Real superstars don't need stunts

Oasis are heroes to a generation eclipsed by its parents, writes Decca Aitkenhead, aged 25
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The Independent Online
Of the many reactions to Friday's Oasis scare story, one version - whose currency grew as the day's drama unfolded - was as instructive as anything yet written about this band. As ashen Gallagher brothers flew into Britain, as record executives issued fraught reassurances, as Patsy professed blonde, bland innocence from LA, and as the boys' mother hid behind net curtains in Burnage, certain elders and betters gave a shrug and a smile and delivered their knowing verdict.

Oh, honestly - just another silly publicity stunt.

Maybe we shouldn't judge this stupendously stupid reading too harshly. The pop culture offerings of this generation have, in fairness, seldom amounted to more than the calculations of fertile media imaginations. But to mistake Oasis for Bros, or Boyzone, or some meaty, Mancunian version of Mandy Smith, is not just to misunderstand the band. It is to miss the point about a whole generation.

Oasis haven't become the phenomenon they are simply because they make astonishing music - although they do - but because they are the first bona fide superstars we can call our own. This, for a generation defined by a nagging sense of loss, is not to be underestimated.

If you are under 30, you face the following problems. 1. Your parents are insufferably smug about the brilliance of their youth. They had, as they will cheerfully remind you, John Lennon, Mick Jagger and Jimi Hendrix. 2. To date, your generation has come up with Simon le Bon, Gina G and the Smurfs. 3. Your parents doubt you will still be singing along to Stock Aitken Waterman songs in 20 years' time. 4. You suspect they're right.

They also had the sexual revolution, political idealism, women's liberation, the civil rights movements - the whole heady wave of their own infinite possibilities. When they cast a backwards glance at their parents' pre- war lives, it was with mildly amused pity. When we look back at our parents' youth, we feel bloody envious.

And cheated. Increasingly, however, we were also starting to feel a little bit implicated. A nasty suspicion was growing that we really should have come up with something a little more edifying than the puffball skirt, Bananarama and a few tree people by now. And so, in the absence of anything half decent, we cooked up a whole cast of cod celebrities - a kind of virtual reality hall of fame peopled by the sorry likes of Rick Astley and Sigue Sigue Sputnik.

It was a game, but, ultimately, pretty lame, affair. When someone dreamt up Andrew Ridgeley and George Michael, it was considered prudent to endow them with an exclamation mark. Like people who send out invitations to a Party!, the winsome duo's management feared (probably quite rightly) that while Wham might not quite make it, Wham! could be in with a chance. The poor boys were required to shove shuttlecocks down their trousers to try and whoop up a bit of a thrill. These are hardly the icons by which a generation would wish to define itself.

And then we got Oasis.

Driving into Manchester on a Saturday last May was to witness scenes which had been, for our generation, unimaginable. Tens of thousands were converging on Maine Road football ground in the sunshine, brimming with a raw pride, to hear their band play in their city - and you didn't need to be 14 years old to feel tearful (see Take That fans); you didn't need to buy your concert poster with an ironic shrug (see Pulp fans); you didn't need to bring your lighter (see Phil Collins fans) to make sure there'd be a bit of an atmosphere; you didn't need, in short, a "silly publicity stunt". And Liam did not need to punctuate his performance with mannered pauses, microphone stretched out to the singalong crowd (see every crappy rock concert of the Eighties) to remind everyone that this was Their Favourite Song.

The impact of Oasis on this generation is profound. What is striking, though, is the need of their followers for recognition from two specific quarters.

The first is that of our parents' generation. Some of our pop cultural offerings, to date, have been considerably less hollow than others, and a plausible case can be made for house music as an authentic, important and defining product of our times, by which we can be proud to identify ourselves.

The trouble is, we play the stuff to our parents, and the buggers just sniff and say it's all bleeps and noises, and not real music at all. It just, they scoff, comes out of machines. Show your parents the most spectacular dance club in the world, and they just see some bloke playing a bunch of records that all sound the same to a load of people off their heads. And, in spite of ourselves, this really bothers us. It is a deeply unsatisfactory response.

There is still something within us that needs to catch our parents humming "Wonderwall" - and for all the asinine witterings about whether their music is "derivative" - whatever that means - and whether or not they are "better than the Beatles", our parents' recognition is as much a validation of ourselves as it is of the particular musical merits of (What's The Story) Morning Glory?.

And we want America to love Oasis, too. The extent of our desire for unknown teenagers in Hicksville, Minnesota to adorn their bedroom walls with pictures of Liam is almost limitless - and the panic on Friday that the band might have split before achieving this ambition, was palpable. Our need, in fact, for American approval, appears considerably greater than that of Oasis themselves - as Noel's memorable remark, "I don't give a f*** about America", eloquently illustrated.

That British youth should attatch so much to the validation of our parents and the Americans - parties, after all, which we affect to hold in such questionable regard - is probably a pity. That we have Oasis to claim for our own, however, is a precious and timeless glory.