I am not exactly sure at what age in life you suddenly realise that maybe, just maybe you are getting old. I only ask because today I enjoyed a rather enjoyable and unplanned trip down memory lane, that brought back a whole raft of memories from bygone years. On reflection maybe some memories are in hind-site best left tucked away in the deep recesses of the brain. But, what the hell, if you are going to blog then just go with it, after all looking back those memories were quite funny, or so I thought. Either way my dear reader friend I will let you be the judge of that.
Let me set the scene, I had reason to walk from our present City centre office to Barclays bank just off New Street in Birmingham City centre, as I walked back I stumbled upon a shopping centre that if honest I had never really noticed before. I was going to just walk past it and then something in my brain made me change my mind. As I walked up the ramp and turned to my left I was confronted by a ghost from my youth that I had not even thought of since the nineteen seventies. I speak of a chain of independent fashion shops and arty boutique booths that are located under the generic title of “The Oasis”,
My first encounter with the joys of Oasis would have been when I was about 13, I had just brought one of my very first LP’s (Long Player record’s for those not familiar) It was a double record of Elvis Presley’s greatest hits. I had a very old record player back then in my bedroom and would regularly blast out ditties from the King, for the allocated 15 seconds before the sound police would arrive and turn it down. It was an age when me and my friends were discovering music, fashion, and of course girls. With the latter in mind, I had aligned myself to the Bay City Rollers camp and proudly wore my tartan scarf around my left wrist on the bus to school, in the vain hope that some Bay City Roller fan from the girls grammar school would see me as a pale imitation of the Caledonian prince’s and take either pity or a liking to me. Neither of course happened.
My next foray into fashion was to save my money and buy myself some blue, suede shoes. I had first set my eyes on them in a shoe shop located in The Oasis. It was love at first sight and come hell or high water, I was going to have them. Good enough for the King, good enough for me. So, I saved my money did my chores and there it was I had enough, not just to buy the shoes of my dreams but for good measure some luminous green socks to go with them. I first wore them at a family birthday event for my grandfather. Naturally there was excessive Mickey taking from my brother and sister’s which I dismissed as pure jealousy at my fine footwear and neon socks. Interestingly my grandfather actually noticed my clowns footwear as when I walked in he exclaimed what the hell has that boy got on his feet. Point to me, footwear clearly noted.
My next journey to Oasis was also in pursuit of killer fashion accessories. This time in the form of Oxford Bags (Very, very wide trousers with a very high waistband, which if you got a good wind behind you turned people into a human kite) The particular baggies of choice were beige with dark brown pockets that were located at knee height. The reason why the pockets were located so low were never explained, the problem was that at this age it was very important to be seen to look “hard”. Naturally this meant having to have hands always tucked into pockets so giving an air of nonchalent authority. This of course was tougher than it seemed as it meant having to lean forward quite a long way in order to reach low hanging pockets. This of course looking back resulted in an image that was actually far from looking “hard”, in fact it actually resulted in me and my mates looking rather like baboons, as you had to bend forward quite a long way to access said pockets.
I vividly recall catching a bus one Saturday night to attend a disco, not only was I looking radiant in my beige baggies and yellow tank top, but for the first time i was wearing my latest Oasis master piece purchase. Namely my new platform soled shoes, these beauties added a good six inches to my height. Although as I sat on the bus which was an old double decker which had a strange seat on the downstairs deck that meant that my knees due to my platforms were elevated so high that my knees were higher than my ears Looking back , I must have looked like R2D2 from Star Wars. This was also the famous occasion that my mate Jim MqKeon and I decided that it would be a good idea to see if we could get a couple of cheeky lagers at the pub next door to where the church disco was going to take place that we were about to grace with our very lofty presence.
The pub had a nice beer garden and there was a small hatch where you could buy the beer from, back in the day this was known as an Outdoor, which was a throwback to the days when women were not allowed into the male bastion of the pub, and so could only buy drinks outside hence the Outdoor. This however worked well in our favour, Jim was a tall lad anyway but with his platforms on he was so tall that his torso faced the petite barmaid and she could not see his clearly spotty, youthful, 16 year old face. Looking back to the small in stature barmaid we must have looked like a couple of giraffes, we were in fact a couple of underage giraffes enjoying our first couple of pints of Harp lager, thanks to the stilts we were wearing from Oasis. This was indeed a coming of age, two bold young men adorned in their fashionable clothes looking like a couple of members of Billy Smart’s circus troop.Indeed all that we were missing was a spinning bow tie, an electric shock handshake, and finally for good measure, we should have driven in to the pub in one of those exploding clown cars, honk,honk.
Oasis also figured very highly in my punk rock fashion era in 1976 and 1977, I would regularly buy the latest t-shirts and other punk adornments including a leather jacket that I brought from there that had once belonged to a local rock legend. Steve Gibbons, back then he was a well known and admired Birmingham born and bred based, musician he had toured with the likes of the Who, so spending an exorbitant amount of money on one of his old jackets seemed like a good idea back in the day. Sadly my parents found it hard to understand why I dressed myself up in this outlandish garb, so I had to be creative when it came to escaping to go to gigs. At the time I had a very attractive punk girlfriend whose name was Sarah, she was a real fashionista and always looked great, so I was of course duty bound to try and keep up. In order to do so, this required me hiding my punk clothes in a plastic bag in the front garden, leaving the house after saying a very loud and public Ta Ta to my parents and siblings, and then sneaking into the garage to dress myself up as a Brummie punk. These were brilliant , heady and innovative days where anything went and anything was possible. I went to all the gigs, and was out every week icononic punk bands likeThe Clash,(my personal favourite (i saw them live 26 times) The Damned, The Stranglers, even The Sex Pistols. To be honest it was brilliant so energetic, creative, and just a good laugh. Indeed there is footage from a once very well known TV show where yours truly can be seen dancing (I use that term loosely) to a tune from a certain Irish punk band called The Boomtown Rats, lead by (the now Sir )Bob Geldoff, but back then a very gobby, lanky, Dublin, punk rocker.
My final happy dalliance in Oasis was late 1978, as the age of the Mod was re-visited and of course being a Brighton lad I was drawn straight into it. After an interesting factory fortnight job at the Fort Dunlop tyre factory I had saved enough money to buy myself a Vespa scooter. It was bright red, highly dangerous to ride, and before long was modified with mirrors, a back rest, and Mod emblems. But, crucially there was one very important thing missing. No Mod was complete without an authentic Parka coat. So, after working weekends as an industrial cleaner at the Longbridge car factory for several months enough money was duly saved to get my first Parka, the emblem of the Mod movement. I had gone full circle, from blue suede shoes, I was now into sharp suits, and trilby hats, via Oxford bags, tartan scarves Tank tops, ripped up t-shirts and leather jackets. Oasis had been there throughout those formative years and there iI was in 2018 still there doing its alternative fashion for a modern generation while supplying great memories for baby boomers (or should I say punks, mods, and pensioners ) like me.