AT their height, inside a hurricane of their own creation, neither Noel nor Liam Gallagher would ever miss an opportunity to remind you that what was happening would never be repeated.It was 1995, and Oasis were at the peak of their powers, ensconced in a cultural bubble, and they couldn’t believe their luck.
Noel and Liam Gallagher were at the peak of their powers with Oasis in 1995Credit: Jill Furmanovsky
Blur, clockwise from left, Alex James, Dave Rowntree, Graham Coxon and Damon AlbarnCredit: Terry O’Neill / Iconic Images
The decade saw the emergence of new pop with the Spice GirlsCredit: Getty
In essence, the Oasis brothers could have been talking about the mid-Nineties full-stop, because Britain was experiencing a cultural revolution and 1995 was its peak.
It was the year of Peak Britpop (Oasis v Blur) and peak Young British Artist (Tracey Emin’s tent).
And the New Lad phenomenon was at its height.
Nick Hornby published High Fidelity and James Brown’s Loaded magazine detonated the publishing industry.
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Oh, and pubs were finally allowed to stay open on a Sunday.
It was the year of Radiohead’s The Bends, the year Danny Boyle started filming Trainspotting, the year the Manic Street Preachers’ Richey Edwards tragically went missing.
The year Alex Garland wrote The Beach and the year Blair changed the Labour Party by ditching its Clause IV — the party’s historical commitment to old-fashioned socialism — after a controversial vote at the Labour Conference.
British supermodels ruled the roost, everyone wanted a piece of Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell.
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Fashion became edgier, cooler, darker, skinnier.
And it was the high watermark of Swinging London II.
“I lived the Nineties,” says Noel Gallagher. “And a lot of it passed through my kitchen. I liked Damien Hirst, and Kate Moss was a great friend. It was a great period, a great moment in time.
“We were all on the dole, all on benefits, and it must have dawned on us all that we were not going to get anything, and that nothing would be given to us, so we had better go and find a way of taking it.
“To me, the 1990s was a lot of working class intellectuals, who were not really connected, who all came through at the same time in politics, music, fashion, photography, art, sport. Prince Naseem, Jarvis Cocker, Naomi Campbell, the lot.”
According to Alex James, Sun writer and the bass player in Blur: “Hedonism was the context for the whole decade
“We were all lurching towards 1999, heading towards this massive watershed moment.
“I mean, what a brilliant time to be young. I was in a band — and what are you going to do to try to enjoy yourself? It’s the whole point, to have a good time.”
Everyone was young and everyone was good looking. Or so it seemed.
The first time Creation Records boss Alan McGee saw Oasis he thought Liam was their drug dealer. He said he was too good looking to be their singer.
He turned up at an Oasis gig and immediately the band started fighting. With each other.
“There were at least ten or 12 skanky Mancs loping about,” says McGee.
A great period
“In the corner was one really good-looking kid that I suppose looked a bit like George Harrison or George Best in an Adidas tracksuit. Liam was good looking, and he could sing, he was a textbook rock star.
“Noel had great songs, and it was perfection.”
As for Liam, he could drink as well as sing.
“Those were the days man,” he says. “Sharing rooms, lots of drinking. Just never-ending nights, do you know what I mean? Just feeling invincible, never really worrying about singing or any of that.
“I don’t think I ever warmed up once. I’d just be backstage, stoned, and someone goes, ‘Right, you’re on’ — and that would be it. Not that professional, to be fair, which was good at the time.
“It’s when you go into arenas that you start thinking, ‘I’ve got to hold it down a bit’.”
Sun columnist Tony Parsons says: “Before they were tabloid stars, the Gallagher brothers were the embodiment of a certain strain of British rock. They never went to art school and never learned to behave in polite society.
“It always gets embarrassing after a year or two, and seems yobbish and stupid, but when Definitely Maybe came out it felt like Liam and Noel were doing nothing less than saving rock ’n’ roll.”
However, we should never forget that the 1990s wasn’t just about Oasis, as it was the decade that produced perhaps the best British music since the Swinging Sixties.
There was Blur, Suede, Pulp, Elastica and Supergrass, of course, but there were also a wide range of other artists, genre-busting people such as Tricky, Chemical Brothers, Leftfield, Moby, David Holmes, Portishead and Goldie, the drum’n’bass scene’s first pop star.
The year 1995 was far more eclectic musically than it has been given credit for and, in the same way Motown and urban dance music accompanied (and often underpinned) the rise of psychedelic pop in the 1960s, so similar things happened in the 1990s.
Glastonbury 1995 was the 25th anniversary of the festival. Following the success of Orbital’s performance on the NME stage in 1994, Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis decided to introduce a Dance Tent this year, filling it with the likes of Carl Cox and Massive Attack.
