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Oasis Has Arrogance, A Pile Of Attitude And The Best Album Of 1994

“You Can’t Have A Bird If You Want To Be The Biggest Band In The World”

By David South

Watch Magazine (Toronto, Canada), October 12, 1994

Preparing to invade Lee’s Palace October 19, supersonically hyped English pop fivesome Oasis have a lot to live up to. The Manchester-based band have experienced a tsunami of media hype reminiscent of The Sex Pistols or The Beatles.

A triple slam of three hit singles in three months – Supersonic, Shakermaker, Live Forevever – and four sold out UK tours preceded their first album, Definitely Maybe. But this clever English pop formula faces its biggest challenge: North America.

The band has developed in less than a year, a reputation for being a ferry-disturbing, hotel-trashing, media-slagging, earth-shattering, shit-disturbing, ego-boosting, self-absorbed, tune-churning, attention-grabbing machine.

And what does an Oasis album sound like?

After you’ve heard all the hype and b.s., approaching 11-track Definitely Maybe should be a disappointing experience. It’s not. The album is craftily tight, with every song great. These guys left the crap at home – a lesson for other bands.

Singer Liam Gallagher’s voice isn’t polished, posh or slick. He drags words out, lets his voice crack, he whines. But this is the charm. Brother Noel Gallagher’s lyrics are cheeky, deliberately oblique at times, pragmatic and just simply entertaining. Gone are the 12-point manifestos of other bands, into the trash goes the primary-school poetry.

Noel writes songs that deliberately pay homage to their influences: The Stone Roses, The Jam, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Sex Pistols. But listen closely. Each one is manipulative – you can’t help feeling the rhythm flow. There’s straight chord-bashing, multi-layered jangle guitar, and a lager-laden freight train ripping through the entire album.

Though it is worth mentioning there are five in Oasis – 22-year-old Liam, 27-year-old songwriter and guitarist Noel, guitarist Paul Arthurs, bassist Paul McGuigan, drummer Tony McCarroll – the band has deliberately served up brothers Liam and Noel as willing fodder for the press.

Hailing from the much-maligned north of England – Burnage, South Manchester to be exact – has meant the band has taken buckets of regional bigotry over their Mancunian accents. It seems the London style gestapo will still let good old fashioned English class and regional prejudices get in the way of a solid analysis of Oasis.

Calling up from Austin, Texas, lead singer Liam’s thick Mancunian accent rips through the telephone line in a firestorm of profanity – it’s refreshing.

The band is on a mission to devour all the “crap bands.” And through a little of Liam and Noel’s own version of the power of positive thinking, or to some, bold-faced arrogance, Oasis are going to give the music business an enema like they’ve never seen before.

“Crap bands. That motivates us to be big,” says Liam confidently. “We were pissed off listening to all the daft bands – blagging the kids that this is what it is all about when it’s not. We are there to prove them all wrong. No bullshit, no strings attached – just simple rock n’ roll.”

Are they the vanguard of a new English invasion, or just another crew of hyped-up, trainer traipsing tossers? North America represents a walled fortress that has buffeted repeated attempts to resurrect the Brit-pack musical and cultural invasion of the 60s. The times have changed in the land where hip-hop, country music and heavy metal rule.

The classic British art-school pop formula of acquiring a very cool one-word name, a pile of trendy clothes, some mega-cool posters – and these days a video – falls flat amongst a population more comfortable in sweatpants and a baseball cap.

But Liam disagrees, and points to their appearance at the New Music Conference in New York.

“Packed-out – the crowd was havin’ it. The gigs have been like at home. Because we’re from England they don’t know much about us – they just come and listen to the music, go home and have a good night.

“We are fucking slick, a big machine! But we’ve not been trained. We know our songs are fucking good. We know we’ve got the best songs on the fucking planet. It ain’t just England – we know our kid (Noel) write the best songs in a long, long time. Since the days of Lennon and McCartney. And he’s doing it on his own.”

