Paul ‘Bigun’ Ashbee – interview – The man who led Liam to the mic looks back at early Oasis and tells it like it was, as he looks to release his new book
For those who read Tony McCarroll’s ‘Oasis – The Truth’ will know who the Bigun is, for those who didn’t read it he’s the man who in essence led a young Liam Gallagher to a mic stand, Boneheads pre-Oasis band ‘The Rain’ and then saw him go on to the life of a rock’n’roll icon..he also hung with Noel and was a face in and around Burnage way before Oasis came along. Around a scene made up of football, music, clothes and Manchester nightlife its a story which is about to be written up and put on the shelves as Paul Ashbee sets out to tell it like it really was with his up upcoming book ‘Giving it the Bigun’ – looking to be released later this year.
Paul Bigun Ashbee – “I know without me and what I did to get Liam singing in the first place with Boneheads band Oasis would simply never of happened”
Here I talk to Paul on the whole story of how he met up with Liam, the start of Oasis, the ups, the downs, the craziness and the sometimes harsh realities of what its really like being around and working with your mates band as they go on to take over the world.
Tell us about yourself Paul, has music always been important to you, you always been a big music fan?
Paul Bigun Ashbee – As a kid I used to have the dream that one day I’d be in a group, whether it be a guitarist or what ever. Its something many kids in Manchester used to dream about, being a rock star, pop star what ever, especially through the 80’s and 90’s. Before that though the city could be a pretty drab place to be, poor, nothing really to do so it was always about being either in a group or playing football. For me though there was always something there in my mind, you know. Like I remember my mum would get on my case about getting a job but even then I was like..nah, I always wanted to do my own thing. Getting into New Order and Happy Mondays, especially being around them in the early days it kinda opened you up that way of life.
How did you and Liam first meet up then?
I met him through a mate of mine and got him working with me valeting cars for Man UTD players, where we were cleaning the cars for Beckham, Cantona and other players at the club. And it was around that time that UTD were winning everything and the city was really buzzing. We had the Hacienda as well so it was like some one had kinda sprinkled some magic dust on the place..an amazing time. I’d already been through the football hooligan thing, been to prison and then things started changing. The Roses did Blackpool, the acid house scene was taking off and I thought now’s the time to do something with my life..and funnily enough a year later I met Liam.
It was you who actually made it happen, regarding Liam stepping up to the mic and fronting a group in the first place..how did it happen exactly?
Well it all started going back to Bonehead and the band he had called ‘The Rain’, with some guy on vocals..a top lad but he wasn’t the type of front man that was going to take them forward in any way, you know. Me and Liam had already been down to see The Rain play in Didsbury and it was at that time Liam would always be telling me ‘ I wanna be in a band man, I could do that’. And Bonehead knew that and so did the bands singer, who was obviously a bit wary of it.
Later on they played the Boardwalk and I saw Bonehead after it and he said it was a bit disappointing because they were hoping Tony Wilson was maybe going to be there and sign them as the Rain to Factory Records. So I told him ‘Liam wants to be in a band..you know, Noels younger brother’. So he said ‘can he sing’ and I was like’ Yeah course he can’.. I wasn’t going to say ‘I don’t know?’ was I?. But I’d spent the last 12 months in a van with him talking about wanting to be a rock star every day, so I knew he was up for it.
Of course Liam had never sung in a band up to that point, how did the audition go?
Bonehead said ‘get him down’ to try out for the band so I went round to Liam’s after work one day and said ‘ C’mon..I’ve got you that audition for Boneheads band’. But he turns around and says “aw..I don’t know if I want to do it now”, so that wound me up ‘You what, you taking the piss, I’ve sorted it out for you but your not going to get down there now!’.
He was hum’n and harring about it. I’m not joking for about 2 weeks I was just on him everyday, about having a go and trying out for the band. I could of just dropped it, walked away..you know. I know its something he’s never said before. But I got Liam to have a go at fronting a band and both Liam and Bonehead can never deny that.
