Michael Halpin Journalism


Live Review: Louder Than War: James & The Charlatans. Echo Arena, Liverpool – 10th December 2016



James | The Charlatans

Echo Arena, Liverpool

10th December 2016

As two bands so strongly linked with the city of Manchester descended upon Liverpool’s Echo Arena, Louder Than War’s Michael Halpin went along to take it all in.

The Charlatans: Although some debate may have ensued regarding who should have been headlining this double header between James and The Charlatans, The Charlatans opening trio of songs argued a strong case to suggest that the running order was indeed incorrect.

‘Weirdo’ recalled just what The Charlatans do best – playing the underdog and coming out on top. ‘North Country Boy’ is such a crowd pleaser that it was never likely to fail while ‘Just When You’re Thinking Things Over’ grooved along defiantly giving the impression, for the moment at least, that the core of what makes The Charlatans great is still very much intact. Further to this, ‘Just When You’re Thinking Things Over’ was sung with such purpose by the seemingly ageless Tim Burgess, that despite nervous breakdowns, drug abuse, financial embezzlement, jail sentences and the untimely death of two key members, The Charlatans really do appear to be indestructible. Moving into ‘So Oh’ from last years ‘Modern Nature’ album lost the audiences attention however, while ‘Blackened Blue Eyes’ and ‘Let The Good Times Be Never Ending’ did not do enough to win them back, in spite of Tim Burgess’ efforts.

Like ‘North Country Boy’, ‘One To Another’ and ‘The Only One I Know’ were only ever going to gain a positive reaction and of the bands newer material, ‘Come Home Baby’, which followed, faired the strongest.

Following ‘Come Home Baby’, Tim Booth and Andy Diagram from James joined The Charlatans onstage. It was all big hugs, big grins and backslapping before Tim Burgess introduced the number they were about to perform as being “by four lads from Liverpool who shook the world”. One instantly knew that this was not going to be a Beatles cover, that would be too easy. Instead, the audience was treated to a version of Echo and The Bunnymen’s ‘Rescue’ which disappointingly seemed to be enjoyed far more by those on stage rather than the audience. As ‘Rescue’ briefly morphed into The Doors ‘L.A. Woman’, much was won back and at this point The Charlatans created the most musically powerful moment of their set. Typically concluding with their usually anthemic ‘Sproston Green’, this performance appeared to be slightly lethargic and it felt, to a degree, like the band were going through the motions. Closing your set with the same song for pretty much the last twenty-five years may well do that though.

One of The Charlatans strengths has always been their ability to win over an audience that has not been solely theirs, and despite such a promising start, that strength did not appear to be there this evening.

James: Aside from Tim Booth’s bizarrely oversized pants, the first thought when he opened his mouth at the Echo Arena was, ‘now there is a fella who can really sing!’ Contemporaries such as Tim Burgess, Ian Brown, Shaun Ryder or Tom Hingley have never come close to the vocal talent of Tim Booth and from the off it is clear that a) James have always been slightly different from other bands of their generation and b) there is absolutely no question whatsoever as to who should be headlining tonight’s gig.

Tim Booth’s vocals simply soared over the audience during ‘Waltzing Along’ and the immediate feeling is that watching an older and wiser James is a beautiful, uplifting and life-affirming experience.

Tim Booth’s zen-like demeanor contradicts his still wonderful dance moves, whilst he carries a grin that cannot help but give off genuine good vibes. When all of these factors are in place, James are pretty much untouchable as a live band.

Following ‘Waltzing Along’ and a superb ‘To My Surprise’, Tim Booth decided that the aptly named ‘Surfer’s Song’ was the ideal opportunity for him to indulge in a good old crowd surf. The strangest part of the whole thing was not that the fact that the 56-year-old can still carry off such a feat, but the fact that he can do it whilst still managing to sing perfectly in tune.

An extremely powerful ‘Ring The Bells’ showed that none of Tim Booth’s vocal prowess has left him. Just as they would time and again tonight, James showed how an exceptional pop/indie-rock band can make thousands of people feel like all is right with the world. Even if it is just for ninety minutes.
The subject matter of ‘Moving On’, addressing the death of Tim Booth’s mother in 2012, would appear to be far removed from making an audience feel like all is right with the world, but as he articulated his feeling that ‘death is like a birth and can be truly beautiful’ the sincerity of his delivery won his audience over. The fact that Booth’s band mates appeared to be keeping a watchful eye on him while he explained ‘Moving On’ only added further weight to the performance and even though he appeared to be communicating some very personal emotions to the audience, Booth appeared to be completely at one while doing so. He certainly seems to be a man comfortable in his own skin. A beautifully executed stripped down version of ‘She’s A Star’ followed, while ‘Johnny Yen’ from 1986’s ‘Stutter’ brought a tear to a fair few eyes.

‘Born Of Frustration’, without Tim Booth and Andy Diagram going walk-about within the audience would have been enough to lift the spirit of any crowd, but as Booth repeatedly cropped up over one side of the arena whilst Diagram the other, the audience (the majority of which were forty-plus) were sent into something of a frenzy.
‘Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)’ and the anthemic ‘Come Home’ both proved that Tim Booth still has the moves and as the clock ticked by, Booth showed nothing to suggest he was running out of the energy required to perform in the manner he does; his youthful exuberance seemingly years away from leaving him.

Like ‘She’s A Star’, a stripped back ‘Just Like Fred Astaire’ worked wonderfully and began James’ encore in fine style. Tim Burgess joined Booth and company for ‘Laid’ even though it was not one hundred percent clear whether or not he knew all of the words, before ‘Sometimes’ became one huge crowd sing-a-long.

Bravely, James ended their set with this years ‘Nothing But Love’ single and managed to pull it off majestically. The heart, soul, emotion, verve and vigour that James communicated tonight meant that in many ways ‘Nothing But Love’ was the perfect ending to a breathtaking set.

It is not at all overboard to say that the performance James gave tonight was not only a celebration of music but also a celebration of life itself.



Words by Michael Halpin. You can find more of Michael’s writing on Louder Than War at his author’s archive

Portrait shot of Tim Booth by Robin Linton, crowd shot by Tina



Black Grape: The Victoria Warehouse, Manchester – Live Review for Louder Than War


Black Grape: The Victoria Warehouse, Manchester – Live Review



Black Grape

The Victoria Warehouse


24th September 2016

Manchester’s Victoria Warehouse saw the first Brit Project take place over the weekend with a mix of legendary artists and breakthrough bands sharing two stages in one of Manchester’s most intriguing venues.  Louder Than War’s Michael Halpin was there to tell us all about it. Photos by Paul Husband

The likes of Primal Scream, Black Grape, Badly Drawn Boy and Dodgy lined-up alongside The Watchmakers, Glass Caves, Feed The Kid and Sitting Pretty for this unique live music event.

Of the unsigned acts, The Watchmakers held their own most self-assuredly alongside the likes of Reverend and The Makers and Dodgy, the latter churning out their back catalogue of crowd pleasing hits.

Manchester’s own Badly Drawn Boy (AKA Damon Gough) followed Dodgy onstage, cutting a lone figure – just one man and his guitar.  The charismatic individual that he is however managed to charm the audience throughout his set. ‘Everybody’s Stalking’, ‘The Shining’, ‘Disillusion’ and ‘Once Around The Block’ sounded delightful when stripped down to their bare bones, as did a medley of ‘People Get Ready/Sexual Healing and Mohammed Ali’ before Gough closed his set with a beautiful cover of Black’s ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’.

Headliners Primal Scream played a greatest-hits-heavy set which included ‘Moving On Up’, ‘Loaded’, ‘Come Together’, ‘Higher Than The Sun’, ‘Rocks’ and ‘Country Girl’ but numbers from their questionable new album ‘Chaosmosis’ meant that this was not vintage Primal Scream and the evening was stolen by the recently reformed Black Grape.

