Project Description

Masterplan25: Oasis

Photographs by Michael Spencer Jones

By appointment only – please get in touch to book.

In our new exhibition we present a stunning collection of signed limited edition photographs from the Oasis archives of Michael Spencer Jones.

A selection of gallery interior photographs from the Masterplan25 exhibition

Michael Spencer Jones made the cover photographs on Oasis’ first three albums, Definitely Maybe, Morning Glory and Be Here Now, along with 11 of their early singles sleeves. He also worked with The Verve, shooting the front cover image for their 1997 classic, Urban Hymns.

Michael Spencer Jones is one of the UK’s most influential rock photographers responsible for creating some of the most iconic sleeve art in recent British rock history.

Michael became interested in photography from an early age but developed a strong passion for the art whilst studying the great American photographers of the 20th century, photographers such as Alfred Steiglitz, Edward Steichen and Paul Outerbridge. He also became fascinated with surrealism and the work of Angus McBean and the ’pop art’ album covers of Hipgnosis, and these influences are evident in the imagery he created for Oasis and The Verve during the Britpop era.

Michael was accepted into Bournemouth & Poole college of Art to study photography & film, and during his time there frequently travelled to London to assist the accomplished advertising photographer Stak, in his Mayfair studio. It was here where he learned much of his craft.  He also became acquainted with Stak’s close friend, fashion photographer Terence Donovan, who encouraged him to pursue a career in photography.

After graduating from Bournemouth with a distinction, Michael moved to Manchester where he soon became involved in the ‘Madchester’ music scene, meeting Tony Wilson of Factory Records and photographing the Happy Mondays and Stone Roses amongst others. He met with Oasis in 1993 after Noel Gallagher had seen his photographs appear on the covers to the English rock band The Verve.

As well as working within the music industry, Michael has captured many famous faces with his simple and emotive style of portraiture often using natural or available light to create an intimacy between the subject and viewer. It was using this style of portraiture that Michael produced his series of acclaimed portraits for the permanent exhibition ‘Children in War’ at the Imperial War Museum North.

More recently Michael has produced a major limited edition work ‘Out of the Blue’ – The Oasis Photographs, a portfolio and book, which provides a valuable insight not only into his work as a photographer but into to the workings of one of the world’s greatest rock bands.

OASIS

PART I: THE ALBUMS

Definitely Maybe

Noel had seen a shot of the Beatles in Japan in which they were sat around a coffee table. His idea was to be photographed at guitarist Bonehead’s house in Manchester. 

I chose to shoot in the lounge, towards the bay window. It’s a tiny room so needed a wide-angle lens to get everyone in shot, but it just looked like an advert for floor varnish. It was a real problem. I’d recently been to the Egyptology section in the Manchester Museum. The idea came to me to have Liam lying on the floor in a kind of transcendental state with his eyes closed, like he’s not of this world.

I thought it’d be pretty surreal and also solve the problem of filling the floor space. Asking the lead singer to lie on the floor motionless with his eyes closed? A lot of bands wouldn’t have gone for that. Liam was up for it straight away. I’d heard the album and knew it was going to be massive so I understood it was a big gig. It was a long exposure and I decided to spin the globe. It acted as a catalyst for the whole shot. Once I’d got everyone positioned I looked through the camera and I was buzzing. I knew I’d got it. – Michael Spencer Jones

Definitely Maybe front cover limited edition
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Definitely Maybe back cover limited edition
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Buy a pair of Definitely Maybe front and back covers
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Definitely Maybe nine-frame contact sheet limited edition
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Definitely Maybe alternate session image limited edition
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(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?

It had been debated whether or not the band should feature on the cover to Morning Glory, as they had done for Definitely Maybe. 

We eventually arrived at an idea of two people walking down the street towards each other at the break of dawn—not Noel and Liam as initially suggested, but two unspecific figures. The cover was shot on location in Berwick St. Soho, one of the busiest streets in London, on 23 July 1995 at 4.30am.

The American art photographer Maureen Paley made a great impression on me when she wrote about the weakness of photography; how it provides more questions than answers and how it is that inherent weakness that gives it its power. It is part of why I love photography.

We don’t know where the two people have been or where they are going: whether they speak with one another or ignore one another; whether they are good or bad. There is no moral perspective. It remains in perpetual ambiguity, rooted forever in its own time.- Michael Spencer Jones

Morning Glory front cover limited edition
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Morning Glory Contact Sheet

Morning Glory contact sheet limited edition
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Be Here Now

Whether or not Keith Moon drove a Rolls-Royce, a Chrysler Wimbledon or indeed any other car into a swimming pool, and whether or not the pool had water in it at the time, does not really matter.