Liam’s antics, much to the disappointment of Noel, have gotten some major print in England’s tabloid music press, and has lead to a sleazy prose slug-fest between rivals the New Musicial Express and Melody Maker.

There was the ferry fracas, with Liam san Noel being tossed off for fighting and public drunkenness. Or how about being arrested for some serious hotel trashing with Primal Scream and the Verve while on tour in Sweden.

With the media hyping the scrapper reputation, an ugly element has been attracted to their concerts. During an August 9 concert, a fan punched Noel in the eye during Bring it Down, resulting in a mob of 300 stoning the tour bus.

But the band has never been sedate. They got their first record contract by storming a concert and demanding to be allowed to play or they will tear the place down.

“We’re not hype – I laugh at the English press. They’re stupid. They don’t even understand our music. They like it, that’s about it. Then they’ve got to write about me and our kid fighting, bits about trashing the hotel.”

Talking to Oasis, forget about the nice-boys-next-door routine. In fact, forget about every false face pop musicians had to put on in the puritanical 80s, and the politically correct 90s. Oasis not only admit to using drugs, shock of shock, they like it.

“Our mums know about it. I was doing drugs since I was 13. Sniffing gas, sniffing glue, drinking cider, getting off my face.”

They don’t labour themselves with the soul-consuming indie band angst of worry that if they get big they have somehow sold out.

Depending on the day of the week and who you talk to, the brothers either enjoy a healthy creative conflict, or bloody well hate each other. Certainly, the evidence points to the latter, while Liam says otherwise.

There was the time at a South England gig where Noel punched Liam in the face and chased him off stage. But there is the Noel who returned from being a roadie for the Inspiral Carpets and approached the band in 1992 telling them their songs are “shite” and they should let him write the songs and take over.

“Our kid, he’s a bit of a singer, but he knows he can’t sing. He says I can’t write a song. We are both kind of jealous of each other. That’s how I see it anyway. I don’t know. He thinks he’s the only one who really loves music, and his own brother don’t understand it. And I ant to prove to him I mean it a little more than he does – and it freaks him out. He sings totally different – then I get a grip of it and I bite the head off of it.”

It has been Noel’s discipline and raw talent, Liam admits, that pulled Oasis together.

They believe in total commitment to the cause of being the best band in the world.

“There’s a day when you turn around and say, right “Do you want this to be every Tuesday, Thursday night, like a fucking scout club meeting, or do you want it to be real?” If you want it to be real, you’ve got to be here every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday – you can’t go out drinkingwith your mates or doing this with your bird. You can’t have a bird if you want to be the biggest band in the world – this is what it’s about. If you don’t like it, piss off, tell us now.”

They gotten a reputation for being a juicy interview for jaded journalists tired of earnest musicians telling of their next charity album, or wanking on about how their music is deep.

The British press have gorged themselves on a love-hate feast of large portions of Oasis.

For Oasis watchers, the landmark article was the April 23 issue this year of NME. Titled The Bruise Brothers, this was the true beginning of the hype machine. The article immediately focuses in on the duelling brothers, barely touching the fact they are a band.

The stage was set for a punch and judy comedy involving the nasty yet lovable Gallagher brothers. Shakespeare couldn’t have written a better play for the press gang to report.

While Liam denies it, there has been talk of a full-blown conspiracy involving Oasis record label Creation and their buddies within the press – an Oasis hype mafia some have called it.

“If someone likes you and your on their label, they are going to talk about you. We’ve done all the shit gigs man. The reason why we are bigis because we are fucking crafty. We’ve done four sell-out tours within the space of four months. What other band does that? – none. We’ve had a single out every month. People are just tripping. There’s no big mafia working us up. If there is, I don’t fucking know it. No one’s told me.

