Friday, July 10, 2009

Don't look back in anger

What do you think of Oasis? I like 'em. I really like 'em. Oh go on then, I love 'em. There- I said it!

I was once offered some advice from someone who will remain nameless (as it happens they were the singer that I was gigging with that evening- I could name him but the chances are that you've never heard of him so there's not much point; on the other hand it's interesting to note that you're unlikely to have heard of him as we shall see...) but who, upon hearing them coming out of the van's stereo system (we were on our way to our gig at the time) and me saying something innocent like 'I really like this song' launched into a vicious tirade against the band. When he paused for breath I jumped in with 'oh I think they're great' and before he could counter (and I must admit, sensing something of a weakness on his part) I added 'and I think Liam's the best singer to come out of Britain in the last 20 years'. 'WHAAAT?' he roared. The atmosphere of our conversation changed somewhat as he searched for his next putdown. 'HOW CAN YOU SAY THAT... TO ME?!?' he screamed (clearly he has a high opinion of his abilities!) before advising me that I should be 'really careful' who I say 'things like that' to as I could find myself 'in trouble' with certain sections of the community. I think I pointed out that something mad like 10% of the population of Great Britain had applied for tickets to see them at their Knebworth concerts so there were actually quite a few people likely to agree with me or at least sympathise with my point of view, but he was having none of it. What I'd assumed was a bit of on-the-way-to-a-gig banter turned darker; as ranted and raved he got nastier and nastier, more and more bitter about what is after all only a pop group who no one is actually forced to listen to.
It was around this point that two things happened:-

(1) we crossed (and I mean 'crossed', as opposed to 'went around') a mini-roundabout; from where I was sitting it looked as though the speedometer was reading over 100 miles per hour. I looked again. It was.

(2) I decided to change the subject, since he was driving.

As things calmed down he decided that I needed 'educating' and that it was time to put on some 'real music'- The Eagles, Dire Straits, that sort of thing. Yeah, right... he's younger than me, but at that moment he sounded older than time itself.

Like most people my initial exposure to Oasis occurred when their first single 'Supersonic' came out; I remember seeing a picture of them and thinking 'at last a band that's wearing decent clothes'. This surprised me as I've never thought of myself as a particularly fashion-conscious person- then again I'd spent most of the 1980's thinking that everyone looked terrible, especially in the padded-shoulders-and-perm times... in the article that accompanied said photograph the guitarist said that his favourite bands were The Beatles, The Who and The Sex Pistols- they're my favourite bands too- and that they, Oasis, were the best band in the world. The first time I played 'Definitely Maybe' I remember thinking that it had been ages since I'd heard guitars that sounded that good, and that were so loud in the mix, and that it had been at least as long since I'd heard a voice as good as that. But even then people hated them, calling them 'rip-off merchants', 'posers', 'yobbos'- all could be considered valid criticisms but that doesn't take into account the overall effect of the music and the people making it which was (and still is if you play the album today) devastating. When the all-conquering '(What's the story) Morning Glory?' emerged in 1995 people who'd previously called them all the names under the sun suddenly said that they'd liked them all along, and that Noel was a good songwriter after all, and that Liam really was a great singer- I remember a similar thing happening nearly 20 years earlier when punk rock went from being something to be laughed at to the best thing ever almost overnight.
In the intervening years they've gone from bad to good, good to great, great to phenomenal and back again via all points inbetween, with the Gallagher brothers alternating between being the world's greatest living comedians and almost wilful self parody. Yes they can be pretty unpleasant at times- there are enough well-documented incidents so I won't bother recounting them here- but if you caught John Lennon on the wrong day so could he... for what my opinion's worth their last 2 albums have contained some of the most enjoyable pop music of the current decade, and if the show I saw at Wembley last night is anything to go by there's plenty more to come. Opening with 5 hit singles in a row (really! They finished with 4 in a row too...) they seemed in no mood for trivialities, with 'Cigarettes and Alcohol' being particularly fiery. It's been a long time since I was at a gig where the audience sang louder than the band- thinking about it, that would have been an Oasis gig too- but they did here, a testament to the anthemic nature of the songs. And for all the media hype and circus that inevitably surrounds the band in the end it's the songs that matter, and they're great- will any of us reading this ever write as good a song as 'The Masterplan'? Or 'I'm Outta Time'? Or 'Slide Away'? (Incidentally the singer in the above story isn't a songwriter- co-incidence?) But 'Wonderwall' provided the evening with it's most surreal moment- as the first chorus started the music stopped, the crowd took over and sang louder than the band had been playing but when the chorus ended nothing happened; the band were playing inaudibly as the P.A. system had malfunctioned although their monitors were clearly still working, it came back on, went off again- when it all finally seemed to be working again Noel quipped 'no one's getting their money back' 'though I couldn't see anyone complaining. (Oddly enough I saw the same thing happen to AC/DC when they were supporting The Who almost exactly 30 years ago at the same venue; the moral of the tale is simple- don't go with me to a gig at Wembley Stadium if you want to see a show where all the gear works!) The final encore of 'I Am The Walrus' bought it all back home again, from Manchester to The Mersey and beyond. Brilliant.

But nothing's changed. I mentioned to someone yesterday that I was going to see Oasis and he commented that he 'wouldn't give two bob for them' before launching into the inevitable bile and vitriol, albeit tempered with a begrudging respect for one or two of their songs. Interestingly enough he's a non-songwriting singer too. Another co-incidence? Definitely maybe, I'd have thought...

Click here for a clip of 'Wonderwall' from the gig- it's rough quality but you get the idea of the kind of confusion that occured...


Plunger said...

Good Review GH - shame could'nt make it but will defo catch them next time around - BIG

Unknown said...

As you guessed from the text I was gutted I couldn't go mate, thanks for the offer though sounds fuckin great. Depped with a band last night with most of the band from the sea horses and the bass player did 10 months with the happy mondays, he told me some great stories I'll tell you about nxt wk. when we actually have a gig together!!

Cheers man