I mentioned the mega Oasis gig in Cork before on a post on my love for the band, however individually on this blog I plan to review and detail each major concert/gig I’ve attended, and so it begins in August 1996. Colin Walker and Keith Freel who I played football with and went to Boys Brigade with were both big into Oasis. The phenomenom was massive, so in July 1996 there were tickets available for the concert gig at a gaelic football stadium in Cork, right on the south west coast of the Republic of Ireland. Colin and Keith had already bought their tickets from MTM (More Than Music) in Bangor’s Flagship Shopping Centre. I had decided I simply had to go. I wasn’t working at the time (though I wrote for NI fanzine Arconada…Armstrong! and helped out serving tea and coffee in a Nursing Home!) and I had just turned 16, but had saved up some pocket money from parents and grandparents so I could afford it. Tickets were £22.50 and my Dad, who worked in Dial House, Belfast for BT at the time came home one day saying he saw them advertised on sale at Golden Discs on Donegall Place. I asked him to get me one the next day, expecting them possibly to be sold out. Oasis were MASSIVE at the time, much bigger than REM, U2 and Bon Jovi. Both Oasis albums Definitely Maybe and (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? had been in the UK top 10 for the previous 6 months constantly. The next day however my Dad phoned me at lunch time to say he had got me a ticket!! I couldn’t wait till he got home to actually hold the ticket and believe that as a 16 year old I was going to see Oasis – my favourite band.
I phoned Colin soon after and told him I had a ticket too and that we would now have to work out a way of getting there and back. It would not be easy, as to get to Cork from Bangor we would have had to cross the border and then get from Dublin to Cork. It was mentioned that a train (with a few changes) could be the best option, and budget for me wasn’t an option at the time, I was willing to spend extra money on it cos after all it was Oasis. Then as the day neared, Colin’s Dad Leonard offered to drive us all the way down! It was brilliant that he would give up a whole day of his time to drive us all the way there and back – it was one hell of a drive, and into an area none of us really knew. We must also remember the politics at the time and the dangers therein. The previous month, July 1996 had been a Drumcree Stand Off, where Orangemen were refused the right to march down their traditional route in Portadown (a saga which would sadly continue into the 2000s…) and this had meant widespread rioting in most of Northern Ireland.
Cork is a very Irish nationalist city, and we were all Northern Unionists. At the time we didn’t really think of it like that – we were just 3 lads going to a concert. But its an important aspect to consider. Less than 3 years before this, Northern Ireland had been on the brink of civil war, with the IRA’s Shankill Road Fish Shop bomb and the callous retaliation of the Ulster Freedom Fighters in the Rising Sun bar in Greysteel where innocent Catholics were shot dead in cold blood (an incident which has stuck with me, and one I will mention in detail at some point). So with their still being bad relations between Protestants and Catholics, we were going to be driving into Irish territory. This was also in the days before mobile phones (I first owned one of these in December 1998) and the internet (I first used the internet in November 1996) so there was no way to get in touch with anyone down there, so it was nice that Leonard offered to drive. It was a safety net for me, Colin and Keith in the unlikely event of being exposed to unwanted Irish Nationalism in Cork…a wee photo above of the Irish Punt Notes we used that day too. Yes The Republic of Ireland once had its own currency of course…
The weekend before the Cork concert I was running on Adrenalin. BBC Radio One interviewed Noel Gallagher live from Knebworth Park in Hertfordshire, England, a gig which saw Oasis break some records and the entire gig from the second night was broadcast live on BBC Radio One. In those days I had a CD and Cassette player and so I taped the entire gig on two C90 tapes. We had been eagerly awaiting those gigs as two new songs were unveiled, but in those days there seemed to be much more strictness with music copyright and taping etc., so the BBC (and MTV) left the two new songs off their broadcast. I know copies of them must exist somewhere as they wouldn’t tape the whole gig and leave out those two songs. As it happened the two songs were “My Big Mouth” and “Its Getting Better Man”, both of which would appear on the 1997 album “Be Here Now”, and my cousin Gary happened to buy a bootleg CD of the gig later that year in Hector’s House in Belfast and low and behold both songs live from Knebworth were on that CD! Anyhow the Knebworth gig made the BBC and ITV news such was the popularity of Oasis at the time. The Cork gigs (of which there were 2) were on the following Wednesday and Thursday nights. Our tickets were all for Wednesday 14th August 1996 to be held at Pairc Ui Chaiomh in Corcaigh, Eire (that’s gaelic language for Cork, Republic of Ireland). Leonard had agreed to drive, we were all set and I gave Colin a ring the night before the gig to say I was getting my head down for some sleep as we had to be up at about 4 am I think (I could be wrong, but I’m sure we left Bangor and Belfast behind well before 6 am). The gates for the gig were due to open at 4pm. I had also NEVER been to a gig before and it was also an over 18s gig as I recall (though 16-18 year olds could get in as long as they were accompanied by an over 18). Of us three, Colin and I were both 16, and Keith just 15, but we didn’t see any problem with that, and I’m not sure if any of us took false ID just in case. I certainly didn’t…
