How this all started…
We’ve all got an Oasis memory in there somewhere: mine was standing outside Noel Gallagher’s house – Supernova Heights – in the rain at 10am on 31st July 1997, wondering if he was in and whether I would meet him. It was the day after he’d been to Downing Street with Alan McGee; I was 14 years old, and I had never met anyone famous before. The papers were dominated with the Tony Blair story, but there was a remarkably small amount of paparazzi around Noel’s house. Be Here Now was three weeks off being released and there were flyers and posters plastered everywhere in London – on every lamppost, bin, and spare wall – instructing the public to ‘Be There Then’ when it happened. ‘D’You Know What I Mean’ had been and gone from number One, Noel’s cat had reportedly gone missing and tickets to Oasis’ shows at Earls’ Court with The Verve as support had sold out in minutes. I was one of those fans who had spent hours pressing ‘redial’ on the home telephone (I still didn’t own a mobile) upset that I couldn’t get through.
I was amazed at the level of humility present in Noel’s lifestyle considering the hype around Oasis at this time. His house was separated from the main street only by a tiny little waist-height gate that even my 5ft 0 height could have easily climbed over had I felt inclined to. And it wasn’t exactly a difficult place for a fan like me to find. When you walked out of Belsize Park or Chalk Farm station, you’d spot graffiti directing you straight there: “This way to Noel’s house” an arrow pointed at the foot of Steele’s Road, like it was a national tourist landmark. At the time it practically was! I just wondered if he didn’t feel vulnerable in this situation. If you looked to the left, you could see straight into his front room. Judging by the graffiti on his front wall, mimicking the graffiti on Abbey Road, it was clear that people were coming here every day, doing exactly what I was, as if on a pilgrimage. “It’s rude to write on God’s property, so this is the best I can do” I saw written on the pavement by the little gate. Everyone who wrote on that wall must have had a story about what circumstances brought them there that day; imagine what kinds of magical stories they would be if we all knew what those were.
I had a story of my own which had led me there. A few months earlier, I had turned up to school, stressed out, to discover a giant plastic silver cigarette packet on my desk. “Rock n roll can seriously damage your health,” it said on the front, with a note on top of it from a friend: “Katy, listen to this. It will change your life. Live Forever.” We’d both been fans for two years now and we were always writing each other notes like that. She was right. I had all their albums but this was the first time I’d heard any of the B-Sides. There is something about those early Oasis songs that always overwhelmed me. Whenever my radio alarm went off in the mornings, nothing would get me out of bed quicker than a chord of an Oasis song. No matter how deep in sleep I was, it would infiltrate my dreams instantly and prize my eyes open like it was a person shaking me out of slumber, calling me to wake up and live. I always used to joke to my family and friends that if I was ever in a coma, all you’d need do is play Oasis down my ear for immediate effect. I remember the first time my older brother walked into my room with a tape of (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?; I wanted him to get out of my room, but he persisted and put it in the tape deck, and before I could say “get out of my room” to him one more time, those opening chords and the tweeting birds at the beginning of ‘Hello’ called out to me – by the time the bleep went and ‘Hello’ went into full swing I was hooked, and when my brother took the tape away, I felt addicted; I couldn’t focus properly until I had a chance to listen to those songs again. I bought him the CD album for Christmas, only I’d be sneaking into his room to take it and listen to it every day, until he gave it to me. It would make me cry and smile at the same time, I couldn’t concentrate on much else. You could liken the feeling to falling in love. Once I heard Definitely Maybe this love grew stronger, but I still hadn’t heard any of the B-sides until this day with the note on my desk and ‘Listen Up’ is the song that really got me; I felt paralysed by the emotion in Liam’s voice and I couldn’t express it in any way other than to open my window that instant and yelp out in happiness. I always felt that Oasis had this knack of making people do strange things on impulse. I decided right there and then, that I needed to meet the man who wrote this song; I needed to let him be aware I actually exist. All Oasis had been to me at that point were faces in TV screens, voices on the radio, pictures in NME; I realised that I was living in London in the thick of Oasis mania, and I was young. It was happening now, and I needed to be part of it.
When I went to school the next day, I told my other Oasis-obsessed friends about it. They were on the same wavelength. We got out some pens and paper. We drew a hillside with five stick men on top of the hill, and named them: Liam. Noel. Bonehead. Guigs. Alan White. At the bottom of the hill, we drew some stick women: us. Between us and the hill, we drew an arrow, and wrote: “Oasis, this way.”
