The spoken word lyrics were performed by the British actor Phil Daniels, who was also in the video. Damon Albarn originally tried doing the verses but couldn't get into character, so guitarist Graham Coxon suggested Phil Daniels as the band were big fans of his film, Quadrophenia. Coxon recalled to The Guardian July 16, 2012. "At the line 'There was a piece of my heart,' Phil said, "Should I drop the 'h'? If I pronounce it, it'll sound more adorable." We didn't want to use a forced mockney accent, so he pronounced the 'h.'"
In the August 2005 issue of Q magazine, Damon Albarn explained: "London Fields (a novel by English writer Martin Amis) inspired Parklife. That book changed my outlook on life." Bassist Alex James said, "The first time Damon played Parklife to me I was certain that it would be big. It was one of the most complete things I'd ever heard."
Food Records (their record label) co-owner Dave Balfe was not so enthusiastic: "When I first heard the demo without Phil Daniels, I thought that the chorus was brilliant but it was such a rubbish verse. I thought it was fairly tedious and the talking verses were not hit single material as far as I was concerned."
Blur Guitarist Graham Coxon played the saxophone on this track. He was a saxophonist when he first met Albarn, but this was the only time he played sax for Blur. He recalled to The Guardian: "I play a bit of the German national anthem on saxophone in the 'vorsprung durch technik' line. It's a very comedic song, a knees-up. Oasis were accused of being Chas'n'Dave, but we weren't far away ourselves."
What sounds like breaking glass was drummer Dave Rowntree smashing a plate.
Originally, Albarn was to sing the whole song and Daniels was going to recite a poem over a song called "The Debt Collector." However, it ended up becoming an instrumental as Albarn couldn't come up with a poem he liked, so Daniels was asked to narrate the verses of this instead.
The song and video won numerous awards in England. It went nowhere in the US.
Parklife was Blur's breakout album in England. They never hit it big in the US.
Coxon told The Guardian that the song was "about the park class: dustbin men, pigeons, joggers - things we saw every day on the way to the studio [Maison Rouge in Fulham]. It epitomises what Blur were about - having fun and doing exactly what you want to do."