The new single from Blitz Vega — the duo of Andy Rourke (The Smiths) and Kav Blaggers (aka KAV, ex-Happy Mondays) — went through so many permutations and starts/stops that it almost had a life of its own by the time it was released on Friday.
“Strong Forever,” a rousing and anthemic slab of Manchester-flavored Britrock, originally was conceived as an anti-discrimination and anti-bullying song for a soccer campaign. Indeed, it sounds like something stadium crowds might roar to empower their squad.
In actuality, Blaggers says, “This song is for the kids who are being bullied as well as people and families who are fighting battles to survive. Mental illness and depression can stem from feeling helpless. When all the odds are against you, you stand tall and take every challenge as it comes.”
Speaking of challenges, the pandemic turned making the single into a process. Blaggers started the tune, with Rourke adding his parts at L.A.’s Sound City studio just as lockdown hit. Blaggers, who’d lived mostly in L.A. since 2008, returned to his native England to wait out COVID and began to work remotely.
“Writing the lyrics was easy for me,” Blaggers told Rolling Stone, where the song premiered. “I just had to look inside and use my own experiences. The battles I’d faced growing up, the discrimination, for many different reasons not just the obvious. I got it, I truly understood what the song had to be about. No one had ever given me a reason to write a song like that, and it always felt a little too close for comfort for me to visit the place where the experiences stemmed from. The way it was when I grew up — you took a deep breath and you just got on with it. Don’t be a wimp, take it on the chin. You didn’t give people a reason to think they could pick on you. You’d try to break down those barriers. It was always on you, not them. It still is in a way. That environment made me, and those experiences inspired this song.
“These are the experiences I turned to for some of the lyrics, ‘Stand tall don’t let them put you down.’ ‘Look them in the eye,’ you know people will always judge you or put you down. People can be picked on at school for not having the right shoes, or their parents driving a certain car. It’s the same when you get older in many industries. and I guess it’s pretty much everywhere.”
The song gained additional steam when Rourke asked his old Smiths bandmate Johnny Marr to play guitar on it — the first time the pair appeared on a recording together in 35 years.
Initially, Blitz Vega intended to have a host of guest vocalists on the track (Tom Meighan of Kasabian had recorded lead vocals before leaving the project during problems that led to his domestic assault conviction). Some soccer players had even been recruited to record background vocals. In the end, Blaggers himself ended up singing lead on the track, which was produced by Z-Trip, Will Kennedy and Jagz Kooner. The finishing touches were not applied until the middle of this year, when Blaggers and Z-Trip got together in L.A.
||| Stream: “Strong Forever”