A few months later, and there we were in that rain staring up in awe at Noel Gallagher’s front door. Every few minutes, the door would open, I’d draw a deep breath, then relax as someone who wasn’t Noel would appear from the threshold. “Noel’s just having his breakfast, he’ll be out in a minute” a man chuckled as he hopped down the front steps. The thought of Noel eating breakfast fascinated me. I pondered on the image for a while until the suspense of waiting was killing me.
“That’s it, I’m ringing the doorbell” my friend announced moving towards the intercom.
“You can’t do that!” I had said panicking as I watched her finger hit the buzzer. “Bzzzzzzzzz”.
“Ullo?” a male voice announced on the other end.
“Noel!?” we both said jumping back, completely startled.
“Yeah” came the reply.
“Uhhhhh… are you going to come outside?” We both cringed at the audacity of what she just said.
“Yeah alright then. I won’t be a minute.”
We couldn’t believe it. A few moments later, the door opened again, I looked up, and there he was, one Mr Noel Gallagher, in a done up duffle coat staring down towards a gathering of people outside his front gate. “What you standing in the rain for?” he said looking right at me, “Are you mad?” before trotting down the steps in really slow motion. I couldn’t move. In seconds, pens and notepads came out, passing fans jumping up and down desperate to get Noel to sign them. I stood and waited pressed up against the front gate, patiently holding out my Oasis post card I’d bought that day until he took it out of my hands to sign. Half way through signing it, his pen ran out and he handed the partially-signed card back to me with a look of sympathy on his face, but I didn’t care, for all I could think about was that I had a half Noel signature! I was just so happy in the knowledge that he had just given me a fleeting look with those piercing blue eyes. He disappeared round the side of the house and returned with some bin bags and empty milk bottles. Photographers took pictures of Noel standing by a new Mini Cooper parked in his driveway. It was a present for his wife, he said. He cracked a few jokes and before we knew it, started walking away. “Alright, I’m off” he declared, and went off alone up the residential street.
I remember watching as he strolled into the distance, no bodyguard in tow, thinking that I would now return home a happy girl, and re-enact in detail every second of what had just happened to my family and friends who knew my fascination with Oasis all to well. Only, my friend started walking after him. “What are you doing?” I whispered, as she was approaching him. “Noel, I think you are so great!” she squealed jumping, beckoning me to follow; he turned and grinned at her with that smile he does when he’s pleased with himself and his eyes scrunch up and disappear. “Me too, I think you’re brilliant!” I called out as I caught up with her; he turned his head round confused as to who this little person was skipping up to him. Not knowing what to say after that, we continued walking either side of Noel in total silence, ignorant of where we were actually going or why we were following him. It seemed that other fans had caught on; one by one, they too ran up behind Noel in silence.
As the numbers surrounding Noel increased, a crowd started to form, spreading into the road; unsuspecting passers would stop in their tracks to comprehend this little brouhaha, before joining in behind for reasons they couldn’t explain. In minutes, there was a long, ever-increasing trail of us following Noel through side streets, across roads, over bridges, like he was the real pied piper. “It’s Nooooooooel! It’s Nooooooel!” people were shouting out, until it was totally manic around him. He was completely unfazed. He soldiered on saying nothing, until we arrived over a bridge and saw a man approaching, waving to Noel. “Manniiiii!” Noel called out to him, giving him a man hug. It was Mani from Primal Scream/Stone Roses. The two of them disappeared indoors and the crowd stepped back en masse. “You can’t come in here” Noel joked as we stopped dead by the entrance. Five minutes later, Alan McGee walked by. It dawned on me that we had been following Noel all this time to the Creation Records offices. What a day this had turned into. I’d only come to Noel’s house out of curiosity, and now this. My friend and I stood outside that office for two hours, watching, waiting, not knowing why or how long we’d be out there for. I remember taking out a piece of paper and writing on it everything I was feeling at that moment. And then Noel walked out and hailed a taxi. As he approached the car door, I passed him my note. “Cheers” he said, and folded the piece of paper up and put it in his duffle coat pocket. I wonder if he ever read it. I don’t remember much of what it said. “Noel, here you are” my friend announced, passing him a little plastic bag. “What’s this?” Noel said quizzically. “Sweets. For you” she said. “Oh nice one!” he said, “I’ll save ‘em for later”. He shut the door, the taxi left, and he was gone. A passing moment for Noel, but for me, it was one of those pivotal moments that set my life in a different direction, as he went whizzing off in another to a destination of his own.
