Continuing Damian Beeson Bullen’s retrospective adventure thro’ the Birth of Britpop; with a trip back to Burnley for his 18th birthday (11-06-94), on which occasion Oasis had kindly obliged to play a free concert in Preston for all his pals…
After being surrounded by so many familiar accents, suddenly we felt a little homesick. I then realised I was just about to turn eighteen – June 11th – & mentioned to Nick going back up North for a few days. We had been in Wales for a month, half of our free-rent-time, & so far we had done some pretty mad stuff. We had some proper tales to tell. Besides, there wasn’t a decent chippy for miles around Ynyssdu & Nick was growing sick of fish finger butties.
One of those stories was of course I meeting with The Stone Roses, a garbled account of which was now leaking out into the world – or perhaps the Geffen boys actually thought we were members of the band.
1994 was a very different place – the height of the analogue age, but on the cusp of the digital revolution. In 1994, for example, there were 67 mobile phones for every 1,000 people in Britain. By 2004, there were more mobiles than people. Back in 94 the metrosexual revolution was in fill swing with Oddbins making wine-tasting available to anyone via 200 wines being quaff’d by the ‘less civilised’ members of society, leading to a serious surge in street-mooning & gutter-puking.
Meanwhile, out in the world of golf, the 19-year-old Tiger Woods was hurtling around gossipy player circles as ‘that brilliant black kid.’ Tiger, real-names Eldrick (his nick-name came from his dad’s Vietnam War buddy) was from Cypress, California, & at the age of 3 was shooting his dad’s 9-hole course in 48 shots.
I’ve never been materialistic at all. I just want to be the best golfer around. And I don’t mean the greatest black golfer around, I mean the best, period. Tiger Woods
Unfortunately Tiger was living in the same era as Kim Jung-Il, whose biography tells us he first picked up a golf club in 1994, at North Korea’s only golf course, and shot a 38-under par round that included no fewer than 11 holes in one. Satisfied with his performance, he reportedly immediately declared his retirement from the sport.
Before we headed north, we had to back to Wales first to sign on, so we decided to break up the train-jump with our first visit to Stonehenge. We got off the train at Salisbury, dominated by her cathedral’s massive spire, then caught a bus up to the stones. It was nice enough, but fenced off so we couldn’t get stoned among those ancient monoliths, & like kiss ’em or summat. Instead we skinned up a couple of spliffs & spent a nice hour on a little rise not far away from the circle, the wide sweep of Salisbury plain all around us. In our reefer-haze we even wrote a new tune, called Blowin’ a Reefer on Salisbury Plain – tho’ lacking Weed’s classic status, we thought it would make a perfect b-side.
Meanwhile, in the world of philandering royalty, we were all still trying to get our heads around the separation of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. In June, Charles finally admitted his extramarital affair with Camilla Parker Bowles. He’d been secretly seeing her for years, but had been forced by higher powers to create heirs with Diana Spencer, some crazy Zionistic shit most likely.
After signing our souls away to the Man, we set off for Lancashire, knowing there would be couple of fat giros waiting for us when we got back. On the way up we heard that the Scottish MP Gordon Brown had pulled out of the Labour leadership race, leaving the door wide open for Tony Blair. They had decided to share the power, Blair getting first ‘dibs’ on the premiership, while Brown got the house next door.With hindsight, if Brown had realised he would have to play understudy for well over a decade, he might have changed his mind. But to two young lads in the middle of a Teenage Funkland, the news might as well have been in French. One bit of news did catch my attention, however.
“Yo Nick, Oasis are doing a free gig on my birthday in Preston.”
“That’s lucky Damo,”
“Aye, it is innit!”
So we set off, me & Nick, plus a few friends in tow, including Jane – the girl I was seeing before I set off to Skegness. She was a bonny blonde & suffice it to say I woke up on the first full morning of my nineteenth year with her beside me. It was in the attic bedroom of her mum’s house in Brierfield, which is no longer standing. It was not far from a bridge over the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, & a year or so later, when we split up, I remember after one last night of farewell lovemaking, I took a ‘couple-photo’ from her room & threw it symbolically into the canal from the bridge – where it might be to this day!
Back in 1994, on the morning of my 18th birthday we had all bobbed along the East Lancashire train-line the 20 miles to Preston, where I quickly realised that train-jumping with 8 people was a lot trickier than with two. In the confusion half of us got there without paying, & we were soon approaching Preston’s Avernam Park. It was a free festival in the old Castlemorton tradition, sponsored by Heineken Festival – a huge inflatable beer-can of whose over-shadowed the site. It was a Saturday & the third day out of four – The Charlatans had played on the Friday. This was also the first Heineken Festival of the summer, they’d be up & down the country for months.
It was interesting to see that in a matter of a month or so since Newport, the Oasis crowd was getting bigger & more boisterous. When they took to the stage, a deep mooing footie chant kick’d off, the first time I had heard the now famous “O-A-SIS, O-A-SIS!” terrace-song. One prat chucked a beer at the stage, with Liam throwing a wobbler; “we’re not fuckin’ ‘aving that – were not playing,” he spurted out, but of course they played. kicking off with Shaker Maker.
