Knebworth Parklife! Phil Daniels talks about Cool Britannia Festival
PUBLISHED: 18:22 09 September 2018 | UPDATED: 00:10 20 September 2018
©2018 Kevin Richards - all rights reserved
Actor Phil Daniels talks Parklife, Blur and Cool Britannia at Knebworth's newest music festival.
“It’s got nothing to do with Vorsprung durch Technik, you know?”
Britpop fans will instantly recognise the lyrics from Parklife.
And the spoken verses of Blur’s 1994 hit were once again narrated by Quadrophenia and ex-EastEnders actor Phil Daniels at Knebworth Park’s new Cool Britannia Festival.
Parklife brought to a close the triumphant premiere of Britpop Classical – Britpop-era tracks played by an orchestra and rock band with an assortment of guest vocalists from back in the day.
Phil Daniels was the obvious choice to reprise the Blur track, with Heaven 17’s Glenn Gregory taking on the Damon Albarn role at Knebworth.
Explaining how his involvement came about, Daniels tells me: “I got an email from the promoter saying they wanted to do Parklife as part of Britpop Classical.
“I thought ‘Gosh... that sounds like fun’, so I’ve ended up here.”
It wasn’t the first time, however, he’d performed on stage with strings.
“I did Quadrophenia classically with Peter Townshend at the Royal Albert Hall,” Phil Daniels explains in the press tent at Knebworth.
“They all lend themselves to it. But at the end of the day, it’s a very beautiful thing.”
Daniels played the lead role of Mod Jimmy Cooper in 1979 film Quadrophenia, which was based on The Who’s 1973 rock opera of the same name.
Top 10 hit Parklife introduced the actor to a new generation of music lovers in the 1990s, and it’s clear to see that the title track of Blur’s third studio album still strikes a chord with fans today, judging by the ecstatic reception at Cool Britannia.
“It was really nice to do it differently,” said Daniels, who is set to appear on stage alongside Jim Broadbent in the premiere of A Very Very Very Dark Matter by Martin McDonagh at the Bridge Theatre in London.
“That was more like the pace of the record, whereas when I do it live with Blur it’s quite a lot faster. It’s a lot more raucous.
“So it was nice to do it in a more theatrical kinda way.”
Recalling Britpop’s 1990s heyday, Daniels said: “It was an interesting time for me because I met Damon and all the lads.
“It was good fun. I went and did a lot of touring with them and saw lots of bands.
“I got really into it... for being someone who likes terrible bands like Yes! I had a good time.”
He still speaks to the Blur boys, whose last album was 2015’s number one smash The Magic Whip.
“I see Damon, we still keep in touch,” says Daniels as Toploader’s set kicks off within earshot on the main stage.
“And Dave [Rowntree, Blur’s drummer] I see quite a bit.”
Singer Saffron had earlier opened Britpop Classical’s set at Knebworth with her big Republica hit Ready to Go.
The Farm’s Peter Hooton performed the Liverpudlian band’s biggest hit, All Together Now, with the video screens showing poppies and men in the trenches during World War One.
The forthcoming 100th anniversary of Armistice Day added extra poignancy to the track, which was inspired by the Christmas Day truce where soldiers from both sides of the conflict put down their weapons and met in no-man’s-land to exchange gifts and have a game of football.
Performances of Manic Street Preachers’ A Design for Life, Oasis hit Don’t Look Back in Anger, Creep by Radiohead and The Verve’s Bitter Sweet Symphony followed as iconic 90s songs were given the Britpop Classical treatment.
After getting the intro wrong first time around, and insisting on starting again, Heaven 17 singer Glenn Gregory energetically raced through a version of Pulp’s Common People.
But the loudest cheer of the day’s opening set was reserved for Phil Daniels’ appearance on stage for Parklife, fittingly performed in Knebworth Park where Blur’s great Britpop rivals Oasis played two seminal gigs in 1996.
Of the Cool Britannia event, Daniels adds: “I think it’s great...” before being cut off in mid-sentence for a photo call with his Britpop Classical colleagues.
Who knows? Perhaps Phil Daniels will return next year for another dose of Parklife!
• A Very Very Very Dark Matter by Martin McDonagh opens at the Bridge Theatre in London on October 12.