Oscar and Simon, Ocean Colour Scene

An Evening With Ocean Colour Scene: Acoustic UK Tour Heads North

by Geoff Ford

Following Ocean Colour Scene’s sell-out UK tour in 2021, Simon Fowler and Oscar Harrison are to embark on a UK tour of relatively intimate seated venues with Northern dates in May. An Evening With Simon and Oscar of Ocean Colour Scene will create the perfect stage for acoustic performances of all their big hits and anthems, including The Riverboat Song, The Circle, Traveller’s Tune, Hundred Mile High City and The Day We Caught The Train.

Simon Fowler describes these acoustic shows as “A real tonic – a great chance to look the audience in the eye and interact with them on a more personal basis than ever before”.

Forming 32 years ago, OCS spent six years fine-tuning their sound before lighting up the Britpop party with three Top 5 albums Moseley Shoals (1996), Marchin’ Already (1997) and 1999’s One From The Modern. The band has also achieved seventeen Top 40 singles, including a run of nine successive Top 20 singles and a mantelpiece full of awards.

As with all the best groups, behind the swagger and style were great songs, with words and melodies that found their way into the public’s head and heart. It’s now time to hear these songs again, stripped back but every bit as brilliant.

At the end of the 80s when Ocean Colour Scene launched lead singer, and guitarist, Simon Fowler was quoted as saying he thought the band had staying power which was just as well because they didn’t know how to do anything except make music.

“Yes,” he laughs, “that was pretty much true.” Even so, could he ever have dreamed that over three decades later, they’d still be making records, still delighting their hard core of fans, still doing what they do best?

“I think, again, ‘Yes’ would be the answer. We came together very quickly and established ourselves as being successful early on. We also had the dedication to go and live in slums and bedsits if we went through a rough patch.’

Certainly, the music business is notoriously fickle. “But I didn’t know that then,” he adds. “I was naïve which was probably a good thing. Anyway, you’re not cynical when you start out.”

Drummer and bass player Oscar Harrison echoes Simon’s words. “We did have our low points like any other band but we just stuck with it. Overall, we kept rising and rising.”

Formed in 1989 as a rock band, they parted from record company Fontana and started writing their own material in a studio. “It was there that we learnt how to make records rather than just playing two guitars, drum and bass on stage.”

It’s an easy label, says Simon, but by the mid-90s they were identified as part of Britpop alongside Oasis, Blur and the rest. He agrees, if reluctantly. “To be honest, we never thought of ourselves as a pop band – more a folk/rock band.”

And no one championed them more, says Oscar, than Paul Weller. “In fact, we recorded our first album in his studio near Marble Arch in London.” By 1993, OCS founder member Steve Cradock was playing in Weller’s band which went on to tour Europe with Simon as the support act.

There again, being a support band isn’t necessarily the golden key to the door. “We supported the Rolling Stones in Stuttgart at one point,” says Simon, “which we were thrilled about although, as it turned out, we never met them.

“There were two stadiums in the city and a football match at one of them. So, our dressing rooms were two miles away and somehow, in all the logistics, we never got to shake Mick Jagger’s hand.”

Noel Gallagher was another fan. “We supported Oasis on their first proper UK tour,” says Oscar, “although, in all honesty, we didn’t go down great. Everyone was there to see Oasis. It was the same with Weller. ‘All we could hear were shouts of ‘Paul, Paul, Paul’.”

Ocean Colour Scene, Oscar Harrison and Simon Fowler

They were grateful for the exposure but, if they could thank one person more than any other for putting them firmly on the map, it’s Chris Evans. “We did the pilot show for TFI Friday. He made The Riverboat Record of the Week on his Radio 1 breakfast show two weeks in a row. Before we knew it, we were on Top of the Pops.”

OCS were on their way and, in 1996 and 1997, they were the second biggest band in Britain after Oasis. “We had Beatles moments,” Simon says. “On a visit to Dublin, our coach was surrounded by hundreds of screaming girls thumping on the windows.”

So who do they think is their current audience? Have they held on to their original set of fans or have they acquired new ones? “Both! And sometimes their grandchildren, too,” laughs Oscar. “And the front rows get progressively younger,” adds Simon. “The ones behind lose more and more hair each year. But they all know the words!”

And, the question to which everyone wants to know the answer. Who came up with the name for the band and what on earth does it mean?  Simon laughs.

“Steve, Damon (Minchella) and I were in Solihull Library and we started choosing words whose sounds we liked,” chuckles Simon. “’Ocean’ and ‘colour’ appealed to all of us and then I picked up a book about the railway scene in Nuneaton, possibly the dullest tome ever published! But I liked the word ‘scene’.

“When we told Oscar the next day, we were so self-conscious about how stupid it sounded, we had to write it down.” So when did he come round to accepting the name? “It was majority rule,” says Oscar, good-naturedly.

An Evening With Simon and Oscar of Ocean Colour Scene Northern Dates:

May

5th       Stockton on Tees       ARC

6th       Newark                        The Palace

7th       Stamford                     Corn Exchange

8th       Sheffield                      City Hall

10th     Whitley Bay                 Playhouse

11th     Buxton                         Opera House

13th     Bridlington                   Spa

19th     Ilkley                            Kings Hall

20th     Lytham-St-Annes        Lowther Pavilion

21st     Manchester                 RNCM

22nd    Burnley                        Mechanics

 

For more detains and tickets please visit www.oceancolourscene.com