Opening with their 1995 top ten hit ‘In The Name Of The Father’, Black Grape brought the Victoria Warehouse to life and the band, albeit not the original members, sounded far better than they ever did in the 90s.  There were grins aplenty onstage and Shaun Ryder appeared to be genuinely enjoying himself.  Possibly, for the first time in years.

‘Tramazi Parti’ followed ‘In The Name Of The Father’ and it was almost too difficult to think about writing a review when all I really wanted to do was throw a few Bez shapes like I did in the days when I was a touch more agile!

‘Reverend Black Grape’ appeared too early in the set but was as rabble-rousing in 2016 as it was over twenty years ago.  Ryder kicked into an impromptu ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ style “woo-woo” but the real excitement came from Kermit who certainly seems to have a good set of vocal pipes on him.  Again, far better than what can be recalled from the mid-90s.

The groove on ‘A Big Day In The North’ and  ‘Shake Well Before Opening’ was immense and the 2016 version of Black Grape is a water tight, groovy-as-fuck band who sailed through tonight’s set with the confidence of a well oiled machine.

That confidence spilled into ‘Kelly’s Heroes’ as it slipped into ‘It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll’ briefly before an extended ‘Little Bob’ ended the set triumphantly.

Primal Scream may have been the headliners tonight but the evening definitely belonged to Black Grape.





Words by Michael Halpin.  You can find more of Michael’s writing on Louder Than War at his author’s archive.  He can also be found at http://www.michaelhalpinjournalism.co.uk

Photos by Paul Husband. He also tweets as @paul__husband.


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The Stone Roses @ The Etihad Stadium – More Than Just Great Gigs

The Stone Roses at The Etihad Stadium – More Than Just Great Gigs


Album Review: Jackie Lomax: Rare, Unreleased and Live 1965 – 2012


With a voice that gave both Joe Cocker and Chris Farlowe a run for their money, Jackie Lomax appears, throughout his career, to have been the nearly man who never quite got the breaks. If you are looking for a collection of hidden gems to justify this viewpoint, unfortunately, you won’t find it here.

Aside from ‘Genuine Imitation of Life’, ‘You Better Get Going Now’ and live BBC versions of ‘Sour Milk Sea’ and ‘The Eagle Laughs’, this collection of rarities is only essential to completists. A cover of the Black Keys ‘Dead and Gone’ is intriguing yet a little Tony Christie-esque, and aside from this, Rare, Unreleased and Live is a disappointing collection of lifeless production showcasing Lomax when he failed to play to his strengths.

Rather than purchase this collection, either get acquainted with, or revisit, Is This What You Want, Heavy Jelly or Home Is In My Head.


News: Rolling Stones Set To Release ‘The Marquee – Live in 1971’ DVD


As part of the Rolling Stones From The Vaults series, the band are to release The Marquee – Live in 1971 on both DVD and iTunes this June to coincide with the re-release of Sticky Fingers during the same month.

The intimate London gig took place on 26th March 1971 and was filmed for US television, shortly after The Stones had completed their ‘Goodbye Britain Tour’ in preparation for their much publicised exile to the south of France.

The short Marquee set comprised of ‘Live With Me’, ‘Dead Flowers’, ‘I Got The Blues’, ‘Let It Rock’, ‘Midnight Rambler’, ‘Satisfaction’, ‘Bitch’ and ‘Brown Sugar’.

A well as the restored concert footage, the DVD extras include alternate takes of ‘I Got The Blues’ and ‘Bitch’ as well as the bands ‘Brown Sugar’ performance for Top Of The Pops in 1971.

From The Vaults: The Marquee – Live In 1971 is released by Eagle Rock Entertainment on 22nd June.


News: Rolling Stones To Re-issue Classic Sticky Fingers Album


The Rolling Stones are set to re-release their classic 1971 album Sticky Fingers in June of this year. The re-release will boast the re-mastered original album along with a treasure trove of extras including previously unreleased live tracks, alternate takes and a bonus DVD showcasing two tracks (‘Midnight Rambler’ and ‘Bitch’) from the Stones intimate gig at London’s Marquee club in March 1971.

Containing such classics as ‘Brown Sugar’, ‘Wild Horses’, ‘Can’t You Hear Me Knocking’ and ‘Sister Morphine’, the re-released Sticky Fingers is available as a single album as well as Deluxe and Super Deluxe Editions for Stones completists. All are available on CD and heavyweight vinyl as well as being available for digital download.

Highlights of the Deluxe Edition include an alternate version of ‘Brown Sugar’ featuring Eric Clapton plus alternate versions of ‘Wild Horses’, ‘Can’t You Hear Me Knocking’, ‘Bitch’ and ‘Dead Flowers’. Live tracks from the Stones at The Roundhouse in the spring of 1971 are also featured.

The Super Deluxe Edition Box Set, includes all of the above mentioned plus a new live album entitled Get Yer Leeds Lungs Out which features the Rolling Stones live set from Leeds University in 1971.

A 7” vinyl featuring ‘Brown Sugar’ and ‘Wild Horses’ is also included in the Super Deluxe Edition Box Set.

The Super Deluxe Edition is housed in a presentation box with hardback book complete with real zip on the much celebrated Levis Jeans front cover. The hardback limited edition book recounts the making of Sticky Fingers as well as an extensive essay written by legendary journalist Nick Kent.

A Limited Edition Deluxe Double LP set complete with alternative Spanish cover is also available.

Originally released in April 1971, Sticky Fingers was the first album featured on the Rolling Stones own ‘Rolling Stones Records’ label.

The number one, multi-platinum selling album spent five weeks at the top of the chart and received across the board critical acclaim upon its release.

Produced by Jimmy Miller, Sticky Fingers was recorded over a number of sessions in several different studios between December 1969 and January 1971 including the now famous Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Sheffield, Alabama.

As well as Andy Warhol designing the famous Levis Jeans cover, the album also boasted a number of impressive guests including Ry Cooder, Billy Preston, Bobby Keys, Nicky Hopkins and Jack Nitzsche along with the writing assistance of Marianne Faithfull.

The Sticky Fingers re-release is available on 8th June.


Louder Than War – 20th Anniversary of ‘Some Might Say’ reaching number 1


This week sees the 20th anniversary of Oasis achieving their first number one single ‘Some Might Say’. Not only was it the bands first number one, it was also the first number one under the banner known as Britpop.

Here Louder Than War take an in depth look at what was going on around the band at the time. Sacked drummers, Brit Awards, drink and drug fuelled arguments in the studio, writing classic pop songs, playing arena gigs and the beginnings of their rivalry with Blur.

February 1995. Oasis have just picked the Brit Award for Best Newcomer. Noel Gallagher doesn’t give the typical acceptance speech thanking the band’s manager, record label, stylist and life guru. Instead, he thanks the band’s mothers, the award presenter Ray Davies for influencing him and George Martin for producing The Beatles. This may not seem like a big deal in the first instance but considering the youth had, for years, been exposed to saccharin, lifeless speeches from artists they were unable to relate to, it seemed like a breath of fresh air.

Although Oasis were on amicable terms with Blur at this point, as the Brit Awards drew on during that February evening, members of the Oasis party began heckling Blur every time they returned to their table with yet another award (four awards in total over the course of the evening comprising of Best Album, Best Single, Best Band and Best Video). Liam Gallagher’s challenge would be thus, “Look me in the eye and tell me you deserve that award” according to Paolo Hewitt’s 1997 publication, ‘Getting High: The Story of Oasis’.

Former Oasis Press Officer at Creation Records Johnny Hopkins told Louder Than War recently, “There was banter both ways. With bands there’s always some rivalry. Neither band really had that much to do with each other. It wasn’t like they were good mates and all of a sudden they weren’t. They weren’t particularly in each others orbit.”

