Personalities | Graham Coxon | Bringing Guitar Into Focus | Guitar Heroes

Indie guitarist Graham Coxon (b. 1969) was born in West Berlin, the son of an army bandsman. His early years were characterized by the itinerant army life until the family settled in Colchester in the late 1970s.

The young Coxon was a Beatles fan and possessed a talent for art. He began to learn saxophone and then at 12, obtained his first guitar, which he taught himself to play, inspired by The Jam and The Specials. At secondary school, he made the acquaintance of Damon Albarn.

In 1989, Coxon was studying for a degree in Fine Arts at Goldsmiths College, London, where he met bassist Alex James, and which singer Albarn also attended. Together with drummer Dave Rowntree, they formed Seymour, renamed Blur on signing to indie label Food in 1990. Their first album Leisure (1990) was derivative of both the Madchester and shoegazing scenes. Modern Life Is Rubbish (1993) reacted against grunge and American culture by celebrating Englishness. The two-million-selling Parklife (1994) helped to popularize what was soon dubbed ‘Britpop’. The theme continued on the oddly lacklustre The Great Escape (1995). Coxon’s guitar added bite and aggression to Blur’s early albums. Their fifth album, Blur (1997), represented a radical change in direction influenced by American indie-guitar bands, particularly Pavement. In this environment, Coxon’s angular guitar work thrived. On 13 (1999), gospel and electronica were added to the blend.

Early in the sessions for Blur’s seventh album, Think Tank (2003), Coxon’s increasing distance from his bandmates led to his departure. Having already released four solo albums, his first post-Blur work and most successful solo venture was Happiness In Magazines (2004). Coxon plays most of the instruments on his albums and supplies the artwork for the covers. His differences with Blur were resolved in 2008 and they have since toured together again, as well as releasing the single ‘Fool’s Day’ in 2010.

Coxon’s seventh studio album, The Spinning Top (2009), garnered critical raves, and A+E followed in 2012. Coxon is an idiosyncratic guitarist, much admired by his peers; Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood is an avowed fan. From early in his career, he has used the Fender Telecaster almost exclusively, although more recently, he has started to diversify by playing a Gibson SG and a Les Paul.

Essential Recordings

Blur: Modern Life Is Rubbish

Blur: Blur

Solo: Happiness In Magazines

Solo: The Spinning Top

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