Ocean Colour Scene delivered one of the most memorable gigs of the decade when they played three legendary nights at Stirling Castle.
Now 25 years on, I met with the band’s frontman Simon Fowler in Edinburgh to look back on his incredible career and get a taste of what it was like to be part of the Britpop era.
It was in 1998, following the release of their chart-topping third album Marchin’ Already, that they embarked on their own headline arena tour and played those three sold-out nights at Stirling Castle – gigs that are still discussed fondly to this day.
Simon joked: “I was slightly disappointed ’cause I realised we were playing in the car park. For some reason I thought we’d be in the ramparts.
“But we did three nights there and we had a load of mad pipers on the first night. It was 25 years ago – I think that we should revisit that at some point.”
Jumping on that gem of an idea, I said “you have to!”
Simon’s response? “Well, now you’ve mentioned it I think we will. I will sort it out with my people.”
For anyone who loves the likes of The Day We Caught the Train, Better Day, Hundred Mile High City and the rest, like me, the thought of these being played from Stirling Castle again is something quite special.
Anytime OCS, as they are affectionately known, play in Scotland, it’s a monumental moment – as rarely has a band been taken into the hearts of Scots, quite like this one.
When I asked why he thinks that is, Simon said: “It’s weird isn’t it? I don’t know why but it’s been like that for a long time.
“We came up to Scotland from the off and I would say our spiritual home truly is the Barrowlands in Glasgow.”
Having played there over 60 times, the 57-year-old added that last year’s gig in the Barras might just have been his favourite one yet.
“Number one; they didn’t throw beer anymore, which actually is slightly disappointing for me as I thought ‘Oh God – we’re middle aged and so are our audience!’ I was disgusted!”
Barrowlands may have been a highlight for Ocean Colour Scene but they have enjoyed many more incredible moments – although performing on Top of the Pops might not make their top five.
“It should be Top of the Pops but I hate to say this – it was incredibly boring!” he admitted.
“But it was ridiculously an honour, as was the first time that we did the Albert Hall and we arrived and saw our name on the sign.”
It was at this point in the interview Simon got emotional and understandably so: Ocean Colour Scene have had an incredible career, especially poignant given he didn’t think he’d ever even make it as a musician.
“I wanted to be a football commentator but the idea, as a kid to want to be in a rock and roll band and do what we did?
“I wanted to be John Motson but to want to be John Lennon seemed a step too far for someone from Birmingham, to be honest with you.”
Formed in 1989 in Solihull, Ocean Colour Scene was not a band destined for overnight success with their debut album gaining little traction.
Determined to keep going, they honed their song-writing skills and in 1993 came to the attention of fellow musician Paul Weller who invited the band to support him on tour.
This was the start of a beautiful and meaningful friendship, with Simon explaining: “Paul Weller was our fifth Beatle.
“The ‘Mod Father’ was our godfather and a great pal. So were Oasis – we had a great time with them, but the guy who really really made it for us was Chris Evans. Without him, none of this would have happened.”
Chris was presenting cult TV show TFI Friday and asked the band to perform on the pilot episode.
Falling in love with their track The Riverboat Song, with its instantly recognisable intro, Chris asked if he could use it as his walk-on music.
He was also the Radio 1 Breakfast Show presenter at the time and made the song his ‘song of the week’ for two consecutive weeks.
And thus, OCS was catapulted to Britpop glory, as second album Moseley Shoals spent 92 weeks in the chart.
Simon fondly recalled: “It changed things literally overnight. The album went in at number two and stayed there for the best part of six months.”
And, on living out the heady rock ‘n’ roll days with their pals and peers, Simon noted with a glint in his eye: “All the stories about us and those Gallagher brothers? They are all true. In fact, most you won’t even hear!”
Thankfully it seems Ocean Colour Scene are not ready to hang up their microphones yet, with Scot Alan McGee recently taking over their management reins.
“He’s given us a bit of impetus to do a new album. A new album and a return to Stirling Castle. Sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it?”
It does indeed.
Watch the full interview with Simon Fowler on What’s on Scotland, Friday at 7pm and relive the magic of the original Stirling Castle gig now on the STV Player.
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