Just being there, at that time, in the eye of the hurricane, at that age, as a fan, outside that Creation Records office, when all news-reporting eyes were on Noel, waiting, and waiting for Noel to emerge, I genuinely felt like I was so, so lucky, to have literally – as the posters said – been there then. That album for me – despite what anyone says – hit upon something magical; it was the perfect name to a perfect feeling. And here I was staring back down at the half-Noel autograph on a tatty bit of paper before me like it was the key to the universe, as living proof that I had done something I had only dreamed about before. I felt I understood that day something about what life is about. It showed me about what can happen when you dare to do something other people wouldn’t do. I didn’t know my friend would leave those CDs with me that day; I didn’t know that ‘Listen Up’ would give me the impulse to decide I have to meet Noel; my friends and I drew that drawing, but we didn’t have to act on it. We chose to. My friend didn’t have to ring the doorbell, but she did; we didn’t have to follow Noel, but we did. Something was spurring us on. And that series of events changed the way I viewed life. For a 14-year-old, it was a powerful feeling to have, and that feeling never left me. I encased it, treasured it and nurtured it. But Noel wouldn’t have known that. Alan McGee wouldn’t have known that. They’d have been thinking about the night at Downing Street, or about the third Oasis album, or about their love lives, anything. I was a flitting part of their existence in amongst a whirlwind that they were all going through. But they were an integral part of mine.
I think back to the story of how Oasis got signed and how Alan McGee was in the right place at the right time; I think back to one of Oasis’ earliest interviews where Liam says it’s all down to chance, like falling down and breaking your leg that day, “Just one of them things.” And I realised, it’s true. They ingrained in me a philosophy, and we all know that I’m not the only one.
I first consciously became aware of Oasis when I was 12, in early 1995, and it was at 14, in 1997, that I met Noel. That’s a special age for getting into music I think. An impressionable period, when the exterior world enters your consciousness at a vulnerable time. I have friends who in their teens were inspired by bands like Nine Inch Nails, or Pulp or Nirvana, and describe the effects it had in their teenage years and the strange feelings it’s left with them. But we all know that Oasis were an altogether different band. Writing about life and fun and aspiring to greater things, they were always far more celebratory in attitude than most. Those years are really important in setting a template for how you conduct yourself in the future. If you are going through a bad time or feeling low when you are an adolescent, and the songs that you are listening to you are telling you to “wipe that tear away” and “make it happen”, it has a huge effect. By the time I heard ‘The Masterplan’, I was 13. To hear words like that at 13 changes your brain chemistry for life. Everything is magical, life ahead of you is exciting, opportunities abound. Maybe it would have happened anyway, but I felt that being a part of the music gave me some extra insight into what I can achieve in a way that my non-Oasis friends didn’t appear to have – and that feeling stuck with me throughout school, through university and through work. I’m not the most assertive of people, and it’s hard hearing people put you down or make quippy remarks that you can’t stand up to; but I still keep that quiet determination, knowing that you can’t change what’s around you, but you can “keep on keeping on”, as Liam often puts it.
Luckily for me, I was at the right age for my growing awareness of life to occur alongside the rise of Oasis. It was so exciting to be growing up then: everyday at school, people would be singing ‘Wonderwall’ or ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ or ‘Whatever’. Music lessons incorporated analysis of Oasis songs. We’d spend lunchtimes talking about what Liam had reportedly done the night before, even people who hated Oasis talked about them. We’d be drawing doodles of them, buying Kangol hats, learning about guitars, and gigs. Not only was I lured by the pleading melodies and inspiring lyrics of every Oasis song, each one always sounding better than the last, but I was taken in by their story, and discovering their past. Reading every interview, buying every book, watching every documentary, I wanted to know it all, past and present. As a dreamy person, I used to visualise what their life was like and imagine their journey to stardom, completely fascinated by their upbringing, and their culture. I knew nothing really of life at that age other than London and my own upbringing, but Oasis turned me on to wanting to know more about Manchester and Ireland, its history, its roots. And then there were all the bands they spoke about. The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, The Jam, The Beatles, The Stones… ok, my older brother had some influence in this too, but they made me want to know it all. It wasn’t just what Oasis where talking about either. “Creation Records” I kept on hearing. “Alan McGee” this and “Alan McGee” that. Who was this person? I thought. So I started learning about him and listening to Primal Scream. I would stay up late to hear them on radio shows, and that then made me become a regular listener to those shows. It was like Oasis set off a domino effect to all the different things I could learn about life that had nothing to do with school or the cocoon I grew up in. This world just opened up to me, and I completely fell in love with life. They really did make me feel alive, and that’s the one feeling I can say Oasis imprinted in me at that young age.