Liam’s challenge however need not have been so quarrelsome as elder brother Noel already had a plan put together that would gain Oasis their first number one single. A feat which, despite the accolades, Blur were yet to achieve. Indeed, before the Brit Awards had even taken place, Loco Studios in South Wales was booked for Oasis to record their next single. A single that Noel Gallagher was certain would reach the top spot in the UK charts.

Noel Gallagher told Q magazine in 2011 that ‘Some Might Say’ was planned as the follow up to their ‘Whatever’ single as early as June 1994. The idea for the song coming just as Noel made the move from Manchester to London. Noel leaving his long-term girlfriend Louise Jones behind after she had decided that she would prefer to stay in Manchester working for successful PR company, Red Alert, rather than moving southwards with Noel.

It was in a Chiswick bedsit, occupied by the MTV Europe VJ Rebecca Du Ruvo, that Noel began writing the song.

“The verses are quite deep” Noel continued to tell Q. “Some of them are about homeless people, and people who can’t always get what they want that’s why it’s, ‘Tell it to the man who lives in hell.’ So then I wanted something as deep and meaningful for the chorus but in the end I just gave up and thought, ‘F–it, I might as well just go with stupid stuff about fishes and dishes and dogs itching….As soon as I’d written ‘Some Might Say’ I was certain it would be a number one and I was right. I never had even the slightest doubt.”

Johnny Hopkins told Louder Than War about the first time he heard the song, “I’m pretty sure Noel played me a demo of it on cassette in a car somewhere. It sounded wicked and certainly stood out. It’s one of their greatest songs – the guitars, Liam’s vocals, the tune, the energy to it. It’s a great exciting rock ‘n’ roll tune.

“The quality of his song writing was unbelievable. Noel was incredibly prolific. Not only was there 'Definitely Maybe' but there was stuff like 'Acquiesce', 'Talk Tonight' and 'Half The World Away'. Those kind of quality tunes. Perhaps some of Noel’s finest song writing. It was extraordinary.”

Following Noel’s completion of the song, a demo was recorded at Maison Rouge studios in Fulham with the bands producer Owen Morris. Morris picks up the story on his website www.owenmorris.net, “We’d demoed ‘Some Might Say’ in Maison Rouge…the version from there was slow and heavy and dark…really quite cool in a Rolling Stones way.”

Then, in late February 1995, the band convened in Loco Studios, South Wales to record the master.

One would expect all to be well in the Oasis camp at this point yet issues regarding drummer Tony McCarroll’s playing abilities were a hot topic of conversation, mainly behind the scenes although occasionally also in public.

As far back August 1994, Liam was quoted as saying at a press conference leading up to Creation: Undrugged, an evening of acoustic performances played by those signed to Creation Records., “Our sets going to be great cos’ our drummers not doing it.”

Conversations had taken place over the following months between Owen Morris and Oasis manager Marcus Russell regarding the drumming issue. “The answer to the problem was uncomplicated. Tony needed some drumming lessons.”

In Paolo Hewitt’s ‘Getting High’ Owen Morris states, “Tony’s biggest problem was that he only had two beats. He’d shuffle on some songs or stomp on others and it wound the band up chronically because they couldn’t do anything other than that.”

Tony McCarroll’s drum tutor, Dave Larken told Paolo Hewitt that Tony McCarroll had ‘the ability to be a great drummer’ but on the eve of the ‘Some Might Say’ recording session, when Morris asked Tony McCarroll how the lessons were going, Tony’s response was, “I haven’t done any of them. I haven’t had time.” Morris recalls thinking, “Oh fuck, here we go.”

Morris continues, “The band set up, we spend the day doing lots of really good, slightly faster than the demo versions of the track. Noel is all hyped up. I edit the best bits together and we are happy. Then the rest of the band go to bed, but me and Noel stay up, have a few drinks.

“At some stage in the early hours we listen to the demo and decide that the new version we’d spent the whole day on is too fast. Noel wakes the band up, insists they get out of bed and come and re-record ‘Some Might Say’, but everyone better be fucking careful not to play it too fast.”

“We do ONE take and decide we’re all fucking geniuses and that we’ve definitely nailed the backing track. Next day, I wake up, hungover and hazy. Liam wants to sing. So Liam sings his lead vocal in two takes. Fucking on fire singing.”

Again Morris had reservations over the drumming, “The drums were all over the place, proper tragic bit of drumming on that track because it just loses it on the first chorus. So on the mix we had to try and hide the drums which, for a rocking track is very unfortunate.”

Noel, with Morris’s assistance, worked on the tracks overdubs and once they believed they were finished, played what they thought was the final mix to the rest of the band and a selection of hangers-on.

“On the demo we had this weird backwards guitar bit that we thought was a bit naff.” Morris told Paolo Hewitt, “Later on, when the track was played Liam completely exploded with rage, “You fuckin dickhead, you don’t know what you’re doing! Where’s the guitar bit?!”

“Get him out of here or I’ll fuckin’ kill him. I know what I’m doing!” Noel replied.

The younger Gallagher stormed off and the hangers on quickly followed. Noel then let off a bit of steam, threatened to sack Owen Morris if he sided with Liam and then a few hours later, decided that Liam may actually have had a point.

Noel then sat down to record a slightly different guitar part and both brothers had their honour restored. Liam thought that Noel had listened to his point of view, while Noel records something that he believed was even better that what Liam wanted in the first place. With that, the song was finally ready for release.

On 3 March, Oasis set out on a 3-week tour of the US. The cramped bus and overall cabin fever meant that the hostility towards Tony McCarroll intensified.

In Ian Robertson’s 1996 publication ‘Oasis: What’s The Story?’ the former Oasis Road Manager wrote of how the bands live sound engineer, original ‘Definitely Maybe’ producer (and old friend of Noel’s), Mark Coyle, often chatted late into the night about how McCarroll’s drumming was hindering the bands live performance. “The consensus was always the same,” said Robertson, “he had to go.”

McCarroll possibly furthered his unpopular position within the group by distancing himself from the band on tour. According to Robertson he would knock on Tony’s hotel room door ‘time and again’ with an extended invite from band members asking Tony if he wanted to join them in whatever they were doing that evening. Tony however filled the distance between him and the rest of the band by enthusiastically getting himself involved with a highly sexualized groupie called Elle from Florida.

“She did not exactly enjoy the respect of the rest of the gang,” wrote Robertson. “Given that her first meeting with Tony was consummated with great passion and she seemed to be totally crazy about him, you could see their point.”

Ironically, as Robertson tells, “a drum clinic that Tony had attended to try and improve his technical act was of the opinion that his problem stemmed from a lack of fitness!”

Although McCarroll now gained ridicule on the tour bus for his drumming abilities, his groupie-girlfriend, his hair and his clothes, he once confided in Robertson, ““I can hack it because I’m in the band. I am the drummer with this fuckin’ group. The rest of it is incidental’ He genuinely believed that that would always be the case. He never saw the hammer drop.”

Upon the band’s return to the UK a video shoot for ‘Some Might Say’ was arranged to take place in Chatley Heath, Surrey. The budget was set at £40,000 but on the morning of the shoot, Liam failed to show. After numerous calls to his hotel room Liam finally picked up and informed the band’s management, “The idea’s shit. I’m not having it”, Paolo Hewitt tells. Liam then hung up the phone. As a result, footage was cobbled together from the bands previous videos for ‘Cigarettes and Alcohol’, ‘Whatever’, and the American video for ‘Supersonic’.

Two weeks later, on April 14 Oasis recorded an appearance on Channel 4’s ‘The White Room’ hosted by Mark Radcliffe. Strangely, the band did not play the soon to be released ‘Some Might Say’. Rumours of the band not being happy with their performance of the song surfaced at the time and the band opted instead for two of the EP’s other tracks, ‘Acquiesce’ and a wonderful ‘Talk Tonight’ featuring Paul Weller on both electric piano and backing vocals. The third number they played was ‘It’s Good To Be Free’ from the ‘Whatever’ EP.

