Blur – Boozer Friendly
The walls of the bar at Amsterdam’s American Hotel are home to a gallery of international celebrities. Here is Deryl Hall, smirking down at the clammy throng of career-drinking business women; over there, the regal faces of Terence Trent D’Arby and Lenny Kravitz. It’s quite a collection, but not one that impresses Blur’s guitarist, Graham Coxon. “Where the hell is Dudley Moore??” He asks, weaving into the bar with a glass of champagne. “I mean, it’s not much of a Hall of Fame without Dudley, is it?”
We are soon joined by suave singer Damon Albarn, diffident drummer Dave Rowntree, and Blur’s foppish Ace of Base, Alex James. They’ve just finished watching themselves perform their new single, “Country House”, on Top of Pops, and are in a bullish mood. The single went number one in britain – trouncing rivals Oasis into second place with their “Roll with it”, which came out on the same day. And reviews of Blur’s fourth album, “The grest escape”, are uniformly ecstatic. In these great days for British pop, Blur are having the best days of all. “Lovely jubbly!!” exclaims Alex, raising his glass in salution, “Let’s go crazy!”
ROUND ONE Damon: Amstel Gold. Alex: Amstel Gold. Graham: Amstel Gold. Dave: Orange juice. Me: Amstel
With Graham’s hunt for Dudley Moore temporarily abandoned, talk turn to the subject of food; in particular, the problem of finding a strictly vegetarian meal in a country whose national food would appear to be Pickled Herring. “I knew someone who made a casserole out of his pet Goat”, remarks Alex out of the blue, “He didn’t tell anyone what it was until they’d eaten it.” “That’s really omniverous”, says Dave, “Eating things that are actually cute.”
Starving, we head into central Amsterdam for Falafel and Fries. Fast food in hand, Damon plays chicken with an oncoming tram, Mayonnaise dripping down his chin. As we wander the streets, Alex starts whooping with joy. A renowned connoisseur of fine wines and cheeses, the bassist has spotted a shop that sells nothing but the latter. “Wow, look at that brown stuff! Moose cheese! We are definately coming back here tomorrow.” The rest of the band protest half-heartedly. “Hey! come on!” Alex argues, “Us vegetarians must take our delights where we can”.
ROUND TWO Damon: Coffee. Alex: Coffee. Graham: Water. Dave: Orange juice. Me: Coffee.
The Rushland coffee shop resembles an operating room run strictly for dopers. Everything is immaculate and brightly lit, but the stench of Hash is overwhelming. Alex and Dave hunker down over the shop’s chessboard while Damon starts piecing together a joint. Having completed his task, the singer cackles maliciously and starts singing a rendition of “Roll with it”. But Graham is not a happy man. This shop can sell enough Hash to immobilise a far-sized army, but does not serve the weakest of alcoholic beverages. “How come everyone in this town just sits around smoking spliffs and playing chess??” He moans, “Whatever happened to graffiti? Whatever happened to vandalism? Clark, go score me half a pint of Scotch, and I’ll be your friend for life.”
ROUND THREE Graham: Two Heinekens. Me: Two Heinekens.
Escaping from the carcinogenic blue fog, Graham and I wander off down the road to find a bar. Arriving at the Cafe De Doelen, we order out beers and sit outside to avoid the manically grinning locals and omnipresent piped Van Morrison records. Badly lit bicycles rush by at dangerous speeds. “Why don’t they just get themselves skateboards or someting?” Ponders an irrate Graham as another near-invisable batch of pedal enthusiasts whistle past our table. We return to the coffee shop and find that the rest of the band are now lounging around in archetypal stoner slouches.
“Ooh look!” Smirks Graham, “Damon’s well away, we can have some fun with him later.” The chess game is reaching it’s slowmotion conclusion. Sadly, while Dave may be taking a lengthy holiday from drinking (“I woke up between police bars too often”), he is eventually checkmated by Alex, who is by now totally trashed. “I’m more of a bridge fan actually”,the loser explains by way of excuse. Graham demands that I give him another disposable camera. “I had to throw the other one in the canal”, He admits, “I took too many pictures of Alex’s willy. People don’t want to see that.” “Oh that’s terrific!” Says Dave, “So some poor girl is going to find that in twenty years’ time, get it developed, and have the shock of her life!” “Hey!!”, shouts Alex, unpeeling his face from the chessboard, “It could be worse!” Damon suddenly lurches to his feet, eyes glowing. “I’m off to get a breath of fresh air,” he announces, and stumbles into the night. Half an hour later, he still hasn’t returned. “Come on”, Graham slurs, “I want to go to the hotel and get wrecked.”
ROUND FOUR Graham: Amstell Gold and four Jagermeisters. Me: Amstel Gold and Jagermeister.
This is my mum’s favourite drink”, Graham rhapsodizes, waving his Jager unsteadily. “I reckon I was a Jagermeister baby; I can just see me mother drinking it and talking to me in her stomach like, ‘Are you all right in there?’ And I’d be there saying ‘This is great! And tell dad to put Abbey road on again!’ “. Draining the last of the spirit (“You should get some at the airport tomorrow – no seriously”), Graham totters up to his room. At one point he stumbles and looks certain to fall down the staircase to his dorm. But somehow, the man with the strongest stomach in Brit-Pop recovers his balance, and makes it to the top, before disappearing out of view.