Colin only lived round the corner and so Leonard called round and picked me up very early morning before dawn had lended itself to Bangor. I had prepared some lunch and drinks to keep me going through the day, as well as getting some punts. Punts was the Republic of Ireland currency before their succumbed their Irishness by adopting the dreaded “Euro” and it was around one punt for 90 pence of sterling, as I recall. The car was actually packed that day, with Leonard’s wife Jean coming obviously to keep Leonard company and even Colin’s wee sister Amy was there! Colin and I had brought every Oasis song available on a range of tapes, even bootleg ones and B-sides to keep us going the whole way down. Just after we crossed the border past Newry in Northern Ireland, we had our first picnic stop somewhere near Dundalk probably, I don’t recall where it was, I think there were even some photos of us that day taken there, again memory and history of an event 12 years ago becomes distant. After that it must have been nearing lunchtime as we continued through much more traffic and were now in the middle of random Irish countryside. I think the next stop was around 1 pm and was for petrol and lunch. I don’t think we were drinking much alcohol that day, I didn’t drink much back then anyway (that would change the week after at my cousin’s wedding though!) and I was only 16 so was more excited about seeing Oasis than necking a tin of Harp.
Perhaps it wasn’t a good idea to drink in front of Colin’s Mum and Dad (and wee sister) anyway, just in case. Looking back they wouldn’t really have minded…there must have been cider in my Lucozade bottle…Anyway the countdown to the concert was starting with us driving through twisting roads, at one point driving alongside sheep and cows on narrow country paths which were somewhere north of Cork. Soon the big skyscrapers and hotels of the city of Cork were glaring down at us in a city full of Irish ness.
My favourite song at the time was then aired, “Don’t Look Back In Anger” with “Live Forever” following. In a 1996 world anything was possible with this band. The songs kept coming, and after a very short break, the two new songs were unveiled. Colin and I tried to listen to the words as Liam sang them “we’re the fire in the sky, its getting better man” and “whos gonna take the blame for my big mouth?” were all I could pick out, from two songs which rocked along that night and gave a sneak preview of the new album, which wouldn’t be out for another YEAR from that week, the eloquent and era-ending “Be Here Now”, which got positive reviews at the start and then ebbed away. I don’t care, I love everything Oasis have ever done and those two new songs “My Big Mouth” and “Its Getting Better Man” were worth the £22.50 ticket charge alone! One of them appears below on a VERY RARE video I found on You Tube. After that another quick break and the darkening sky was ready for the Oasis encore. I wrote this down as being “Champagne Supernova”, “I Am The Walrus” (where Oasis covered yet another Beatles song, this time joined onstage by The Bootleg Beatles) and “Fireworks” (to finish the gig off, not a song, but colourful flames lighting the sky. During the set, Wonderwall, The Masterplan and Champagne Supernova were the “lighters in the air” moments, of which for me, Champagne Supernova was the best, an epic 7 minute song with gorgeous guitar riffs, awe inspiring vocals and a rousing final chorus, which finally calms down to the “where were you while we were getting high?” line yet again. That line could sum a lot of things up for me, and in this instance, 12 years ago I was there and getting high on life and music. Just last month I saw Oasis (for the 12th time) and they finished on the same two songs. They haven’t lost their touch, but it would take a lot to beat those first few Oasis gigs, and this night in Cork will live forever in my memory…
As the fireworks went off, we exited the ground through the crowds who were all amazed by the energy by Oasis and the set list, Colin and I stopped off to buy an unofficial t-shirt for just 5 punts! I also bought a poster that night for just 2 punts. I still have both of those, and my programme, and my set list and my ticket, but most of all my memories. Within ten minutes we had found Jury’s Hotel, where right enough Leonard was waiting for us in the car and we got in tired and enjoyed the long trip home, where I don’t remember much about that journey home. It didn’t really matter. I had just seen Oasis live, at their peak. We got back to Bangor early morning and after two hours sleep I had to get up and down to school to collect my GCSE results. I remember nothing of that except that I passed them all. I’ll leave this Oasis quote for you:
“How many special people change?
OASIS LIVE IN CORK THAT NIGHT, MY BIG MOUTH!!!!: