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Friday, September 18, 2009
My Year Zero For Music: 1994 - My Band: Oasis
What The Snobs Failed To Realise About Oasis"
Journalists often talk about key years in music; 1967 and the psychedelic 'Summer of Love' springs to mind, or 1977 and the dawn of bile-fuelled Punk.
However, my year zero for music was undoubtedly 1994 - and my band, my only band, was Oasis. Up until them, everything else had just been a hobby.
I enjoyed a unique introduction; as a one-time 13-year-old fan of video games, I had entered a competition in the now long-defunct 'Gamesmaster Magazine'. All you had to do was answer one question, they promised but, despite their attempts to tell you otherwise, the likelihood of success was inevitably low.
Yet, on offer was enough highly desirable computer kit to sink a battleship - in hindsight probably with the combined power of a modern toaster - and the thought of such bounty was more than enough to lure a greedy little git like me into dispatching a hopeful postcard to somewhere in England.
While I no doubt had my big eyes on a Sega Mega Drive or some other now entirely obsolete games console, in amongst the treasure trove were CDs by the hateful likes of East 17, Whigfield and Seal.
So it was that within a couple of weeks, a strange brown envelope arrived in the mail - but inside was a pristine copy of Oasis' peerless debut album, 'Definitely Maybe'.
It seems a little bit quaint now, but I remember thinking I would have preferred the cassette format as opposed to the fancy Dan compact disc; I only had a Walkman and, like many others, had yet to be convinced that CD was the way forward. Besides, I had a huge number of tapes - chewed or otherwise - and was naturally reluctant to part ways.
Cassettes were awful of course, and could easily run down your Duracell batteries in the process of simply trying to get from side one to side two, but you could record on them - and that made them a far more flexible option. Furthermore, CDs were still prohibitively expensive, often coming in at £15 to £20 a pop, and were still devoid of self-recording options.
Nevertheless, just as soon as I'd got my first CD player, 'Definitely Maybe' changed everything. To a kid previously interested in little more than football and Sonic the Hedgehog, Oasis were a visceral gateway to teenage licentiousness, to identity, to fashion, to girls.
Numerous critics predictably knocked their complete lack of pretension, the know-it-alls delighting in pointing out that many of their songs brazenly incorporated the melodies of others, that they were too in thrall to rock history, but to me Oasis represented vast possibility.
What the snobs failed to understand was that to wide-eyed kids looking for a soundtrack to oblivion and a curt dismissal of middle-of-the-road, big-haired 80s hell, they represented a refreshing tearing up of the manual, a cocky, patricidal act tantamount to ripping Elton John's wig off and pushing him off a roof.
Refreshingly, Noel Gallagher also had few qualms in name-checking influences - and song donors - as wide as Burt Bacharach, Crowded House, Abba and the New Seekers.
I and countless others didn't care where it came from; all we knew was that it now belonged to us, it was utterly intoxicating and exactly what we'd been waiting for.
My experiences of seeing them live proved just as casually volatile and occasionally as violent as the Gallaghers' own relationship. To my huge disappointment, I missed their arguable zenith in 1996 when phonelines were jammed for literally hours as everyone and their gran attempted to see the band at a perilously besieged Loch Lomond.
Eventually, my patience was rewarded and I got to properly see them at Glasgow's SECC in late '97. I was spotty, 16 and hugely excited - only to be let down, pale and scared when a vodka bottle thrown onstage saw the band walk off after just eight songs, resulting in thousands of so-called fans threatening to burn the place to the ground in retribution. It was hardly rock 'n' roll, but I'd also taken a funny turn about six songs in and lost my mate in the confusion, so was secretly a little glad that it had wrapped up so soon.
That same year, I remember dashing to a small record shop in Stanlane Place for a special 8am opening just to be amongst the first to get hold of a CD copy of 'Be Here Now' - the vastly overblown yet ultimately ridiculous third album.
Then, in 2001 as the downloading of music from the internet and recordable CDs became commonplace - an exciting development that meant I took some 200 self-recorded compilations on holiday - myself and a pal made the mistake of sleeping overnight at the SECC in an attempt to get gold dust tickets for a relatively tiny Oasis gig at the Barrowlands.
Sadly, various Buckfast-addled gorillas had become embroiled in a knuckle-dragging feud which raged long into the morning, and was even exacerbated after everyone had been told that a whole legion of early bird fans had been invited to sleep inside the venue the night before; they had already snapped up every last brief. After seeing several teeth knocked out and a passer-by taking a huge blow to the head from the thicker end of a Buckfast bottle, we headed for home, empty-handed and semi-traumatised.
In the intervening years, the gigs became more pedestrian in inverse proportion to the quality of the music, to the point that I saw them another seven times without major incident, the most sedate of which was a Noel Gallagher solo appearance at the Royal Albert Hall where almost every song originated from the band's mid-90s heyday.
However, seeing Oasis at Murrayfield this summer proved something of a watershed moment; beer queues took an hour, open drug use was rife, as were the neds, while 'seeing' the band largely involved squinting to see five ants on stage, but mostly just watching the action on big screens from afar, at the fringes of a segregated pit area for the better heeled. Noel Gallagher also looked suspiciously like he was going through the motions.
Then, three weeks ago, with predictable shock initially meeting the band's split, more deafening was the shrug of collective indifference.
These days, my entire music collection is contained on a cigarette pack-sized iPod filled with mp3s, mp4s, and more, but Oasis' finest moments in whole new formats are still very much a part of my listening, even if I get less and less time to actually listen.
More than that, their all-pervading influence may have faded, but they taught me so much. As a result of Noel Gallagher's songs, I picked up a guitar and alone in my bedroom single-handedly learnt to bash out pretty much any song around.
Those rudimentary noodlings even got me onto the stage at King Tut's in Glasgow - the venue where Oasis were first signed - and lent me enough street cred to blag my way into a week at the offices of the NME.
Furthermore, thanks to Oasis, I gained an unrivalled musical scholarship, on their recommendation quickly ploughing my way through the entire Beatles' back catalogue, then a dizzying array of Dylan, Zeppelin, The Who, the Stones, The Jam, Hendrix, The Stone Roses, The La's, T-Rex, U2, The Clash, The Kinks, and more.
Now, I plough my way with even greater speed through mp3 blogs, using sites such as Hype Machine to sample Florence and the Machine, or Largehearted Boy to try out Badly Drawn Boy.
But Oasis were the original revolution from my bedroom, and damn I'll miss them.
Via L4e / Source: www.largsandmillportnews.com
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