By John Curley
The director Mat Whitecross did a masterful job assembling Supersonic, the new documentary from A24 about the birth and rise of the British rock band Oasis. Like A24’s 2015 documentary Amy about the late British singer Amy Winehouse, Supersonic uses voiceover narration to tell the story. Whitecross wisely chose to only cover the years from the beginning of the band in 1991 to their massive 1996 shows at Knebworth, which were seen by many as the band’s peak. The Knebworth sequences bookend the film at the start and at the end, and the story of the band’s founding and early years unfolds in between. And theirs is quite a tale. In addition to the Gallagher brothers, Noel and Liam, others who provide narration include Paul Gallagher, Noel and Liam’s older brother, their mother Peggie Gallagher, and original guitarist Paul “Bonehead” Arthurs. Whitecross deserves credit for also including original drummer Tony McCarroll among the interviewees. McCarroll was famously fired from the band in April 1995 and replaced by Alan White, the brother of Steve White, who was Paul Weller’s drummer at the time. McCarroll later sued the band for unpaid royalties. When McCarroll admits that he still thinks every day about being fired by the band, one can’t help but feel bad for him.
Kicking off the film with footage from the Knebworth shows provides a great contrast with the band’s humble beginnings in Manchester, England only five years prior. Liam Gallagher was unemployed and Noel working as a roadie with the Manchester band Inspiral Carpets when Oasis formed. The film includes some terrific video footage of Noel Gallagher’s roadie days as well as early Oasis rehearsal footage at the Boardwalk in Manchester and from the show at King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut in Glasgow, Scotland, the show after which the band were signed to their first record deal by Alan McGee of Creation Records.
The narration provided by the Gallagher brothers is always lively and, at times, laugh-out-loud funny. Their comments about Phil Collins and Sting are hilarious. A stand out moment in that narration was Liam discussing how he sometimes would stand stock still while onstage and take in everything going on around him. More serious are Noel’s unexpectedly poignant memories of his father being physically abusive toward him. The Gallagher brothers’ relationship with their father is further examined in the film with brother Paul and mother Peggie discussing the day that the family packed and left their father behind. Also discussed is the time that their father turned up unexpectedly at a post-gig celebration for the band at a bar. Noel recounted how he had to stop Liam from going after his father to fight him.
Supersonic is a no-holds-barred look at Oasis, so the band’s difficulties are covered as well as their glories. McCarroll’s firing and subsequent lawsuit against the band are delved into. The temporary exit from the band in September 1995 of bassist Paul “Guigsy” McGuigan due to nervous exhaustion is discussed as were the difficulties with Scott McLeod, the bassist that temporarily replaced McGuigan and who left the band after a short time. Noel’s controversial statements to the British press over his drug use were also examined. And the rows between the Gallagher brothers received coverage. It’s too bad that McGuigan wasn’t interviewed for the film. It would’ve been interesting to hear his take on that short-lived departure from the band.
But the band’s glories and their fantastic music are what really make the film worthwhile. Since the film only deals with the five-year period from 1991 to 1996, the band’s peak, the music is explosive and features one Oasis hit after another. In addition to Knebworth, other career highlights for Oasis covered in the film are them signing their first record deal, their first TV appearance, their wildly successful first tour of Japan, and their huge hometown shows in April 1996 at the Maine Road stadium in Manchester, which was then the home of the Gallagher brothers’ beloved Manchester City FC.
In his voiceover during the Knebworth footage near the end of the film, Arthurs muses that the band probably should have parted ways after the Knebworth shows to go out at the absolute top of their game. They didn’t, of course, and Oasis carried on for more than a decade after the Knebworth shows with several membership changes that left the Gallagher brothers as the only remaining members at the end from the band’s glory years. But for those first five years and particularly from 1994 to 1996, Oasis were quite arguably the best band in the world. And Supersonic makes a very persuasive argument to back up that assertion.
Supersonic will be released to theaters in the United States as a one-night-only theatrical event on Wednesday, October 26th. Additional information about the film as well as ticket purchase can be found at http://supersonic-movie.com/.
Supersonic has a running time of two hours and contains a considerable amount of profanity.
The trailer for Supersonic can be seen below: