers made

it a hit in the U.S. The album included the single

HREF="http://media.addict.com/atn-bin/get-

music/Blur/Beetlebum.ram">"Beetlebum" (RealAudio excerpt).

Last year saw the U.K. release of Bustin' & Dronin', a Blur remix and live double

CD previously available only in Japan. The band also headlined the Glastonbury

Festival with legendary folk-rocker Bob Dylan.

Blur's new single, "Tender," is available at the band's official website (www.blur.co.uk).

Other birthdays: Al Jarreau, 59; Paul Kantner (Jefferson Airplane), 58; James Taylor, 51;

Mike Gibbins (Badfinger), 50; Steve Harris (Iron Maiden), 42; and Marlon Jackson

(Jackson 5), 42.