Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?! – Ocean Colour Scene

In Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?!, we quiz an artist on their own career to see how much they can remember – and find out if the booze, loud music and/or tour sweeties has knocked the knowledge out of them. This week: frontman Simon Fowler takes the test

1
‘The Riverboat Song’ was famously used to introduce guests on TFI Friday. But how many appearances did Ocean Colour Scene make on the Chris Evans-presented show?

“Blimey! Is it 10 or 12?”

WRONG. 7.

“How disappointing! We did the TFI Friday pilot, which is when Chris Evans asked us to if he could use ‘The Riverboat Song’ as the walk-on music. He was the Radio 1 Breakfast Show presenter at the time, and made the song Record of the Week for two weeks in a row. Suddenly it’s at Number 15 in the charts and our album, ‘Moseley Shoals’, went in at Number Twi, so much of our success is because of Chris Evans.

“On Friday afternoons, I used to go down to TFI Friday even when we weren’t on to hang out with Chris Evans and Danny Baker. I became good drinking mates with Chris during that era, We killed some brain cells together, that’s for sure! We’d see him in his car and kidnap him and take him to the Met Bar [in central London] where you suddenly felt like a pop star, which was never on the cards for us. I remember Boy George once coming up to me there and going: ‘I know all about you!’ [laughs]”

2
In 2013, Ocean Colour Scene were joined live onstage by actor James Buckley on guitar. Which character did he play in The Inbetweeners?

“He played Jay.”

CORRECT.

“I loved The Inbetweeners. He became good mates with Steve [Cradock, OCS guitarist]. James is an absolute mod to his fingertips. He turned up to play with us wearing a parka, a suit and bowling shoes. I thought: Fuck me, is it 1964?! He’s a quiet guy and nothing like Jay from The Inbetweeners. In fact, Steve and I played Ocean Colour Scene songs at his wedding in a Scottish castle in 2012. Danny Dyer was there.”

3
You were part of England United who recorded ‘(How Does it Feel to Be) on Top of the World’, England’s official theme for the 1998 World Cup. But which member of its supergroup line-up did you once turn down a date with?

“Ahh yes! Scary Spice.”

CORRECT.

“She said to me: [Fowler imitates Mel B’s broad Leeds accent]: ‘You got a girlfriend?’. I replied: ‘No’. She said: ‘Do you want one?’ Geri [Horner] told her: ‘Well, I think you’ll find he bats for the other team’. This is all happening when we’re soundchecking at TFI Friday, so Mel B goes up to the microphone and loudly announces: ‘Is he gay? Is he gay?’ to everybody assembled in the room. I thought: ‘Christ!’. [Laughing] Eddie Murphy was her second choice after me.”

You were bizarrely ‘outed’ as gay by The Sun in 1998. Did your fans care at the time?

“No, I don’t think it was a big deal. It was noticeable that our third album [1997’s] ‘Marchin’ Already’ went to Number One and knocked Oasis’ ‘Be Here Now’ off the top spot – which is when Noel Gallagher sent us a plaque: ‘Congratulations to the second greatest band in the world’. But the album didn’t end up selling anywhere near as much as its predecessor, ‘Moseley Shoals’, overall. Whether that [The Sun’s outing] had anything to do with it, I don’t know. I suspect it didn’t. It certainly didn’t affect our concerts.”

“Looking back now, it seems absurd – and I don’t think anybody gave a toss even then. In fact, when it happened, the first thing Liam Gallagher did was come up and kiss me on the lips! [Laughs] Everybody knew – apart from my parents. But now, I’ve been with my partner, Robert, for 34 years, and my parents have accepted him into the family.”

What was recording ‘(How Does it Feel to Be) on Top of the World’ like?