Supermodel Naomi Campbell ruled the roostCredit: News UK Ltd
Vogue’s Alexandra Shulman said: ‘Kate was a perfect palette cleanser for the fashion of the early 1990s’Credit: Getty
But it was Pulp’s headline performance on the Pyramid Stage on the Saturday night (they replaced The Stone Roses who pulled out) that stole the show — and is widely regarded as one of the best in the festival’s history.
The decade also saw the return of lounge or easy listening, it saw the return of The Beatles with Free As A Bird and, of course, it saw the emergence of new pop in the shapes of the Spice Girls, the girl group to end them all; and Robbie Williams, superlad.
If, in 1995, Wonderwall had co-opted the streets of London, Manchester and Glasgow come closing time, by Christmas 1997 it had been replaced by another scarf-waving anthem.
Robbie Williams’ epic Angels was released that December, immediately becoming not just the song everyone wanted to sing as they were walking home from the pub, but the song they wanted to sing at their local karaoke bar, and the record they wanted played at their wedding.
By 1998 you heard it blaring out of every pub door, out of every car window, out of every student bedroom.
It was the record that accosted you when you turned on the radio, the song you heard played by the busker outside your office.
“It was delusion that gave me the confidence to pursue my solo career,” says Robbie.
“I was absolutely deluded. Look, I was in Take That, I had sung Everything Changes and Could It Be Magic. But I had never written anything.
“Then I wrote Angels with Guy Chambers. I’m not the best singer in the world but I thought I was going to take on the world and win. And I did.”
If the 1980s were all about padded shoulders and ra-ra skirts, puffy hair and heels, the 1990s couldn’t have been more different.
As Britain started to embrace Britpop, fashion became edgier, cooler, darker, skinnier
If, in the 1980s, fashion was all about glitz and glitter, the 1990s were all about grunge and goth.
Nick Hornby published the iconic novel High FidelityCredit: Getty
Ewan McGregor starred in Danny Boyle’s TrainspottingCredit: Rex Features
There was no room in this hip new world for the likes of Elle Macpherson, Karen Mulder or Cindy Crawford.
The word “supermodel” had been bandied about for years, usually as a form of hyperbole to flatter a model who was approaching “icon’ status. Usually they just meant Twiggy.
It started to be used more frequently in the 1980s but it wasn’t until the 1990s that it started to be used as a brand, as a way of elevating models to “superstar” status.
“People had already started to use the word supermodel,” said Naomi Campbell.
“Everything we wore and every restaurant we went to was written about in the papers. It seemed weird to us that people should care. We couldn’t walk down the street without people chasing us.
“I remember we once went shopping in Rome and we couldn’t get out of the store because there were so many fans. The police had to come and rescue us.”
But that was then.
It wasn’t until Kate Moss graced the July 1990 cover of The Face that the fashion decade really started.
She was only 16 and had been picked by the photographer Corinne Day to exemplify the magazine’s cover story, “The 3rd Summer of Love”.
“Kate was a perfect palette cleanser for the fashion of the early 1990s,” says Alexandra Shulman, who was the editor of British Vogue at the time.
“She was young, with the face of a dirty angel and the body of schoolgirl rather than the more sophisticated, sculpted physiques of the famous supermodels.
“Grunge, which she rode in on, didn’t last that long but like many influential short-lived movements it cleared out the old.
‘She just has it’
“The first time I met Kate Moss I said to her, ‘So what’s all the fuss about?’” says photographer David Bailey.
“There is nothing about Kate that is extraordinary, apart from the fact that she is extraordinary. She is short, she is scrawny, but she can work for anyone from Vogue to John Lewis. She just has it.”
Jodie Kidd, who caused a furore when she appeared on the catwalk in Milan and Paris looking like a tapeworm, was only 17 in 1995.
She said you had to be thick-skinned to make it and seemed perfectly cut out for it.
Why was she so successful? “Because I’m odd,” she said. Most of the up-and-coming models were still too young to vote or drink.
What British girls seemed to always have was attitude . . . in spades. Backstage at the Alexander McQueen show during London Fashion Week in 1995, this was overheard: “You know what I think?” said one of the wafer-thin Cockney models as she squeezed herself into one of McQueen’s daringly convoluted skirts:
“Whatever people say about London, you can’t really beat it.
“No matter where you go in the world, no one’s quite as rude to you as they are in London. The girls here really know how to dish. It’s great.”
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She was right. London was great for models, London was great for music and London was great for clubs.
In the 1990s it was pretty much great for everything.
Faster Than A Cannonball: 1995 And All That, by Dylan Jones, is published by White Rabbit on October 13, £25.
DJ Goldie became the drum’n’bass scene’s first pop starCredit: Getty
Boxer Prince Naseem held multiple featherweight world championshipsCredit: Rex Features
Kate Moss graced the July 1990 cover of The FaceCredit: Handout More