James Blunt was just as rock'n'roll as Oasis ever were

Oasis might have called James Blunt boring, but with six groupies a night and IV drips after wild drug binges back in the day he was as rock’n’roll as they ever were!

When anti-vaccine protesters laid siege to New Zealand’s parliament building in Wellington last year, police tried desperate measures to force them to disperse.

First they activated the water sprinklers on the lawn. Then they turned on loudspeakers, blasting the crowd with Barry Manilow songs and the monotonous dance hit Macarena on a loop. The protesters responded by donning cagoules and dancing under their umbrellas.

That’s when James Blunt stepped in, tweeting: ‘Give me a shout if this doesn’t work @NZPolice.’

The authorities duly responded by playing Blunt’s mega-selling single You’re Beautiful at ear-splitting volume. The crowd loved it, and so did Blunt’s devoted Twitter following.

The 49-year-old singer has become almost as famous for his self-deprecating humour, constantly mocking himself and his music on social media, as he is for selling 20 million albums.

His record company was aghast when Blunt first started sending himself up on Twitter, now known as X. No one was safe: he ripped into fans, critics and even his own family, as well as himself.

James Blunt (pictured in London, 2014) has become almost as famous for his self-deprecating humour as he is for selling 20 million albums

When Blunt’s wife, Sofia Wellesley (pictured with Blunt in 2019), joined him for one leg of a tour, her sole luxury was a pair of plastic flipflops to protect her feet from gunge in the shower

Pictured: James Blunt serving in Kosovo in 1999 as a 22-year-old lieutenant, part of the Nato peacekeeping force during the Serbian genocide

When one wiseacre tweeted, ‘@BBCRadio2 — please please please please stop playing James Blunt please… thank you,’ the singer retorted: ‘Dad? Is that you!?’

And when another complained about his appearance on Strictly, saying, ‘James Blunt’s voice goes right through me,’ he replied: ‘Coz you’re so hollow, baby.’

But his lethal sense of humour is just one aspect of a shockingly riotous lifestyle for someone who’s music is so often derided as wet and bland, as I discovered during the two-year making of a documentary about his life, James Blunt: One Brit Wonder.

READ MORE: James Blunt recalls wild fling with Lindsay Lohan and being kicked out of her bed by a security guard

Since the pandemic ended, Blunt has been almost constantly on tour. The banter, the boozing, the endless travel and performing — and the emotional strain — are all exhausting. 

I did one week with him and his band on the tour bus, zig-zagging across Germany, and by the end I was broken, begging to escape. I told his tour manager, Robert Hayden: ‘Please drop me off at any city with an airport.’

Every night, after the high-energy show, where Blunt never stops bouncing, running and crowd-surfing, there’d be a massive aftershow party. That would spill over onto the bus, until we crawled into our bunks.

Blunt appears never to sleep. Perhaps he knows it’s impossible on a tour bus, with the noise, the smell, the swaying and the sudden braking. 

When Blunt’s wife, Sofia Wellesley, who married him in 2014, joined him for one leg of a tour, her sole luxury was a pair of plastic flipflops to protect her feet from gunge in the shower.

I should have been used to such filth. I served a five-year prison sentence for tax fraud — during which I saw the devastating effects of what I then called ‘the worst UK prison crisis in history’.

Even so, I can tell you that life on the road with James Blunt is almost as scary as landing in Wandsworth Prison.

Yet his antics on tour now are a pale echo of his debauchery in the Noughties, according to lifelong Blunt superfan Ed Sheeran.

Ed, who is godfather to Blunt’s oldest son and who spent numerous nights as a teenager at the side of the stage, watching and learning the tricks of a crowd-pleasing singer-songwriter, has some hair-raising stories of his own.

Noel Gallagher of Oasis (pictured in 2022) called the singer boring and threatened to quit Ibiza if Blunt moved to the island

James Blunt and Sofia Wellesley married in 2014. Here they are pictured at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding in 2018

He claims the band devised suppositories, inserted with ‘a little bugle thing’, to get drugs into their system faster than smoking, sniffing or swallowing them. ‘He’s had a doctor come after a heavy night and put IVs [intravenous drips] in,’ Ed said.

