Ex-Oasis drummer Tony McCarroll on life inside Britpop

IN THE early 1990s boy band and girl band acts dominated the British and Irish charts. Take That, The Spice Girls, East 17, and Boyzone sold millions of singles and were constantly on television.

Then in 1994 a working-class guitar band named Oasis emerged from a predominantly Irish area of Manchester. The group consisted of siblings Liam and Noel Gallagher on vocals and lead guitar, Paul ‘Bonehead’ Arthurs on rhythm guitar, Paul ‘Guigsy’ McGuigan on bass, and Tony McCarroll on drums. They wanted to recapture the 1960s golden era of British rock‘n’roll and they were “mad for it”.

Tony was born in Levenshulme, south Manchester, in June 1971 but spent part of his early childhood living with relatives in Kinnity, County Offaly. He started drumming at six and a decade later joined with a few friends to form a band called Sweet and Tender Hooligans, playing The Smiths and New Order songs.

Together with ‘Bonehead’ and ‘Guigsy’, Tony founded an original music group, The Rain, and in 1991 they recruited Liam Gallagher as lead singer.

“Even back then we had a certain sound and I credit Bonehead with that,” McCarroll tells me. “His rhythm guitar created this wall of sound and every other member of the group tried to compete with that. It created this vibe in the band and we were this bunch of close friends who had all these big dreams and ambitions.”

After a few gigs together the band decided to change their name to Oasis and Liam invited his elder brother Noel (then a roadie with The Inspiral Carpets ) to check them out at The Boardwalk venue. Noel told Liam that the band’s performance was “f***ing s**t” and the duo had a massive row - the first of many. Later Noel changed his mind and joined the group as lead guitarist and main songwriter.

The band’s big break came in May 1993 when they were spotted by Creation Records founder Alan McGee at King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut club in Glasgow - despite the fact the band were initially refused entry into the club and had to bully their way on the stage.

“I remember we hired a van in Manchester and that cost us somewhere in the region of two hundred quid,” Tony recalls. “Obviously money was really, really tight at the time but we had to get the band out there. We made our way up to Glasgow, it was something like a three hour journey, and when we got there the promoter said he’d never heard of us and wouldn’t let us play.

“After some tense negotiations he finally agreed to give a 15 minute slot at the beginning. We only did four songs and afterwards Alan McGee approached us and asked us if we had a deal. Anyway he took us on board and that’s where the story of Oasis really started to happen. We’d only done four or five gigs prior to being signed and that was virtually unheard of back then. It was quite a quick rise to stardom.”

In September 1994 Oasis released Definitely Maybe and it became the fastest selling debut in the history of the British music charts. Singles such as ‘Supersonic’, ‘Live Forever’, ‘Cigarettes & Alcohol’, ‘Whatever’, and ‘Some Might Say’ displaced the manufactured pop acts and the new cultural phenomenon of Britpop began.

Throughout 1995 and 1996 the group battled with London indie rock band Blur for chart supremacy in what was dubbed ‘The Battle of Britpop’. McCarroll was fired by Oasis in early 1995 and was replaced by ex-Paul Weller Band drummer Alan White.

He watched his former friends and band mates go on to achieve incredible success and then implode piece by piece.

“I was gutted,” he says of his sacking. “Basically I had taken this thing from birth and then I watched it grow up from the outside. Attitudes were starting to change on the road and maybe that was down to drink and drugs.

“There were certainly tensions because we were living inside each other’s pockets every day. I was always one for standing up for myself. Maybe if I’d toed the line a bit more I would have lasted a bit longer.”

In September 2009, after a massive fight with his brother, Noel Gallagher announced that Oasis was splitting up. At the end of last year Liam launched his new rock group Beady Eye and their debut album is one of the most anticipated of 2011.

“I’ve only heard bits and pieces so far,” McCarroll says. “Knowing Liam though it’s probably going to have a Lennonesque vibe about it. I’m looking forward to hearing the album in full.”

Tony McCarroll’s book The Truth: My Life As Oasis’s Drummer is out now from John Blake Publishing Ltd.


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