In 1992 something profound happened to me. I held a conversation with a school friend and we shall call the boy in questions Matthew, because that was his name. Matthew was telling me all about his hopes and dreams for the future. It went something like this; Matthew would leave school and gain a qualification in painting and decorating after which he would gain a job as a painter and decorator. Once established Matthew was to seek to buy his own home, settle down with a nice girl and have a couple of children. In Matthew’s words he would then be ‘set for life’. Listening to Matthew depressed me in a way that I never really got over from. As a 12 year old I harboured ambitions of forming a band and endeavouring towards global domination and therefore the 9 to 5 existence was of no interest to me. But, I think what depressed me the most about this conversation was that it was the first time that I really understood what it was to be working class. Matthew was typical of so many of our peers in that his parameters of possibility were distinctly narrow. The significance of that conversation in my own understanding of my own demographic was huge.
The realisation of ‘your place’ can be incredibly suffocating and overwhelming for adolescents. As the veil of social ignorance is lifted, usually at around 13, and you find that you are somewhere undesirable and for the first time you feel the bind of your own social standing. It is usually around this time that we reach out for our icons and for personify our own stifled identity or amplify our lost whimpering insignificant voices. And in 1994 I too had stumbled upon the age at which I was reaching out for social and cultural representation. Drowning in a sea of grey concrete in one of Hull’s most socially, culturally and materially deprived areas I was desperately seeking a spokesperson to voice my frustration and bewilderment. Like so many my age I was leafing through the pages of the then still credible NME and flicking through my parent’s tatty old vinyl records looking for someone to cling to.
It was a year or after my conversation with Mathew that I came across a little known Manchester band called Oasis performing the song ‘Shakermaker’ on a BBC 2 magazine show. They caught my attention with their raw sound and the song, which I had originally thought was a cover version, was certainly melodic. Although I had enjoyed the performance I knew that this band would not have a profound effect on me. It would later transpire that I was in a minority of 13 year olds who had caught that or subsequent Oasis televised performances because very soon Oasis were the talk of the playground. It seems my peers had their idols, their voice and those young, testosterone fuelled boys (yes, it was an all boys school) would cling to their cultural life raft for the next two decades.
Oasis were the archetypal working class ‘heroes’. Complete with a rugged arrogance and swagger they seemed to play out the factory line ‘What would I do if I won the Lottery?’ fantasies of working classes across the country. My peers adored them but by the time they had released their second album ‘What’s the Story Morning Glory’ in Autumn 1995 the act was beginning to wear thin for yours truly. You see, even then I had realised that behind the swagger there was very little substance. The band that so many had reached out for taken to their hearts had in fact misrepresented their people. My accusation then, is that Oasis let down a generation by promising so much but delivering so little. With their exploits and outbursts and general tomfoolery all they achieved was to sell the world a wildly in accurate caricature of the British, Northern Working classes. They created a label that was hugely derogatory for my demographic and to my absolute horror my peers seem to thrive on it.
The tragedy of the situation is that Oasis emerged from a time of change in the United Kingdom. The country was still dusting itself off from Thatcherism and a bright new dawn was on the horizon, a new dawn that would bring a decent minimum wage and relative peace in Northern Ireland. A working class band like Oasis had the opportunity to dovetail this and inspire that the down trodden youth. Oasis failed to do this. What they did in fact was reinforce middle England’s view of the working class youth as flippant, loutish inarticulate oiks.
I have many friends who are still avid fans of Oasis and my put my accusation to them they respond with something like; ‘Yeah man, but they’ve got tunes’. My view is often rejected but never refuted. And so it continues as despite their split it brings great pain to report that at present the biggest fan Oasis I know is my 17 year old brother.
If I was to sum the two decades that Oasis reigned I would say that it was like being at a party where someone that you utterly despise turns up and you have to endure all of your friends singing their praises. Eventually your jaw goes numb as you reluctantly grin through all of their boring anecdotes, for twenty years.
Andrew Ware is 32 years-old and has a small dog called Oliver. He is a paid-up member of the Labour Party and used to play bass in semi-legendary Hull band Sal Paradise. In his spare time he makes his own wine and watches rugby league. He once claimed his favourite album was Electric Warrior by T.Rex, which was a complete lie. He holds a degree in Philosophy, but you’d already guessed that. You can find him at http://www.twitter.com/XavierDwyer1