The First Time Blur Came To America

Ahead of their headline show at Madison Square Garden, The FADER’s Jon Cohen remembers the legendary British band’s debut U.S. adventure.

October 23, 2015

On the eve of Blur's first-ever headlining show at Madison Square Garden in New York, The FADER's co-founder Jon Cohen reflects on the first of "many insane experiences" he has been lucky to share with the band.

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JON COHEN: In late October 1991, I was less than a year into my job as the Northeast Promotion Rep for SBK Records. On a fittingly rainy day, I waited outside the terminal at Boston’s Logan Airport for this up-and-coming new British band named Blur to arrive from Toronto. They were in the very early stages of their career, making their first trip to America to promote and tour behind their debut album, Leisure. It was my job to “safely” ship them around, oversee a few days of promotion and generally help out with their shows in the area. They arrived on time with their tour manager Ifan and their guitars. But being equally green to my new job as Blur was to America, I had failed to calculate that there would collectively be six people, plus a whole lot of gear, that needed to squeeze into my beat-up old five-door Saab. It was extremely tight but somehow we made it work and headed off to make Blur's live U.S. radio debut on WBCN.

A photo posted by Jon Cohen (@faderfam) on

“I thanked Blur for doing a great job and then, BOOM: we were smashed into from another car behind us.”—Jon Cohen

On the journey, I attempted to introduce myself and make some small talk but it didn't go down well; I remember a lot of uncomfortable silence in that packed car. We arrived at WBCN and I introduced the station staff to the band. They did a short interview and played a few songs, including an incredible acoustic version of "She’s So High" and "There’s No Other Way." The station's program director, Oedipus, was especially blown away. We took some photos and said our goodbyes so we could head to a local venue called The Paradise, where later that night Blur would play their first ever U.S. show. As we exited the station it began to pour. We loaded the car back up and headed to the venue. As we waited for the traffic light to change a mere block from the station, I thanked the band for doing a great job and then, BOOM: we were smashed into from another car behind us. The force pushed us into the middle of the intersection at Kenmore Square, a heavily-trafficked part of Boston. Before I even had the chance to ask if everyone was ok, a roar of laughter came from the four of them squeezed like sardines into the back seat. I had finally broken the silence from Dave, Alex, Graham, and Damon.

Later that night at The Paradise, Blur played a slightly sloppy but incredibly energetic show. We celebrated by slamming many rounds of shots on the first of what would go on to become a lifetime of unforgettable nights. The next day I woke up in my car—which was still parked in the space outside the venue—to a phone call from Oedipus, who proceeded to tell me he loved Blur and WBCN was going to be the first station in America to add “There’s No Other Way” into rotation.

With that good news in our ears, we traveled to New York for Blur's show at The Marquee, a small club in Chelsea. Damon must've been feeling high on life because he climbed up the pipes that ran across the ceiling of the entire venue into the balcony with a megaphone in his hand during the band's rendition of "Oily Water." Needless to say it didn't last long: he literally fell into the lap of Charles Koppelman, the head of SBK Records, who would later give the band a lecture about taking their career more seriously.

Little did I know it at the time but our two days together in Boston and New York would become a big first step in Blur growing an excellent career in America and, most importantly to me, the start of an incredible 25-year friendship. I am truly grateful to have been along for the ride with Blur from the beginning. As artists, their brilliance speaks for itself, but as people I am really honored to call Alex, Dave, Graham, and Damon my friends.

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The First Time Blur Came To America