Around the same time I was talking to Liam’s mate Coatsey and telling him’ Nob head ere’s taking the piss, I got him a try out for Boneheads band, the bands singer has already been moved on…and now he wont do it’. You know, it was frustrating because I knew he’d pull it off. Anyway after 2 weeks I eventually got him in the van and took him down to Boneheads. At the time Bonehead used to have this pet tarantula and it had just shed its skin, so when Liam walks into Boneheads for the first time he was nervous, understandably but Bonehead just threw this empty tarantula shell at him as soon as he walked into the room and of course Liam shit himself…but it broke the ice. Bonehead asked him if he could sing and if he wanted to be in a band, gave him these lyrics he had for a song he’d written and Liam and Bonehead went through it. And there he was, like this little John Lennon, which he likes to think he is.. and he was buzzing
I wouldn’t of minded being in a band myself but Liam back then, he was kinda under my wing and we were good mates so watching him grow in that band is something I got a lot out of too.
So what was it that got Noel to join Oasis would you say, was he impressed seeing his young bro singing with a band?
I remember when I took Noel and his ex-girlfriend Louise to see them play their first gig at the Boardwalk. At first, he couldn’t believe Liam had joined a band and was just taking the piss really. But when the band came on and he saw Liam up there I looked at Noel and could see his little eyes light up thinking ‘this is it, this is what I can lay my stuff over’. The sound was already there, and that sound came a long time before Noel joined. That rhythm Oasis had early on wasn’t Noel, it was Boneheads. Bonehead was the magician, the one who brought that sound – Noel wrote his own songs and for him it was a situation made in heaven. To lay his songs down over what the band were doing and I knew he’d feel that way when he heard them.
Was Liam made up to have Noel join the band then?
The way I saw it Liam always wanted to be around his brother. Noel back then was playing guitar and was already writing songs and to me that’s what Liam wanted to do, be around Noel and the music, but Noel wouldn’t have any of that and would be off on his own a lot. I think Noel’s always been pretty fk’n hard on Liam to be honest, I mean the things that went down, the scraps and that in rehearsal, crazy. But Noel was always out and about doing his own thing and I suppose that’s where I came into it..with a bit of guidance where Liam was concerned.
I remember being in the Hacienda with Noel one night and he disappeared, came back 30mins later and said he had just got an audition with The Inspiral Carpets, and he was made up. After that we were out again one night, this time inCorbieres and we bumped into Gilly (Inspirals drummer, R.I.P) and he said to me ‘How about you come out with us and be a roadie’ and with that Noel’s face just dropped, sat there thinking ‘you fk’n twat’..(laughs). But it never happened…because I went to jail.
But to Noel it was his thing. He went for the audition with the Inspirals, didn’t get it, they brought in Tom Hingley and he ended up as one of the bands roadies. That was just Noel though, he liked doing his own thing. And running around working for the Inspirals was ‘his thing”.
We used to go out and he’d be there, wondering about, going off, doing his own thing then we’d end up at my place at the end of the night and Noel would give me a tape of him singing tunes he’d written and say ‘Here, why don’t you put this on’ ..and I’d be thinking ‘cos its shit’, and it was. He wasn’t at that time writing the Supersonics and Live For Ever’s, that came later on.
How about Liam’s style, what influenced him back then as a frontman, as a rock’n’roll star?
I get asked that quite a bit actually. Its like some one in-boxed me on Facebook the other week asking me where the walk came from, he thought it was Liam’s walk. But its something that we were doing at the match much before Oasis. Its a walk of confidence what football hooligans would strut around to. We used to roll our programmes up real tight and slide them in our back pockets and walk like we were going to war.
So there were loads of lads walking around at the match like that ten years before Oasis came along. People like David Bosworth, who was one of the main Perry boys around that time, we all sort of looked up to him, you know. Well that’s where I think the whole attitude and Oasis style comes from and with it that kinda football hooligan attitude and style is what Oasis actually brought to the stage, as a band.