Now, my physiology literally changes to a contented state whenever I think of Oasis. It doesn’t matter what bad mood I’m in, when I put on an Oasis song, it changes. Every time. We know that sensory perception plays an important part in memory. When given a song or a smell or a sound, your mind is instantly transported back to the place you first saw or heard it. Well, when you consider Oasis are a band who obliterate the senses and hit the rawest of your emotions, it makes sense that whenever I think of Oasis or hear a song that takes me back to a memory, the association is always positive, because they triggered off a chain reaction of self worth and positivity inside me right from the very off, and they did it at a time when my biological make up and emotions were at their most receptive to experience.
But there’s a whole generation of fans just like me who were around that age at that time, who also felt the same way. I often wonder how we’ve carried that feeling with us in our lives today and how we use it in our day-to-day living. Stories of Oasis’ influence on people have been re-iterated and recycled many times over, but not necessarily from the people who were growing up back then. Many adult fans who were there at the time got to note the impact Oasis had on music and society – I know, I read most of it, and collected it all in a scrapbook. But these people also knew a world before Oasis. They had a mindset and a belief system already, that may or may not have been changed by Oasis. What about the people who were too young to have a voice at the time? Those between the age of about 10 and 16 when Oasis came along, who would have been at school, or just leaving school, not knowing their future yet? Where the music impacted so heavily upon us that it helped nurture our belief systems that have led to what we do now? It’s once in a lifetime that a band like that or a movement comes along and stampedes a society to the extent they did. I feel many people have forgotten about the magic that Oasis created; you only need now look at X Factor and the way people talk about bands to see that music is not really changing many people’s worlds right now. But the people who’s worlds were changed by Oasis, who encased that magical feeling inside them like I did that day I met Noel, are out there doing things, and maybe, just maybe the bubble hasn’t burst, and it will peep it’s head out again soon. For anyone to look at that period of time and suggest it wouldn’t have had profound ramifications on the psyche of the teenage generation who are now grown up would be foolish.
I read somewhere an article from author John Harris that when Oasis played Knebworth and Loch Lomond in the summer of 1996, the number of people applying for tickets that day comprised 1/20 of the UK’s population. That’s before many people have mobile phones or net access, when people had to actually pick up a home phone and dial a number and speak to someone to get tickets. That’s far from being insignificant. To be introduced to the world of music at a point when you’re watching Noel greet a crowd with “Good Evening Planet Earth” at Knebworth, and to not realise that that wasn’t normal doesn’t leave you easily. An event that big and albums as pervasive as Definitely Maybe and (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? can’t have just flitted in and out of our lives without consequence. When the fireworks went off and everyone went home that night, who said the fire stopped burning? Maybe it stopped burning for Oasis themselves, but how did they impact upon us, and do we carry that spirit with us to this day? Can we see a generation of people in their 20s and early 30s – the shakers of this world right now – who are positive, hopeful and full of that self-belief that Oasis promoted, and who might just show it to the world again in the future? Not just in the world music, but in every day activities? A hairdresser with a skip in her step, a father of two totally at ease, a teacher spurring on his pupils to pass. Mustn’t they be out there somewhere? Why did we become fans in the first place? What was going on in our minds at the time that allowed for Oasis to inspire us so much? Why are we still going on about them 17 years after they arrived on the scene, every bit as fanatical about them now, even now they’ve split, as we were the second we first heard them? Where exactly were we when Oasis were getting high?
