"It’s the most shambolic performance by Blur possible": Watch Blur perform on Italian TV with a cardboard cut-out of guitarist Graham Coxon

Blur, with a cardboard cut-out of Graham Coxon
(Image credit: SantaClausReindeer YouTube)

Blur drummer Dave Rowntree recalls the band's "most shambolic performance" in a new interview with NME, citing a 1996 Italian TV show appearance where the BritPop kings - or rather himself and vocalist Damon Albarn - performed without both guitarist Graham and bassist Alex James.

In the NME.com feature, titled Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?!, Rowntree is asked the following question: In 1996, guitarist Graham Coxon and bassist Alex James were missing from a performance by Blur on Italian TV. What novel way did you deal with their absences? The memory clearly tickles Blur's drummer.

"We performed halfway through the final of Sanremo Festival, one of the biggest betting events in Italy – it’s like The X Factor merged with The Grand National," he replies. "Graham couldn’t do it, so we thought it would be a wheeze to put a cardboard cutout of him onstage. We were miming Charmless Man, so it didn’t matter. Alex didn’t show up for the flight – nobody knew where he was – so [Blur’s bodyguard] Smoggy, about whom our new album The Ballad Of Darren is partially written, took over his bass role, having the time of his life strutting around the stage gurning like an idiot."

He continues, "Halfway through the song, the cardboard cutout of Graham fell over, and when Damon walked over and stood it upright again the audience burst into applause – clearly thinking this was part of the performance! [Laughs] It’s the most shambolic performance by Blur possible. Whenever a gig has gone badly, one of us will bring it up, and it makes everything seem all right in comparison!"

Watch the footage below:

The Ballad Of Darren, Blur's first album in eight years, is set for release on July 21. The group's ninth album was produced by James Ford and recorded at Damon Albarn's Studio 13 in London, and in Devon.

“This is an aftershock record," says Albarn, “reflection and comment on where we find ourselves now.”

“The older and madder we get, it becomes more essential that what we play is loaded with the right emotion and intention," adds Graham Coxon. “Sometimes just a riff doesn’t do the job.”

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.