All this and more is what you’ve been working on putting your book together – ‘Giving it the Big’un’
Yeah…well first off I was never known as Big’un really, that came from Tony McCarroll’s book ‘Oasis – The Truth’. I was never known as that before. And I think it was his book which really brought me and my time in and around Liam and Oasis to light. And anyone who’s ever read Tony’s book will know the real story of the band, and respect to him as he went through a hard time really but has come out of it the other side now.
Because Tony’s book sold really well people came at me to whether I’d be up for writing one of my own about the beginning of Oasis. As I suppose for many it was the first time they would of learnt about those times and who was around, like myself. At first I’m thinking ‘who am I to write a book, what have I got to say’ but I get so many people asking me or in-boxing me on it all the time now. And then I met up with writer Paul Chambers who wrote Tony’s book, and decied started to get it all down.
He’s done his best because it was hard, you know stopping and starting, it began reading like a diary almost. Because my story isn’t just about Oasis, there’s a lot more before that came along like the football, music, fashion, acid house and everything else like being around people like Mark Hughes, Alex Higgins, Beckham. So After a few years now of going back and forth its coming together and I think it’ll be really be worth the wait.
Outside the band members themselves your the closest thing to giving the fans that early and very real Oasis story, wouldn’t you say. What was your biggest reason for doing this book?
I saw that band grow from the very beginning. But seriously some times I can get a bit of shit about it all to be honest. I go out there and like to tell it like it was. But it can work both ways in terms of how people take it. Everyone wanted a piece of Oasis when they came out. You know, claiming this and that on the band, They were the ones that did this, did that.. blah blah blah but what happened with that band happened..and I was there in that damp basement watching it all come together, they weren’t.Its been good therapy though, but its not a ‘look back in anger’ type scenario at all, it did get really crazy at times but it was also life changing stuff. I’m proud of nothing more than what Oasis and Liam did and I was a part of its roots. But also the book gives me the chance to answer all the claimants out there when it comes to Oasis and the bands early years, once and for all.
The crew!, it was like having 25 wanna-be Liam Gallagher’s around you all the time. And everyone was out to make a buck from it..and they were too because people were getting into some of the shows for nothing left, right and centre. I remember 95 in Leicester and I’m sat backstage when one of the lads shouts out ‘They’ve opened the back doors and let fkn loads in’. And they’re were loads of them, all at it, peoples stuff getting spinned, purses, jackets getting pinched and all sorts going on.
Later after the gig we were at this house where we were all staying and I’m sat at the dinner table with Liam and Bonehead, Noel’s sat at the other table. When one of the lads gets up with this ghetto blaster which was stuck up his shirt and Noel’s sat there looking at this lad and said ‘where you going with that’ and this lads says “I’m off to go get my head down???’ . I looked at Noel and he’s just sat there thinking ‘you know what, these lot are fkn mad’.
Anyway after that Liam and Noel had this massive row with Noel saying ‘They’re taking the fk’n piss man” so Liam comes back in and then accuses me of drinking a full bottle of JD!. I’m thinking ‘what you on about?’. If I’d of drunk a full bottle of JD how the hell was I still stood up?..but Liam’s just going on about this bottle of JD and I later realised he was going mad on all of us because where Noel was concerned he felt he probably had to. Noel pulled rank on him. This was the problem. Noel took over that band, and I saw it coming.
..you saw it coming
Yeah.., and I even said that to Bonehead when he joined them ‘dont let him take over’ but he did and started hammering everyone in it. Even back then say Tony McCarroll would walk into rehearsal and Noel would be off trying to take the piss out of him and his hair. I’d be thinking ‘who the fk are you, you silly cunt..who do you think you are taking the piss out of the band Bonehead put together’ – something he could of never done. But I suppose they took it to a certain degree because Liam wanted him in the band. For the first time he’d got his big brother interested in what he was doing and that’s want he wanted.
So there was a kinda pressure then because Noel had joined. Not long returned after touring with the Inspiral’s and learning how the music biz really worked I suppose changes had to be made for the band to move forward – but how did it feel?