People often tease me for my Oasis adoration, laughing at my belief that their music is special and when I say that I genuinely think Liam and Noel are beautiful people with a positive influence. There is an image of Oasis that gets to me; they have consistently been represented in the press as arrogant bullies who encourage loutish behaviour and stupidity. So much so, that when I went to see them at Wembley Stadium last summer, and before that at Milton Keynes in 2005, and again at Wembley Stadium back in 2000, I have this overriding memory of being hit at the back of the head with pints of warm piss and men around me chanting rubbish and being rude. It gets to me, because it’s an attitude that I’ve always felt has been spawned by the press and something that Oasis-haters like to leech onto when launching into an attack of why they hate the band. When justifying their derision, they smugly hark back to off-the-cuff quotes that Noel has said in passing about never having read a book, or about wishing Damon Albarn AIDS. Kele from Bloc Party complained that Oasis celebrate “Stupidity” and asked “What’s wrong with wanting to better yourself?” Nothing is wrong with wanting to better yourself – people are overlooking all the positive aspects of Oasis such as the beauty of the music, the golden nuggets of wisdom that Liam and Noel often come out with, the lyrics that move you and whims they inspire in you that turn out to have positive ramifications later in life. To me, they have left a long-standing residual feeling in the air that tells people to enjoy life and respect it in all its facets. Not to let bad times ruin you, but to dance in the rain. I’ve listened to a lot of interviews and there is a charm in both Noel and Liam that moves me. Whenever I’ve found myself taking an exam, or going in for a job interview, or getting down about whether I really am doing the right things by myself in life, very often, it is those simple moments that I recall, like the flicker of emotion at hearing Don’t Go Away. I don’t think about Sartre and theories of existentialism, despite studying these things. I think of Noel saying, “I love waking up in the mornings, because I don’t know where I’ll be at the end of the night”, and I think about where he’s come from and how despite it he can say that, and I think, “What is there to worry about?” So, for people to say that Oasis were a bad influence on the young, I think, is one of the biggest misunderstandings about Oasis that people could have. To my mind, Oasis were the angels on our shoulders.
And I believe it goes far beyond the UK and cultural attitudes of the time. I decided to find Oasis fans from different parts of the world for a change and to ask them how Oasis made a difference to their lives as they were growing up. And, let me tell you, they are everywhere: Japan, Brazil, Argentina, Michigan, Texas, Canada, Hong Kong, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Africa, even St Vincent and the Grenadines, every bit as much fans now as they were when they first heard Oasis in their early teens. Some of these people knew little of UK culture or its history or politics, but still, they were highly affected by Oasis. And why was that? Because more than anything, Oasis connected with people’s feelings. You only need to watch footage of Noel singing ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ in Buenos Aires last year to see that it mirrors the impact of Oasis in the UK. So what is it about Oasis that has attracted the attentions of people living so far removed from the Manchester culture that Oasis were born from that still keeps them so inspired, and so in love with this band?
When asked to sum up a feeling Oasis put in them in childhood that they still carry to this day, they replied with: “Optimism”, “Friends are the most important thing”, “Life is for living”, “As long as you believe what you are doing, that’s all that matters”, “Life has meaning”, “Believe in yourself and so will others”, “I want to live, I don’t want to die”, “Anything is possible if you want it enough”.
If people in different parts of the world are conducting their lives with those positive sentiments, imagine how that in turn could be affecting those they come across. We are all making magic, everyday. They are not talking about shouting people down, stealing, violence, drugs and alcohol. They are talking about being happy and positive and sharing that with others. It’s not just a working class thing, and it’s not just a cultural thing. The Brit Pop phenomenon may well have had a strong link to politics, but there was something extra with Oasis that seems to transcend even that. Several of these fans explained they didn’t even speak a word of English at the time they became Oasis fans; they didn’t need to, because they could just tell from the way that Liam was singing that it meant something. Rizul, from Indonesia, feels like Oasis are a religion to him. This is coming from a guy from a primarily Buddhist and Muslim country, who has never been to the UK in his life, who speaks only just a little broken English and couldn’t be more different to the Gallaghers; but still, they moved him as a teenager, because, Oasis spoke a universal language that came across through the simplicity.
But what I find really fascinating is the way that Oasis sparked off decisions in people. In the same way ‘Listen Up’ inspired me on a whim to meet Noel, elsewhere around the same time, they were inspiring other people too. Oasis encouraged people to do things they always wanted to do; it’s like they unlocked all the doors, or at least, gave everyone a key to things that were in their reach if they only looked for it. If Oasis inspired and confirmed these thoughts in people, then aren’t they worth all the accolades they proudly claimed?
