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Music Capital

Part 5

In 1997 I took a very intelligent and wealthy thirty-something Japanese lady on a personal tour of Manchester. Her money came from her own job in the financial sector in Tokyo. She had come over to Manchester in homage to Oasis and had hired me and a taxi to show her round the landmarks associated with the group. As we came to the group's home suburb of Burnage, she sighed and looked about her. " Ah," she said, " I think this one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen in the world." The taxi driver nearly swerved in to tree. I didn't know what to say. If, reader, you are not from Manchester then take a rather dull suburb with a reputation for, well, nothing, in your city or town and that's Burnage. OK, on that particular May day the sun was shining, the cherries were in blossom, the houses looked neat and the gardens immaculate but still the view was hardly that across the bay of Naples. It is the power of a band like Oasis that they can draw individuals thousands of miles across the globe and put a mist over their eyes.

Oasis The group began life when Paul McQuigan, Paul Arthurs and Tony McCarroll, respectively bass, guitar and drums, had decided to group together and form a band which took many names including Rain. By August 1991 they had changed their name to Oasis, drafted in the stroppy, strutting Liam Gallagher as singer, and got a gig at Manchester's academy of new bands, The Boardwalk. They played poorly in front of a small crowd of unimpressed people. In the audience was Noel Gallagher, Liam's older brother and the recently returned redundant roadie of the Inspiral Carpets. Noel, shocked to see his brother on stage, as it were, before him, approached the band shortly after and offered to make them all successful if they did it his way and played his songs. This they agreed to do after hearing Live Forever.

They then started to tour and began making a name for themselves as much by their Spinal Tap rock and roll attitude to gigging and touring as for their music. The group's ability to brawl and drink and offer middle England unpalatable anecdotes concerning drug taking proved invaluable in giving them a profile. This has always been a characteristic of the group. Noel Gallagher frequently playing the press at least as well as he plays guitar. The classic case would be later in the the group's career when the single Do you know what I mean? would fly straight to number 1 the day after Noel had appeared on the front page of many 'papers repeating Lennon's "we're bigger than Christ" statement.

Definitely Maybe In May 1993 Alan McGhee of Creation Records saw the group live at King Tut's Wah Wah Club in Glasgow and signed them up shortly after. In September 1994 Definitely Maybe entered the album charts at number 1. Linked with the wimpish Britrock of the time Oasis appeared as far more rugged and real. Several of the singles off the album had chart success and the group started to grow internationally. The group had their first number one single with Some Might Say in May 1995. By October the critically acclaimed album What's The Story, Morning Glory? was at number 1. It was the fastest selling British album of all time. This superb collection of crowd pleasers - Wonderwall, She's Electric - and hard edged scorching, rabble rousers - such as the title track - firmly established the reputation of the band. With Noel Gallagher an obvious admirer of and borrower from the Beatles, the group also revived interest and sales in that group amongst a new generation. The concerts got bigger and bigger with the record sales - on one occasion Oasis headlined Knebworth playing in front of 120,000 dedicated followers.

But what was the appeal? First and foremost the songs were excellent and exciting. But the band were also boys from the council house next door. They were recognisable in all their flawed glory to tens of thousands up and down the country. Get your mates together for a laugh, drink some beer, talk about football, come up with some cracking songs and make a million. Easy.

Oasis A further quality to the music was its rare ability to unite the generations. Young children and grannies sang along to Wonderwall and Don't look back in anger, as much as twenty and thirty year olds. This widespread appeal was of course just the sort of thing to condemn the band in the eyes of goatee bearded pop music commentators as somehow showing the band as less than serious. All those sales and all that worldwide adulation was considered vulgar. They missed the point. Again during 1997 I took a tour of German High School pupils around Manchester as part of a music tour. At the end of the tour I gave them a sheet of paper containing the words of different Mancunian songs. The group chose Wonderwall to sing and sang it straight through, off by heart, without once glancing at the words.

The third album Be Here Now was a big disappointment. Over-produced, formulaic and literally too noisy; it seemed as though it had been written without much care or thought. Only live did the tracks have any life to them. Despite this it eclipsed What's the Story in terms of quick sales selling 621,000 copies in its first four days of release.

It is with great expectation that the huge Oasis fanbase awaits the fourth album later this year. Meanwhile the group still makes all the newspapers. In August 1999 it was the departure of the two final original members McGuigan and Arthurs, leaving only the Gallagher brothers, that sprinkled gallons of ink and hours of airtime across the media. What is certain is that we haven't heard the last of Oasis.

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