Blunt’s no-nonsense former record label boss Linda Perry can testify to his rock-star lifestyle: ‘I’ve kicked James out of my studio. 

He did cocaine and I have a no-drug policy.’ She added that even Courtney Love, the widow of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, was discreet enough to go out into the car park first.

As well as the chemical excesses, groupies were a nightly feature.

‘It was insane,’ Blunt’s bassist John Garrison admits. ‘The fans liked to party, so we came up with the idea of the golden ticket [backstage passes]. No photos, no autographs, just fun.

‘We used to go around picking people who looked interesting, and 99 per cent of the time that would be the pretty girls.

READ MORE: EXCLUSIVE: Ed Sheeran jumps up on stage to perform an impromptu duet of You’re Beautiful with James Blunt at Princess Eugenie’s anti-slavery charity gala 

‘People got on the bus drunk, got off the bus the next morning going: ‘Where the **** am I? How do I get back?’ And we did that for 18 months to two years.’

The tour manager would arrange train or plane tickets home and the cost of these would be charged to the band members by Blunt’s financial manager — his father, Charlie.

Charles Blount (James changed his name to make it easier for fans to pronounce) is a former cavalry officer in the 13th/18th Royal Hussars, and a retired helicopter pilot and colonel of the Army Air Corps. He and wife, Jane, are hugely proud of their son’s success, though also bemused that his songs bare his emotions.

‘I’m very close to my family,’ Blunt says, ‘but we don’t discuss, you know… feelings. Yeah, that weird word called ‘feelings’ that most humans have.’

His father never talks about nonsense like feelings, says Jane with approval. ‘Charlie is an upright chap. James is, too, but there’s a soft side to him,’ she adds.

The couple are far more at ease confronting the bad press that has dogged Blunt since the phenomenal success of his single You’re Beautiful in 2005, the song that made him a global superstar and spent five weeks at No 1.

Played on constant radio rotation, the song was so ubiquitous that Blunt even performed it live at Elton John’s civil partnership ceremony with his now husband, David Furnish.

But success came at a high price. Denouncing Blunt and his music became pop’s version of virtue signalling, a way to advertise your refined taste in music. His name became the punchline on panel shows such as QI and the U.S. sitcom 30 Rock.

Other musicians queued up to insult him. Noel Gallagher of Oasis called him boring and threatened to quit Ibiza if Blunt moved to the island. Damon Albarn of Blur refused to have his photograph taken with him on the BBC2 show Later With Jools Holland.

Blunt (pictured on Loose Women on Monday) has been almost constantly on tour. The banter, the boozing, the endless travel and performing — and the emotional strain — are all exhausting

‘Paul Weller said he’d rather eat his own s*** than work with me,’ says Blunt. ‘But I never offered to work with him, so maybe he just really wanted to eat his own s***.’

Charlie keeps a scrapbook crammed with news cuttings about his son. ‘The most hated man in pop’, reads one headline. ‘You’re irritating!’ ‘You’re pitiful!’ ‘Bland and mindless!’ ‘Deathly dull!’

Even Boris Johnson was rude about him, calling him ‘indescribably wet’ in a newspaper column, and denouncing his ‘hopeless falsetto crooning’. James’s mother wrote an indignant letter of complaint, labelling Johnson ’emotionally stunted’.

The scrapbook is something to behold. With each page protected by a film of tissue paper, like a wedding album, it documents all the coverage, including a particularly scandalous tabloid expose.

‘The News Of The World had two girls on their payroll to go out and sleep with celebrities,’ Blunt admits. ‘And I may have been one of them who ended up on the receiving end, shall we say.’

He put her name into a search engine and discovered she had also sold her story after spending nights with cricket and football stars.

The revelation that he had one-night stands before his marriage is hardly news — bandmates reckon that, at his wildest, he was sleeping with up to five or six women a night. As you might expect, it’s not something he’s always eager to rake up now.

The only time he lost his temper with me during filming was in the Swiss ski resort of Verbier. At the top of a piste, I asked him about a T-shirt slogan I’d seen on eBay: ‘I lost my virginity to James Blunt.’

He loves to poke fun at himself 

Here are some of the cruellest messages James Blunt has faced on X/Twitter… and his deadly comebacks:

‘No one really likes James Blunt, right?’

