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GROOVES: Britpop's beating heart is rediscovered as Noel Gallagher returns to Camden

Noel Gallagher performing at Dingwalls
The Oasis star being interviewed for Xfm

Top: Noel Gallagher performing at Dingwalls
Bottom: The Oasis star being interviewed for Xfm

Published: 16 August, 2012
by RICHARD OSLEY

FOR a second or two on Tuesday night, it was like Camden Town had rediscovered its beating Britpop heart almost 20 years after that swaggering brand of music bossed this neighbourhood.

As Noel Gallagher played an exclusive, intimate gig at Dingwalls by the Lock, he hardly needed to sing the words himself as he mined some of the best-known features of Oasis’s famous back catalogue.

The 500 or so tucked inside knew every lyric and were happy to let him know.

But who made up this rasping chorus line in the crowd? Presumably, the same people who queued up for the Oasis albums of the mid-1990s on the day they were released, then as teenagers or young 20-somethings. The same adolescents who jammed phone lines trying to get tickets for gigs at Earl’s Court and Knebworth, and sucked in the band’s sales-boosting rivalry with Blur.

This week, they were competition winners from the happily enduring Xfm radio station, admirably celebrating its own 20th birthday with this fund-raiser for the War Child charity.

Log on to the charity’s website and you instantly read that one in seven children in war-torn Afghanistan won’t see their fifth birthday.
The charity’s worthy aims perhaps explains how playing to 500 in Dingwalls can somehow be of eclipsing importance to entertaining 80,000 in the Olympic Stadium, as Noel’s brother Liam had done at Sunday’s closing ceremony.

Unable to resist, Liam’s Beady Eye band were described by Noel as “Stratford’s finest Oasis tribute band”. It’s a shame those two don’t get on.
No matter, the fans remain in such sturdy voice.

Eighteen years since these songs such as Whatever and Supersonic were pressed, these devotees were standing in the same venue as they had before – just missing a scrap or two of hair. Others have an extra rung around their stomachs. This demographic meant there was hardly a soul under 30 chanting the words of Don’t Look Back In Anger back at the stage during Noel’s finale.

And if a large thought bubble had risen from the pit it might have caught them dreaming of a time when they were the grinning good-timers that used to fill the bar on TFI Friday and still read religiously the work of jocular writers at the NME.

In that post-Madness, pre-Winehouse Camden Town of the mid-1990s, the area was a mecca for wrong haircuts and hopefuls thinking they were part of “Cool Britannia”, a place where reputations were forged in the Dublin Castle, the Electric Ballroom, the Blow Up club in the old Litten Tree pub, and Dingwalls too.

Maybe it’s all mythologised about a little more with each passing year – almost to the extent of parody – but in an interview for Xfm’s Danny Wallace’s breakfast show in the upstairs bar, Noel said Camden had always been like a “Disneyland’ to him.

Noel, of course, lived in the house known as Supernova Heights in Belsize Park and told Wallace, broadcasting on 104.9FM, he would drink at Parkway’s The Spread Eagle and a bit further up the road at the Edinboro ­Castle.

“We just kind of used to maraud around here a lot,” he said. “It was great. Happy days. I remember having a party once and there were loads of people back at mine.

“The stragglers were just kind of leaving as the sun was coming up, there was some indie type sat cross-legged on the kitchen floor and nobody knew them, they’d just walked in off the street. It turns out it was Feeder.”

It was appropriate that the direct descendants of the cocksure era of Oasis’s greatest triumphs appropriately supplied the celebrity faces at the back of the room in Dingwalls: Tim Lovejoy, the wisecracking presenter who once presented Sky’s laughs and football show Soccer AM, and Chris Moyles, a sheer bull of a radio presenter who only recently let go of his Radio One breakfast slot. The lads and ladettes have grown up. Everybody has grown up.

But the nostalgic fondness for that window when Oasis ruled the world (or thought they did), before people mooched off to Ibiza to pretend they like dance music, could be perfectly felt in every lyric at Dingwalls.  

Noel and Oasis have travelled through different dimensions of cool. They were hot, then derided for being derivative. Then we were only allowed to like the B-sides. But the radio songs of our youth make indelible marks on the mind and Noel owns a lot of them.

“I’ll see you all further down the road,” he said.

That might not mean more “marauding” through the pubs of Parkway, but the lasting impression is these karaoke devotees are programmed to be whistling Wonderwall well into their white-haired years.

Pictures courtesy of Andy Suire

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