Britain’s biggest band Oasis has become the best tabloid fodder
since. Princess Diana. But the generation of such column inches has less
to do with PR and more do with personalities
There’s been the drama and farce of Liam’s planned then postponed
wedding to Patsy Kensit. Outrage at Noel’s comments comparing
drug-taking to drinking a cup of tea. Condemnation of Liam’s arrest for
possession of cocaine. Not to mention the endless stories of fraternal
squabbling, Blur-bating, cancelled tours, uncouth behaviour and
comparisons with the Beatles.
Who else could we possibly be talking about but the brothers Gallagher,
the hot-headed, single-eyebrowed stars of Britain’s biggest band,
It was said that 1995 was the year of Oasis. With no new material
released in 1996, one might have expected media interest in the band to
Instead it has gone supersonic.
Two months into 1997 and the fascination shows no sign of flagging. So
what’s the story? Are Oasis and its record company Creation masters of
hype? Or has the publicity taken on a life of its own, spurred by the
tabloids’ insatiable appetite for dirt on the rich and famous?
’The media know that when they write about Oasis an awful lot of people
from an awful lot of demographics will want to read about it,’ says
Creation head of press Andy Saunders. ’It’s absolutely phenomenal.
There’s no need for us to orchestrate it because we’ve sold so many
records already. All we’re doing is trying as much as possible to keep
the focus on the music.’
But with no new music to talk about, this has been an uphill
The tabloids in particular have gone to town on Noel and Liam stories
and Creation has issued several statements condemning media intrusion
into their privacy.
’The media has an obsessive interest,’ complains Saunders. ’It’s
certainly not hype. They’re getting more attention than Princess Di.
It’s become frenzied. The way the media has behaved is despicable. It’s
an exceptionable case.’
But why should this be so. Some might say that despite protestations to
the contrary, the Gallaghers have actively courted publicity by their
’Noel Gallagher is a very shrewd, intelligent man,’ says the Mirror
showbusiness columnist Matthew Wright. ’I can’t believe it’s all
impulse. There has to be an element of of consciously allowing
situations to develop.’
It may be that Wright’s view is self-justification for the excessive
interest the tabloids have taken in the leading exponents of Britpop and
members of the music press confirm that Creation never approaches them
with controversial stories about the brothers.
’They (the Gallaghers) don’t need the publicity,’ says Melody Maker news
editor Carol Clerk. ’I don’t think anything they do is generated by PR
at all. They’re pretty impulsive characters. People like the idea of
these two mad brothers rampaging around the world with all their money,
’For a band as big as Oasis, their organisation is often quite
haphazard,’ adds associate editor of Q magazine John Aizlewood. ’I know
this sounds naive, but I think people like the music and it’s built up
I think the tabloids feel they have to get involved. It’s ideal because
they (the Gallaghers) arrange marriages, cancel them, scream and shout
and get busted for drugs.’
Charismatic, fractious, brooding and undeniably talented, Noel and Liam
are everything rock stars should be. As rich men behaving badly, they
are perfect tabloid fodder. And the relentless coverage forces other
titles to follow suit. Clerk confirms that Melody Maker has to ’react’
to Oasis stories in the tabloids.
In the course of researching this article three people separately
referred to the Gallaghers as an ’alternative Royal family’ and in many
ways that is what they have become. One can imagine the injunction to
tabloid news desks: if Di’s not doing much, dig up something on surly
Will this unremitting barrage of publicity ultimately prove
’It’ll harm their lives but I don’t think it will harm their record
sales,’ says senior press office at Parlophone, Karen Johnson.
Parlophone is the label of Blur, Oasis’ rivals in the ’battle of the
bands’. Blur has recently returned to the spotlight after deliberately
adopting a low profile for a year - not a strategy one can imagine
sitting easily with the Gallaghers.
’What people like about them is their honesty,’ says Oasis head of press
Johnny Hopkins. ’It’s anti-hype, anti-bullshit, anti-gloss.’
Such straight-talking is manna for the press. Yet unlike, say, East 17
who sacked frontman Brian Harvey for his comments on drugs, Oasis are
not a band identified with a teen or pre-pubescent audience.
And unlike the Spice Girls, the other group of the moment, Oasis are not
a management creation. They are their own men with their own opinions
and as such one cannot see them being muzzled.
’If they go around speaking about drugs they know they’re going to get
reported in the papers,’ says Judy Lipsey, managing director of music PR
agency Poole Edwards Publicity. ’The only thing I suppose you could do
is sit down with your artists and plan what they’re going to say. But I
don’t know if you could do that with a band this big.’
Oasis aren’t the beneficiaries of a well-oiled hype machine. Rather the
brothers Gallagher have an innate flair for stirring up controversy.
Longer term it remains to be seen whether Oasis will disintegrate and
their fame slide away. Or whether, like the Beatles, their renown will
live forever. But at the moment, when it comes to Oasis, the media is
mad for it. Definitely, not maybe.