The Universal

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Not to be confused with The Universal (Small Faces song).
"The Universal"
Single by Blur
from the album The Great Escape
Released 13 November 1995
Format 7" vinyl (jukebox only), cassette, 2 x CD
Recorded 1995
Genre Britpop, baroque pop
Length 3:59
Label Food
Producer(s) Stephen Street
Blur singles chronology
"Country House"
(1995)
"The Universal"
(1995)
"Stereotypes"
(1996)

Music sample
Music video
"The Universal" on YouTube

"The Universal" is a song by English alternative rock band Blur and is featured on their fourth studio album, The Great Escape. It was released 13 November 1995 as the second single from that album, charting at #5 in the UK Singles Chart (see 1995 in British music).

In keeping with the song's science fiction theme, the single's cover art is an allusion to the opening shot of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the music video is a tribute to the movie A Clockwork Orange, with the band dressed up in costumes similar to Alex and his droogs. Both movies were directed by Stanley Kubrick.

The song has increased in stature since its release; this is proved by it being voted second best of all Blur singles on blurtalk.com.[1]

Music video[edit]

A scene from the highly acclaimed music video for "The Universal" which was inspired by the 1971 film A Clockwork Orange, featuring the band as quasi-Droogs in an all-white bar, complete with Damon Albarn wearing eyeliner similar to Alex DeLarge.

A highly acclaimed music video for the song was directed by Jonathan Glazer.[2] The band is presented in imitation of the opening scenes from the 1971 film A Clockwork Orange, in the Milk Bar. Blur star as the quasi-Droogs, complete with Damon Albarn wearing eyeliner similar to the character Alex DeLarge. They perform in the bar in all-white. Though the band do not engage in their usual vibrant stage demeanor, Damon Albarn frequently turns to the camera and gives a sly, crooked smile. Graham Coxon spends the majority of the video sitting against the wall while playing.

The bar patrons consist of different groups; a lone female entertains male business colleagues by exploiting their sexual interest in her; two men, one identified as a 'red man' (dressed entirely in red) who used to be 'blue', conduct a stilted (subtitled) conversation; two other men – one of them wearing a vicar's clerical collar – become increasingly drunk on cocktails, laughing more and more hysterically until the clergyman tells his friend something to which the viewer is not privy, causing his friend to withdraw into stunned silence (a device similar to that used in Radiohead's promotional video for the song "Just" in the same year). There are also two old men who make a few comments marveling at the scene.

These clips are interchanged with scenes of a crowd of ordinary people standing motionless before an oddly shaped speaker. Similarities between them and the patrons in the milk bar, as well as behavior mimicking between the two scenes, indicate that the patrons in the milk bar are the people in the crowd, captivated and transported by the music into the ethereal, seemingly utopian world.

Minimalistic stills can also be seen scattered throughout the video, used to accentuate certain aspects of the video. For example, when the man in the clerical collar and his friend begin their drinking binge, a still showing a fetus in a cocktail glass is shown where the glass seems to represent a womb. When the female begins entertaining her fellow patrons, a still of handcuffs is shown, suggesting that though she seems happy, she is really feeling trapped and dehumanized. A similar still of a magnet drawing a man is shown, directly after the man in the clerical collar whispers something to his friend, which prompts a reaction of quiet dismay. The still in this case seems to have a dual-meaning, representing the band's ability to attract people and doubling as a euphemism for homosexuality, as at the end of the video the man with the clerical collar attempts to kiss his shocked friend.

The golf ball-shaped speaker featured in the video was sold in a charity auction in 1999.[3]

Track listings[edit]

All music composed by Albarn, Coxon, James and Rowntree. All lyrics composed by Albarn.

  • Note: the 7" vinyl edition was pressed for use on jukeboxes and was not issued commercially.

Uses in popular culture[edit]

  • A cover by Irish crooner Joe Dolan in 1998 made it to number 19 in the Irish charts.
  • The song was used during the closing montage of ITV's Rugby World Cup 2003 footage.
  • The song has been used on TV advertisements for British Gas since 2009 (although it never re-entered the top 40).
  • The song was used in a 2002 ad for the Chrysler Concorde.[4]
  • The song was featured in an ad for VH1, Latin-America.
  • The song was featured in one episode of MTV animated series Daria.

Production credits[edit]

  • "The Universal", "Ultranol" and "No Monsters in Me" produced by Stephen Street

Charts[edit]

Charts (1995) Peak
position
UK Singles Chart[5] 5

References[edit]

External links[edit]