Johnny Hopkins on the Talk Tonight performance: “That was a surreal beautiful moment and again it showed the quality of Noel’s song writing and the sophistication of it because every one had them down as just a rock ‘n’ roll band, making noise and partying but here was something that was beautiful, sophisticated, intimate, heartbreaking…heartbreakingly beautiful AND…to have Weller on there, Weller’s stamp of approval…It was a brilliant occasion.”

The atmosphere within the band was strained during the filming and according to Tony McCarroll’s, ‘Oasis: The Truth’ the abuse Tony had been receiving in the US carried on; “The shoot didn’t go as planned. The microphone that sat over my cymbal kept falling from its perch and halting the filming. Noel started to berate me as if I worked for Channel 4’s sound department. I told him to ram it.”

On the 22 April, the band were due to play their biggest gig to date, the 12,000 capacity Sheffield Arena. In the lead up to the show, two warm up gigs were planned. On April 17, they were due to play Southend Cliffs Pavilion and on the 20 April Le Bataclan in Paris.

A storming set at the Southend Cliffs Pavilion was filmed for posterity and released as concert video ‘Live By The Sea’ four months later. Paris, however, kicked up a storm of a very different kind.

The evening before the Le Bataclan gig in Paris, the band were out on the town. At one point during the evening, Tony and Elle ended up having a fight with each other in public, causing something of a scene. At a later date Liam told Paolo Hewitt how he spent much of his time dealing with incident in his own inimitable way.

“I was standing at the bar when this mad bird he (Tony) was seeing walked in and started fighting with him. He was down on the ground so I started eating these cherries and spitting the stones on him as he was rolling around.”

While Noel was in his hotel room putting the finishing touches to his latest composition, ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’, Tony and Elle’s argument took itself back to the hotel.

Tony McCarroll picks up the story, “You kept me awake last night. I don’t like you or your bird. Don’t make me sack you.” Is how the ex-drummer recalls a conversation that took place between him and Noel the following day.

“Noel had threatened to sack the entire band at some point over the previous 18 months” McCarroll tells. Sometimes behind closed doors, sometimes publicly via the press. As this was the case, McCarroll said that the threat had ‘lost its potency.’ “This time (though) there was real intent in his voice.”

During the sound check for the evenings gig Noel and Tony clashed again. “As I passed (Noel) he gave me one of his ‘don’t even talk to me’ looks and I thought ‘fuck that’. I moved in front of him before he could start his sound check. He looked at me and said ‘What the fuck do you want?’ The look that came with the question was one of absolute dismissal. I moved within an inch of his face. I had finally lost it. ‘If you ever talk to me like that again, Noel, I’ll snap you in fucking two and throw you away. Do you understand?

“I stared at him without breaking eye contact. Silence. He looked back at me with his hooded cobra eyes cold. He then finally looked down at his finger tips and started to pick away. In the ensuing silence, I kicked the fire door open and strode out onto a cool Parisian boulevard.”

As Oasis left the stage that night after playing their set, their Parisian audience began chanting ‘Encore! Encore!’

Oasis weren’t ones for going back onstage at this point but as the band gathered backstage, Noel told Tony, ‘We’re doing an encore,’ “Bit fuckin’ odd” McCarroll recalls thinking. “It was a good night, but not worthy of an encore.”

Noel nodded Tony onstage. ‘“Supersonic”,’ he said. “He knew it was my favourite song to drum on. I started the intro and looked to the side stage. Noel stood tapping his foot to the beat. Three minutes is a long time in drumming. But that was the time I had before the band would eventually join me. It was my moment in the sun and would normally be a memory to cherish. For me, it was to prove bitter sweet…by the time the band joined in I realized that Noel was saying goodbye. He led the rest of the band onstage, staring directly at me. He took a long last pull of his cigarette and then flicked it over towards me. I watched as the cigarette landed and its glowing embers scattered and died by my bass drum. His confidence stemmed from the fact that he knew he had the power to eject me from the band.”

On Saturday 22 April, the day came for Oasis to play their first arena gig. Support came from Pulp and Ocean Colour Scene.

Johnny Hopkins described it as ‘a whirlwind week.’ “They started the week in Southend at the Pavillion, playing to about 1000, 2000 tops, whizzed to France, played at the Bataclan which is quite a legendary small venue in Paris, which half of England seemed to turn up to as well as half of Paris.

“They played two small shows and then about 10,000 people in Sheffield. It was a quite a weird week. One of rapid progression. In a way kind of an important period in that bands experience. Shifting gears again from being a big indie band to being an arena band. This was their first big headline show.”

The atmosphere in the Oasis camp should have been upbeat but as Tony McCarroll climbed onto the bands tour bus, he felt a more conspiratory mood in the air, “I walked onto our bus and made for the lounge area. As I arrived, I found Noel sitting there with Guigs and Marcus. They were huddled round the table and looked up, shocked at my sudden arrival. The atmosphere was strange, to say the least. Their muffled hello’s and sheepish looks gave a conspiratorial feel to it all. I took my seat upstairs and warmed myself for the biggest gig we had performed to date.”

The gig was a triumph. Liam, bizarrely, two songs into the set, tried talking to Noel during a guitar solo to ask why there is a massive gap between the stage and the audience. A few songs later Liam and Noel beckon the audience forward, telling fans to jump the barrier than had caused Liam so much confusion. Noel in later interviews likens it to the ‘scene of a revolution’.

Noel debuted ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ during his acoustic solo spot that night. The future was looking more that a little bright for the majority of the bands members.

Johnny Hopkins went on to tell Louder Than War how the move to large arena territory felt like a natural progression for the band rather than a giant leap;

“I think it was inevitable, in a lot off ways it was natural. They had such momentum at that time and their live shows were brilliant and there was so much love out there for the band amongst the public and the media. It was a natural progression but it was weird that in that particular week they did Southend and Paris in much much smaller venues but in the arc of their career, it made total sense.”

The following Monday (24 April) ‘Some Might Say’ was released. The NME named it single of the week. Terry Staunton stating, “OK so it’s no ‘Whatever’ but what is? Anybody would have difficulty following a record like that, but don’t let the recent brilliance of Oasis blind you to the charms of their new stuff. ‘Some Might Say’ is still one of the finest examples of pop music you’ll hear this year.

“What’s strangest about this song is that on the first couple of hearings you convince yourself there’s no hook, nothing go on at all. Then, a few hours later, you find yourself humming a tune that you genuinely can’t remember hearing before. It’s certainly a deceptive little fucker.”

On the Wednesday of that week Tony McCarroll, although he was not to know it yet, recorded his last public appearance with Oasis. It was on Top of The Pops which was due to be broadcast the following day. The show being presented by Chris Evans who was set to take over the Radio 1 breakfast show the follow week.

According to McCarroll, Noel was in a buoyant mood, “We’ve got a No.1 single. Add that to a No.1 album, a Brit Award, all-round critical acclaim and I suppose you could say we are doing all right”.

As the band sat backstage in their Top of The Pops dressing room waiting to record, McCarroll states that Noel was looking directly at him as he made this statement. “I wondered why he was being so friendly and positive. Liam was surprisingly quiet and subdued, as were the rest of the band.”

Following the Top of The Pops recording, Tony and Liam returned to Manchester. Driven by their ever-faithful friend known as ‘Big Un’, Tony tells how Liam, sat in the back seat of the car appeared to feel the need to tell Tony something. “I looked directly over my right shoulder at him as he stared silently out the window. Big Un’ maintained a steady speed. Suddenly, Liam said, ‘Tony.’‘What?’ I replied. He stared at me, his eyes alight, and made to open his mouth. He paused, though, and the light quickly died. ‘Nothing, it doesn’t matter,’ he mumbled and returned to focus on the English countryside flashing by. Something was definitely not right. I had a horrible feeling in my stomach.”

