Ahead of the release of new documentary Supersonic at FACT, Getintothis’ Jamie Bowman looks back on his fondest memories as an Oasis fan.
Proclaiming you’re a fan of Oasis these days can be a tricky business. Whether it’s Noel’s so-so solo career, the band’s sheer tabloid ubiquity for over two decades, those awful late period albums or even fucking Beady Eye, the law of diminishing returns has been a given when still holding a candle for the Gallaghers.
And yet…the very fact that a forthcoming documentary about Oasis’ meteoric rise is one of the most eagerly awaited films of the year displays that really for all the haters, the Mancunians remain one of Britain’s most extraordinary rock n roll bands whose imperial period ushered in one of the most remarkable, exciting and downright revolutionary times in music.
Appreciating both Oasis’ songs and how downright incredible those early years were is certainly not a fashionable thing to do given how wrapped up the band are with a time that is synonymous up with memories of Tony Blair, the Spice Girls, lad culture and the increasing dominance of the Premier League. But for any music lover born between 1970 and 1985, it’s a period that can’t help but have made an enormous impact on your outlook, whether it was haircut, an appreciation of The Beatles or a love of alcopops.
I was 16 when Oasis released their first single, I saw them play the toilet circuit and was there a little over two years later when they played a pair of gigs which were two of the largest ever witnessed in Britain. It was a wonderful ride and even if it’s just unabashed nostalgia I refuse to simply forget those days as meaningless and so I’ve picked out five highlights which stand out.
They coincided with some of the best times of my life – those moments of sheer joy when you’re a teenager that knows they’re in the right place at the right time. Maybe this still happens to young people in 2016 – it probably does – but as Noel says in Supersonic which is released on October 2, “I think in the times in which we live, it would be unrepeatable.”
THE OPENING SALVO – COLUMBIA / CIGARETTES AND ALCOHOL
It was at the tail end of 1993 when Oasis’ first release came out: a white label demo of Columbia which was surprisingly playlisted by Radio One and played 19 times on the BBC in two weeks. When discussing Oasis’ sound it’s become a cliché to say they sound like The Beatles but Columbia sounds anything but.
With its huge distorted guitars and air of psychedelic menace, the band seemed to be updating gloriously their Creation forefathers the Jesus and Mary Chain by releasing pop songs covered in noise. The demo version still sounds better than the one which was eventually released on Definitely Maybe.
It was the ten track demo tape that Noel handed to Alan McGee that got the band signed and in February 1994, a second song from the tape was given away free with the NME as part of a five-song Creation cassette. Both tracks acted as superb primers for what was to follow…
THE FIRST GIG
Oasis certainly put in the hard yards in the early months of 1994 playing the likes of Birmingham’s Jug of Ale, Bath’s Moles Club and Lucifer’s Mill in Dundee in March as well as a date at the Lomax in Liverpool on April 13. I got to see them at the first time at the Windsor Old Trout on May 7 and my world changed. The Trout was a regular haunt where I managed to see Blur, Elastica and Supergrass during the Britpop years when this scuzzy little venue next to the Thames was at its height.
My ticket says I paid £5 for the privilege of seeing Oasis play alongside around 200 people many of whom were men wearing Stone Roses T shirts. What I really remember about the gig was the sheer noise. Nine songs battered the ears with the cacophonous climax of a six minute version of Supersonic followed by an even longer take on I Am The Walrus to finish with.
At the time it seemed downright odd seeing a band that wasn’t one playing in the pub playing a Beatles song but after listening to my bootleg of the gig, Oasis did not so much cover it as kick the crap out of it.
The early Oasis sound was one of brutal simplicity, up there with the more heralded likes of the Ramones and AC/DC. Paul McGuigan played nothing but root notes on the bass while Bonehead played bar chords. And all poor Tony McCaroll had to do was play 4/4. And then there was Liam whose voice carried off the neat trick of sounding angelic but menacing. And they all stood still and kept their coats on. I was sold.
TOP OF THE POPS
I’d managed to chat to Liam after the gig and he told me that the band would probably be doing Top of the Pops with their next release and I should come down. Yeah right. But a little over a month later there I was at Elstree Studios thanks to a friend’s dad who worked at the BBC and a very long train ride. The whole experience was surreal – when my girlfriend and I got there we saw New Wave of New Wavers These Animal Men getting their photos taken outside Superdrug. They ushered us over and Melody Maker took pictures of us smoking fags with them.
Inside the studio things were even stranger – over zealous directors herded teenage girls between the stages, telling them when to dance, when to clap and when to cheer. I have no idea who was presenting but at least it wasn’t Savile. The producer eyed us with suspicion as we stood out a mile among the teeny boppers dancing to Let Loose and Reel 2 Reel (featuring the Mad Stuntman). Because I was wearing an Oasis T-shirt I was told I had to stand at the front while the band were on and dance or at least sway. I protested that you couldn’t really dance to Shakermaker, Oasis’ second single but was told if I didn’t do as they said I’d be kicked out. A girl next to me asked the warm up guy whose job it was to get everyone excited who Oasis were and what they sounded like. “They’re like a funky grunge band,” he replied.
20 years on it’s still kind of strange to think these gigs even happened. On August 10 and 11 1996, Oasis played to 250,000 people. 2.5 million people applied for tickets and by the time of the gig one in three households in the country had an Oasis CD. The country had not seen anything like it since The Beatles.
Things I remember from the day: lots of people throwing rubbish into the air when the Prodigy came on, everyone singing every song word for word when the Bootleg Beatles played, the Manic Street Preachers playing Design For Life, Oasis kicking footballs in the crowd (somehow I had got relatively near the front), John Squire coming on as a guest and a bloke next to me saying “who’s he?”, Champagne Supernova going on for approximately two hours.
Somehow we got back to Paddington Station where me and my mates slept on the platform. I had to be in work in Sainsbury’s the next day and managed to somehow get there on time. The first customer I served on the cigarette counter was Timmy Mallett. “You look like you’ve had a good night,” he said. He was right.
THE LATER YEARS
Something changed after Knebworth and the band and the country were never the same again. I left for Liverpool later that year where it was still thrilling to come into contact with a number of bands like Smaller, Cast and Echo and the Bunnymen who had all circled the Oasis orbit. I saw them in 2002 at Old Trafford Cricket Ground and again when I was working at a V Festival (I don’t remember which) but we’d outgrown each other by then.
But there was still time for one more special time together. The Bandwagon was a club night held on the first Saturday of every month at the Zanzibar Club in Seel Street from 2001 to 2005, hosted by John Robinson and Gary Murphy of Liverpool band The Bandits.
The scene that developed around the night included the Stands, the Coral, the Zutons and Tramp Attack and Noel soon seemed to become a de facto godfather to a number of these bands. In May 2003 he played a secret acoustic gig at the club, where I met him all over again, nine years to the week since I’d first seen Oasis play live. Of all places we bumped into each other in the Zanzibar toilets which is where I decided to remind him about Top of the Pops. “Were you that cunt with the T shirt on?” he replied. Yes I was.
- Supersonic is released on October 2 and will be shown at FACT Picturehouse along with an exclusive live streamed Q&A.
- A collection of rare photographs and memorabilia will be on display at the Old Granada Studios in Manchester for the Oasis: Chasing the Sun exhibition from October 14-25.
- The Chasing The Sun special edition version of Be Here Now is released October 14 on Big Brother Recordings.