It was a symbolic statement of rock’n’roll excess, and Bonehead was right – it was a great basis for an album cover.

 It was shot at Stocks House in Hertfordshire, England, the former home to the Playboy tycoon Victor Lownes. The original intention was to shoot at night, with the band relaxing around the swimming pool with cocktails. Predictably, thanks to the cocktails, the shoot descended into chaos as the day wore on and by night time rock ‘n’ roll decadence had set in.

The original number plate on the Rolls Royce, MDH 119K was changed to SYO 724F. This was the number plate featured on the police van on the cover of Abbey Road; another nod to rock ‘n’ roll cultural history.Michael Spencer Jones

Be Here Now front cover limited edition
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Special offer: buy a pair of Be Here Now front cover and iconic calendar promo shot for a special price
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The Rolls Royce in the swimming pool

Here’s the white Rolls Royce in the swimming pool at Stocks Hotel in Hertfordshire, before the band members appeared for the album sleeve photograph. The Rolls Royce was a homage to Keith Moon, and despite the fact that the image is a portrayal of rock ’n’ roll excess, it is a remarkably soothing and calming photograph. The saturated blue and green hues make it a pleasure to look at on a rainy day—or any day.

The Rolls Royce in the pool limited edition
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Be Here Now night session

Be Here Now had originally been conceived as a night shot. 

On the day of the shoot, a tray of cocktails had been brought out at regular intervals to the band and crew throughout the day and the shoot slowly descended into chaos as the day went on. 

The final straw came when one of the generators blew and this just as I was about to start shooting; the scene was plunged into near darkness and I had to improvise with what lighting was left but in the days when film was ‘slow’ I struggled with the correct exposure and all the shots I did at the night session were vastly under-exposed and could not be used. 

I did recently look through the archived shots and with specialist software managed to retrieve an image that was barely visible on the film. This night shot is probably how the cover to Be Here Now should have looked.- Michael Spencer Jones

Be Here Now night session limited edition
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Be Here Now alternate limited edition
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OASIS

PART II: THE SINGLES

Supersonic

The cover for their debut single was taken at Monnow Valley Studios in Wales whilst they were recording Definitely Maybe. 

A young 21 year old Liam Gallagher stands centre stage. The ‘Redhead’ lights were purposely left in shot, the idea being to put Liam firmly in the spotlight. – Michael Spencer Jones

Supersonic front cover limited edition
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Special offer: buy a pair of Supersonic front and back cover limited editions for a nice price
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Shaker Maker

Shaker Maker was a Dali-esque concept which showed the devastating effects of Oasis sound waves.

Play one of their records at full volume and the contents of your room would melt. It was documented with ‘before and after’ photographs; the ‘after’ version for the front cover, the ‘before’ for the back. The objects were photographed in situ then carefully removed and melted with an industrial blow torch, before being placed back in their original positions – Michael Spencer Jones.

Shaker Maker front cover limited edition
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Special offer: buy a pair of Shaker Maker front and back cover limited editions for a nice price
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Live Forever

Live Forever connects on many levels and is, according to Noel Gallagher, a song about pride, youth and knowing who you are.

 The themes were powerful but ambiguous and that made the task of choosing an appropriate cover image very difficult. I began thinking along the lines of a photograph depicting ordinary everyday life; maybe a street scene, perhaps people at a bus stop being soaked in the rain. Noel asked whether I had anything appropriate in my archive. 

I remembered a photograph I had taken of John Lennon’s childhood home in Liverpool. It was shot on infra-red film and had an ethereal quality. It seemed to work on two levels: reflecting the lyrical content by depicting an ordinary suburban house and, when you considered who had lived there, taking on a more powerful narrative. Everyone loved it. – Michael Spencer Jones

Live Forever front cover limited edition
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Cigarettes and Alcohol

Cigarettes & Alcohol; a hedonistic and subversive pop song.

The Halcyon Hotel in Holland Park was chosen as the location because it was a favourite haunt of actors and musicians. At the end of the shoot, in the early hours of the morning, Noel picked up his acoustic guitar and played his whole repertoire of songs for the few of us left in the room.- Michael Spencer Jones

Cigarettes and Alcohol session limited edition
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Whatever

For the cover of Whatever, Noel wanted a vast open landscape to evoke a sense of freedom, and the original plan was to shoot in the Arizona desert while the band were on their first US tour.  

