15 years on: Feeder's 'Just a Day', the music video that invented YouTube

Here's how a supercheap music video for a British rock group predicted the lip-synching, bedroom-vlogging, selfie-taking future.

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
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Richard Trenholm
7 min read

In 2001 we first met these legends.


Remember the music video that invented YouTube?

Obviously, British rock band Feeder didn't actually invent YouTube -- if they had, they'd have invented YouTube, to borrow a phrase. But the music video for the band's hit single "Just a Day", released 15 years ago, looked uncannily like the lip-synching, bedroom-vlogging, selfie-taking future that was yet to come.

"Just a Day" came out on 10 December 2001 -- years before smartphones , before YouTube, before even MySpace. Here's the video in all its teenage glory:

We tracked down some of the Feeder fans who were immortalised in the clip. Benjamin Linnie, who appeared in the video air drumming, aged 9, is currently developing a personal training business. Lucy Guest, who appeared dancing in a pink bedroom, aged 16, now works as a marketing manager for a group of bars across Yorkshire. Mark Higgins, who appeared wearing a white T-shirt, is programme manager at Heat Radio, having been a radio producer since 2009.

In fact it seems several of the video's budding stars, who were paid £100 for their efforts, got a taste for showbiz: Ben Baker, who's glimpsed holding up a sign with the words mysteriously blurred out, is a podcaster and writer of quiz books. Georgia Maskery, the young girl with the toy guitar, is an actor and works in TV production. And her brother Louis Maskery, the 3-year-old with the toy drum, has graduated to a proper kit and now drums in a band.

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The plan

Director David Mould, who's helmed videos for everyone from Blur to Take That, was brought in to shoot a clip that could be made without featuring band members Grant Nicholas, Taka Hirose or Jon Lee. I spoke to some of the people involved.

Grant Nicholas, lead singer: "We were on tour -- I think we were supporting REM -- so it was a bit difficult finding time to shoot a video. The director said, 'I've got this idea'... We thought it was absolutely bonkers."

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David Mould, director: "The budget was sufficiently low for me to feel free to offer up a 'risky' but fun idea to the band. Years before, I'd made a tragic but entertaining video of myself kind of dancing/moshing alone in my front room to Jane's Addiction's song 'Been Caught Stealing'. It was hugely embarrassing. Despite my own horror show I hoped the result would be a little cooler."

The fans

Louis Maskery: "I believe (although I don't remember) that Feeder sent out a request for fans to film themselves singing the song. My dad sent a video of me and my sister instead."

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Ben Baker: "My friend who had super-whizz-speed half-a-meg broadband saw the competition on Feeder's website in the days when I was still on dial-up -- I nearly missed my place in the edit because I hadn't signed in for two days."

Mark Higgins: "I got an email from Feederweb, the band's mailing list, saying they wanted fans to be in the video. All you had to do was film an audition -- you had to be in your bedroom, with the song in the background, and you could do anything you want."

Grant Nicholas: "We were a little cunning because we didn't want it to be too staged. We wanted people to think, 'If I do some crazy thing I might be in the next Feeder video.' They didn't realise this actually was going to be the video."

The shoot

The video was one of the earliest examples of what's now called "user-generated content".

Mark Higgins: "I got our Sony Viewcam out from under the stairs, stuck it on top of my wardrobe, and gave it a go."

Lucy Guest: "We borrowed a friend's video recorder and we could only be in it one at a time because we had to balance it on a stool and it kept falling. We had loads of fun filming but we honestly didn't think it would get anywhere."

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Ben Linnie: "It was filmed with myself, the kid that lived up the street and his older brother's friend (his brother filmed it on a camcorder). We were just acting like we were a band and played along to the song. I was asked to be the drummer. It was done in one take. After it was filmed they sent it off -- I didn't think anything of it."

David Mould: "We soon found out that the tapes that were sent were not only free of the constraints of trying to be cool, they had lovely pathos, energy, naivety and no little invention."

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Ben Baker: "My friend Michael and I concocted a grand scheme for our entry -- a five-man comedy piece centred around a disastrous restaurant meal -- which would be filmed on my old Sony video camera. Frustratingly, just hours before we were due to start, two of the guys pulled out due to various stages of not being arsed and we ended up just vamping a simplified version. Andy would be the only one of us who was in shot in the final video, supposedly a frustrated rock star waiting for his meal. We did two takes over an hour with no editing and I sent the tape off the following day."

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Grant Nicholas: "It's very much a youthful song so it was nice to see all these young people with their interpretation of it. You had the girl who saw it as a quite dark, serious thing and you had kids goofing around and jumping on the bed. It was interesting for me as a writer to see how people interpret songs and what it meant to them."

The video

Ben Baker: "In the end, our contributions lasted maybe 5 seconds -- which involved my hands flashing up the apparently now-famous blurred sign, which I can reveal said nothing more interesting than 'HI MUM!' £100 well spent by the production company."

Mark Higgins: "I thought it was an audition -- I never dreamed that I was filming myself in a video that goodness knows how many people could potentially see. Maybe if I knew that, I would have been slightly more animated."

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Grant Nicholas: "When we first saw it, we were in the back of our tour bus -- I think we were in Italy somewhere -- and there was complete silence. I thought this is either the best video we've ever made -- or the worst!"

The reaction

The video became an instant fixture on music television channels and helped "Just a Day" become Feeder's then-biggest single, hitting number 12 in the UK singles charts.

Lucy Guest: "I didn't have MTV so didn't see it but people came into school and said they had seen it."

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Ben Baker: "I learned the video was going to premiere on [music TV show] 'CD:UK' one Saturday -- the same morning that my Grandad Tommy, sadly, passed away. I decided to tell my dad in secret, only for him to immediately announce it to the whole clan who tuned in intent on seeing my big TV moment, happy for the distraction from the sad day.

"The first part of CD:UK passed with no video... and the second... and the third. As it got to the final part of the show I was getting teased by relatives thinking I'd made the whole thing up. And then... with that week's new No. 1 being the decidedly un-kid-friendly 'Because I Got High' by Afroman, they decided to skip it in favour of the new video by Feeder. Cue even more teasing and 'You got £100 for that?' by the family."

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Mark Higgins: "The strangest thing was just how much airplay it continued to get after the song left the charts, and a year after that, and through today. It's still going! I got recognised a lot at the time, locally, but since then people have asked me, 'Are you in that video?' when I start a new job [or] meet new people."

The legacy

Ben Linnie: "I honestly forgot I was in it until I was flicking through the channels and it came up on Kerrang TV in 2005. I thought that kid looks familiar -- then I realised that it was me. I was shocked but thought it was pretty cool."

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Louis Maskery: "I'm now 18, which must make some people feel very old. I'm still reminded of the video sometimes -- when I went to watch Manchester United vs. West Ham last week, two guys were singing 'Just a Day' on the tram and I explained to them I was in the video!"

David Mould: "It was a success in a way I couldn't have predicted. It's still probably my most recognised and unique work and what I like to call 'the best video I never directed!' Although I still get asked if it was all set up..."

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Grant Nicholas: "Dave Mould and the editor came up with some real magic. It's definitely one of our more memorable videos -- even though we spent so much money on some of our others! It captured something that really went with the music and it brought something from the fans."

Ben Baker: "The popularity could be down to the very human face of the clip, with real fans titting around, dancing and seriously overacting in a way that is ten-a-penny on YouTube now. But in all honesty, it's just an uplifting, bouncy pop stonker that people never get sick of."

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Feeder's latest album, "All Bright Electric", is available now.

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