Justine Frischmann

Every now and then, I stumble upon past treasures that have been hidden under the layers of time. Lately, I discovered Justine Frischmann’s name, in a Guardian interview with Damon Albarn.

I’m not sure if it’s because I grew up in the 90’s but something about the decade conjures up a cringey feeling for me; setting the rise of grunge aside, dare I mention the whole Oasis VS Blur rivalry, John Major, the Spice Girls and the new feminism, Peter Andre, the fashion…. *shudders*

But it seems Justine, and her band Elastica, must have missed my young radar at the time. When I think of women of the nineties I think Courtney Love, Gwen Stefani, Janet Jackson… riot grrls and tomboy style, whilst still pulling off red lipstick.

And then there’s Justine…

Having dated Brett Anderson and founded what would later be a hugely popular band called Suede, which she then left in the early 90’s to start a new band called Elastica. With help from a Radio 1 DJ, and her relationship with singer of Blur, Damon Albarn, Elastica became the fastest selling British debut in history, and was also nominated for the Mercury Music Prize in 1995.

Justine was a female the 90s embraced, not vice versa. She had a cool confidence that didn’t ask for attention or show off. For a decade that arguably gave feminism it’s rebirth after the 60’s burn-your-bras lash-out to a constrictive society , to the 90s ‘girl power’ mini skirt midriff explosion; Justine mostly wore black, boyish clothes and didn’t need those previous cliché’s to show she was equal to her male competitors, whilst treading on their record sales.

She had parts of a ‘ladette’ personality in the way she speaks, swearing and ignoring any ladylike etiquette, she didn’t wear make up and had greasy hair but was still seen as sexy:

In response to Liam Gallagher’s “I wouldn’t kick that Justine out of bed”, in midst of the noisy Blur and Oasis spats she was quoted:

“What a sad cunt. I mean, I’d think he was being ironic if he wasn’t so fucking thick!”

And on her short hair? “I had long hair for years. Then I split with a boyfriend and cut it all off. It was a liberating thing’ cause he really loved my long hair.”

Surely this would have deterred men, but it didn’t.

Elastica’s music is alternative rock singed by britpop, with no songs over 4 minutes. Justine claimed she had always liked humor in music, which explains some of her rude lyrics (eg. Vaseline, Your Arse My Place) and her departure from Suede and their “long and indulgent…no fun” anthems. (Smith, A. 2002. Elastica Limits)

Eventually, after the exhaustive touring in the US, tensions grew in Elastica; bassist Annie Holland accused Justine of being “not human”, whilst guitarist Donna Matthews and drummer Justin Welch fell out bitterly from becoming romantically involved with one another, with Justine doing much of the cleaning up.

Then rumors began to circulate Elastica were getting mixed up in heroin, which Justine admits later was true, whereas Damon Albarn, although shamelessly blatant in some Blur lyrics, has never openly reflected upon this particular period of his life with Justine.

After the end of the 90s, it was released to also be the end for Elastica. The movement and hype of the decade had also moved on, like all decades seem to, as if they all have a time limit and an expiry, a life cycle, to reflect the culture and lifestyle of that era, to then move on to the next.

Which in effect causes as previously mentioned; a layering of different times, on top of one another, concealing different faces and their life’s once famously known, hiding in particular here, musical gems.

After the confirmation of Elastica’s retirement there is little news of Justine’s presence in music. The last piece of news released about Justine is about her visual art exhibit in America, where she moved to after the 90s and her split with Albarn, she later met and married her teacher, a science University professor.

Justine at her wedding

Justine at her wedding

After years of hearing the song ‘Tender’ by Blur and now discovering Justine, this has led me to uncover a whole new light to the song as Albarn had written it after their split, which has made it increasingly more poignant for me – a girl who usually turns her nose up to 90 indie bands such as Blur.

Instead of formerly thinking of it as a crowd-pleaser song, it now evokes new feelings for me when I listen to it; some of heart ache and vulnerability, but mostly of a new chapter in life, from not looking back and finding peace. It’s as though the song has quietly opened up and revealed it’s depth, something, surprisingly, I never expected a Blur song to do to me. And something I had never expected to come from the 90s…


12 Comments on “Justine Frischmann”

  1. cary says:

    the Blur song you should refer to concerning Damon and Justine, is No Distance Left to Run.


  2. tomacintosh says:

    Was just about to post the same message. Although Tender and the album 13 in general is a very sombre record, No Distance Left to Run is the most poignant track, and one Albarn found difficult performing live.

    I think if you look back at Blur tracks now you will find a lot of depth in their music. A lot of tracks are still relevant and stand up today, unlike many Oasis songs.

    I just want to add that this was a fantastic post, as I, like you, seemed to overlook Justine back when it was all ‘happening’. It’s good to look back from a distance knowing how everything has panned out. I think she is the girlfriend Damon will never forget.


  3. errrdaniels says:

    Ah thanks for your post!
    I don’t think I had heard of ‘No Distance Left to Run’ until the previous post (from cary) – I listened to it then and you’re right! Left me speechless.

    A friend went to see them in Margate recently and said they had played ‘No Distance Left to Run’ which would have been so moving to see, gutted I didn’t get tickets.


    • tomacintosh says:

      Just got back from a weekend in London. I went to Hyde Park to see Blur as part of the Olympic closing ceremony. It was brilliant! Admittedly Damon struggles to hit the high notes now, but it was ok because the crowd took over!

      My favourite song is probably ‘This Is a Low’ taken from the album Parklife. It was written by Albarn after Alex James gave him a tea towel with a map of the shipping forecast on it for his birthday! You should have a listen. This is a brilliant video of it from Glastonbury ’94 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qofbMycC_Io


      • errrdaniels says:

        Fantastic! What other bands did you see at the closing ceremony? There were some good ones playing.
        Just listening to ‘This is a Low’ now – it sounds familiar (again, maybe I heard it back in the 90’s!) but never tied up to it being a Blur song.
        Another great surprise from them. Ha ha


  4. Wilson says:

    No depth in the 90’s?!?!?! Really??!?! Nirvana….the pixies….Morrissey….REM…..on and on….I suppose….the 2000’s have been utter shit!


    • errrdaniels says:

      This post is about looking back to the music I knew whilst growing up in the 90’s and discovering its depth, which I didn’t realise was there when I was young, I’m not criticising it.

      Besides, those bands aren’t that great so calm down.


      • JJ says:

        haha oh man I just came across your blog/post froma Google search. Honey if you think those bands aren’t great you are truly fucked. Also, I was young in the 90s and knew the bands around then shit all over the bands of the past 15 years, and so does everyone except you. So good luck with your “blog”; it’s so funny that ppl like you with no mind/intelligence/ability to write/anythign to write about feel/IQ etc you have to share your stupidity with the universe. But we just laugh at you.


      • Kate says:

        Gosh chill out JJ.. people discover music in their own way in their own time and THAT is the beauty of it. Great blog post, thanks for sharing. 🙂


      • errrdaniels says:

        Haha I know right! Thanks a lot 🙂


  5. […] your favorite of your own blog posts? It’s got to be my Justine Frischmann post on I am Small but the World is Big – it gets so much attention and that post seemed to […]


  6. 43route says:

    I just loved reading this. Many thanks. Not entirely sure how I found it but glad I did.


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