On Sunday the 30 April, BBC Radio 1 announced that ‘Some Might Say’ had entered the UK Singles chart at number one, knocking Take That’s ‘Back For Good’ from the top spot. On a week when Supergrass had entered the chart at number nine with ‘Lenny’ and Paul Weller had gone straight in the chart at number seven with ‘The Changingman’, it should have been a celebratory day all round for the country’s Britpop contingent.

It was far from celebratory though for the much maligned McCarroll, “The phone rang in my mother’s hallway. I answered. ‘Hiya, Tony, it’s Marcus,’in a soft Welsh accent. ‘Hiya, Marcus,’I said, as dread started to fill me. He continued. ‘Look, it’s not easy, this, but there is no other way to say it…You’re out of the band.’They were the words I had been waiting for.

“I suppose I managed to contain my immediate reaction. Marcus went on, ‘You know I tried to stop this. I tried to help. I’m sorry.’ Not as fuckin’ sorry as me. It would have been easy to have blown off at Marcus, but he was merely the messenger. And he had tried to help. I suppose I never really expected it to come from Noel anyway. I thanked Marcus for his time and understanding and asked what would happen next. ‘We’ll meet to discuss how the future should work out for all of us,’ he told me. ‘OK. No worries. Take care. Bye. Bye.’ I replied. There you go. It was that simple. Nice and clean, like we had agreed to meet for a pint and a sandwich. It had finally ended.”

In the ensuing weeks the only band members to contact Tony were Liam and Bonehead. “I didn’t know, Tony” said Bonehead during a nervous phone call ‘It’s a shock to me…If there’s anything I can do…”’ he awkwardly told Tony. “I couldn’t dislike him (Bonehead), as he was a good fella. And to be honest, there were occasions when he had tried to guide me about how to handle Noel. I wasn’t surprised to be the first.”

Newspaper reports initially stated that Tony and Liam had been involved in a fight with each other before the Paris gig, although the band did release a statement confirming that Tony McCarroll’s sacking was due to his drumming not being up to standard. As Liam Gallagher had already stated to Paolo Hewitt, the alleged fight had never actually taken place.

Noel Gallagher had first heard Tony McCarroll’s replacement Alan White playing drums whilst Oasis were camped in a London rehearsal room. White was working with a Creation records artist called Idha during this period when Noel over heard White’s playing and was apparently impressed by the clarity of his sound. According to Paolo Hewitt’s ‘Getting High’ Noel asked, “Who’s that drummer?” Noel then made a note of his name, later found out he was the brother of Steve White, Paul Weller’s long-serving percussionist, and kept him in mind for the day when Tony McCarroll was to eventually be sacked.

Following the departure of McCarroll, Noel Gallagher made the phone call to Alan White. Whether or not White was already lined up to replace McCarroll before he was even made aware that his drumming services were no longer required is a moot point mainly due to Alan White’s connections.

With barely any gigs and an album to work on over the next six weeks, it can be argued that there was a now-or-never feeling in the Oasis camp and had Alan White not been drafted in when he was, the quality of ‘(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?’ may have suffered as a consequence.

On the 3 May Oasis recorded another Top of The Pops appearance, this time celebrating ‘Some Might Say’s’ number one status. With Alan White on drums, this was his first public appearance with the band. As the cameras rolled Bonehead stood encouraging White with a Northern Soul style clenched fist as the song was about to kick in. This was evidently a triumphant moment for the band as Noel, guitar held aloft, celebrated at the end of the song like Oasis had just won the FA Cup.

To celebrate the single reaching number one Meg Matthews, Noel’s girlfriend and sometime social event organizer, arranged a party in an establishment called the Mars Bar in London’s Covent Garden. Blur who were coming to the end of recording their ‘Parklife’ follow up, ‘The Great Escape’, went along to congratulate Oasis with their producer Stephen Street. Liam however, shocked both Stephen Street and Damon Albarn by, on several occasions during the evening, pointing his fingers into Albarn’s face and boasting, “Fuckin number one, fuckin number one.”

According to Stephen Street on the BBC’s ‘7 Ages Of Rock’ documentary, Damon Albarn was ‘quite taken aback’ by these gestures from Liam and the ever competitive Albarn told journalist John Harris in ‘The Last Party’ how he recalls thinking, “Ok…we’ll see”

“A few people wound them (Blur) up that night. Tells Johnny Hopkins. “It was inevitable. People were surprised when Damon and Alex walked in. Them and Oasis weren’t exactly mates. It appeared like they were trying to steal a bit of Oasis’ thunder. If you crash another band’s number one party and you’ve been mouthing off a little bit…you gonna get it aren’t you?”

Hopkins concludes, “The fact that Oasis beat Blur to getting a number one was more of a spur to Damon than anything Liam or anyone else said.”

That spur lead to the fuse being lit for the Roll With It Vs. Country House battle. That however, is very much another story.


Thanks to David Huggins www.oasis-recordinginfo.co.uk for invaluable information.

By Michael Halpin.


Louder Than War: Interview – John Power of Cast (Part 1)



John Power: Interview – Part One. With Cast About To Embark On A UK Tour We Talk To Their Front Person

This December Liverpudlian Britpop legends Cast embark upon a national UK tour.  Louder Than War caught up with the band’s singer, songwriter and all round good guy, John Power to talk about the possibility of new Cast material, how touring has changed for the band, those halcyon days in the mid-90s and The La’s.

This is part one of a two part interview. Stay tuned for more!


Louder Than War:  How do you feel about this tour you’re about to embark on.  Are you looking forward to it?

JP: I am indeed. Yeah.  We’ve done a couple of sporadic shows this year, so I’m looking forward to doing a good little stint on the road with Cast.  I think it’s about 12 shows in all, and I think it’s due actually.  I think were due to spend a bit of time together and I’ve got some tracks that I want to run by the lads.

There’s talk of popping into the studio in the New Year, so it’ll be a good time to get out and celebrate the end of the year and maybe also the coming of the next one.  Also, it’ll be fun.  Play some great songs and all that.

Louder Than War: Has it changed much in the band since the mid 90s? Has touring changed?

JP: Yeah, I think it has, just the actual content of touring has changed in the sense that we were different people then.  There was different things going on and I suppose we were young and more arrogant and immortal and you burn the candle and all that and I suppose in those days it was the height of something.  It was a great era really and now I’m enjoying playing much more than I did, that’s kind of a stranger thing and I feel more of a connection with the songs actually, because I put them down for a long while.  I didn’t play a lot of Cast stuff really, apart from the odd occasion for a good few years and I think coming back to them has given me a sense of affection for them.  A connection.

It’s more of a celebratory thing for the anthems…sort of classics…and just as a musician.  I mean we really could just step onstage and just look at each other and go ’1-2-3′ and just play.  We will be doing some days rehearsals but it’s reaffirmed our love for each other really.  We’ve got a lot of history and I think I didn’t realise what a great band we are live and we can just roll into it now.  There’s a real sense of togetherness.  When I’m singing some of the classic hits and everything all goes a bit slow motion and the audience is getting on them and were getting on them and it’s coming out of me, I’m listening to them as well.  It s a strange scenario because I have realised that I’ve spent half my life maybe singling some of these songs.

They’ve reached that point now where they feel ageless and that a connection with part of me and part of you and a part of us all that is ageless and doesn’t get older and has always been and its a reaffirming sort of place to be.

Louder Than War:  Do you feel like you’ve evolved musically since the mid 90s?  Obviously, you’ve all got another fifteen or twenty years playing under your belts.

JP: Yes, totally.  As a guitarist and as a singer and on a personal level.   It’s like all good things.  It’s like the old jazz players and the old rock ‘n’ rollers and blues players.  Those guys went on and they got better with age.  When I first started writing ‘All Change’ or being in the La’s or the early days of Cast….I don’t want to go back to that manic focus and drive.  I wouldn’t want to.  I couldn’t go back.  It was all encompassing.  It was everything I thought about and everything that I did.

