Marking the 25th anniversary of the original release…
I’ve always been vaguely aware of Help!, the charity album released in 1995 in the name of War Child, mainly due to the inclusion of an alternative version of the classic Oasis b-side Fade Away, as well as a cover of Beatles standard Come Together by the Smokin’ Mojo Filters – a supergroup created especially for this album featuring Paul McCartney, Paul Weller and Noel Gallagher. As a ‘90s Oasis completist, the Help! album was always going to appeal to me. However, I never really knew the full story behind the record, nor had I listened to it in its entirety. HELP – The Story of the War Child Album – released earlier in 2020 to celebrate the 25 year anniversary of the original record – gave me an opportunity to revisit what was undoubtedly an important cultural touchstone from the britpop era.
Help! – the first of three albums compiled by War Child – is by far the most iconic, and works as a snapshot of a unique time within British guitar music. Alongside such titans of the era as Blur and Oasis, the first War Child album also delves into trip hop (Portishead and Massive Attack both feature), pop music (Sinead O’Connor and Neneh Cherry) and whatever genre the KLF had decided they were indulging that weekend. The rest of the track listing is made up of britpop heroes and also rans as we find Suede, the Manics and the Charlatans rubbing shoulders with Terrorvision and the Boo Radleys. Elsewhere, the Levellers contribute to both the original album and the celebratory podcast – something that allows repetition of the astonishing fact that the Brighton band still hold the record for attracting the biggest Glastonbury crowd ever.
Also appearing on the podcast are Blur’s Dave Rowntree, Nicky Wire of the Manics and the various organisers and producers that somehow managed to get this album recorded, packaged and released in just seven days (featuring artwork from John Squire and liner notes from Krist Novaselic). The technical side of the release is just as fascinating as the musical aspect, and both are covered at great length during The Story of the War Child Album’s five episodes.
After listening to this podcast in its entirety, I went back to and listened to Help! in full for the first time. And I’m glad I did. Aside from the Trainspotting soundtrack, you won’t find a more successful summation of music in the ‘90s than this one.