Yeah, but it was the way it was done. It was like from that night onwards you could tell things were changing. I mean I wasn’t planning on anything regarding the band anyway but there was a lot of people getting the door slammed on them. It was as if Liam was saying ‘my brothers involved now and its serious business…so see ya later’. Which it was with out a doubt but it was like Noel was coming down on everyone in the band, and it just didn’t seem right.
Whats it like when you’ve supported your mates band from scratch and it starts taking off, going to that next level. Something hard to keep up with I bet?
Well..at the time I was on the bones of my arse. Like one night we’re at a gig and Liam turns up in all this fancy new clobber – which was right, he’s the star of the band, he’s earned it but I had about a fiver to my name at the time. And he says later that night ‘right, were off back to the hotel..you lot stay here’. I just thought ‘you cheeky twat, I wanna to get a shower and that’ you know what I mean. It was like all of a sudden I’m like some kinda outcast.
It wasn’t all gravy either, the first bit of real publicity Oasis got in the mainstream media in 94 was that about being out with Giggs and Liam giving him a load of grief and laughing about messing his car up when I had him working for me valeting the players cars. I got pulled to Ferguson’s office about it asking me ‘whats all this about, out with Giggs and this Liam Gallagher, who takes drugs!’. Which in meant the end of my contract there and the work I had coming in from UTD.
Don’t get me wrong, Ive had some massive fkn highs, met some great people, had some really great times, great memories. Something that will live with me for ever (laughs) excuse the pun. Though my family were never that mad over Oasis and I suppose found it some times a bit embarrassing, the sex drugs and r’n’r..my mum wasn’t really into that. It reflected bad on all of us, like we were bloody drug dealers or what have you. I used to say to Liam all this stuff coming out like you scratched Cantona’s car has messed me up with UTD and its starting to reflect badly on the people around you as well. But its just the way it went, I took the positives with the negatives.
Fast forward then to your parting of the ways with Oasis, in Tony’s book Noel apparently sees you walking off with clobber from the Oasis dressing room and tells you to not come back..is that how it went down?
To be honest I was out of it, wasted. I can hardly remember. I think he just said ‘your taking the piss’ or something but I kinda used that moment to explain how much I’d had enough of all the bullshit that was going on in and around the band. I was just tired of it all and that summed it up really, I didn’t care anymore.
But there was a time that I thought ‘I’m really going to have to make my mind up if I want to do this, go on working with Oasis’. But I made my own choices and if I’d of maybe kept my head down a bit I’d probably been with them for some time. I was probably a bit too much of a character to have around to, be honest, and no way was that going to happen. I felt at that point I’d had enough keeping it up with it all.
Its like Bonehead, he still touches on me as that man who walked up to him in the pub one day and said ‘here you are, here’s Liam’, or like in Supersonic where he says ‘I think one of our mates passed Liam on to us’…that’s how I’ve been mentioned, cheeky fkr’s but they ‘know’ how that band come together, Bonehead had a job to do, got his head down and got on with it..like the rest of them The whole beginning of Oasis and their story is something that’s been put together for those who they want to read it, which is how it goes most of the time in groups . I actually felt I was watching a band that was going to ‘make it’ before Noel even joined.
What would you say is the underlying story of your book then Paul and your experiences with Oasis?
One of inspiration, seeing how that band came together through my eyes and what it was like just being there to witness it, but also to be a part of it. Its like Liam always says ‘get off your arse and do something’. I feel we have a responsibility to get out there and make something happen. If you want to be a rock star be a rock star, if you want to be a footballer be one, but do it don’t stay stuck to your phone or PC screen.
You now work with talented young footballers who are released from clubs and look to have another go at making the grade, how did you get into that?
When I came back from that whole Oasis court situation (Paul & Tony Mac’s court case with Oasis) I’m thinking ‘what am I gonna do now?’. My other big love has always been football and so I started getting involved helping to train up and get youth players who had been kicked out of professional clubs back into it. Alongside other stuff been working closely with Radcliffe F.C as a consultant bringing in new players, new management. Like John Macken as manager, James Hooper etc.