“If ‘Whatever’ hadn’t had come on the radio when I was working a shit job in a Post Office, I’d probably still be there” Tom from Jersey told me. The line “I’m free to do whatever I…” made me think, “Fuck this.” I quit on the spot and walked seven miles home with Live at Knebworth on my cassette walkman.” He moved to Brighton, enrolled on a course at university, and now lives in London working with autistic children. Who was it that said that Oasis don’t encourage people to better themselves?
Tom and his classmates were such huge fans that they got suspended from school for bunking off to catch a flight to watch Oasis play at Newcastle during the Be Here Now tour. Funnily enough, the story made the local Jersey Newspaper, and can still be accessed to this day from its online archives; I looked it up. “Pupils suspended after Oasis Escapade” is the headline. Oasis were so big they were making local legends of their biggest fans.
Or what about Eleanora, from Italy, who became a fan when she was 12? “My ex fiancé and I broke up after five years being together in 2005” she explains. “We were living in Dublin and I decided I wanted to go back to Italy; I needed my family, but I couldn’t go back to Italy straight away because I had a ticket for Oasis in Marley Park in Dublin, so I lived for three months in the same house with my ex fiancé just because I wanted to go and see Oasis.” People don’t do things like that without a powerful motive. Why was Oasis that important to her that she could suffer three months living with an ex for the sake of a gig? “I felt indifferent before Oasis came along,” she says. “They changed that way of feeling. Oasis made my life more interesting. They helped me in escaping mentally from Italy, a country that I always disliked. They made me want to leave and go somewhere else. I’ve never really been a happy person and I’ve always had a lot of anger in me and Oasis helped me express that. Going to one of their concerts has always been a kind of cleansing process for all the crap we go through in our lives.”
The more I spoke to other fellow ‘Oasis teens’, the more it seems there is a running thread in what made us fans in the first place: Alessandro, now 26, became a fan when he was 12: “I was passing through a difficult period, and their music for sure helped me to keep the pieces together. Every time I felt sad they made me get better, and kept my dream alive.” Karoline from Austria, aged 26, also became a fan at 12: “Oasis influenced me big time. All that self-belief I got from them during my teenage years. Without Oasis I would never have lived in the UK when I was 16 and now I’m moving back there for good…. I love being around other Oasis fans, singing songs with them and sharing the love with others. That’s the best thing in the world.” Tom Lord believes that Oasis made him snap out of the depressed state of mind he was in at the time when he had been heavily into Nirvana and Guns N Roses; “Don’t get me wrong, I love Nirvana; but they never made me feel what Oasis made me feel: alive.”
When I think back to my own situation, I think it’s true that Oasis picked me up out of a sadness that I was having around that age. I remember my grandmother had been unwell. I remember the visits to her in hospital and the overwhelming feeling I used to have each time, of being really down. I hated the hospital, the sickness, the morbid silence, punctuated by blood-curdling screams from a woman in a neighbouring ward, the disinfectant smell, and the lonely corridors. All I kept thinking was, “Is this what life is all about? Just being bored, and stuck, and living until you are old and ill, where you scream and not a soul is around to help?” It was only a short few moments after, that my older brother walked in, and beckoned me over to the waiting room where he had been sitting all this time. “Come and have a look at this,” he said, ushering me out of the ward “What?” I replied, irritated. The waiting room was a dingy, musty-smelling place; tatty carpets, cracked walls, broken settees, and one fuzzy TV in the top right hand corner that I had to crane my neck to see. “Watch this,” my brother said, pointing at it. I looked up and saw a face. Just one big face, taking up the whole screen. A man, singing. His mouth was shoved up in a microphone, and there was a tambourine on his head. He looked like a nutter. Every so often, he’d bounce and the tambourine would shake. “Liam Gallagher” my brother said, pointing, “from that band I’ve been telling you about – Oasis. It’s Glastonbury. This is ‘Live Forever’.” I was mesmerized. I was transfixed on his sweaty, mental face, the vein popping out of his neck, the tambourine on his head, the microphone, and him bobbing up and down, arched forwards, hands behind his back. For those few minutes he was singing, I was transported to a different world. I forgot all about the hospital, the illness and the sadness around me, and was intrigued by this man. I temporarily felt a flicker of life inside me. Then my dad came in, the TV was switched off, I was ushered out and I was back in the ward and the empty silence of the hospital, surrounded by sickness and death. That was my first memory of Oasis. Hearing ‘Live Forever’, when in hospital. Was that just co-incidence? Are these things just co-incidences? Some might say these things are not.
