Knebworth 1996: Oasis


Knebworth 1996: Oasis during their first day of concert [Photo] - iCrew Cinema Play
Knebworth 1996: Oasis during their first day of concert [Photo] - iCrew Cinema Play

Since the early 1960s, Britain, music and society have had a close relationship, which has influenced both politics and economics. Artistic products, like music, have become a more active and vital resource in the processes of symbolic and social formation. "Art and music are increasingly expressed in relation to the various forces that affect the interaction between media, culture, power, and economy, since they are considered the consequence of collaborative processes." The historical period known as Cool Britannia emerged between 1994 and 1997, only two years after British Black Wednesday (when the pound sterling crashed and Britain was forced to exit the European Exchange Rate System). The British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, also introduced her policy of extreme austerity, which caused a shift in society, through which a cultural and social rejuvenation blossomed. In this time, even the music which expressed an intrinsic disgust for Thatcher's conservative politics, sounded pretty pleasant and somewhat optimistic.


During this period of social change, the younger generation of Britons had come to ignore the working class's position, regardless of the political processes which were targeting this already subjugated class. It is certainly no accident that the film adaptation of Trainspotting was one of the most influential cultural products of the time. The film's message is clear: in the time of Thatcher, young Britons were alone, desperately seeking a new identity. In 1994, Tony Blair's nascent Labour party used the optimism of the younger generations, as political rationale. The Labour Party took advantage of the new British cultural wave, by affirming Britpop and the new faces that were part of it, including bands such as Oasis and Blur. The British flag became a big banner under which Britpop groups gather, but also the symbol of a Great Britain in the middle of a cultural renaissance, in an attempt to exploit some aesthetic dogmas such as the assiduous presence of the Union Jack, emphasising the style of the 1960's mods. And it was within this context that Oasis played Knebworth, and they sang their way to becoming the largest concert in British history.


People entering the Knebworth concert area, trying to find their own spot [Photo] - Manchester Evening News
People entering the Knebworth concert area, trying to find their own spot [Photo] - Manchester Evening News

Since 1975, when Pink Floyd performed there, Knebworth has hosted some of the biggest cultural events in the United Kingdom. The modest Hertfordshire village has evolved into a musical hub, British music's Olympus. Following the critical and economic acclaim for Definitely Maybe and (What's the Story) Morning Glory? Oasis saw an opportunity to stage an event that would memorialize their imprint on British society, and they seized it. Unlike Blur, Oasis (a double act of the brothers Noel and Liam Gallagher) embodied the attitudes of Manchester, which had been brutally hit by manufacturing closures and the austerity during Thatcher's reign. The triumph of the British working class in the 1990s was represented by the ascent of these Britpop heroes. The Gallagher brothers were ordinary Manchester boys who were born and reared in the city's former industrial heartland. Despite the late 1980s excitement surrounding the entire Manchester Rave and the Hacienda, London's splendour was far away. Cited by Blair as an example of British renaissance, their method highlighted the emotions and feelings of a new generation of working-class people who had to deal with a renewed and precarious working culture, in an admittedly decaying Britain.


Knebworth became a way for the band to express gratitude to its fans for their support, by performing two live events that would signal the beginning of the legend that was to be Oasis, as well as the conclusion of the Britpop scene. The fans, and their personal tales that drove them to attend an event of unthinkable scale, were the focus of that magnificent concert. The problems in purchasing a ticket were numerous, in an era when the internet had little relevance. The purchase of tickets could only be carried out over the phone or at certain retail locations, which were usually found in record stores or nightclubs. More than 3% of the British population attempted to attend the event, but fans from all around Europe obtained tickets, if only by sheer luck. The generations who strove to assert their presence in society were the true protagonists of that time, and Oasis represented those who, although starting from nothing, had managed to climb right to the top.


Oasis' portrait before the concert [Photo] - RadioX
Oasis' portrait before the concert [Photo] - RadioX

Those who were present at Knebworth, recant their stories of the concert and their excitement still remains; when two brothers delivered a dream to those who were struggling to obtain proper social representation. Oasis held a special place in the hearts of those fans. Knebworth, which was split into two live shows with a total of 125,000 attendees each night, will be remembered as the 'Woodstock of the 1990s'. Knebworth 1996 shaped the face of a new Britain; as Liam Gallagher famously declared at the start of the first night: "this is History, right here, right now."


 

References:

  • Glynn, B. P. (2021, September 17). Oasis Knebworth 1996: “We had no fear.” BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-58557010

  • Lapierre, M. (2021, September 3). Oasis’ Knebworth 1996 Still Thrills Our Hearts! The Honey POP. https://thehoneypop.com/2021/09/03/oasis-knebworth-1996-still-thrills-our-hearts/

  • Peake, A. (2021, August 10). Who supported Oasis at Knebworth? The Focus. https://www.thefocus.news/music/who-supported-oasis-at-knebworth/

  • Peplow, G. (2021, September 24). Oasis Knebworth 1996: Looking back at Liam and Noel Gallagher’s historic shows after 25 years. Sky News. https://news.sky.com/story/oasis-knebworth-1996-looking-back-at-liam-and-noel-gallaghers-historic-shows-after-25-years-12411305

  • Radio X. (2021, October 19). Oasis at Knebworth: the story behind their biggest ever gigs. https://www.radiox.co.uk/artists/oasis/10-facts-about-oasis-at-knebworth-1996/

  • Scott, J., Oasis: Knebworth 1996 (documentary), 2021


Image references

Author Photo

Federica Panico

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