Looking back at Oasis’ television debut on ‘The Word’ back in 1994
The images of Liam and Noel Gallagher are now imprinted on the British pop iconography, but it’s worth remembering that all the legendary bands had to start somewhere—even Oasis.
When Oasis first appeared on our television screens they did so with little to nothing known about the band outside of Manchester and a select few music-heads. Their new style of swaggering rock ‘n’ roll, which would later get the title of ‘Britpop’, had seen the band become an underground success. But now they were going to be beamed across the nation, they were going mainstream. Who gave them the opportunity? Naturally, it’s a big break that everyone wants to take credit for.
Having started in 1991 as the Rain, the band’s lead singer and the biggest mouth in the North, Liam Gallagher, was joined by his brother Noel as he returned to Manchester and began writing songs in earnest. Together they formed the core of the group and found success when they were picked up by Alan McGee’s Creation Records in 1993 after a chance meeting at King Tut’s in Glasgow.
In the spring of 1994, the pace of their hype-train was ever-increasing and soon enough there was one band on the lips of every music aficionado in the know and it was: Oasis.
So with a decent bit of buzz surrounding the band, their as yet unknown quantity debut album Definitely Maybe due out later in the year, McGee was keen to make sure Oasis were front and centre in the public consciousness. In 1994 there was only one way to grab the attention of the ‘youth’ television and in there was only one show for new and prospering bands: The Word.
The show was a magazine-style late-night programme filled with the best bands, quality interviews, and maggot-eating ‘hopefuls’ (a segment that allowed audience members to ‘do anything to get on TV’). Hosted by Terry Christian it offered a younger generation a taste of the subverted sub-culture of ’90s Britain.
In an interview with The Observer, host Terry Christian revealed that while the Oasis performance will go down in history as the beginning of a media monopoly for the band, it’s a performance which, if not for Christian, would never have happened. “Since Oasis made their first television appearance, on Channel 4’s The Word on 18 March 1994, everyone from the series editor and music booker to the cleaning lady has tried to take the credit — when, of course, it was really all down to me, me, me,” he said.
Christian goes on to share that his and Noel’s girlfriend both worked at the same PR company in Manchester called Red Alert, something Noel used to his advantage. “I’d already had Noel pestering me on nights out in Manchester to get his band on the show when their debut single came out,” remembered Christian.
“I’d loved the promo and the live demo tape I’d heard, but the only times I’d seen them live they hadn’t impressed, especially at the Hop & Grape bar at Manchester University, where Liam was so shy he sang the whole set with his back to the audience.” Things wouldn’t stay the same for very long.
Noel clearly got his way as Christian managed to negotiate his producer Paul Ross and music lead Ed Forsyke’s dislike for any band north of Watford and find a spot for the band to perform their debut single ‘Supersonic’ three weeks before its release date. Christian was to have his hunch on the band proved right almost instantly: “They arrived accompanied by a scallyish entourage of crew plus assorted mates from Manchester.”
“During rehearsal, it was heartening to see that Liam Gallagher, far from being shy and retiring, was cheekily chatting up all the female dancers as if he was already a huge star,” claimed the host. “On the night itself, they sounded fantastic, with the show’s main guest, Bob Geldof, saying how good he thought the band were.”
It was clear that far from being the shy and retiring band Christian had seen in the early days of their career that Oasis had turned a corner and were now embarking on the road to becoming the rock stars we know them as today.
The pursuit of the rock ‘n’ roll dream didn’t end with the final moments of the show. At the after-show party, which included Noel taking the mickey out of every Londoner he could, Liam casually walked around the bar with a swagger that he would develop into an art form. Liam’s antics didn’t stop there as the cheeky chappy act clearly resonated with a few of the party’s guests. “As it was the last show, most of the maggot-eating Hopefuls who’d been on that series had come down for the after-show, and one of the girls made a beeline for Liam. He then took her back to the band’s studio where they were staying that night (no hotels in their rock’n’roll lifestyle then) to do the business.”
So, yes, this was the making of Oasis, warts and all.
This TV performance was the beginning of the legend of the band from Manchester with enough attitude to sink a Britpop battleship. As Christian says: “So that was Oasis: pushed themselves on to TV by pestering, great performance on the night, everyone got trashed, and the lead singer banged a Hopeful.” — A rock ‘n’ roll tale as old as time.
Watch Oasis’ debut television performance on The Word in 1994 as they play ‘Supersonic’ and write their names in the history books.