There are several interviews in which Noel claims he wrote ‘Live Forever’ as a kind of antidote to grunge and dying before getting old. Did Noel really have this plan to make young people feel alive? It certainly had that impact on me. Aside from the irony that the first Oasis song I heard was ‘Live Forever’ at a time when my grandma was dying, there’s another memory I have from 1995, when news was revealed that an 18-year-old Leah Betts had died from taking ecstasy; news reports were heavily pointing the finger of blame at Oasis for encouraging youngsters to take drugs. Leah Betts’ favourite song was ‘Wonderwall’ and such was the hype surrounding the story that we were shown footage in our RE lesson at school of Leah’s funeral, where ‘Wonderwall’ was being played. It must have affected me somehow, because four months later, I remember sitting in the back of my mum’s car when ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ came on the radio, and thinking that if ‘Wonderwall’ really had been Leah’s favourite song, then it makes me sad because she never got to stay alive long enough to hear ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’, which was even better. It seems like a strange thought to have at that moment, and I’m not sure why that even popped into my head. Nevertheless, as ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ carried on playing, I remember clearly feeling that I am so so happy and grateful to be alive right now, and that I didn’t ever want to die like Leah did, because if I did, it would mean I’d not get to hear the next Oasis single that was released, and if that song was going to be better than ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’, then I wanted to be around when I heard it. Of all the things that might have wanted to keep me from dying, perhaps it seems strange that it was ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’. But sometimes, it is the little things that matter; and once again, Oasis tapped into an important moment in my life. I feel at such a young age, when emotions are so up and down and life is confusing, making someone respect life really is probably the loveliest gift you could give someone. So does it matter that Noel and Liam fight and flippantly make inappropriate comments, when they are simultaneously putting breath in people’s lives? They were a genuine soundtrack to people’s pinnacle growing up moments. And if Oasis kept teenagers wanting to be alive, then Oasis did a beautiful thing.
So, I know that Alan McGee is saddened by the state of the music industry and about how bad the Brits have become. But that magic is still lurking around somewhere, and who knows how it will re-emerge. I remember reading the book, Getting High: The Adventures of Oasis by Paolo Hewitt when I was 13, which ends with a paragraph about a young girl hearing an Oasis chord, getting shivers down her spine and walking off into the cool night air inspired; I always felt I related to that young girl. In fact, I felt I was that young girl. People are still listening to the songs, and reading those books. And there’s another girl sitting around – somewhere – right now, with the same tingle down her spine.
P.S. Strange things sometimes happen. While writing this story, I flicked back through some of the photos I had taken of graffiti outside Noel’s house on that day I met him, 12 and a half years ago. There was one message that struck me: “Noel Gallagher is God” written on the pavement, with a name and number underneath. On a whim, I decided to call this number. I got through to a woman. The boy who had left that message, she says, was her son, now 30. Half an hour later, I got a text message. “Hi. You spoke to my mum. I’m intrigued.” I called back. I asked him what brought him to Noel’s house that day, at the age of 17. “It was my day off from college,” he says. “A friend phoned me up to let me know that he and another friend were going for a drive and would I want to come. I had nothing to do so I said yes. We were driving around with no real destination listening to Oasis and were attempting to sing ‘Champagne Supernova’. My mate turned the car around and just said, “We’re going to London.” Next thing I knew, we were outside Noel’s house. There wasn’t anyone else there. I rang the doorbell but unfortunately no one was in. It was awe-inspiring.” Another Oasis song, prompting another spontaneous reaction.
You and I, we live and die, the world is still spinning round, we don’t know why.
[Thanks to Adrian Chambers, Dave, Gary Reed, Gareth, Steve McCance, Tom Lord, Andrew Ruddick, Brian McCaul, Richard Albery, Damien Kiely, Andrew Duggans. Alessandro, Eleonora, Mose, David, Luis, Pimienta, Ieva, Yavor, Karoline, Jason, Rizul, Flor, “Silent Potato”, Tiago and Denis, Harry Stam, and Dom: just a few of the fans who were growing up while Oasis were getting high.]
My personal experiences with serendipity.