Oasis Definitely Maybe: How a studio haunted Liam Gallagher

By Peter Shuttleworth
BBC Wales News

image copyrightMichael Spencer Jones
image captionLiam Gallagher has become one of the most recognisable rock frontmen of all time

Some might say Oasis' first album was recorded in Wales. Was it? Definitely. Maybe?

A remote studio in Monmouthshire was where songs like Live Forever, Cigarettes and Alcohol, Supersonic and Rock 'n' Roll Star were meant to be brought to life.

The band had splashed out £800 a day to book Monnow Valley near Monmouth to do their first batch of recordings.

But when frontman Liam Gallagher recalls being scared by Monnow Valley's "ghost" as his most memorable moment, you know it didn't happen.

Oasis songwriter and Gallagher's brother Noel, Paul "Bonehead" Arthurs, Paul "Guigsy" McGuigan and Tony McCarroll - turned up in south Wales in the autumn of 1993.

"I get there and I get a decent room," Liam once remembered in an interview published on YouTube.

image copyrightMichael Spencer Jones
image captionDefinitely Maybe was released on 29 August 1994 and initial recordings were in Wales

"They were all playing tricks, saying it was haunted."

Guitarist Arthurs took on the story: "One day we went in for dinner and it was casually mentioned 'who's sleeping in room number three'. And it was Liam. He said 'that's me'. The lady said 'right you've got the haunted one then'.

"Liam was like, 'What, what you on about?'. The lady said 'the ghost'. And we were like 'what, a real ghost?'. And she said 'yeah, yeah it's haunted - some dark figure has been seen in there'."

Liam added: "I go to bed one night and I wake up in the morning and all of the furniture has moved around.

"I've gone downstairs and said 'look it must be haunted man, I've got to change rooms'."

image copyrightMichael Spencer Jones
image captionOasis during rehearsals - unseen pictures of the band are being exhibited in London

The next night Arthurs, "thinking about this ghost thing", takes the haunted house vibe up a notch.

"There's a river that goes through Monnow Valley and by the front door there's a load of fishing rods," he once recalled.

"We were all sat in the lounge where you all chill out between takes and Liam was sat on the other side of the room.

"So I got a load of fishing line and looped it round the lights. You couldn't see it because it was fishing line. Everyone knew about it, except Liam.

"We were all watching football or something and I started pulling this line."

Liam takes it on: "We're sitting there by the fire and the next thing the chandelier tilts - and I'm like 'have you seen that, have you seen that?'."

His Oasis band-mates then up the ante.

image copyrightMichael Spencer Jones
image captionThe London exhibition is being held to mark 25 years since their debut album Definitely Maybe was released

"There's a copy of the Daily Mirror or something on the table and I've made a little hole in the corner," Arthurs remembers. "There's also a pair of trainers on the floor and I've put line though the laces.

"So I'm doing the newspaper sketch and I started curling the front page open. I then held it up and I let the line go and it dropped. Liam was like 'did you see that, did you see that?'

"We were like 'see what?' and he was like 'that newspaper just opened and shut'. We were like 'shut up it's the wind' and he's like 'it did, it did'.

"You can see him watching it and we did it again and Liam said 'it moved again'. It was one of them - just panic.

"Then I just really tugged it so the whole newspaper went across the table. So, of course, we all jumped up.

image copyrightMichael Spencer Jones
image captionThe exhibition of Michael Spencer Jones' images are on display at the H Club Gallery from 23 November

"He didn't know anything about it, he really jumped up. And as he jumped up, someone tugged the trainer - so as he headed for the door, there's a pair of Adidas trainers just scooting across the floor, chasing him. He was gone, he was off, down the field. See you later Liam."

Liam added: "That's all I remember, I don't remember doing much recording."

Gallagher adds, and I'm paraphrasing here, he spent most of his time in Monnow Valley defecating in his underwear "because it was haunted and stuff".

Recording wise, as Arthurs later put it "wasn't happening". The sessions were tame, "too weak" and lacking in raw power - not the intense sound and attitude of the Definitely Maybe that was eventually released 25 years ago on Thursday.

Tim Abbot, of Creation Records, later said: "It ain't got the attack. There was no immediacy."

image copyrightMichael Spencer Jones
image captionNoel Gallagher went onto write Oasis anthems Wonderwall and Don't Look Back in Anger

Oasis sacked their producer - and replaced him with one from nearby Cardiff. Owen Morris has been widely credited as the man that saved Definitely Maybe.

He helped transform the aforementioned Live Forever, Cigarettes and Alcohol, Supersonic and Rock 'n' Roll Star into the anthems that helped define a generation - but at Cornwall's Sawmills Studios in Fowey.

The seven-time Platinum indie rock masterpiece became the fastest-selling debut album in the UK of all time, selling more than 86,000 copies in the first week and is widely acknowledged as one of the best ever British albums.

Monmouth's legacy is not just where Oasis made their mistakes to learn from, but it is where fans' favourite Slide Away was salvaged from the aborted Monnow Valley sessions.

The cover picture of their debut single Supersonic was also shot at Monnow Valley.

"The idea was to have a cluttered studio environment with amps and cables strewn everywhere," said photographer Michael Spencer Jones in an interview.

"Liam was only 21 at the time and already looked like a fully-formed rock star, so I decided to have him at the front of the shot. I thought it would be a nice twist if I had my tungsten lights in view, the idea being to put Oasis firmly in the 'spotlight' for their debut single."

Of course, Oasis must have loved Monmouth so much that they returned to record their seminal piece (What's The Story) Morning Glory.

  • A free exhibition of unseen photographs of Oasis' heyday are to go on display in London to mark 25 years since the release of their debut album Definitely Maybe. The Masterplan 25 exhibition starts on 22 November at the h Club London.

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