‘Yeah, I bought those 20 million albums myself.’

‘Does anybody else HATE James Blunt’s voice? I can’t stand it.’

‘I never liked the sound of my own voice. Till it made me rich.’

‘Is there one single James Blunt fan out there?’

‘Most of them are single.’

‘My real name is James Blount but I changed it as people teased me it rhymed with “count”.’

‘I can’t escape James Blunt… first it’s on in the car and now on repeat in the shop.’

‘Next he’ll be stalking you on the internet.’

‘That James Blunt song is utterly horrific, horrific.’

‘Yet so many people bought it, bought it.’

‘James Blunt is on the TV downstairs, can this day get any worse?’

‘Coming upstairs now.’

‘Can we all take a moment and remember just how terrible James Blunt was?’

‘No need. I have a new album coming soon.’

‘James Blunt es lo peor que le ha pesado a la humanidad desde Hitler.’

‘I’m guessing this is not good.’

‘I thought James Blunt died?’

‘I did, but you’ll NEVER guess what happened on the third day!?’

His famous sense of humour ran out. ‘This is a family show,’ he huffed as he skied off. Since he used to ski competitively in the Army’s national team, I had no way of keeping up with him.

It was the realities of Blunt’s Army service during the Balkans war that shocked me more than the rock ‘n’ roll escapades.

One aspect of it was well-known — how he went through officer training at Sandhurst, served in the Life Guards and once rode a horse to a record company to deliver a demo tape.

Yet the amateur video that he shot on a smuggled camera in Kosovo as a 22-year-old lieutenant, part of the Nato peacekeeping force during the Serbian genocide of the 1990s, is sobering. What he remembers most, he says, is the smell of death.

He filmed rows of temporary graves and had to deal with the corpses in bodybags after they were exhumed to be identified. This experience underpins his dark jokes: ‘There’s a black sense of humour that comes with such heartbreak, as you’re trying not to be deeply affected by what you’re witnessing,’ he says.

He credits this experience with saving him from the post-traumatic stress disorder that afflicts so many former soldiers.

Always a boyish figure, on the tapes he looks almost like a teenager in a man’s uniform as he addresses his troops. 

But he had a streak of insubordination, defying orders from above that would have left unarmed villagers at the mercy of Serbian militias. 

His commanding officer was so incensed at Blunt’s unapproved initiatives that he seized the young officer’s diary and burned it. The videotapes, however, survived.

In one of them, Blunt points at a landmine with his foot. 

Another shows the stand-off at Pristina airport in Kosovo as 200 Russian troops took control, surrounded by 30,000 allied soldiers — with Lt Blunt at the front of a tank convoy. 

For two days, the world trembled on the brink of a shootout that could precipitate World War III.

An Army career seemed inevitable from birth. Born at Tidworth garrison in Wiltshire in 1974, he went to a boarding prep school at eight and on to Harrow public school. 

His upbringing left him with a distinctive accent that he does not try to disguise.

‘I speak with an incredibly stupid accent,’ he told Tatler. ‘Any grief I’ve had for being a posh t*** is entirely justified. But posh people have feelings, too.’

If Blunt had become an actor, I don’t believe class prejudice would have affected his career. 

Eddie Redmayne, who went to Eton, and Benedict Cumberbatch, a former Harrow pupil, have never faced serious criticism for their privileged beginnings. 

And with so many Old Etonians in Cabinet, his class could have been a positive advantage in politics.

But ever since The Beatles, the assumption in pop has been that great songs can only be written by people from working-class streets. That assumption is embedded in British culture.

Class has nothing to do with the consideration he shows his fans, though. 

Before one gig, I saw him bound over to a blind fan he recognised from previous concerts and spent time chatting, before taking him by the arm and helping him pick a path around obstacles.

And Blunt’s mother has a theory that good breeding is the whole foundation of his success. 

‘People can hear what he’s singing,’ she points out. ‘He enunciates well enough for the lyrics to be audible, whereas there are so many songs where they can’t.’ Well, quite.

  • James Blunt: One Brit Wonder is in 257 cinemas across Britain and Ireland tonight for one night only, including a live performance.

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