Ian McCulloch [Echo and the Bunnymen frontman] had become a good pal of ours, and I went to Liverpool to record it with him and Tommy [Scott] from Space. Then the Spice Girls came in and totally took over. The two in charge were definitely Scary and Geri. Ian turned to me and said [Adopts McCulloch’s Liverpudlian brogue]: ‘Eeeh, they’re like a proper group’. [Laughs] I said: ‘Fuck off!’. And then I accidentally said ‘Hello Victoria!’ to Mel C and she snapped back: ‘I know your name – learn mine!’. So that set the tone!”

You haven’t had much luck with the Spice Girls

“No!  I later met Victoria [Beckham] again when we were both performing at an event and went up to her and said, ‘Hello. Remember me?’, and she snarled: ‘Piss off! You were pissed last time I met you and you’re pissed now!’ [Laughs]”

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4
What are the three B-sides accompanying CD2 of Ocean Colour Scene’s 1996 single ‘The Circle’?

“Absolutely no idea! [Laughs] Is one of them ‘Robin Hood’?”

WRONG. The B-sides are: ‘Chelsea Walk’, ‘Alibis’ and a cover of The Beatles’ ‘Day Tripper’ featuring Liam and Noel Gallagher.

“Oh right! I had no idea! I remember ‘Day Tripper’ was recorded at the Electric Ballroom in Camden.”

What are your favourite moments of supporting Oasis on their 1995 tour?

“None that I could tell you that your lawyers wouldn’t take out! [Laughs] It was just as you’d imagine. I don’t know why we bothered to order bedrooms because I don’t think anyone went to bed for about five years. They were fantastic. When it was the two of them friendly to each other together, they were hilarious and had a banter relationship that only brothers can have and it’s a bloody shame – in my book – that they had the world at their feet and scored an own-goal. I think: I wish I could have had that with my brother.”

Talking of Beatles covers:  in 1995, you recorded ‘Come Together’ with Paul McCartney as the Smokin’ Mojo Filters….

“It was Noel [Gallagher], Paul Weller, and Steve [Cradock] recording with Paul McCartney for [the charity] War Child. I went along and sang the chorus with Linda McCartney, who was lovely and we both bonded over being fans of Neil Young. I remember Johnny Depp was there dressed as a tramp, collecting cigarette butts in the turn-ups of his jeans, along with Kate Moss. I regaled him, off my face, about the nature of stardom. He thought I was a pain in the arse – which I was! [Laughs] Macca came up to me at the end of the evening and said [impersonates Macca], ‘Ey – look after yourself’, looking straight into my enormous eyes. I think he was trying to tell me to calm down a bit.”

5
Which pop star included “Ocean Colour Scene (Apart from that one song…Hang on nah not even that song)” on his 2013 list of ‘quarter-decent three chord knobheads [who] could and did get a deal in the ‘90s’?

“I’ve got no idea! [Laughs]”

WRONG. It was Robbie Williams, who posted the blog in response to a Brett Anderson quote about “crap boybands in the ‘90s”. Aside from OCS and myriad others, his list included Echobelly, Menswear, Sleeper,  Salad and “Geneva (Sub-Suede -Can you imagine?)”.

“Do you have his number?! [Laughs] That’s a shame because I had a few drinks with Robbie Williams when he was trying to become Liam and Noel’s friends. Liam told him to sling his hook. Good judge of character, is Liam! [Laughs] Right: well I won’t be buying any more of Robbie Williams’ B-sides albums! Best of luck to him.”

6
Ocean Colour Scene’s 2007 Paul Weller-written song ‘For Dancers Only’ was reworked and released by Weller and Graham Coxon later that year under which different title?

“I had no idea that Paul and Graham Coxon did it as well. Was it under the title ‘The Miserable Gits’? [Laughs]”

WRONG. Sadly not! It’s the more mundane moniker ‘This Old Town’.

“I should add Paul Weller’s not a miserable git, by the way!”

