Today's Top Stories
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Where were you when we were getting high?
Ten years ago this week 250,000 Oasis fans were at Knebworth for the band's record-breaking concerts.
In the region of three million people applied for tickets for what was the biggest rock event in this country.
Robbie Williams has since played three nights at the stately home, but Oasis' now legendary Knebworth dates were the highpoint of Britpop and a landmark moment in musical history.
Sports editor Alan Davies and photographer Louisa Emery were among the fans that witnessed the Gallagher brothers, Liam and Noel, rock Knebworth back in August 1996.
Bitterly disappointed to have never seen the Manic Street Preachers as a four piece prior to trading trashy glam chique for their dads' shirts, I was rewarded with a spine-tingling set at Knebworth.
A heartfelt performance from the Charlatans, playing for the first time since the death of keyboard player Rob Collins, had the crowd united in support.
And Dreadzone playing to a not wholly receptive audience put their own unique spin on proceedings.
By the time Oasis took to the stage I had snaked my way out of the crowd and the prospect of battling back in did not appeal.
Fortunately a friendly stranger with height on his side offered me his shoulders and I was able to enjoy a bird's eye view of the band.
This was not Oasis at their charismatic best but that did not matter. Being joined by thousands singing along to Whatever in a field in Hertfordshire was an experience never to forget.
THERE was only one place to be on the weekend of August 10-11, 1996 and that was in the middle of a park in Knebworth.
The sights and sounds of Oasis' historic gigs at the stately home 10 years ago will live forever in my mind.
Being confronted by a swaggering Liam Gallagher in the VIP area, having Patsy Kensit save my skin and later chatting backstage with Keith from Prodigy were the abiding memories of the first day.
Day two was a three-hour wait at the beer tent, similar tailbacks for the toilets, thousands of people quite literally mad for it and an obscured view of the stage from what seemed like the next county.
I was lucky enough to witness both Oasis dates at Knebworth, on the Saturday with a press pass for the hospitality area literally yards from the group and on the Sunday amongst the massed ranks stretching back into the distance.
Some might say that the Gallagher brothers' two-night residency at Lord Cobbold's stately pile was the pinnacle of the Britpop era. Oasis certainly haven't scaled those heights since.
The figures speak for themselves. A quarter of a million people paying £22.50 a head to watch the biggest band in the world and a stellar supporting cast, including Manic Street Preachers, Prodigy, The Chemical Brothers, The Charlatans and The Beatles (of the Bootleg variety).
It wasn't until the second day that the sheer enormity of 125,000 people being crammed into a Hertfordshire field like a herd of cows struck home.
Being privileged enough to mix with the celebs on the Saturday made the following afternoon's record-breaking concert a massive culture shock.
Take nothing away from Oasis. They were good - not the best I've seen them but most definitely not the worst either.
But for the music-loving punter Knebworth was also a bit of a rip-off. Fans couldn't take their own drinks in, yet there was a never-ending queue for refreshments at inflated prices.
The majority of ticket holders had to watch Oasis on video screens miles from the stage, with the band members themselves mere matchstick men on the horizon.
It was almost impossible to get out afterwards with Stevenage train station unable to cope with the numbers trying to get home.
But you gotta roll with it, haven't you? To hear classic anthems such as Wonderwall, Don't Look Back In Anger and Champagne Supernova at the defining musical moment of my generation was worth the money and hassle.
IF I was still toasting teacakes in the garden centre café, I would probably be collecting my P45 about now as I admit I pulled a sickie so I could go and see Oasis at Knebworth.
But when again were the kids of Herts going to have a seminal show like this on their doorstep?
Within half an hour of arriving at the park I had previously only associated with a giant wooden fort, I was sandwiched between a barrier and more people than I had ever previously seen in one place.
And there I remained for the next eight hours.
For me it was less about Oasis and more a chance to see so many of the most significant bands of the time, together in one place.
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