Its about specialising in working with players that have sort of fallen out of love with the game or have played professionally but for some reason have not developed and moved up. Maybe a bad attitude or the wrong coaching up until that point. We are developing these lads, working with the club to bring them on and realise their full potential. The club wins both ways, we get these young men working to their best potential at the club then obviously the club benefits from their resale value.
I am finding this enormously rewarding, I will find a Liam in the football sphere. I know it!!
Whats the life of a youth football-agent come motivator like then?
Its a massive labour of love, in many cases it costs me in for what I’ve put in place myself. And its not about doing it for money, don’t get me wrong that’d be lovely but I do it because its what I’m about now and I get a lot from it myself. What I did with Liam its like doing the same kinda thing, about trying to build up the confidence. I’ve always had it myself and its the way I’ve always been, I try to let nothing scare me, let anything become a problem. I just want to get involved and make things better..you know what I mean.
I’m a fixer, helping to make things I’m passionate about happen. Its not about going down that reality TV road, is it.
How about the new tunes from Liam, like ‘Wall of Glass’ and others he’s got on his album. He’s talking to some one if you listen to those lyrics isn’t he – is it Noel he’s talking to do you think?
Oh yeah..totally, that track – ‘For what its Worth’ ..’the devils been at my door since the day I was born’ ..I felt that song, I felt it from the moment I heard it, its so much from the heart and a great tune – it was like I was singing it with him when I first heard it. And it tells you really what I’m saying here. Its him saying ‘Why aren’t you with me now you c**t, why aren’t you fkn here and hanging around Tom Cruise and all these people’ because they have nothing to do with Oasis at all. And I get it when Liam says ‘I can’t just have Noel coming back to my band bringing all that with him..because I’m not going out there to all that’. Its about the people in the street, working class people, that’s what Oasis are about.
Bringing it up to today then between Liam and Noel..do you feel maybe Noel left Liam hanging where Oasis was concerned. Where a couple yrs ago he let on he’d be up for a possible reunion tour with Oasis.. with Liam then obviously giving it the thumbs up – only for it to all fizzle out?
Liam is Oasis and that’s all he’s ever really had in his heart, and Noel has to think about that and realise it. But then Liam’s gone about it in the wrong way in my eyes when Noel’s giving it the bullshit to the press, wanting the attention, why?..because he’s a superstar, an icon and wants that attention and doesn’t give a fk about where Liam’s at.
Like when Liam said all that about Noel not playing the Manchester disaster concert – but there was no way he was going to do that. I’d heard he’d been on a 3 birthday bash and had that holiday planned with his family. There was probably no way Noel even knew about that. Some one even told me he donated all the sound for the gig then also donated ‘Don’t look back in Anger’ for the charity. So when he got back Noel had his say and got back to it, played that show for it at the Arena..and that’s how Noel does it, his way and in his time.
An Oasis reunion, do you think it will ever happen Paul?
Yeah, I do think it’ll happen but Liam’s got to bite the bullet. They both have, I wish I could bang both their heads together and get them to get it together..but yeah I do….I think it will happen one day. I was sat with Alan McGee a bit back and for no particular reason, he said lets put ‘band back together now Noel!’ on social media. We did it, it went in the press and I said that because its in my heart Oasis, always will be and like everyone would just love to see that band back together again. You know what though, I feel they owe it to the fans, they owe it to the world..end of. To give it one massive world tour
For me though it would have to be Tony on drums, with out a doubt. In fact, he not that long ago met up with Liam at Supersonic film promo event and I think was really able to close the book on the whole thing for good. Getting on happily with his life now and away from all the bullshit. A real Oasis reunion would have to be with Tony. But to be totally honest with you I don’t think he’s even interested anyway now. But you never know, it could be happening right now, behind closed doors but like I say they got to bite the bullet, sit round the table at their mam’s or something and talk it out.
The Book is Due Out DEC/JAN 2018 but you can pre-order the book by sending a cheque/postal order for £12.99 payable to Ashbee to
‘Giving it the Bigun’
follow Paul ‘Bigun’ Ashbee on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/paul.ashbee
interviewed by Carl Stanley – https://twitter.com/Grimupnorth74