No maybes this time round
6:00am Saturday 24th May 2014
6:00am Saturday 24th May 2014
Given how radically different British popular culture was 20 years ago, it's difficult to comprehend the impact Oasis had, unless you were around to experience it.
At their 1997 commercial peak, the Manchester five-piece released their third album Be Here Now, which sold an astonishing 696,000 copies in its first week of release. Factor in that the Rolls Royce-fronted album didn't appear on shop shelves until the Thursday of that week, not the traditional Monday, and it seems almost otherworldly. For comparison, the biggest-selling album in the UK during 2013, One Direction's Midnight Memories, sold 20,000 fewer copies than that all year.
The band's single releases made prime-time news bulletins and 2.5million people tried to get tickets for their two gigs at Knebworth (events which broke attendance records). Whether you loved them or despised everything they stood for, their influence was impossible to shake and still casts a shadow - no pun intended - over music and its related industries today.
They were the last really big band to come through prior to the dominance of the internet, too, making their success seem all the more old-fashioned. No Twitter campaigns or 'fan engagement' on Facebook for them, just blanket tabloid headlines, record sales and radio plays.
The band's original guitarist, Paul 'Bonehead' Arthurs, left the band in 1999 during the recording of their fourth album, seemingly burned out by their hedonistic success, in order to dedicate his time to his family. He doesn't regret the decision, he says, but does enjoy reminiscing about the old days.
"I wouldn't say I missed it," he says. "It's hard to explain. Leaving the band wasn't a decision I came to overnight, I thought about it for ages. I was Oasis and Oasis was me when I was in that band. It was everything to me, I lived and breathed it.
"It was still in me two years later. It took a few years to get back to being me. The old me. And I've never regretted it - I never, ever thought I'd done the wrong thing. The main thing is I experienced it. From the beginning through to the massive heights."
The beginning he talks of goes back to the early Nineties, a different line-up, empty gigs at Manchester's Boardwalk and the rest of it.
The beginning most people know about, however, came in 1994, with the debut album that really put Oasis on the map, Definitely Maybe.
It turns 20 this year, and to mark the occasion, it's been digitally remastered and repackaged ready for re-release.
Frontman Liam Gallagher might have questioned why it's happening, tweeting that it's impossible to remaster something that already sounds pretty good, but for fans, it's a big deal. And, considering Gallagher has an ongoing paternity case against him and recently got divorced, maybe he'll change his tune when the money comes rolling in...
Bonehead heard about the plan to reissue the album around Christmas time. Unsurprisingly, for someone known for his enthusiasm about the band's legacy, he was extremely excited at the news.
"As soon as the remastered tapes arrived at my house, I sat down and went through them," he says. "It was probably the first time in years that I'd listened to the album from start to finish, and it really brought tons of memories and feelings back."
As well as the remastered 11-track record, the deluxe 3-CD version of the album comes with assorted rarities, alternate demos, B-sides and live recordings.
Listening to the demos, some of them flat and lifeless, it's evident just how much of Oasis' all-important attitude was captured on the final version of the debut, which positively crackles and fizzes from the speakers, with Tony McCarroll's off-the-beat drumming perfectly underpinning Bonehead and Noel Gallagher's dense guitars and Liam's unmistakeable vocal. Oasis might have sounded more polished than this as they went on, but they never sounded better or more exciting.
"That was our feeling and sound," says Bonehead. "We really struggled at first, and I think we had the wrong producer and the wrong studio and the wrong approach to recording," he adds, referring to an abandoned attempt at recording the album at Monnow Valley Studio in Monmouthshire, with veteran producer Dave Batchelor.
"We were novices putting our trust in him, but it didn't work. We then went to Sawmills [Studio] with Mark Coyle, our front-of-house engineer, who really knew how we worked and got us as a live band. It sounded and felt like us and we got it right.
"There are millions of types of producers and a million different things they can do, but more important than anything, the producer has got to know the band," he continues. "And not so much know the songs but know the people - if the band are at ease, they're going to do well in the studio."
He finds it hard to pick a favourite song, despite being asked all the time, although opening track Rock 'N' Roll Star is one that has been sounding especially good lately, as it sums up the excitement and no small amount of swagger within the band at the time.
"Rock 'N' Roll Star sets it all out in front of us. It's why so many people identified with the band, because we looked like them, walked like them and, via Noel's lyrics, sounded like them.
"More broadly, my favourite's Slide Away," he says, referring to the album's magnificent penultimate song. "I really think it's the most passionate vocal Liam's ever done. He's done a load of great vocals, but that is the best. And it brings back an awful lot of good memories from recording."
Another thing that brought back memories was the recent exhibition, Chasing The Sun, which took place in April in London. It featured hundreds of items from Oasis' early days, including guitars, unseen photographs, not to mention a full-size replica of Bonehead's former front room, known to millions as the room the band are posing in on Definitely Maybe's cover.
He hopes the exhibition will be taken on tour around the country, so fans from all over will get the chance to see the artefacts and recreate that famous sleeve.
As for the rumoured reunion, sparked recently by Liam cryptically spelling the name of the band on his Twitter feed, Bonehead's not so sure.
"Him tweeting the name of the band is not a sign it's getting back together. But you're asking the wrong man. I don't know," he says. "I think everyone hopes it will happen, but there's nothing going on."
EXTRA TIME - SNIPPETS OF OASIS
:: Oasis were formed by Liam Gallagher before his brother Noel joined. They had previously been called The Rain.
:: Liam saw Swindon's Oasis Leisure Centre on a poster and liked the word, so took it.
:: Paul Arthurs got the nickname 'Bonehead' when he was young child, something to do with the very short back and sides haircut he used to have.
:: Arthurs is a qualified plasterer.
:: He bought a car number plate that read S1 SAO, which read OAS IS in car rear view mirrors.
:: The 20th anniversary remastered edition of Oasis' debut album Definitely Maybe is released on Monday, May 19. For more information, visit www.oasisinet.com
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