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Oasis were, for me, "my Beatles" and were THE band in the mid nineties for speaking to me in a way that the Stone Roses, The Smiths and indeed the Beatles had done for others in the past. Where my parents had Beatlemania, I had a similar thing with Oasis and there was a time as a 14 year old that I hung on their every word. Some of that obsession has stayed with me today, so it was with great anticipation that I started to read the first book ever written about Oasis by an ex band member. Tony McCarroll was the band's drummer until April 1995 when he was unceremoniously dumped by the "chief", Noel Gallagher. This book recounts his years prior to Oasis and those early years with the band, covering the time that their first album Definitely Maybe was released and broke more records than Ussein Bolt and Bradley Wiggins combined.
He had a seemingly normal childhood, growing in Manchester (Levenshulme) during the seventies. His upbringing certainly seems less traumatic than the Gallagher brothers' - if you've ever read "Brothers" by Paul Gallagher and are in a position to compare and contrast. Starting drumming at an early age, he eventually found himself in a position where he was asked to join The Rain, the predecessor to Oasis containing Bonehead, Guigsy and a singer called Chris Hutton. Liam was to replace Hutton, change the name to Oasis and then later be joined by older brother Noel. There were some interesting insights to being part of the Irish community in Manchester at that time, and this heritage perhaps offers some explanation for the cultural link between Irish Mancunians and their love of music. Once Noel joined the band, progress started to become lightning fast and the band became more and more high profile, leading up to that time when Definitely Maybe was released and for a short while at least, all the eyes of music lovers around the world were aimed at five lads from Manchester with good haircuts (apart from Tony's haircut - more of that later!), clothes and tunes that moved mountains and rewrote the musical map.
Whilst the band was becoming more and more successful, Noel, it seems, became increasingly hostile towards Tony McCarroll and was plotting moves to oust the curly haired skin basher and replace him with someone more trendy, all part of Noel's "masterplan" for world domination. The bitter end days of his time with the band are re-told with candour on McCarroll's part, although it must be remembered that until Noel releases a book (if he ever decides to) which puts across his side of the story with regards to how the relationship between him and Tony turned sour, then we should in the interest of balance and fairness take McCarroll's version of events with a pinch of salt. However, Noel has said enough in interviews about his feelings towards McCarroll to give us an indication of what he thought of him as a drummer and band mate.
I was surprised by how nasty Noel could be, I always knew he was a sarcastic so and so (and often quite funny with it - he was once asked if it was true he'd had a penis extension to which he replied "yes, he's called Tony and he's our drummer") from his outbursts in the press over the years but didn't realise how Machiavellian he could be. At times, his insults towards McCarroll have been and were nothing but childish - if I read in the music press (even today, after all this time he still bangs on about it!) one more time from Noel about how bad Tony's haircut was, I'll get myself a Sinnead O'Connor haircut as a mark of protest. As this tension built up back in the day between Tony and Noel, Tony found the reaction from Noel more and more vicious as he tried to stand up for himself. This led to a rift in the band with the Guigsy (bass player) and Noel on one side, and Tony Liam and Bonehead (rhythm guitar) on the other. I felt quite sorry for Tony McCarroll after reading this, it sounds like he was in a tricky position - should he have shut up and put up with Noel's insults or should he, as he did more often that not, defend himself and incur further wrath from Noel?
I found the claims that scouse band, The Real People, had quite a big hand in penning hits like Supersonic and Whatever revelatory - if you were to believe Noel then you would believe that all works of genius from the band are exclusively his. This book has made me hungry for more "as it happened" Oasis related autobiographies, and have got everything crossed that some other ex band members will one day release their version of events. I found what McCarroll had to say fascinating and would love to be able to compare his version of events with versions given by other band members. There were a few times when I had a little chuckle as he recalled their rock star antics, but there were quite a lot of drugs involved and I found this a little bit intimidating - I've had a sheltered life and my idea of "rock and roll" is having a cheese slice on a bacon butty, with a brew at the same time.
Reading this has certainly changed my opinion of Noel, a little bit of the shine has left him and I feel he comes out of this slightly mucky and tarnished. I suppose it's a good thing to be put straight and have our opinions of people changed - but as I mentioned before, McCarroll is at the moment the only former band member to have written an account of their time in Oasis so I should take a healthy fistful of salt with his words. Incidentally, Chris Hutton (the singer with the band's earliest incarnation, The Rain) has written a book called "Don't look back in anger: Growing up with Oasis" which is on my "to read" list so watch this space for a review! I don't think Hutton counts as an ex member of Oasis, due to the fact he was never in the band with that name and preceded both Noel and Liam.
There are two appendices at the back of the book, including a list of "Spartans" and "Non Spartans" (a term for a decent bloke - no prizes for guessing that Noel is on the "non Spartan" list) and a homage to those people who, in McCarroll's opinion are the top three drummers ever. I was a bit surprised to find that Keith Moon wasn't on his list, he's numbers one, two and three on mine.
I would say that this book is "one for the fans", as I understand that for a lot of people this bunch of Mancunian scallies are to musical taste what George Best was to sobriety and monogamy and these people would understandably would have no interest in reading a former band member's account of the early days. However, for those of us who did and still do like a bit of Oasis, I would seriously recommend giving it a go as its honesty, humour and the fact that it was written by someone who was there makes it very compelling, downright fascinating and a must have on any Oasis fan's bookshelf. For me, it's worth five stars. Thanks for reading.
Released 2010 in hardback format
Currently available on amazon as a new paperback for £5.59