How Oasis paid my rent
When the band asked busker Theo Eastwind to perform songs from their new album, he couldn't really say no
Friday 19 September 2008
Last week, I met Oasis to help them preview their forthcoming album, Dig Out Your Soul. I rehearsed some of the songs from the new album with some other street artists and then we all went out to perform them on the subway.
I used to play "Wonderwall" around the New York subways between 1995 and 1998. It was new at the time and everyone else was going down the classic rock route, "Stairway to Heaven" and what have you. My whole set revolved around when I was going to play "Wonderwall" – that song paid my rent.
I've been in New York for 13 years. My job fell through when I arrived here and I didn't want to go back home to Austria. The day before my plane ticket ran out I had $3.75 to my name. I sat there all night looking at that ticket. I eventually decided to stay and keep playing and I've been busking ever since. I'm so glad I made that decision. I've won the Williamsburg Live Songwriter Competition, the only decent songwriting competition in Brooklyn. I'm proud to be a busker.
Then out of the blue last week, at the behest of the band, someone asked me to play songs from the new Oasis album in the subway for $100. I wasn't sure. I mean, $100 is not really enough for me to learn someone else's songs. But then I remembered all the good things about "Wonderwall": I got gigs at weddings and parties playing that song. I thought it would be great to meet them and thank them for writing it. So I did. I met Liam and thanked him for writing "Wonderwall" – but Liam didn't write it. I wish he'd just said, "Thank you," as opposed to saying, "I didn't write it," but I thanked him like a dumb ass anyway. I guess I should have made it clearer that I was really thanking the whole band.
That said, Liam was extremely nice. I liked his Manchester accent. He listened to my version of "The Turning" with Andy (Bell, bassist) and Gem (Archer, guitar) and they all loved it. Liam said, "You'll do!" I told him that was the best compliment I've had in years. Gem and Andy were really nice, too, and it was interesting to get to see the dynamics of the group. It's a rock band and you expect them to be a bit, well, oblivious to reality, but Andy and Gem seem "hand-picked" for Oasis – very patient and very calm. I think you'd have to be when you're hanging out with Liam and Noel all day. They listen, but Liam doesn't. He just talks, and he'd obviously already had a couple of drinks. But it was awesome to meet him. He had his sunglasses on so there wasn't a human connection, it was more like a "same time, same place" connection. We all went on the roof and he told me that he used to play Christmas carols in the subways in Manchester. I told him I never played carols, that I always refuse to play the songs that everyone else plays. He said, "But I did that!" and I said, "Well, you sold out!" He said "Yeah! I sold out early!" and we had a good laugh. I enjoyed myself thoroughly – it's not every day you meet an icon of modern society. Oasis have been around, they're kind of the bootleg Beatles.
I only played one of their new songs, "The Turning" – they were only paying a hundred bucks. Some of my friends played four songs but I'm more of a focused performer. I do one song and I do it well. We were supposed to do four songs and wing it. I thought, "I'm going to do one song and make it a killer." My version is really interesting, it kills you. I only had a couple of hours to practise, which is not long at all. I did brush through the other songs but "The Turning" was the one. I thought it had the most potential to be another hit.
I listened to the new album and I don't think it's got another "Wonderwall" on it, but that's just my opinion. It grows on you. It's not one of those albums that when you play it, you love it right from the top and then you listen to it five or six times and you're done with it. If you don't like Oasis or you're not a fan, then it's another Beatles rip-off. But I listened to it, and I listened to it about 10 times, and what I loved about it is that you discover all these new things every time you give it another go. It's definitely one of their better albums. Andy and Gem both wrote a song for the album, too. It's a very cool, well-crafted album and it has a great sound. The vocals are great, as are the lyrics – well, I would stay away from the word "rapture" in any of my songs (for me that's a no-no), but they use it on "The Turning". "(Get Off Your) High Horse Lady" is a very simple jam that you'd really enjoy singing to yourself down the street. It's a cool song, a bluesy little jam. I also like "The Shock of the Lightning" but I actually think I preferred my friend Dagmar's [a fellow street artist] version to Noel's.
When we played the tracks, there was a huge crowd and they were really positive. Gem and Andy definitely had a real respect for what I do after they heard me play my version of "The Turning". Before I played for them I was just another dude, but after I finished, they came over and we had a chat. Gem offered me tickets to see them at Madison Square Garden, but I don't think it will happen – it would spoil the experience.
Theo Eastwind was speaking to Helen Smith; 'Dig Out Your Soul' is out on 6 October on Big Brother
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