The tour was abandoned before the shoot, and back in England, we still needed a cover. Noel suggested Salisbury Plain, and I did a reconnaissance mission to assess its suitability. When I arrived there with the sleeve designer, we started to walk to a vantage point which I hoped would be suitable for the shot, not knowing that we had inadvertently walked onto land that was being used for live target practice by the British Army. We hot-footed it back to the car collapsing in hysterical laughter, realising that doing artwork for Oasis was no ordinary job. The search for a suitable location had to continue.

I thought of the open space that made it onto the cover in the end. It was Hallam Moors just outside Sheffield. That was quite an irony for me, having flown halfway round the world to photograph a wide open space; I ended up finding the right location five minutes from where I grew up.- Michael Spencer Jones

Whatever front cover limited edition
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Some Might Say

Some Might Say was the first track recorded for (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? Noel had wanted a train station for the location in reference to the song lyrics.

 I felt it would make for a more interesting and surreal cover if the train station was disused, with a set of characters waiting for a train that was never going to arrive.

Doctor Beeching, whose legacy was to have decimated the British railway system in the early 1960’s, had left a trail of disused stations around the country. I had thought it would be easy to trace the old railway lines and find disused stations, but so much time had elapsed that they had either been converted into homes, or there was no trace of them at all. I did, however, come across a derelict waiting room at Cromford Station, near Matlock in Derbyshire and it was the perfect location.- Michael Spencer Jones

Some Might Say front cover limited edition
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Special offer: buy a pair of Some Might Say front cover and back for a special price
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Roll With It

The initial idea for Roll With It was inspired by a dream recalled by Noel Gallagher, in which he had envisaged hundreds of TVs floating down a river. 

This idea eventually developed into Oasis watching TV on a beach. Weston-Super-Mare was chosen as the location because it was close to Bath where they were to perform later that day. Wearing duffle coats on the beach on a very hot summer’s day was an intentional visual pun.

The reverse of the cover revealed who they were watching on television. Alan White, the newly appointed drummer, was watching Keith Moon; Bonehead, Peter Sellers; Guigsy, the cricketer Ian Botham; Liam, world snooker champion Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins and Noel, himself. – Michael Spencer Jones

Roll With it session alternate limited edition
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Wonderwall

Wonderwall is a love song and Noel had a clear vision for the sleeve; a woman within an ornate picture frame.

The label, Creation Records, was around the corner from Primrose Hill. I found a suitable location within the park with a good horizon line in the background. The girl in the frame is Anita Heryet who was a Creation Records employee.

 I was concerned that it may look a bit ‘saccharine’, so I used black and white infrared film to lend a surreal atmosphere to the shot.– Michael Spencer Jones

Wonderwall limited edition
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Don’t Look Back in Anger

The red, white and blue vortex featured on the bass drum is in fact the Union Jack going down the plug hole.

Noel wanted to pay homage to an incident at Abbey Road studios in 1968. Ringo Starr had walked out on The Beatles because he felt that he wasn’t wanted. He was eventually persuaded to rejoin the band, and on his return to the studio George Martin, The Beatles’ producer, had decked his entire drum kit out in flowers as a statement of love.

 Noel thought that would make an interesting idea for the record cover, so we imported thousands of flowers from Holland in red, white and (dyed) blue; the colours of the Union Jack. – Michael Spencer Jones

Don’t Look Back in Anger front cover limited edition
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Special offer: buy a pair of Don’t Look Back in Anger front and back cover limited editions for a nice price
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OASIS

PART III: OTHER SESSIONS

Noel and Liam, Columbia Hotel (1994)
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Noel Gallagher (1993) Demo for Shaker Maker, Out Of The Blue Studios, Manchester
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Liam Gallagher (1994) Scooter—Stratford Avenue
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Liam and Noel play table football at Rockfield Studios (1995)
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Liam Gallagher – Out of The Blue studios 1993
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Liam Gallagher Wales 1995
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Liam relaxing, Stratford Avenue, Manchester  1994
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Noel and Liam watching TV, 1994
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Liam Gallagher Masterplan (1995)
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OASIS

PART IV: THE SPECIAL OFFER 8×10 INCH PRINTS

Michael Spencer Jones has selected four photographs to offer in the exhibition for a special price, in a precious 8×10 inch size.

Definitely Maybe 8×10 special offer limited edition
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Be Here Now 8×10 special offer limited edition
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Liam Morning Glory polaroid 8×10 special offer limited edition
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Noel at Irvine Beach 8×10 special offer limited edition
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OASIS

PART V: THE BOOK

Supersonic: The Oasis Photographs

Limited edition book in slipcase, with signed print from the Definitely Maybe session.

The stories behind all Michael’s photographic sessions with Oasis are set out in detail in Supersonic: The Oasis Photographs, by Michael Spencer Jones.

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