Why Oasis were never as good without Tony McCarroll


In the midst of the artistic revolution that swept the more mundane 1990s, came the sound of a spirited, singular group aching for the attention of its country. Belting out to the masses, guitarist Noel Gallagher used Definitely Maybe as his way to espouse and empathise with the many men and women in the British Isles who had kept the spirit of the 1960s and 1970s alive during one of the more precarious eras in recent history: Thatcherism.

Definitely Maybe, a series of realised, rationalised anthems that were designed for the mouths of the working classes, listed the achievements of the bands that had become somewhat passe in the time since electronic drums and synth hooks had become the lexicon of pop. Oasis sounded honest, bolstered by a bounce and beat from Tony McCarroll, who played his drums with enthusiasm and everyday energy as if emulating the pub scene that had been his upkeep.

Like the majority of the band members, he was Irish, and played with an energy that stemmed from a place of anger, unable to fit in with the more rigid properties of the English establishment. In rhythm player Paul Arthurs, he had a comrade and a right hand, the two of them bringing that jagged punk quality to the recordings that sound surprisingly fresh, especially compared to the ornamental flourishes espoused by session players Andy Bell and Zak Starkey.

“I got on really well with Bonehead [Paul Arthurs],” McCarroll told New Sounds. “I wouldn’t say we keep in that much touch, but we shared bedrooms, so we got to know each other. Great lad. He can get sounds out of guitars, keyboards, radiators. He was the oldest, most down to earth member, I guess. I was in Drogheda where they said he passed through. He was in a band with Vinny Peculiar, I couldn’t really get into them if I’m honest. But he’s doing well. I met Liam after the Supersonic (2016) film. It was at an after party. I hadn’t seen him in about fifteen years, but it was hugs straight away. We asked “how’s yer mam”, that kind of thing. Great to see him.”

Much as it was joy that burned through ‘Live Forever’ and ‘Cigarettes and Alcohol’, it was anger and fury that fizzled through ‘Bring It On Down’, brimming with energy and passion. Bonehead informed McCarroll of his carnal interests in his partner, causing the drummer to return to the drum kit to let out a demonstration burning with energy and ambition, every element of the kit used to carry out the assignment.

The fire on ‘Bring It On Down’ is the sound of a boxer fighting for his life, lit up by the sight of another person touching the woman he cared most for. His backbeats burned with a passion that was unique to him and him alone, whether it was the crisp cymbal work of ‘Supersonic’, or the pummelling backdrop of ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Star’, never missing that essential beat or feel.

Music is bolstered by grit, and there’s no denying the absence of energy on the better produced, albeit the more fragmentary, follow-ups, where the band were going through the motions, rather than visualising them.

And in their own idiosyncratic way, the band were best served to speak for the masses that helped bring them to this point of realisation. If Gallagher was the voice of the movement, McCarroll was arguably its sound and heartbeat, bringing a newer, more furnished element to the band as a whole. He was hard-hitting. He was passionate. Hell, the drummer was definitely Irish in every way.


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