“They just want to build us up as hype and then see if they can knock us down. But they won’t be able to – ’cause we are writing the best songs – we can rip their papers up and wipe our bums with it and throw it in the fucking bin, they can’t do it with us. They can do it with Suede, ’cause Suede let em. If someone stitches me in the paper and I meet them in London or wherever, they get it, I tell them.

“A couple weeks ago we were on the front cover of the NME, Melody Maker – we didn’t even do an interview with the NME. They just sneaked over and got a picture, the picture that was on the cover of the NME was going to be for VOX.

“They got (freelance photographer) Keving Cummings to sell the VOX picture to the NME. Now Kevin Cummings don’t come near us, if he does I’ll slap him, and I’ve told him. He says this is for VOX, and the next fucking day it’s on the front cover of the NME without even an interview with us.

“They can try and have a backlash – we will release Whatever at xmas with proper Beatles styling, which will sell thousands and thousands of fucking copies and put us in the charts.”

When former Jam powerhouse and English pop icon Paul Weller dropped by an Oasis gig, the meeting was blown into the clash of titan egos by the press.

“He comes to the gig because he likes the music. We chilled out with him. You know how the press works, they just build it up. They made out as if Paul Weller walked in our dressing room and our kid fucking snaps at him. He loves Paul Weller. This is bullshit, I’m not having the NME or the Melody Maker deciding what we are. No way, I’m not having it.”

In fact Liam sees Weller on holy ground. “The other two guys in the band were dicks, I don’t care for them at all. Paul Weller was a diamond. He wrote some mega songs. They are bloody selling groceries, trying to get it together.

“Everyone is going they should form the Jam again – no way man. They look like 50-year-old men, them two now. Paul Weller looks like a young lad now. He’s kept it together, why should he go back, go jamming with them again. He’s still young.”

It took just one tour with Primal Scream for Oasis to determine who is the greatest rock n’ roll band alive. Lead singer Bobby Gillespie’s degenerate 70s roadshow follies didn’t impress Liam.

“They ain’t the rock n’ roll band everybody makes them out to be. There’s only three in Primal Scream – the rest are all hiding. A rock n’ roll band to me is about five people who know each other very well, they are all friends. They ain’t the last rock n’ roll band, we are! Fucking idiots, we are! Well we aren’t the last, but we are the rock n’ roll band to date if there is one about – not Primal Scream.

“Plus he (Gillespie) smells and they don’t wash their clothes. They are too rock n’ roll cliche, you know what I mean. I know for a fact lot of these rock n’ roll types look at us and say we aren’t rock n’ roll because we have trainers. So fucking what! It’s not all about winkle pickers, skin-tight pants and long greasy hair. That’s Guns n’ Roses material!”

Note: This was the first article about Oasis in North America. In October, 2007 Liam Gallagher was named one of the ten wittiest Englishmen in history.

Watch Magazine: Sloan Cover
Sloan’s 1994 release, Twice Removed, was called by Chart magazine one of the “Top 50 Canadian Albums of All Time”.
Mongolian Rock Pop Front Cover
In 1999 I published the first book on Mongolia’s contemporary music scene. Freshly opened up to the wider world, Mongolia’s musicians were leading the way for this youthful, new Asian democracy. By 2020, Mongolian musicians had become a global Internet sensation.
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ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021

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Peaceniks Questioning Air-Raid Strategy In Bosnia

Muslims say peaceful alternatives will aid cleansing

By David South

Now Magazine (Toronto, Canada), May 13-19, 1993

While Bosnian Muslims continue to demand either airstrikes against the Serbians or weapons to defend themselves, there is little consensus among Canadian peace groups and political parties that these measures are the key to a long-lasting peace.

The differences are as graphic as those between Washington and Ottawa. While president Bill Clinton is asking European nations to support air strikes, prime minister Brian Mulroney has publicly opposed such bombing raids as an answer to the brutal ethnic cleansing of Muslims being carried out by the Serbs.

“We are still developing our position in terms of support for military intervention,” says Roxanne Dube, assistant to Liberal foreign policy critic Lloyd Axworthy.

Dube says, “We need something more comprehensive than just airstrikes, which alone could jeopardize our troops.”

NDP foreign affairs critic Svend Robinson is more willing to consider military action under UN auspices. But first he wants “a vice-like embargo on Serbia and the establishment of safe havens and humanitarian corridors.

“If the slaughter continues, I personally would not exclude the posibility of further military action,” he says.

“The response of the United Nations, and NATO in particular, has been appallingly inadequate. It has allowed the Bosnian Serbs to consolidate their territorial position. And their latest sabotage of the Vance/Owen proposal has left the international community with no alternative but to isolate Serbia.

“The Bosnian Serbs are just continuing their widespread rape of Muslim women, ethnic cleansing, torture – the world has got to say, stop.”

Among peace groups there is a feeling that military intervention is not a longterm solution.

“We don’t have a position,” says Tamara Storic of Greenpeace Canada, a response echoed by the Toronto Disarmament Network. “We’re in much the same situation as the UN. Nobody knows what to do.”

No position

The Canadian Peace Alliance’s Gideon Forman understands the frustration that fuels calls for bombing, but doesn’t believe it is a longterm solution.

“Those who say go in there and bomb are not all crazy,” he says. “They hear about ethnic cleansing, they hear about rape camps – and they see bombing as a way to stop that. But our position is that a little more restraint has to be shown.”

He advocates a combination of sanctions and diplomacy for a longterm peaceful solution.

Maggie Helwig of ACT for Disarmament says she has little to offer in the short term, pointing out, “Maybe at this point there is little anyone can do.” She is also sympathetic to those who want to arm Bosnian Muslims, but feels it wouldn’t help the situation.

She says, “I believe they are the legitimate government. But providing weapons is not going to contribute to a lasting peace.”

Helwig favours targeted sanctions that would allow opposition organizations in Serbia to receive supplies while the government wouldn’t, combined with international support for peace and opposition groups.

“The only way we can end the Serbian aggression to to support the opposition in Serbia, the peace movement and the women’s movement. The reason they aren’t having much influence is that they aren’t getting any international support.”

Fatima Basic, spokesperson for the Canadian Bosnian refugee groups, says that while she supports Helwig’s plans for helping opposition and women’s groups, she is angry that it is being put out as an alternative to military intervention and air strikes. She says the West “should have done something before we lost half a million people.”

Imam Tajib Pasanbegovic, religious leader of Canadian Bosnian Muslims, says of Helwig’s thoughts, “It’s a ridiculous idea by itself. It will take several years, and by then there will be no Bosnian Muslims left. There is not time. Imagine if we gave this chance to Hitler in the second world war – another 5 million Jews would have disappeared.”

Both he and Basic are bitter that while Clinton seeks European support for bombing, “Prime minister Brian Mulroney is going behind his back telling the world not to interfere.”

Life embargo

Pasanbegovic says if the West will not intervene with at least half the bombing if did in the Gulf War, “They should life the arms embargo and return things to a starting point. If the West is not going to defend us, at least let us defend ourselves.”

However, Carolyn Langdon of Voice of Women, a peace group working with peace and women’s organizations in the former Yugoslav republics, says, “Our position is against intervention, including limited military strikes. We are supporting the civil society groups, the opposition against the nationalism and war policies of their governments.”

Her group sets up rape crisis centres and sponsors women to come to Canada to raise awareness.

David Isenverg, a senior research analyst at the left-leaning Washington-based Center for Defense Information, says sources tell him that the Clinton administration believes air strikes are only a means of levelling the playing field for the Muslims.

He says a Pentagon report released this Wednesday will discredit the claims of air strikes’ accuracy, citing failures during the Gulf War. Clinton will decide on air strikes after Saturday’s referendum in Bosnia, when Serbs will vote on whether to accept a Western peace plan.

Now Magazine (Toronto, Canada), May 13-19, 1993.
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Take Two Big Doses Of Humanity And Call Me In The Morning

By David South

The Toronto Star (Toronto, Canada), January 1, 1993

“Anybody going into medicine should read a whole bunch of good novels.” Dr. Alvin Newman isn’t kidding. The head of curriculum renewal at the largest English-speaking medical school in the world, the University of Toronto, feels strongly that doctors have been ill-prepared for their profession’s challenges.

How doctors become doctors is being hotly debated as Ontario’s five medical schools institute a potpourri of curriculum reforms. After a century of taking a back seat to scientific achievement, bedside manners and the art of medicine are in vogue again.

“Around the world, medical education is undergoing significant changes,” says Newman. “Medical schools must strike a balance between the incredible explosion of scientific knowledge and re-establish the role of the physician as wise counsel and empathic healer.”

It’s a role that many feel doctors have ignored. An American Medical Association poll, conducted between 1985 and 1988, found that fewer than 50 per cent of respondents said they thought doctors listened well and half believed doctors no longer care as much about patients as they used to.

In response to these criticisms, current reforms are shifting medical education away from reliance on the turn-of-the-century science-based approach, says Professor Jackie Duffin, a medical historian at Queen’s University who helped organize the new curriculum introduced there in 1991.

“In the old days doctors could probably make a diagnosis and tell people what was happening to them, but not do very much for them,” says Newman.

“Yet society had more trust and fondness for physicians than they do now. Much of the condemnation of the medical profession is because we have become the custodians of high-tech medicine.”

While the Ontario government embarks on the most sweeping reforms to health care since the 1966 introduction of comprehensive health insurance in Ontario and the founding of national medicare in 1968, many doctors feel their profession cannot afford to maintain the status quo.

The concensus at Ontario’s five medical schools – U of T, Queen’s, University of Western Ontario, University of Ottawa and McMaster University – has gelled around a belief that doctors need to be as comfortable dealing with people as they are with scientific medicine. To this end, revamped curricula supplement basic science and clinical medicine with emphasis on early exposure to patients, communication skills, psychological issues, medical ethics, medical literacy and health promotion.

These schools hope to produce new doctors to fit into a rapidly-changing health care system – one that many believe will rely far less on large hospitals.

Instead, many procedures will take place in the home or in the day clinics. Expanding community health care care centres will try to tackle extensive social and health problems. This preventive approach ot medical education was pioneered by Hamilton’s McMaster medical school.

Since its founding in 1967, McMaster has experimented with teaching methods that steer away from mass lectures to concentrate on the individual student. The evolution of McMaster’s curriculum has placed greater emphasis on communication skills, psychosocial aspects of medicine, community issues, and disease prevention and health promotion.

How do McMaster students rate against other medical students?

Last year they scored above the national average on licencing exams. A higher proportion of McMaster students enter research and academic medicine than their counterparts from other schools. One study comparing them to U of T suggested they were more motivated to be life-long learners.

Dr. Rosanna Pellizzari practices the kind of medicine everyone is talking about these days. Working out of renovated church, Pellizzari’s practice at the Davenport/Perth Community Health Centre in west end Toronto serves a working class neighbourhood that has been home to generations of recent immigrants.

A member of the Medical Reform Group – which has long advocated significant reforms to health care – and trained at McMaster, Pellizzari can be seen to represent the doctor of the future: Sensitive, salaried and working in community health.

“McMaster’s curriculum attracts people with innovative ideas,” says Pellizzari, who was active in community health education before going to medical school. “It is a very supportive environment.

“I think the important question is: Who do we choose to be medical students? They should open up medical schools to those who know what it’s like to be a parent, a mother or disabled. Doctors should represent the population they serve. We are still getting mostly white, inexperienced young males as physicians. They aren’t going to practice the way that is necessary.”

In Ontario, many doctors see the 1986 doctors’ strike as a watershed for public opinion.

