For those who don’t know, I was present on the Bank Holiday Monday evening May 31, 1993, when Alan McGee of Creation Records signed an unknown band from Manchester called Oasis, at King Tuts in Glasgow.
I’ve written a book, a slightly idiosyncratic Britpop memoir, which attempts to deconstruct and understand the fraught relationship between Noel and Liam and ask what drove them to make such an impact in the 1990s? It’s about Oasis, Blur, McGee, Creation Records, Manchester, moments of greatness and disastrous chaos. It’s about small clubs above pubs in Tottenham Court Road, in London in 1991 and the birth of Britpop, all with the evening at King Tuts as the central theme.
However, the Oasis story itself doesn’t have a patch on the actual process of trying to find a publisher. I’ve been trying and came close to a publishing deal on three occasions. As we speak, now on 24 May, 2015, three editors have loved it and have passed it up the food chain to those who make the decision. We await the final decision from two and the third is on the desk of a very slow reading managing director who makes all the final decisions.
In some ways the journey to publication has reflected the band’s career. It’s been turbulent, difficult and complicated. With two of the proposed offers, I was almost deciding what would be best. A smaller payment with a cooler company or a bigger payment with a company who weren’t renowned for publishing music books. I got close enough to deciding what coat I was going to buy…(obviously a slightly bigger size with a slightly less sinister pose).
The deals broke down when the sales team were approached for a final say so and in all of the offers, they, the sales people at the meetings, said Oasis weren’t relevant enough. People weren’t interested in them.
Perhaps it’s the nature of the subject matter, Oasis are mercurial and have always been one of those bands who divide opinion. Within the band itself, one minute it’s all peace and love, the next it’s chaos and pandemonium. One minute there’s a reunion and it’s on and their fans are going crazy online and you get a call or an email from a previous publisher who liked it and may want to reconsider. It’s happening then it’s off and so is your deal, and your new coat.
Incidentally, I thought the band were workmanlike, loud and unremarkable. They sounded like loads of Manchester bands and my mate’s band Boyfriend were far better on the night. But my interest was piqued because of McGee’s reaction to them.
Then they went off radar, clearly working away and rehearsing, then I heard ‘Supersonic’ and ‘Shakermaker’. I saw them play T in the Park, and was amazed at how good they were. Then they released ‘Live Forever’ and I couldn’t believe this was the same band.
Despite being fortified by Jack Daniels, Alan McGee saw something special in Oasis which I just didn’t see. He was standing to my left. On the night itself, there were about 14 people there…and about a million tales from people who claimed to be there. I could name those who were present and in the book, I actually attempt to.
One of the elements I focused on, was how the band came from a housing estate and had this belief and desire and really dared to dream. Their transformation from the nervous, rigid band I witnessed into this confident, popular and iconic band who were appearing on Spitting Image, all over the tabloids and even inside No 10 astounded me.
When there was renewed excitement over a reunion, the project would come to life again. One major book publisher told me that normally there would be 12 to 14 titles in a year and now they are only doing a handful. He added that in the old days this would be out already. Rather than get dismayed or annoyed I keep ploughing on regardless, confident in the hope that someone will pick it up.
I should explain that the idea evolved from a few chapters in the first book Nirvana A Tour Diary, published by John Blake’s Metro in spring, 2013
I had a section based around what if Kurt lived? I felt that he would be a creative force, artistic, maybe direct or write, definitely be an artist. As he nurtured and took bands under his wing, and gave them a platform, he’d maybe have a small indie label and be a great A & R man. In the original Nirvana manuscript, I clumsily crowbar the McGee story at King Tuts, how I was watching McGee watch Oasis and thinking he was on the glue. I later realised that McGee was watching Oasis and seeing something in Liam’s look and attitude. One editor said it didn’t feel right or add anything to the story and hinted their might be a book just on the night itself, so that’s how we got here.
Along with an experienced editor/ agent we came up with this pitch (see below) which I send out to publishers. The book is currently on its seventh or eighth draft, has been called:
Oasis, King Tuts and Me.
The Creation of Oasis.
OASIS: The Creation, King Tuts 31.05.93.
asis, King Tuts, 14 people, a million tales.
Oasis: From King Tuts to Knebworth
It’s been rejected by more people than I’d care to mention. Some in a very nice way, some of my knockbacks have been very sweet. For what it’s worth, I believe in my book, it reads differently, I really try to find out what makes the band tick. I also think (and hope, obviously) they will get back together.
PITCH IN FULL:
OASIS: The Creation, King Tuts 31.05.93
‘Rock ’n’ Roll Should Make You Glad to be Alive’ Lester Bangs.
In May, 1993, comedy writer and author of critically acclaimed Nirvana A Tour Diary, (see link for reviews) Andy Bollen, witnessed one of the most talked about nights in British rock ’n’ roll history. He stood beside Alan McGee at the now legendary evening he offered Oasis a recording deal in Glasgow’s King Tuts.
Bollen thought they were poor, insisting he wouldn’t have offered them a pint never mind a record deal. Only McGee’s reaction to the band made him stay. The Oasis he witnessed that night didn’t exude the self-confidence that would soon catapult them to superstardom. In fact, he thought Alan McGee had lost the plot.
Having played in bands at the time, this book reads differently. Bollen was an experienced musician having drummed in a band who toured with Nirvana. He knew the same promoters and A&R men. His musical background, allied to subsequently becoming one of Scotland’s top comedy writers changes the book’s tone. It feels like Woody Allen (Zelig) and Martin Amis (themes of questionable behaviour, iconoclasts, 20th century amorality and disorder) breathing new life into the Oasis story.
The book has an idiosyncratic feel, shakes to a different beat, reads like a biographical novel. In one memorable chapter, while Bollen works in Woolworths selling Oasis albums and realising his chance of fame and fortune have gone, Noel, on the same day is presented with a chocolate coloured Rolls Royce at Creation’s Christmas Party.
Our story begins in 1991 with the band forming, then up to the nervous 1993 King Tuts performance. We cover the incredible two years of excitement and chaos, their evolution into confident, bonafide rock superstars who delivered two classic albums and end our story at Knebworth.
The writing is self-effacing and tinged with irony. He thought Oasis sounded like a bad Stone Roses cover band yet takes great enjoyment in watching them succeed. Apart from covering the night in full and the self-inflicted turmoil, we go into detail about Creation, the evolution of Britpop, the war with Blur, the sibling rivalry, the Irish blood and English heart, the chaos which fuelled the band and made them special.
The rumours in the music industry about a reunion were recently echoed across social media and the mainstream press in late April 2015, when talk of a reunion reached fever pitch. Liam needs cash for his divorce, has split up Beady Eye while Noel has brought forward the release of the next High Flying Birds album and tour dates to clear the diary from April 2015. Whether they reform or just kill each other, one thing is certain, their music has stood the test of time and for millions of fans across the globe, they will always have relevance.
Bollen is a successful freelance comedy writer, columnist, blogger, DJ and drummer.