THE notoriety of Oasis spread like wild fire across Britain’s regions particularly to the west of Scotland who had also championed the Stone Roses long before they became folk heroes and to Belfast where the communal and transcendent spirit of these swaggering Irish-Mancunians emboldened the idea that another future was possible.
The IRA announced a ceasefire on August 31, 1994 and less than a week later Oasis played the Limelight where they were told that their debut long-player Definitely Maybe had reached the top spot in the album charts.
Speaking in 2008 Noel Gallagher later reflected: “We had a party that night and the audience joined in. That was the start of our success story.”
It was a victory that relied on a number of like-minded supporters applying their expertise as momentum spread throughout Britain. Comparable to the rise of The Beatles 30 years before, a force gathered around the band through their fans made up of switched on indie kids, students and a swaggering working class, many of whom had swapped the terraces for gigs and night clubs.
Paul Gallagher, the elder brother of Liam and Noel reflects on the period: “Before Hillsborough there were lads who didn’t bother with gigs, Liam will tell you himself that he wasn’t into music.
"When all seater stadiums came in things changed, the game became too expensive, you started to hear football chants at gigs and music kind of replaced football for a while. There was a big working class following, Liam was the vehicle that sold it because he was their Elvis singing these great songs.”
Noel Gallagher summoned something of the innocence that had been lost for football supporters who were switching allegiances: “Growing up the game was played by men as opposed to athletes, the clubs were part of the community whereas football clubs now are part of the stock exchange and the football players are part of the company and the company is on the stock market.
"I love the way football is now with big stars but back in the 70s it was f**king real man, I mean Stan Bowles and Rodney Marsh them players were hardcore; they’d have a drink and a smoke – it was proper with no replays, no getting banned for three months.”.
Undeniably Oasis vended this romantic vision of lively working class masculinity to their audience wholesale but there were other elements that reinforced their cultural cachet. The Manchester scene – and its accompanying movement at the end of the 1980s – was ‘yesterday’s papers’ just as the Oasis wagon began to roll out across Britain’s regions throughout 1993.
American grunge had reached its peak and a new London-based scene dominated indie clubs and music racks. Creation records boss Alan McGee was the first in a series of figures who were indispensible to the band’s rise as musician and Stone Roses biographer John Robb explains: “Oasis would find it hard now, that’s why Alan was so important, he gave them a few months of credibility to get played and written about. It was just enough to get the band heard by all the other kids who started going to see Oasis.
"People checked out what Alan was doing and that was a big jump. It literally did take about four weeks after that. I always liked Noel’s quote about the London media setting the stage for Britpop but then Oasis turned up uninvited and stormed the party.”
For the die-hards there are a clutch of unreleased demos, live versions and rarities featuring the B-sides that could’ve been A-sides on the forthcoming reissue. In vain, Alan McGee fought for Acquiesce as the first lead-off single from Morning Glory, an incandescent anthem of epic proportions featuring both brothers on vocals.
If Liam was the star striker, then Noel was the captain and holding midfielder with an innate knowledge ceaselessly driving his vision forward. To his credit, Some Might Say provided the band with their first number one single but the pivotal moment was perhaps best captured by a performance of the B-side on Channel 4’s The White Room.
Liam, the rock ‘n’ roll clothes-horse, sported an almost Del Boy style sheepskin flying jacket aided by his dead eye stare while Noel played the football casual rock star in an un-tucked button-down shirt with a Gibson Les Paul Goldtop guitar. It was a moment of precision which cemented the belief that Oasis had destroyed the opposition and were being promoted to the top flight.
Street-wise Glaswegian Alan McGee was by no means a lonely admirer and it was another Celt who would become the band’s capable manager. Marcus Russell was raised in the working class steel town of Ebbw Vale. On Johnny Marr’s recommendation Oasis had another vital cog in the machine. The softly spoken organiser took inspiration from the renowned and ruthless Led Zeppelin boss Peter Grant believing Oasis could reach the same monolithic status.
Building on a year of perpetual touring in the spring of 1995 Russell took the determined step of booking the band a more ambitious headline slot. Former guitarist Paul “Bonehead” Arthurs reflects: “I remember Marcus said to us after sound-check one day: ‘I’ve booked Sheffield Arena for six weeks’ time’ all of us were like ‘not yet, it’s too big,’ but he said: ‘no, you’ll do this’.
"At the time that one felt massive but it just grew phenomenally from that point. There was this last minute panic because The Verve pulled out, someone in the band had broken their arm. We brought in Pulp and it turned into one of the great gigs.”
Any doubts over the band’s ability to shift their rock ‘n’ roll repertoire from the indie circuit to arena venues were instantly quelled but before the Oasis juggernaut triumphed in Sheffield, Russell had the dirty job of relieving original drummer Tony McCarroll of his services.
Paul Gallagher considers the transition: “When you start in a rehearsal studio with rain coming down and no covers over your amps that’s the struggle. All of a sudden you’re signed for £10million and things change, then it’s: ‘I don’t fancy him on drums anymore,’ or whatever, and of course that is going to affect things. It’s great if you’re U2 and have all you’re mates beside you but it doesn’t always work like that. Noel was in charge, he made all the decisions.”
Producer Owen Morris added: “Obviously Oasis didn’t sound the same after Tony left, his drumming was very simple.....it’s the simple drumming of Definitely Maybe. But Alan White was an infinitely better drummer and musician, he was a joy to record on Morning Glory and was an integral part of the album.”
McCarroll was the first of many casualties as Noel aspired to a drummer who could deliver a more polished style just as Oasis morphed into a robust touring enterprise. His song writing was also developing with the advent of what would become their two most definitive, soulful and popular songs Wonderwall and Don’t Look Back in Anger.
It was also time to record the best of what was being held back. Bonehead revisits what was a particularly prolific phase for the band and their songsmith: “Noel started sending us these cassettes through the post of his acoustic demos with a note saying ‘see you in the studio’ he was writing a lot of the material on the road and was literally churning them out. The first time we’d be hearing songs was at soundcheck because we were gigging so much.”
Like the former Oasis rhythm guitarist, producer Owen Morris continues to regard Noel’s craft and wherewithal as writer, performer and co-producer in high esteem: “Noel knew exactly what he was doing and was writing songs for all the time I worked for him. He is an extremely gifted and talented man. Cleverest musician and person I’ve met.
"Noel was in charge of everything...it was his music and recordings. I just filled in some of the gaps he had in studio production knowledge at the time. We all worked hard. The recording sessions were about doing our best to record these amazing songs we had which were being performed by these incredible people. The energies were all extremely positive.”
While Morris is reticent about his own role in the recordings his contribution is eminent particularly for the pioneering “Brick Walling” effect, John Robb added: “Owen Morris is important because he gave them that complete wall of sound. Oasis sounded like all the best British bands rolled into one from The Beatles to the Sex Pistols”.
On Don’t Look Back In Anger Noel gathered motivation from Mott the Hoople as well as lines from John Lennon and his mother Peggy, as Paul Gallagher explains: “The ‘Stand up beside the fire place’ line was something I recognised straight away, what he didn’t mention was the shillelagh next to the fireplace which was very handy for beating your brother up with.”
The siblings did engage in a public scrap in front of the Irish relatives when supporting R.E.M at Slane Castle in July 1995, as Paul recalls: “We all had a brotherly punch up like you do. It started over a can of beer. That gig was a big deal for them, all our family in Ireland came down. They had went from a club in Dublin to playing in front of 80,000 people.”
The summer preceding the release of Morning Glory proved to be turbulent with more mainstays exiting the Oasis ranks, sound man and Definitely Maybe co-producer Mark Coyle quit after Slane due to hearing problems, Phil Smith had also left the band’s road crew in favour of working again with The Stone Roses but the biggest loss was the temporary exit of bass player Paul McGuigan, while there was said to be tensions in the band the official reason was nervous exhaustion.