Altho’ we were too young & bouncy to notice, the tent was also full of critics from ‘That London,‘ all finding themselves tapping their feet to the cultural phenomenon exploding before their eyes. The fact that none of them could understand Liam’s incoherent ramblings between numbers made them like the band even more. By the end everyone was buzzing, including a guy who climbed 50 feet to damce precariously on a metal strut on the roof of the marquee, before being chased Beny-Hill style by two security men off the park.
I feel a real twat with Oasis, because the’re the first other band I’ve really loved since I joined a band myself. We’ve played with them a lot lately & I love hanging around with ’em, but I can’t talk to ’em properly cos I keep thinking ‘You bunch are fucking ace!” Martin Carr (The Boo Radleys)
After another barnstorming, intoxicating, belligerent, blistering, mouth-full-of-chips-AND-gravy gig, me & Nick got the Gallagher brother’s autographs on the back of the same sheet of paper that the Stone Roses had signed, like proper starry-eyed fans. After Oasis came the Boo Radleys, who were alright. As Avenham Park began to empty me at the end, Jane & I said our goodbyes as Nick toddled off to Barlick with Ezy Ste, while my other mates went back to Burnley.
So I was off on a romantic birthday surprise trip to Blackpool, to where we caught a train at Preston.. As it was so packed after the free festy, the conductor never came & soon we were soon searching for a B&B in the English Vegas. As it was so packed the conductor never came & soon we were searching for a B&B in the English Vegas. Finding a suitably cheap & cheery one, we rushed to the Pleasure Beach for a birthday go on the recently opened Big One. It had put the Pleasure Beach back on the map after a decade of Alton Towers’ supremacy & was – for a while – the tallest roller-coaster in the world. It was also a good place to splice a wee snog with your girlfriend with innuendos about big ones – teenage foreplay at its most effective.
Back at the B&B & indulging in some drunken pillow-talk, Jane she mentioned she was going to Newquay with six other girls for a weeks holiday at the beginning of July.
“Is the Pope polish?”
The day after the day after my birthday, Oasis released their second single – the cocky superior sonic sneer of the copelling & addictive Shakermaker – & the Pyramid Stage burnt fireball-down at Glastonbury. The former, recorded & mixed in only 8 hours, would reach #11, while the latter was gone forever. Also released on June 13th was Shed Seven’s second single, Dolphin, two months before their debut ‘Change Giver’ album. I love Shed Seven me – the city of York’s wicked wee, pimp-rolling contribution to the 90’s soundscape -; Rick Witter was an oddball, dusky pixie with a stunning voice, whose Dolphin is a well funky track & A Maximum High (1996) is a fantastic album. Brit Pop at it most pearliest – beautifully posed, epic music that brought the movement’s ethos to a true perfection.
Not having a TV in Ynyssdu, I watched a bit of telly while up in Lancashire, including Chris Evans’ Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush. Between his stints fronting The Big Breakfast and the Radio 1 Breakfast Show, Chris Evans had devised and began hosting a Saturday night gameshow that bundled winning contestants off on holiday directly at the end of the show. It was a conceit that generated unprecedented levels of hysteria in the studio, not least on the occasion when they revealed they were sending the entire audience on a coach trip to EuroDisney. Suddenly the atmosphere was something akin to the away end when your team’s just scored a last minute winner. The only person not going completely wild was the somewhat perplexed studio guest, Barry White. Only in 1994.
Me & Nick were now buzzin’ about another gig that had rolled onto the horizon, like they do in the seemingly endless roll of parties that is the English Summer. Both Bjork & Oasis were playing the Saturday night at Glastonbury. We had never been to a proper festival before, but the time seemed right, especially with Jane & the Girls being a only a short train jump away in Cornwall just afterwards. We were young & at liberty to enjoy the keenly-felt experiences which were piling rapid-fire into our lives.
After a week or so we borrowed Ezy Ste’s tent & set off South. We spent a couple of nights in Stratford-Upon-Avon en route, calling on an old mate of mine from Accy Road, Mark Hancock. We found him in this candlelit park where a load of actors were having a rather la-de-da party. He was raving about Prozac, popping open a blister pack of green-and-white capsules and declaring he had seen the light. We declined – we preferred pills that made us dance, preferably to Techno. But we had some beers & it was reyt enough to see him – I had just turned eighteen after all, & felt like a proper adult talking about Shakespeare & all that stuff. So Mark got us tickets to see a play called Peer Gynt at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.
It would be hard to imagine a face less likely to stoop to gloating than the noble wreckage of Barton’s countenance. Prodded about the entirely negative critical response to Ninagawa’s mammoth god, though, he admits: ‘Of course it was heartening if one was taking the opposite approach. But one also felt for the actors and for the main fellow (Michael Sheen) who was so valiant and good. I mean, you can’t do international casting as Peter Brook does unless you can really communicate with everyone and work together. It looked like a Great Dictator production – you know, ‘I’ve got my lighting; I’ve got my design; I’ve got my concept; I’ve got my film of onions. And in between there are some scenes.’
Paul Taylor (The Independent Newspaper, May 1994)
It was a curious experience, watching high-brow theatre proper stoned like. In later years I would develop a definitive appreciation for the dramatical arts – I’m a theatre critic for example – but for the 18-year-old Damo watching Henrik Ibsen’s masterpiece found no amplification, no guitars & no catchy choruses. It was time to get to Glasto.