Publicity: How Oasis created a publicity supernova

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

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,

Oasis.



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

tail off.



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

struggle.



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

off-stage antics.



’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,

causing trouble.’



’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

from there.



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

Liam.



Will this unremitting barrage of publicity ultimately prove

damaging?



’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.



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