Whoever said social class doesn’t matter is a naive denier of reality. Or a ‘f*cking c*nt’ as someone like Liam Gallagher would say. We might live in a time where artistic freedom is – at least in the Western world – a matter of course. The digital world allows all different kind of newcomers to directly enter our mp3-Players and smartphones right after they recorded something in their home studios. Processes that were barely conceivable two decades ago. It was a time when record deals still meant something, bands became idols and heroes larger than life. Having a single hit could change all. One of the 90s biggest success stories was that of OASIS. They came, they rocked, and they conquered Europe, the world and were – at least for two or three years – the biggest band on the planet. Twenty years after the released of their highly praised debut album Definitely Maybe, NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION takes a closer look on the band’s legacy and the changes that somehow caused the near-death of traditional ‘working class pop.’
Of all the success stories that have been written about OASIS one of the most interesting ones is the focus on their roots. The rise of the 90s Britpop heroes was a triumph of the British working class. And the Gallagher brothers were its figureheads. Noel was the genius out of whose mind came the brilliant words and melodies and Liam acted as the perfect frontman. They were snotty, boorish and with the right amount of arrogance. They weren’t intellectual giants like Damon Albarn and BLUR, their main opponents back in the days. They weren’t gloomy poets like THE SMITHS. And Liam certainly wasn’t as charismatic and visionary as Kurt Cobain who died one week prior to the release of OASIS‘ first single Supersonic. No, they weren’t the most delicate people in the world. The Gallaghers were simple lads from Manchester, born and raised in the old industrial town. The glamour of London was far away, despite the hype in the late 80s about the whole Manchester Rave and the Hacienda club.
The only goal OASIS had was to get out of their miserable initial situation. Liam never wanted to act as a visionary leader. He just wanted to be a rockstar ever since he first witnessed THE STONE ROSES singer Ian Brown live on stage. That was basically it. And Noel? Well, he was a songwriting prodigy who never bragged about that fact. They were the constants in the ever changing line-up of the group. And Definitely Maybe was their big, fat kick in the butt of the music industry. They brought coolness back to the British music scene, which was a bit rusted in its own lack of ideas. It was the revival of rebellious guitar music in the tradition of THE WHO and THE KINKS but based in the here and now. And all the anthems on this album – the optimistic Live Forever, the hedonistic Supersonic or the snotty Cigarettes and Alcohol. Each song a classic, every word a statement. And 1995’s (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? should make them even bigger.
As mentioned before, OASIS‘ story is one of underdogs making their way into the big circus of pop music without changing their attitude. They were simple boys who wanted to play pure rock and roll and they kept it that way – even now, five years after the band parted ways. The Gallaghers never curried favour to the market or to anyone. They were – in some form – some of the last uprising rebels in rock’n’roll. And probably the last big working class success story.
Earlier this year author Brendan O’ Neill asked a question in his blog for The Telegraph: ‘Would Oasis make it today, when pop music has been colonised by the posh and the pathetic?’ It’s an odd but interesting theory he unfolds right in front of us. In the past twenty years the music industry significantly changed. Records don’t matter anymore, a decent level of wealth is farther out of reach than before. And with ‘wealth’ we don’t mean big cars, shiny swimming pools or a giant house in Ibiza. Paying your monthly rent is the least one can ask for. Well, of course – art has always been quite unprofitable. But it somehow feels like it became less attractive to certain levels of population as a decent career model. ‘Has pop gone posh?’ asked BBC’s Tom Bateman back in 2011. He probably got a point.
We need idols ’cause we long for guidance in a sea of opinions
If you look at a lot of today’s successful artists in indie and pop they aren’t entirely bad. FOALS, MUMFORD AND SONS, FLORENCE AND THE MACHINE. Wherever you look. VAMPIRE WEEKEND too. All great artists, talented musicians and intelligent people. Well educated musicians, trained in art or private schools. But there’s just this rough element of realness lacking in the industry. It feels like there’s general social shift in the creative industry these days. A lot of the people who start working as agents, bookers, managers or freelancers in any form are backed by a solid financial background. We’re not claiming that they are all spoiled rich kids – but, well, you get the point. This often results in a comforting self-conception. Playing it safe and being in the ‘industry’ just for the sake of being in there. Less indulgence, more lifestyle. This even counts for a lot of artists. Of course, you can’t generalize that but a certain level of passion, gratitude and solidarity is definitely lacking.
There are manifold reasons for this problem. Society, politics and the industry itself have made several mistakes, making the creative industry less attractive. In the 90s, OASIS having a bunch of hit songs really helped gain them social security. A record deal allowed the artists to take creative risks. Today only the toughest and best artists will survive. A weird form of natural selection, which isn’t a bad thing. But it also favours the ones who have the right amount of financial power to stick through the game just a bit longer then talented but poorer artists. A distortion of competition in some form.
The essential question is – are rock idols dead? Twenty years after the death of Kurt Cobain the music industry is desperately looking for new idols to follow the old ones. Maybe the age of pop and rock idols is gone. The diversity of contemporary society is boon and bane at the same time. Too many ideas, tastes, genres and talents. As our society became more complex and the gap between the rich and the poor is on its way to a new standard it really gets harder. These are the facts, what is the solution? Well, the demand is there, we only need the artists and people who are willing to satisfy themselves. People who are willing to give everything, no matter how hard the circumstances are. We need people to have ideals, fight for them and remain true to themselves. In our accelerating society with ever changing opinions and ideals maybe this is the sort of rebellion we need. Be someone and stand in for it, no matter what your environment or society states! ‘I need to be myself / I can’t be no one else’ – OASIS‘ message is as timeless as before.