Six of the best: British bands that met at university

We document the best of the bands that took pipe dreams born in Uni halls and turned them into genuine rock and roll stardom.

Skiddle Staff

Date published: 13th Sep 2018

Image: Blur (credit)

For most, university is so much more than just three years of yet more sitting in a classroom, watching power-point slides and gazing at the clock-it’s an opportunity for true independence, a place to find out who you really are and most likely, the opportunity to have some of the most mental nights out of your life while making a tonne of new friends in a new city or town.

For many budding musicians though it’s the perfect opportunity to meet with like-minded people. A chance to not only create memories that will last as long as the student loan, but lay the foundations to a long and hopefully successful journey together. Sounds great on paper right? Well, for some of the UK’s most notorious bandmates, university was the cornerstone of their outright success and a start of something magical. Here’s a handful of bands that met at university and made it to the top.


1. Blur

The 1990’s was a time of bucket hats, bowl haircuts and funny looking jumpers.  In the penultimate craze of the era was the britpop movement, consisting of one hell of a rivalry. While Manchester homed a mouthy pair of brothers, London had its own sons in the making; Blur.  But the four piece did not appear into stardom out of thin air, in fact childhood friends Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon met Alex James whilst studying at Goldsmiths College (university) in London during 1988. 

At the time, Albarn was in the band Circus, but later sacked them off to jam with the boys as a likely pastime more than a serious career prospect. They were later joined by drummer Dave Rowntree, and after a few jam sessions, formed blur. The rest, as they say, is history.


2. Pink Floyd

The formation of one of the most famous British bands of all time began when Roger Waters and Nick Mason, both studying on an architecture course at London Polytechnic, began playing cover-songs together as part of another band which also included original Floyd member Richard Wright. 

When Waters' childhood friend Syd Barrett moved to London in 1962 to study at the Camberwell College of Arts, together they began playing together with a string of other members (who eventually left), leaving the quartet of Waters, Barret, Wright and Mason to form the Pink Floyd Sound in 1965 and two years later, following a slew of singles that included the iconic 'See Emily Play', the group's debut album was released. Sadly, Barrett's fondness for L.S.D left him detached from the group and just a few years later, he was forced out.


3. Everything Everything

Manchester art pop group Everything Everything have evolved into somewhat of a household name since their forming 11 years ago. But it wasn’t always festival sell outs and country tours, in the not so distant past, the bands embryonic period was housed at Salford University, where vocalist Alex Niven met bass player Jeremy Pritchard whilst Niven studied popular music and recording.

The two immediately felt a connection and formed a group with old friend Michael Spearman, these three opportunists later became a ‘detournement of an over saturated media culture’ aka Everything Everything. Nowadays, they're best known for combining powerful, elctro grooves with insanely antithetic vocals and jarring rhythms to create much loved tracks such as 'Cough Cough', 'Desire' (above)  'Regret' and a shed load of others.


4. Radiohead

The truly spellbinding pioneers of electronic- alternative fusion music Radiohead were once also fidgeting teenagers wriggling to distribute their sound to the world, although it’s bordering unimaginable.

Although the lads were friends in their local town in Oxfordshire preceding university, the formation and demoing of future Radiohead classics came into being at Exeter University, where vocalised Thom Yorke was the frontman of Headless Chickens, before shifting his diligence to rehearsals with band mate Johnny Greenwood. The band, known then as On A Friday, were later scouted by Chris Hufford’s, Slowdive’s producer and co-owner of Oxford's Courtyard Studios, who with his partner Bryce Edge produced a demo tape and became On a Friday's managers. They remain Radiohead's managers today.


5. Coldplay

Worldwide sensations and everybody’s guilty pleasure Coldplay make the list, and probably take the trophy for the fastest intertwining. Lead singer and shapeshifter Chris Martin and Jonny Buckland actually met during their induction week at University College London during September 1996 and immediately struck a cord with one another. (pun obviously intended).

Originally they played in a band called Pectoralz, before Guy Berryman, a classmate of Martin’s later joined the group. They eventually scrapped the god awful name, for a slightly less terrible name, Starfish, before deciding upon Coldplay and going on to become the most successful bands of a generation. 


6. Queen

The final gem comes in the form of a little band known to their millions of fans as Queen. Farookh Bulsara aka Freddie Mercury was studying art and design at Ealing College of Art, where fate drew him to student Tim Staffel, who was already in a group at the time.

Staffel’s group, consisting of Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor, who were studying an Astrophysics PHD and dentistry respectively, were later joined by Mercury at Imperial College London as their ever so boisterous frontman, and something truly beautiful came into existence. Mercury later put his artistry to practical use in designing the bands iconic logo.