We’ve got that track we did called ‘Baby Blue Eyes’.  It’s very much Cast but its a little move on as well.  It’s not so uptight and were not strangling each other to get where we’ve got to go.  There’s looseness about the playing now but that makes it more intense and more dynamic and gives it more energy.  I think when we were younger it was speed thrills and you think that’s the intensity.  Whereas now it’s a looser groove and with that it’s got a heavier weight behind it.

Louder Than War: I think on ‘Baby Blue Eyes’ that the productions changed.

JP: Well it has indeed.  I love working with John Leckie.  We get on very well and he’s a good bright spirit but I wouldn’t want to go back and make something that sounds like ‘All Change’.   I think ‘Troubled Times’ (2012 album release) has got that Leckie feel to it but the mix of ‘Baby Blue Eyes’…I gave it to North and South and they probably went, well, “It’s got the Cast sound” but the drums don’t come straight in and I wanted there to be a bit more space in the verses…and guitars have to be important but I didn’t want layers and layers of guitars on it.  I’d rather have one guitar doing something that’s exceptional and recognisable with its riff and its shapes.  The acoustic’s are big and the bass is just underpinning things, I certainly didn’t want to go back and make a static sounding track.  I hope that’s a good thing in your observation and I’d like to go down that avenue a bit more.  Less is more – giving things a bit more space.

If and when we go into do these new recordings, which I’m getting focused about and that’s the intention to go in in January and February and get a new album done.  Or at least an EP…that’ll be more of the same really.  Verses and rhythms adding light.

People like to hear the rhythm, the electric guitar…and when it comes in it’ll do something, and because it’s doing something, you’ll be able to hear the difference and the shape of its riffs but were not trying to take off.
Louder Than War: Have the audiences changed from what they were like in the mid 90s?

JP: Well they’re gonna have to aren’t they?  I mean I hope to god they have because otherwise, I mean…there’s no growing old gracefully.  A lot of the audience will have been with us for 20 years.  There’s a younger generation discovering us and that’s a beautiful thing to see because they come and they’re kinds like “wow!” It’s more like a historic rock or pop band.  Like, “John was in the La’s, Cast were this” and there’s a bit of legacy going on.  You’ve got younger hipsters getting on it and younger guitar bands coming to check that out.  They wont have experienced the moshing to ‘Free Me’ and ‘Sandstorm’ and they’re all laughing thinking its great but there’s an audience that’s been there and they will have changed.  Life will have dealt them blows and more experiences and good experiences that they may never have seen coming and there is a celebration within the halls and the venues that we play and these songs are a backdrop to our lives.

I was singing ‘Alright’ with Jay Lewis (Guitarist in the 2005 incarnation of the La’s) the other day and people had their eyes closed, they were punching the air, and one thing I saw had me just laughing to myself, but in a very nice way.  There was a guy in between two people and he was kissing both their heads and I just laughed my head off and thought, “this is what it meant to people.”  As a songwriter, it doesn’t get much better than sheer ecstasy standing before you.

When I’m singing them, I’m on that vibe as well. Just because I’m singing them doesn’t mean that I don’t get off on what they’re getting from it because that’s what it meant to me.  That’s why I wrote the songs.  I was trying to capture a little moment.

So it’s a big celebration and it’s something that I’m very aware of.  I don’t mean proud of because that sounds a little bit ‘euuuuwww’ (makes noise to imitate a pretentious person) but I’m very happy to be that conduit and draw them emotions in people.

Louder Than War: When we got to the mid 90s and there was all of the Britpop thing going on.  Did you feel like you were a major part of that?

JP: I did because we had that grass roots…the people.  The people in the audience and the power off the songs is what gave us our strength.

We meandered in and out of journalists either bias or appraisal.  There’s still a lot of stick that Cast get for whatever reasons.  We weren’t like an Oasis or Pulp or Blur.  We weren’t too big to not knock but we weren’t too unsuccessful enough to ignore.

We were in this land where you couldn’t ignore us but we could take a bit off whoever or whatever for whatever reason.  My strength always came from the power of the songs that have proven to be classics.  I knew that anyway…and the good will of the unfashionable.  There’s something about Cast that ropes in the people.  The disheartened.  Our people are on the streets.  They were never hipsters and in one way, that makes me quite proud.  They weren’t fads.  Our audience has stayed with us and our songs don’t need to be proven to someone.

We were much bigger than the music press would have you believe.  It’s like a kind of a divorced family! (Laughs)  They’d rather us has just fucked off out of the children lives!

We made a big big impact on that scene and it was all down to the songs and the dynamics.  Of course, looking back 20 years ago, I can understand why we ruffled a few feathers.  We were northern Liverpool scally lads who came down (to London), I mean we’ve all changed and softended.  Living in London now, I can see how certain parts of the press would have thought we were uncouth.  I’m not saying that we were not guilty.  I mean I carried a certain something…but life is a journey and I’ve moved and moved on.  You keep moving, you keep learning, you keep growing.  I was never too proud to look in the mirror.  I know when I’ve been a dickhead in life and because of that; I can look at myself and say ‘Okay, well I don’t want to be like that anymore.’  Life is an ongoing change.

I was talking to a young lad yesterday and it’s a constant state of flux.  There’s nothing static.  There is no now.  It’s a constant change.  Everything is continually expanding and moving and that’s a bit like myself.

Louder Than War: Which Cast songs are you most proud of?

JP: That’s a hard one that.  To be honest with you, sometimes I catch myself out when we run through some other songs.  I mean we’ve got the big guns that we can just drop in and they just blow the auditorium away.  I love ‘Live The Dream’ and ‘Tell It Like It Is’ and ‘Four Walls’.  I could go through all these songs and tell you why I’m fond of nearly all of them.  I love ‘Bow Down’ on ‘Troubled Times’ and ‘I’m Not Afraid of The World from ‘Troubled Times’.  I think that’s an absolutely fantastic song.  We’ll do that live.

It catches me out the back catalogue and the sheer volume of work that we’ve recorded and been a part of.  There’s a lot of songs that mean something to me in little glimpses and nuances and there’s just little parts of emotion and little part of my life and other peoples lives and it still catches me out that I’ve caught them and can continue to try and catch them on the fishing line or in the butterfly net…You receive them.  It’s a bit harder these days.  I can’t spend 24 hours of the day just strolling across the ether with my frequencies trying to receive a message….receive the songs because they’re out there.  I do it now in not such an intense way because I’d probably just fracture and fall apart!

Plus life has changed.  I’ve got teenage kids and I’ve got a young kid.  I just haven’t got that freedom and I wouldn’t think I’d want to live that life sitting in the bedroom smoking a spliff just playing a guitar just constantly, constantly, constantly….intensely focused and on fire.  Now it’s a bit of a different way.

Louder Than War: Do you mind if I ask you about a few Cast songs?  Is it all right if we start with ‘Finetime’?  To me it’s linked to that glorious summer of 95.  I was 18, life was great.  What is it linked to for you?

JP: It was the debut single.  It was where it all started for Cast.  I have great fondness for the song because it was also a pivotal part in me as a songwriter.  I wrote verse while I was in the La’s and I wrote a couple of the early Cast things then.  I had that, ‘Sandstorm’, a bit of ‘Four Walls’ and ‘Alright’.

I had the verse (To ‘Finetime’)  “So what’s it all about, do you really wanna know?“  and I remember just writing that in the dressing room on tour somewhere.  I just kind of said it and I just kind of did it once or twice and a roadie or someone went to me “That’s really catchy” and I’d keep getting people going “That’s really good” and it kind of confirmed what I was doing.  I was just strumming a guitar.  I remember walking the streets in summer evenings constantly throwing the idea round my head.  I did the same with ‘Alright’, I did the same with ‘Sandstorm’.  I mean I’d be talking to people and I’d be throwing it around my head.  I can remember getting the middle eight in my mums and I can remember getting the chorus here and I can remember putting all three parts together and going “right okay its finished.”  That…and the same with ‘Alright’.

