The launch of a brilliant exhibition at the BME this week set me thinking and that’s nearly always a dangerous thing. The great thought I had on this occasion was that although Oasis are always labelled a Manchester band the reality is that they are actually a group that is very much made in Liverpool.
I’ll get back to my theory (which is completely verified by facts/history and geographical bias) in a minute but the flimsy excuse for letting me write this stuff is an exhibition is called ‘Microdot: The ‘90s’ launching at the BME this week. It features the remarkable and very recognisable work of Brian Cannon, the man behind the Microdot design studio. Wigan lad Brian was the man who created the most recognisable cover art and posters of the period. Those he worked with include the likes of Oasis, fellow Wiganers The Verve (if Wiganers isn’t the correct word to describe people from Wigan then hard luck because I like it) Cast, Suede and many more. Anyone with any interest in Oasis, Brit Pop, or even the link between design and music should make sure they catch the exhibition.
This unique exhibition features original examples of this stunning work, posters, album covers and actual artefacts that featured on some of these legendary album and single sleeves. ( As an aside look out for Brian’s Dad who appears in many of his covers including the one where he is pushing a wheelbarrow that he had actually made himself. ( It’s the cover of Some Might Say I think)
What makes this even more special is the fact that for the first time Brian’s collection is going to be accompanied by some Oasis memorabilia from the world’s most renowned Oasis collector Brian Garcia. I’ve met Brian before and he is a lovely Texan lad who somehow became obsessed with Oasis and is generous with his time and with his collection. Brian has provided some amazing Oasis artefacts for this special exhibition including a guitar played by Noel and outfits worn by the band. . (Incidentally BME already has some lovely Oasis objects on display including Noel’s famous Union Jack guitar which for many visitors of a certain age is one of if not the standout item in the whole exhibition. The guitar is on display at the BME courtesy of the generosity of Noel himself for which the BME are very grateful).
But back to my strange but true theory of Oasis actually being a Liverpool band. I’ve worked in pop music academia before and I reckon I can get a book and several international conference appearances out of this so I’m going to take this as far as I can so you will just have to bear with me. I know technically the Gallagher’s were born in Manchester and all that mundane stuff but the reality is that deep in their hearts they love Liverpool and I’m sure they’d dearly love to be scousers. I’m not just saying this to be provocative (although of course that’s always fun) but because I believe that a short examination of the facts shows that it’s true.
Let’s start with the obvious: there’s the clear obsession with The Beatles. Even the new Richard Curtis film Yesterday has a little joke at Oasis’ expense. The premise of the film is that the main character wakes up one day to find out that The Beatles have been wiped from the world’s collective memory. Then when he goes on to google Oasis he finds there’s no sign of them either because obviously without The Beatles there’d be no Oasis. Alright it’s a cheap shot but still kind of funny.
But what can’t be denied is that Oasis do have a history that is closely entwined with Liverpool.
I first met Noel, Liam and the original Oasis line up when I was DJing at Le Bateau, one of my all time favourite clubs. Local legend Digsy had a band called Small at the time and they were playing that night. Digsy turned up with his cousins Chris and Tony from The Real People. I knew The Realies (fellow Bootle boys) well and so when Chris asked me if these Manc lads who were hanging out with them could do a short set using Small’s gear I said yes. I didn’t actually have the authority to sanction this and I annoyed a few people because it meant extra work. But I was so glad I’d agreed. On a tiny makeshift stage with borrowed gear they delivered a storming 20 minute set that I remember featuring early versions of the likes of Rock and Roll Star. That was the first time I got to meet Noel and Liam. Liam was hilarious and clearly already thought he was a star.
That was their first Liverpool gig but the connection with the city was already made. It went back to when Noel was a roady for the Inspiral Carpets on a tour with The Real People providing the support. Friendships were forged and when Noel joined what was initially Liam’s band then calls were made and The Real People offered the use of their recording gear based in their rehearsal room on the Dock Road. Tony and Chris loved what Oasis were doing and wanted to help out.
Obviously Digsy doesn’t disappear from this story here either. Noel and Liam continued to sing the praises of both Digsy’s band Smaller and the Real People as their own career took off offering them support slots at prestigious gigs and famously featuring a song entitled Digsy’s Dinner on their first album.
Anyway a month or two after I’d seen Oasis make their Liverpool debut they were back to do their own show at Le Bateau. Shortly afterwards they were famously spotted and signed by Alan McGee and the next time I saw them was supporting The Real People at the Krazy House. A friend of mine who was doing some work with The Real People at the time asked me to stage manage the gig. I know nothing of any practical value around staging gigs so I must have looked taken aback that someone was entrusting me with such an important job. But then he explained that basically I just needed to get the three bands playing that night on and off stage on time. I was pretty sure that even a man of my limited abilities could probably manage that so I agreed. My first job on the night was to go and tell Oasis to go on at the hideously early time of 930. I’d met the band a few times by that stage so they were dead friendly which was just as well because I’m sure my request to get on stage at 930 was a very timid one rather than the firm order it should have been. ‘Alright Kev’ was Noel’s response and as good as gold they were on stage just before the assigned time and played a blistering set. This was Oasis at their very best: a band who knew they were coming in to their own. (As an aside the next band on were local lads Rain. I’d know them for years and I was good friends with a couple of them but they obviously had a strict non-compliance with Stage Managers policy or maybe it was just because they knew I was soft. Either way they wouldn’t go on when I wanted them to, played well over the allotted time slot because they had two songwriters in the band and they both wanted to play loads of their own songs. I finally had to threaten to pull the plug to get them off stage). Somewhat surprisingly I’ve never been asked to stage manage again.