As a result of the negative fallout from the strike and perceived gap between physicians andhe public they serve, a five-year project entitled Educating Future Physicians for Ontario became a major advocate for reform.

Started in 1988, EFPO has examined fundamental issues in designing and implementing new medical school curricula. These issues include defining societal health care needs and expectations, faculty development and student evaluation. While each medical school has adapted reforms to its particular situation, EFPO hopes to prod further reforms.

“This is a unique venture in Canada, and could have implications far beyond Ontario if successful,” says Dr. William Seidelman, a key player in EFPO. “It captures the unique sense of the Canadian scene, and will build on the implied contact in the Canadian health system.”

Pellizzari sees the attitude of medical schools and teaching hospitals towards medical students as a significant factor in creating insensitive doctors. She recalls the high rate of suicide among medical students and the abusive work environment that forces doctors-in-training to work shifts unthinkable for other workers.

“The way we train doctors is inhumane,” she says. “We don’t expect other workers to put in 30-hour shifts. It creates in new physicians the attitude that they paid their dues and now society owes them.”

Many critics feel that changing training methods isn’t enough; the whole ethos and selection process must be changed. If doctors are to better serve the population, they must better reflect it.

“We are getting very close to gender equality and a laudable distribution of ethnic and racial backgrounds,” says Newman. “But students still come from a fairly narrow social spectrum,  very middle class kids. Their exposure to the extremes of society, to poverty, to homelessness and related illnesses have been very limited.”

Pellizzari found how out-of-date the medical profession was in her first year. One teacher wanted her to work till 10 at night. When told that she needed 24 hours notice for a babysitter, the teacher shot back that motherhood and medicine don’t mix.

“I was a mother before I was a physician. When I get a call at night from a mother, I understand this. With 30 per cent of visits to doctors having no biological basis – like depression due to unemployment – you can’t do anything unless you have experienced life.

“If we don’t address this, you can design the best training in the world, but things won’t change.”

But Newman also feels many factors outside of medical school discourage a more diverse student body.

“To go through medical school in the United States requires large indebtedness. That’s not true in Canada. You can calculate what a year of medical school costs in terms of a finite number of CDs, a leather jacket and ghetto blaster. So something is dissuading people from pursuing this career, and it isn’t money.”

While there is a concensus among academics that medical schools haven’t prepared doctors well enough, there is little support for a dramatic change in selection criteria. “I can’t muster a lot of support from colleagues for serious changes,” says Newman.

Dr. Jock Murray, the former dean of Dalhousie medical school in Halifax, recently told an EFPO meeting he doesn’t see any significant changes ahead.

“Physicians have a reputation for being conservative and self-serving,” says Murray. “If reform is going to be successful we have to be clear that it is about what is good for the people.”

Pellizzari believes life experience and empathy with social circumstances just can’t be taught.

“I grew up in this neighbourhood. I understand their powerlessness, the conditions. Doctors have to see themselves as a member of a team of health professionals, not as the top of the social and medical totem pole.”

U of T’s experience is a classic example of the hurdles ahead. Newman admits it has come as a shock to students loaded with society’s ingrained expectations.

“They spend half a day a week in the community seeing things like drug rehab clinics and community health centres. But being out in the community doesn’t make the students feel comfortable. Their image of what they are going to do involves big buildings, chrome and steel, scurrying personnel and banks of computers.”

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“… in recent years it has become a pursuit for a growing number of researchers. … Behind much of this growth has been the Hannah Institute for the History of Medicine …” 

Read more about Canadian innovation in healthcare delivery here: Taking Medicine To The People: Four Innovators In Community Health

Read more on my work promoting Canadian medical history scholarship here: Hannah Institute For The History Of Medicine | 1992 – 1994

Read more on my work leading on innovation and modernisation in the UK’s NHS here: CASE STUDY 5: GOSH/ICH Child Health Portal | 2001 – 2003

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021