All them early songs.  I had a capacity to be turning them over whilst also walking down the street whilst also talking, whilst also rehearsing while also touring, they were just on the backburner in my head.

With ‘Finetime’ its funny because it was our first big hit…and when we used to play… but we were still unsigned…people were really starting to get the songs and I remember in Scotland and places and people really starting to mosh and throw their arms about and we were like “were onto something here man.”

I mean personally the song ‘Finetime – to make a change’.  A lot of the songs were about that at the time.  I mean I’m talking to myself a lot of the time and I was going through a big transition.  I was probably asking myself whether I was capable of doing it on my own – coming out of the La’s and starting Cast.

Those songs were the currency and those songs were the ammunition and the whole reason why I did form Cast because I had no intentions to ever leaving The La’s. It was not on the agenda.  I was in and that’s where it was gonna be.

I was writing them songs, ‘Finetime’ and ‘Alright’ and they were initially written to be in the La’s.  It was only when things started getting in a cul-de-sac that they started to become my vehicle to move into something else.

The initial idea would be Lee (Mavers – La’s singer/songwriter) sitting on my shoulder going “you’ve gotta write some songs John, you’ve gotta write some songs! Me and you, we’ll write some songs!” and he had these amazing fuckin’ songs! and I was very young and he was like a mentor.  So, I suppose initially I’d be writing for some sort of collaborative second or third…whatever album. Whatever we were doing and that’s the way I would have seen it but then things…circumstances went a different way and then you realise “right I’ll have to finish these ideas.  I’ll have to write them coz only I can give them justice.  Only I can give them a life worth living and nurture them and bring them up and give them what they need.”  These things need love.  Only I could give them the love that they needed.

Louder Than War: Was it frustrating for a while knowing that you had songs like ‘Finetime’, ‘Sandstorm’ and ‘Alright’ but not really having an outlet for them?

It was.  I can remember one morning, it was a Saturday.  We’d had A&R men involved in Cast and Cast were really playing quite full little venues like the Princes Charlotte in Leicester and places in Leeds.  There was kind of a tour that you did prior to breaking through and getting signed. We were doing King Tuts (legendary Glasgow venue) and they were full.  People were getting it but the industry were all geared up for a band like Marion.  It was all slightly more Goth.  I don’t know how you’d describe it but the record companies they just weren’t quite getting what we were doing or what was about to happen.  I don’t think Oasis had broke either but obviously Oasis breaking all of a sudden was the confirmation that what we were doing was bang in time and in with the artery of what was going on with the youth.  There was a real movement going on.  That’s what I’m saying.  We were filling out places and people were getting it but I can remember watching a Saturday morning show and I think it was like Yazoo or something that were on the TV singing some crap song and I think my manager had said to me, “You know John…maybe what your doing isn’t what people want.” I remember for the first time taking a deep breath and saying to myself, “Maybe its just the wrong time.  Maybe what I’m thinking isn’t going happen and isn’t true” because I had this real feeling that something was happening but I remember thinking for a morning, “maybe the record industry and the times aren’t aligned with what were doing.”

We did an A&R session for London Records…demos.  Their A&R man was dead keen.  He was trying to convince his boss or something.  Oasis had just broke, ‘Supersonic’ came out about a week before but they were still contracted to do a little tour and I went to see them in the Lomax in Liverpool and it was rammed!  I met Liam and I got chatting to Noel and he went, “Why don’t you come and support us in New Cross next week?” and when we were playing with them there was an A&R man from Polydor who was an agent of the La’s previously and I just knew that if he seen us…..and he seen us and we did a blinding gig and he couldn’t believe we weren’t signed.  It all started just after that despondency.

You kind of hit the lowest point, or…if you know what’s what and if you’re true to what you’re doing and you are connected to whatever that energy is…you know that you’ve got it.  It all started again from there.  It was like the rebound of kinetic energy.  It was great.

Louder Than War: ‘Sandstorm’ was your first top ten hit.  Did you think in those terms?  Did you think, “We want to be top 10?”

Yeah, we were ambitious.  I’ll have to be honest with you.  I still believe the band should have been bigger than what they were.  There was a couple of key moments, with hindsight…things that we should’ve done and I think things would’ve moved.

It came with the territory.  We were signed. We were cock sure and there was a big happening going on and we were at the forefront of it to an extent.  I think we got a number 4 single and a number 2 or 3 album or something like that.  So I probably was ambitious because it just came with where I was at at the time.

If I wasn’t ambitious, I certainly wouldn’t have been able to get the band together and pushed on through and wrote all them songs.  I was also aware I suppose of being like every idealistic youthful person.  Y’know.  We were kind of at the forefront of a happening we thought.  We thought we were discovering things for the first time and all that.  That’s the beauty of generations.  They reinterpret an ongoing ancient feeling.  People fall in love for the first time.  I mean, you can’t have your grandparents going, “Oh, that’s no good, we did that years ago!” People reinterpret love with poety and music or whatever.  People reinterpret anger and frustration and idealism…”were gonna change the world.  Our generation aren’t going to put up with all this shit.  Bigotry, fuckin debt and unfairness and war and shit like that” and you think you’re a part of making that picture clear.

I’m not saying we were gonna do it on out own but in out own way we were talking about change.  Simple as that.

Louder Than War: ‘Walkaway’ will be forever associated with England’s Euro ‘96 semi final won’t it?

Ironically, I wasn’t there! I was in America! I missed it but every one says this to me.

I caught that semi-final game in a hotel lobby, somewhere in the middle of nowhere.  Me and my guitar tech caught it at like half-ten in the morning.  They didn’t even know what was going on and we were like “got that match?” and we watched us miss it.  Everyone told me what a big poignant moment it was.  It kind of summed up the disappointment in the nation.

I’m very much aware of it but I wasn’t there to experience it.  Maybe that’s the way it’s meant to be.  I do remember Linford Christie getting disqualified in the Olympics and they played ‘Walkaway’ then but I think the football one really captured the moment.

Louder Than War: It’d already been a hit though hadn’t it.

JP:  Of Course.  I remember it being played actually at half time during that amazing Liverpool v Newcastle 4-3 game.  The first one…which blew their title hopes. I remember it getting played really loud around the ground at half-time but the England one, people still ask me about it.  That song itself lives in a lot of people’s experiences and lives. It’s funny; when we used to sing it it used to be lighters but now its all little mobile phones.

Louder Than War: I think personally, that that was the point where you became more of a household name.

JP: ‘Walkway’ went into the charts, then it started going down the charts and then it came back up and just stayed in the top twenty for ages.  It was one of them songs that didn’t just go in the top 10 for three weeks and then go out.  It just stuck around.  Like the album.  It went in, rolled down and then went back up and stayed around for ages.

Louder Than War: Put it this way.  My Mam actually said to me, when I told her I was doing this interview, “Cast? Aren’t they that band who had that song at the end of Euro ’96?”

JP: There you go! Even the mothers! even the parents! God bless ‘em!

Louder Than War: Just one more question on ‘Walkaway’.  My brother-in-law’s got a theory that it’s about Bill Shankly. Is it?

JP: Fuckin hell! You know what; you tell him it fuckin’ is because to me that’s a great shout!  Between you and me…no its not but I think that from now on when I sing it I will have a little picture of Bill Shankly amongst all of the other pictures that come into my head because Bill Shankly is an iconic figure in all our lives if you know his history.  He was a great socialist and a great motivator and a great believer in the unit of ourselves as a common people and as a common man.  That’s fantastic that.

Louder Than War: His theory behind it is…you know when there was the story that Shankly had retired as Liverpool manager but he was still turning up at the training ground…

JP: Yeah, it all makes sense actually! I dig it! Tell him I dig it!

Louder Than War: Flying got to number 4 didn’t it?