You’ve collaborated with Weller numerous times over the years (and Steve Cradock is a member of Weller’s band)…

“He was in my hotel room once having a quiet drink and Steve was jumping up and down on my bed and nearly jumped out of the seventh floor window of the hotel. He smashed his head on the window, hit the floor, glass everywhere, so the three of us had a conference the next day where we decided we needed to change our ways a little. That was bloody scary. It could have been a tragedy, but it wasn’t. We’re the band with 10 lives!

“We first met Paul Weller at his studio, Solid Bond, in Marble Arch. We partly recorded our first [1992 self-titled] album there. Steve hit it off with Paul – he’d gone down to Solid Bond a few times when he was a kid and been chased out by big Kenny Wheeler who was Paul’s minder. Paul liked a song by us called ‘Sway’, so we ended up at the studio. Then Steve joined Paul’s band in ’93, which was great for him because he was a huge The Jam fan as a teenager.”

7
Which two bands did Ocean Colour Scene play between at Glastonbury 2000?

“Were The Bootleg Beatles on? I think they were on our day because one of them wanted my autograph for his son. John Lennon asking me for my autograph made my day!  Were Cast on? I can’t remember much about Knebworth [Oasis’ record-breaking 1996 gigs, which OCS supported them at] other than being terrified and seeing all the hands in the air when we were doing ‘The Day We Caught the Train’. I don’t even remember if we even watched Oasis because I was [Imitates The Fast Show’s Drunk Guy] vehhrry drunk. I think we sodded off early.”

WRONG. At Glastonbury, you were sandwiched between Coldplay and Pet Shop Boys.

Oh, at Glastonbury! Sorry I thought you meant Knebworth! Although I don’t remember Glastonbury either! [Laughs]”

Apparently you helped calm down Pet Shop Boy Neil Tennant, who predicted a hostile reception for his band…

“I do remember speaking to Neil Tennant at that. He thought they weren’t Glastonbury material, but I reassured him that they’ve got so many big songs that even if the audience aren’t wearing their T-shirts, they’ll go: ‘Oh, I know this song!’”

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8
Name all the songs on your pre-Ocean Colour Scene band The Fanatics’ four-track ‘Suburban Love Songs’ EP.

“Bloody hell! ‘My Brother Sarah’, ‘Suburban Love Songs’, ‘Tight Rope’ and … I don’t know the name of the other one!”

WRONG. You missed out the track: ‘1,2,3,4’.”

“’1,2,3,4’ was a total rip-off of ‘Foggy Notion’ by The Velvet Underground, who I was completely obsessed with. Lou Reed once said: One chord is fine. Two chords are pushing it. Three chords and you’re into jazz” – which feels like the perfect retort to Robbie Williams!”

9
Which Ocean Colour Scene track have you performed live with both (separately) Pete Doherty and Carl Barât?

“’Robin Hood’”.

CORRECT.

Pete and Carl were fans of the band. Carl’s was a better version of ‘Robin Hood’, shall we say! Pete had been a little bit, er, thirsty that afternoon. It’s all that jumping around onstage!”

10
At a 2011 gig in the University of Anglia, OCS were joined by former footballer Dion Dublin playing percussion on which instrument that he had invented?

The Dube.”

CORRECT.

“It’s like a percussive cube and each side has got a different tone. He used to live near me and we became friends. Dion once took us to a nightclub with another ex-Norwich player Darren Huckerby who warned us: ‘Listen, what happens on tour, stays on tour. I said: Dion, you’re talking to a band!”  

Tell us about your forthcoming (Dube-free) Ocean Colour Scene acoustic tour…

“Well, it’s 25 gigs. I can’t remember the last time we did that so I’m slightly apprehensive concerning my voice, but at least we get to sit down!”

The verdict: 4/10 

“That’s appalling! Halfway through a live radio interview once, Adrian Chiles said to me: ‘You’re a rubbish guest – you can’t remember a thing!'”

– ‘An Evening With Simon and Oscar of Ocean Colour Scene’ tours nationwide from April 29 to June 2

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