Prior to “Guigsy’s” sabbatical Oasis were fast becoming tabloid fodder with gaudy sex ‘n’ drugs headlines, that said the Blur v Oasis single chart battle was an entertaining throw back to another era. Roll With It might have lost the battle in the pop wars but it did produce another classic B-side in the form of Rockin’ Chair, the forlorn Noel sung demo is also forthcoming on the deluxe edition.
Just weeks before the band officially split Liam Gallagher spoke with admiration of his brother’s work during the period, even if the writer had somewhat moved on: “Our kid has dropped a lot of those songs from that time: Acquiesce, Some Might Say, Married with Children, Listen Up, and they were all great songs. I wanted to do Rockin’ Chair on this tour but Noel was like, ‘Why would we play that?’ I told him: ‘It’s a tune’. I think he’s worried that it means you’re finished”.
Including the likes of George Best, Mick Jagger, Ray Davies and Paul McCartney the guest list for Earls Court over two nights in November 1995 read like a who’s who of British pop culture icons. Paul McGuigan’s replacement Scott McLeod had been unable to sustain himself in the band, Noel Gallagher famously wished him luck signing on.
The return of Guigsy prior to the seminal concerts proved to be a galvanising force on what would become one of the band’s most bootlegged concerts. As Bonehead said: “The stand in bass player couldn’t hack it and I ended up on bass for the Letterman show on the American tour.
“Guigsy phoned up before Earl’s Court and was like ‘I’ll be there’. It was great to see your mate back on stage and we gave it all that night, you can hear it in the performance. You just have to look at the crowd to see how good it was.”
Oasis gigs by this stage were massive occasions especially for a new generation from post-industrial working class towns and cities across Britain. As the band gained further impetus it was clear that the Tories’ 18 years in power was coming to an end. Margaret Thatcher’s famous stygian words that claimed there was “no such thing as society” were gloriously invalidated.
In that sense the band were political.It wasn’t just about the mere assent of a rock ‘n’ roll band – their triumphant anthems and the folksy ballads were the soundtrack to a communal, poignant and optimistic shared experience. John Robb reflects on their seminal concerts of the period: “Like the Roses before them it was a celebration of a culture and community, everyone was there for the same reason.
“They felt like an event,” added Bonehead. “People would be getting geared up for days, so were we. I remember playing T in the Park and someone filled the diesel van with petrol. An AA van towed us to Glasgow and from there we got a train with a load of fans.”
Tracks from the bands most iconic gigs in England: Earls Court, Maine Road and Knebworth are featured on the rebooted Morning Glory. An estimated 2.6million people attempted to gain tickets for the band’s two appearances at Knebworth Park. Just three years after Alan McGee had signed them they had gone from continuous gigging in front of a couple of hundred punters to appearing before 300,000 fans. It remains the most in demand concert in British history.
Oasis had transcended their heroes and delivered a golden pop culture moment that could never be bettered. Even today Bonehead struggles to fathom the magnitude of the band’s fame: “I remember circling the sight in a helicopter and looking at this empty field; you can’t comprehend it. Flying in from London for the gig you could see all those people who were there to see us, I thought it was just too big. But it was amazing, what a feeling. It wasn’t like a festival because every last person was there to see us and we knew it.”
Long before Knebworth Oasis had become folk heroes. John Robb refers to them as a “working class band of the people” who had in many ways picked up where the Stone Roses had left off.
“The Roses were Robin Hood coming out the forest and disappearing again. With Oasis there was no mystique because they were a different type of band; it was like your mates storming the palace. It’s quite a difficult thing to be a folk hero but both bands tapped into the revolutionary spirit of cities like Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow, these cities were a kind of triangle, they were industrial cities who had been shat on by the Tories but it was more than a grudge thing. In Liverpool The Real People had taught Oasis how to be a band and about harmony, Glasgow was important because of McGee and their label mates Primal Scream who made one of the most influential records of the time.”
Some might say it was only rock ‘n’ roll but perhaps Noel Gallagher put it best when he said: “People like Coldplay, but they don’t love them. People like U2, but they don’t love them. But people f**king love Oasis. That’s the way it is. It’s more than the music.”
(What’s The Story) Moring Glory?: Chasing The Sun Edition is out now