The same lad who stupidly asked me to stage manage that gig knew I really liked Oasis and gave me a copy of the demo’s they’d recorded in the Real People’s rehearsal room. It is still an astonishing listen with raw energy and great tunes blasting out of the speakers. The desk that these tracks were recorded on is now owned by Brian Garcia and will be on display as part of the exhibition at the BME along with a spool of tape from one of the actual demo tapes.
The next time I had a real interaction with Oasis was just after they’d announced themselves to the world with a stunning debut TV performance of Supersonic on Channel 4’s The Word. That was broadcast on the Friday night and I met them on the Monday to do an interview for a magazine in the studio in London where they were doing the final mixes on the album. This interview gave them what I believe was their first ever magazine cover and it was for a Liverpool publication. I had a ball with them that afternoon. Noel really looked after me constantly making me cups of tea, getting the record company to pay for my taxi back to the station, having a go at his brother, and generally giving a really good interview. Liam was … well, just Liam really. Hilarious, quite loud but very sweet. Their Mum called while I was there and from what I remember it was to check that they had clean clothes with them.
I saw Liam just after the interview was published and he punched me in the arm and said he’d really liked it. I think he meant it!
The next time I saw them live was as they were really beginning to take off and Creation put them on a tour of small venues which all quickly sold out. I saw them in April 1994 at the Lomax on Cumberland Street. There was a real buzz about them by this stage so everyone connected with the music scene in the city was there to see them and they didn’t disappoint. A small but interesting footnote to this is that the tyres of the Oasis tour bus were let down after this Lomax gig. For legal reasons I can’t say who was responsible but I’d say those loveable scamps The Farm weren’t too far away from said tyres.(Or if you want to be accurate it was manager Kev Sampson, drummer Roy, and his mate Jay. I think I’m meant to say ‘allegedly’ here). This was the culmination of a short lived war of words between the two camps which apparently started because Oasis were big admirers of The Farm and their sartorial style but were a bit miffed when The Farm wouldn’t give them a support slot).
Everything was in place by this stage and the Oasis myth had really begun to grow. I only ever saw them live once more as far as I can remember on their next tour which was in much bigger venues and again sold out quickly. They played the Royal Court in December although I seem to remember the original gig was cancelled for reasons which I can’t remember now but the band already had a reputation for being pretty volatile. I remember being around for the soundcheck that day and Lee Mavers of The La’s turned up. I knew Noel was a big admirer of Lee, a songwriter who even by then had acquired almost mythical status. It is a long time ago and my memories are a bit fuzzy but I seem to remember Lee offering to get up and jam with the band. I was at the gig that night and that didn’t happen but Oasis got a rapturous reception from a hugely supportive audience of scousers.
And if you are looking for La’s connections then one time La’s drummer and General Good Lad, Chris Sharrock eventually joined Oasis before drumming for Liam in Beady Eye and then getting the full set by joining Noel’s High Flying Birds. Russ, Noel’s bass player in the band is another Scouser and ex Zuton and, as far as I’m aware, Noel’s guitar tech is still another Liverpool lad and LFC fan Mick Winder who worked with The La’s and others down the years. So I’d argue that Noel is making up for his not actually being from Liverpool by surrounding himself with people from the city.
He showed his support for another maverick Liverpool musical legend when he supported Mick Head by putting out the Shack album On the Corner of Miles and Gil on Noel’s Sour Mash label in 2006. Shack supported Oasis on a number of dates around this time too. The Coral’s last two albums (both absolutely brilliant) have been released on Ignition Records the label arm of the management company that managed Oasis and still manage Noel. So everywhere you look there’s a link back to Liverpool.
It seems like Noel always likes to come to Liverpool too. He plays here on most of his tours, comes to watch Man City when they play here and also pops unexpectedly too. I remember when at the height of Oasis fame he turned up at the Picket to see Smaller play. He was so famous by that time he had to spend most of his time hanging out with the band and their mates but as I recall a good time was had by all. And Noel was good enough to get the ale in too. I seem to recall a great interview he did with The Anfield Wrap too where his love of Liverpool came through.
The last time I spoke to him that I can remember he poked me in the side and said ‘Are you still around?’. I don’t know if that was a complement on my longevity or what? That was at the Bandwagon night at the Zanzibar. The Bandwagon was the scene that helped nurture The Coral, Zutons, Bandits and Howie Payne’s band The Stands but also saw early gigs by bands like The Libertines. Anyway Noel came along saw what it was like and came back the next month when he got up and did a few songs with Howie and his band in a packed to the rafters venue. (It was meant to be a secret but everybody knew he was going to be playing that night).
I could expand my theory more but I want to save some of the good stuff for the forthcoming book. In short ladies and gentlemen I think I’ve proved that Oasis are essentially a Liverpool band or at the very least wish they were one. My work here is done. I rest my case.