Twenty years ago I created this image of Oasis front man Liam Gallagher it was taken in the dressing rooms at the Leeds Irish Centre sometime around April or May in 1994. Although it was 20 years ago and I can’t remember the month I can remember the moment like it was yesterday.
Today marks the date for a re mastered re release of the Oasis first album Definitely Maybe. Originally released in August 1994 it was an immediate commercial and critical success. At the time of its release it was the fastest selling debut album ever. It went seven-times Platinum in the UK and sold 5 million copies worldwide. Containing the classic debut single Supersonic, which was released in April 1994, and subsequent singles Shakermaker, Live Forever, and Cigarettes & Alcohol.
Around the time of the bands first single release Supersonic and the bands first major UK tour I received a late afternoon phone call from the Guardian picture desk asking “Are you free this evening to shoot live a band from Manchester called Oasis” Now I have to admit at the time I was all set for heading off home early and the thought of shooting a band I had not heard anything about that evening was not high on my priority of things to do. However you never say no to the Guardian and I was young then myself and keen. So “yes” were the words that came from my mouth. I do remember the phone call quite clearly as the brief stated that the band were mainly two brothers but could I concentrate on the younger brother who was the singer and had been punched and given a black eye at the gig the night before in Glasgow. Now firstly the picture desk were wrong that day as it was Noel who was the one with the black eye but the experience will stick with me for ever and possibly will be noted as one my greatest lost opportunities too.
This is how I remember it and as I said it was twenty years ago so if anyone else reading this who was there you might remember things a little differently. The venue was the Leeds Irish Centre situated on York Road just out of the city centre. I think at the time it held a capacity in the region of 400-600. The gig was sold out as the band had been gaining a reputation on the British music scene. I had arrived a little late as the job offer was last minute and the gig room was already packed and a little leery. I had about 15 mins before the gig started and there was a very small pit area to work. I cannot remember any other photographer being in the pit that night but I might be wrong. What I do remember is that there was no restrictions placed on me. No 3 song only photography rule which unfortunately is not the case today. I remember at the time thinking well I won’t be here for the full gig as I need to get home for my tea.
How wrong I was, and if you have ever attend a live gig regularly you will appreciate that there are not many occasions where you are totally blown away by a band performing live especially one you have never see before or even heard a single tune. For me and obviously for the crowd in Leeds that night this was one of those rare occasions. I clearly felt I was watching something special and although the singer who would go on to become one of the greatest front men in music just stood and stared at the crowd, hardly moving. He delivered his lyrics with such a swagger and with a level of attitude that would help make this band one of the greatest live acts ever. I had the privilege to see this first hand and I was being payed for it. Now do not get me wrong this was no easy job as the gig was hard to photograph. Mainly due to the fact the venue had no usable stage lighting to talk about and I think maybe I did get carried away with that actually gig. Not that I am complaining I did have the best seat in the house. I even remember as the gig faded into the on stage noise feed back and as the band left the stage chaos erupted as a drunken skinny fan jumped on and grabbed hold of Liam’s now customary instrument the tambourine. The fan managed to stage dive in to the crowd, all before the burly Manchester Road crew could react and grab hold of him and the tambourine. Funnily enough Liam would go on to throw regularly such instruments into the crowd but that night it was like a scene from the Keystone Cops.
Once the drama and excitement had ended and me feeling I maybe need something else to show the Guardian picture desk I notice the bands dressing room door which was situated right next to the stage was open and without any security. I headed straight for it and entered the bands inner sanctum. There I was fortunately met by Mr Liam Gallagher. I quickly introduced myself as the man from the Guardian and congratulated him on a great gig performance and when the discussion of the missing tambourine had died down I quickly asked if I could take his portrait. He responded with a firm “yeah man” and then for the next 120 seconds in the dressing rooms shower area as there was nowhere else empty I frantically shot away. It was a good job I did as Liam quickly became distracted as two female fans entered the dressing room and my short lived studio time was up.
As Liam left with the two young ladies one on each arm I was offered a can of larger by his older brother Nole. I mentioned earlier that this maybe was when I possibly made my worst decision ever. I declined his offer and made my excuses and left. What might have been, I asked myself years later? What if I would have accepted the drink that night and stayed around for a chat? I suppose I was not to know that night what the band were to become. However it was that moment in time that became a big life lesson for me. I always think now, take the opportunities handed to you as you never can tell where they might lead.
Years later and another long story that I won’t go into now I found myself being seated in a modest but perfectly kept council house in the Burnage area of Manchester. I was enjoying a nice cup of tea and chatting away to Noel and Liam’s mum Peggy when I spotted one of the images I had taken that night framed and displayed in full glory on the wall.
Nowadays, I often wonder twenty years on whether that picture still has pride and place at their mums house as much as the evening has and their debut album is in my memory. Now I recommend you give it a listen and like me revisit 1994.