JP:…but it wasn’t on any of the albums…

Louder Than War: That’s what I was going to say…why wasn’t it on the album?

JP: I don’t know (laughs) Stupid!  It was one of those things.  We were in between doing the second album.  We thought we were so cool we wouldn’t even put in on the album.  Obviously it’s a stupid thing to do because it was the biggest hit and it would’ve made the album sell more but we always thought there were greater thing ahead and I still think like that.  I still think there’s something just ahead of me that I’ve yet to discover or yet to reach and maybe I’m right.

Louder Than War:..and sometimes bands, they just like to have a stand alone single don’t they?

JP: Yeah, well that’s it as well.  We were at the beginning of things.

Louder Than War: Would it be fair to say that when ‘Free Me’ came out, it was a lot angrier than the previous singles?

JP: Totally. ‘Free Me’ was a subconscious response to the shit we were starting to get.  Probably a personal factor.  There was a lot of time in Cast where I wasn’t freewheeling.  It was a lot of hard graft and I don’t mean graft in a sense of 9 to 5, I mean you put yourself on the line and I was probably feeling it then.  It wasn’t just a good time.


‘Baby Blue Eyes’ will be the first track from the next – as yet-untitled – Cast album, due for release in 2015.

Download ‘Baby Blue Eyes’ (streaming up the page) here.

CAST live in December 2014:

  • Tues 9th                          Hull, The Welly Club
  • Weds 10th                       Middlesbrough, Town Hall
  • Thurs 11th                      Glasgow, Garage
  • Fri 12th                           Edinburgh, The Liquid Room
  • Sun 14th                         Birmingham, The Library at The Institute
  • Monday 15th                  Bristol, The Fleece
  • Tues 16th                        Reading, Sub 8g
  • Thurs 18th                       London, Electric Ballroom
  • Fri 19th                           Leeds, Brudenell Social Club (SOLD OUT)
  • Sat 20th                          Liverpool, 02 Academy
  • Sun 21st                         Manchester, Academy 2

Buy Tickets here: http://www.seetickets.com/artist/cast/550911

You can find Cast online here: casttour.com. They’re also on Facebook, Soundcloud and they tweet as @castbandofficial.

All words by Michael Halpin. More from Michael can be found at his Louder Than War Author Archive.

- See more at: http://louderthanwar.com/john-power-interview-with-britpop-legends-cast-about-to-embark-on-a-uk-tour-we-talk-to-their-front-person/#sthash.dQFCFbmv.dpuf


Live Review: Shindig! Magazine – Blossoms, Ruby Lounge, Manchester 28th November 2014


Blossoms, live review

Ruby Lounge, Manchester
November 28th

Much of Blossoms world, on first impression at least, appears to be shrouded in darkness. They walk onstage to Bobby Vinton’s ‘Blue Velvet’ which, taken in the context of their stage backdrop (all coloured fairy lights hung around a half moon) is a little eerie and a touch haunting. All five band members sport matching black polo neck jumpers and a Scott Walker-style Monastery keys around their neck and a mysterious film noir influence is very much at the forefront of their demeanor.

Opening tonight’s set with ‘You Pulled A Gun On Me’ the dark chords, Moog synth bursts, feedback and Coral-esque harmonies underpin Tom Ogden’s rasping vocals with aplomb. The chorus hits hard and Shindig’s only criticism is that the lead guitar sounds a touch restrained. ‘The Urge’ follows and it begins to unravel that Ogden is a frontman who holds experience way beyond his years. He has that mad, young Richard Ashcroft style glare, and, along with the psych guitars, a nod towards The Doors and even more Moog noise, manages to show them as a band who are at that point of ascendancy where they have their sound and image all sewn up.

That’s not to say that they have fully evolved just yet. Front man Ogden caries out, cabaret style, introductions of each band member between songs which feels unnecessary and a touch performing arts-induced. And there is a sense that tonight they have more friends and family in the audience than actual gig-goers. Are they are preaching to the converted? Sadly – and everyone who’s played in a live band will understand this one – many supporters tonight were not in attendance to listen to the band, but for a social event. “Alright mate! Long time no see!” being the most overly heard phrase of the evening.

The acoustic guitar comes out for Tom Ogden on ‘Blown Rose’ as their set begins to slow down. It’s nice, melodic – but not mind blowing. The pace drops even further for ‘Favourite Room’, which is possibly the bands most radio friendly number. They have talked already in terms of being ‘heard by everyone… at school discos, office parties, on the radio … everywhere’. It does appears however that they are at their best when the keyboards play dark, crunching riffs and the guitars are in overdrive playing tripped out guitar lines. They don’t have to drag out the acoustics to show the diversity in their music. They have so much more to give than just that.

They kick back into their heavier, more musically ambitious side with ‘Cut Me And I’ll Bleed’ and ‘Smoke’ before ‘Blow’, the sets closing number, becomes the highlight of the evening with its massive chorus and extended freak-out finale.

Blossoms definitely have the potential to be a great band but honing in on what makes them unique certainly will not do them any harm. It is not a case of don’t believe the hype, it’s more a case of don’t believe it just yet.

Michael Halpin


Roger McGuinn Live Review for Shindig! Magazine – Manchester RNCM 7th November 2014


Roger McGuinnRoger McGuinn Full Shindig Review

Shindig! Magazine - December 2014

Royal Northern College of Music,

November 7th

The chimes of ‘My Back Pages’ opening chords from that 12-string Rickenbacker rang around The RNCM even before the lone minstrel-like figure of The Byrds’ legend emerges from stage left. His imposing presence, along with the intimacy of the venue, sets the mood for a fascinating evening of songs and stories from one of music’s most influential men. As McGuinn settles
down the audience audibly expresses the sort of anticipation that can only be heard when awaiting a musician who was a central figure in musical history’s greatest period.

For the next two hours McGuinn will completely captivate his audience. We are treated to numerous stories or references to Dylan and some wonderful anecdotes about the Greenwich Village folk community at its height. His Beatles tales are thrown in for good measure, as are complementary nods towards Miles Davis, Henry Fonda, Tom Petty and The Rolling Stones. He speaks of his early days with Bobby Darin and being a professional songwriter in New York’s Brill Building. We hear of his love for Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly and listen intently to tales of how The Byrds formed and developed their sound. Then, just as the audience may have thought the man himself has run dry of fascinating reference points, he begins discussing the influence that
both Ravi Shankar and John Coltrane had on the band’s psychedelic period. Each story is magical in its own right and by the time we arrive at an extended version of ‘Eight Miles High’ it was, to paraphrase another of his contemporaries, “All Too Much”.

Although McGuinn’s vocals do sound a little thin in parts, during the course of the evening the guitar playing was nothing short
of mesmerising, and showed that, although far removed in style from the likes of Hendrix, Clapton and Beck, he was no less influential – and on occasions more aurally pleasing. The evening’s playing incorporates songs of folk, bluegrass, country and rock, and shows McGuinn to be a master of each. Byrds classics come in the form of ‘Fifth Dimension’, ‘Mr Spaceman’ and ‘So You Want To B e a Rock ’ n’ Roll Star’, as well as a stunning ‘You Showed Me’ and ‘The Ballad Of Easy Rider’. We hear wonderful versions of ‘You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere’ and ‘Knocking On Heaven’s Door’ and, although McGuinn does occasionally
mock Dylan’s vocal style during his set, the impersonations are surely affectionate and showed him to still be in awe of Dylan to this very day.

The inevitable but welcome story and performance o f ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ brings goofy-looking grins to the faces of even the most hardened musical experts present, before an encore takes  flight comprising ‘Turn Turn Turn’ and the traditional sea shanty ‘Leave Her Johnny, Leave Her’.

As the enrapturing musician and storyteller bodes his audience farewell, he wanders off to a standing ovation. No doubt he’s already ready and willing to move onto the next venue, where he will happily tell some of music’s greatest tales once more.

Michael Halpin