Sacked Oasis drummer in pounds 600,000 deal

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The Independent Online
LIFE MAY well imitate art but although Oasis have admitted their musical debt to the Beatles, no one expected them to mirror their lives quite so closely as well.

Just as Pete Best was sacked from the Fab Four in 1962, so the drummer Tony McCarroll waved goodbye to fame and glory in 1995 when he was dismissed from Oasis.

Both men even chose the same lawyer, Jens Hills, when they went to court to claim their share of the royalties. Mr McCarroll was claiming 20 per cent of the band's earnings - a figure put variously at between pounds 10m and pounds 18m.

He appeared in the High Court yesterday for the opening round of what was shaping up as one of the most sensational cases in the history of pop music. But Mr McCarroll was again denied his 15 minutes of fame when the case was settled almost immediately. Jonathan Rayner-James QC told the judge: "I am happy to tell you that the parties have come to terms and that will resolve all matters between the parties."

Far from becoming an instant millionaire, Mr McCarroll had agreed to forgo future royalties and had accepted a lump sum of pounds 600,000 for the songs on which he played.

Nearly three years ago Mr Hills won pounds 2m for Mr Best, the drummer on several tracks of the Beatles' anthology album.

The Beatles' manager, Brian Epstein, had called Pete Best into his office 33 years earlier and told him he was being replaced by Ringo Starr. "The lads want you out," he said.

In a rare interview recently, Mr McCarroll said he had been sacked in a three-minute phone call from the manager, Marcus Russell, but he blamed Noel Gallagher. "At the end of the day it was he who made the decision for me to go. He [Noel] approached the band and said, `Tony's gone'."

When Mr McCarroll found out he had been replaced by Alan White, a session musician, he approached Mr Hills seeking money for being "unlawfully expelled from the partnership". He had played on their debut album, Definitely Maybe, and on "Some Might Say", the No1 single from the second album, (What's the Story) Morning Glory. But he wanted a percentage from the third album Be Here Now, which he did not work on, and a share of merchandising profits.

After the hearing Mr McCarroll said he was glad it was all over. He lost his job four years ago after a personality clash with Noel Gallagher and allegations that he took no interest in improving his "poor" drumming.

As he left court Mr McCarroll said he was totally happy and he was working in rehearsal studios in Manchester teaching drumming to young hopefuls. Asked if he had buried the hatchet with the rest of the band, he said: "No, I don't talk to them any more."

To the disappointment of a handful of fans who had queued for an hour to ensure a place in court 17 the brothers Gallagher did not appear.

Backstage at a gig used to be the favourite haunt for autograph hunters but the litigious nature of the music business means the High Court is the place to track down rock idols these days. While Oasis slugged it out, the Royal Courts of Justice were also hosting cases involving triple Brit winner Robbie Williams and 1980s pop combo Spandau Ballet.

The former Take That star is tucked away in court 72 appealing against a judgement ordering him to pay royalties to the former Take That manager Nigel Martin-Smith. Spandau Ballet have spent the past month arguing about shares of royalties in court 59.

The Oasis case took place in the same court where, months earlier, the American rock star Bruce Springsteen successfully won an action against firms pirating his early material.

The court rooms are small and can bring fans within feet of their idols without the intervention of burly minders and unlike rock stadiums, entrance is free.