site logo

Ocean Colour Scene Biography

Last updated: 04/10/2001 11:40:42 PM

"...and then the nightmares come, and you get blown away, and up in your room your walls are getting colder like you're getting on a rollercoaster and you can't find the breaks..."

Ocean Colour Scene is comprised of Steve Cradock (lead guitar, keyboards, vocals), Simon Fowler (lead vocals, guitar, harmonica), Damon Minchella (bass) and Oscar Harrison (drums, vocals). Prior to forming in 1990, the members of the band had played in a variety of other groups. During the late '80s, Cradock played in a mod revival band called the Boys. At the same time the Boys were active, Fowler and Minchella were in a Velvet Underground-influenced group called the Fanatics, who released an EP, Surburban Love Songs, on the independent label Chapter 22 in the spring of 1989. Following the release of the single, the group's original drummer, Caroline Bullock, was replaced by Harrison, who had previously played with a reggae/soul band called Echo Base.

Shortly after Harrison joined the Fanatics, the group split up. Several months after their disbandment, Fowler, Minchella and Harrison formed Ocean Colour Scene with Cradock, who they met at a Stone Roses concert. Appropriately, Ocean Colour Scene was intially heavily influenced by the Stone Roses. After performing a few concerts, the group built a small fanbase and signed with a local indie label, !Phffft.

"...Sonny signed his name up for tommorow and laughed with all his friends, at all the little men who borrow tunes they heard just yesterday..."

Shortly after signing with !Phffft, Ocean Colour Scene became hyped as "the next big thing" by the British music weekly press, as their live shows and debut single, "Sway," earned extremely positive reviews during the first half of 1990. In the spring of 1991, they headed into the studio to record the debut album with Jimmy Miller, who worked on the Rolling Stones' classic albums of the late '60s and early '70s. Instead of concentrating on work, the band essentially drank away their hours in the studio, resulting in a batch of uneven recordings. Unsatisfied by the tapes, the band headed back into the studio with Hugo Nicolson, who was had previously worked with Primal Scream.

By the time they completed the record, !Phffft had been acquired by Fontana Records, who bought the indie for £350,000, with the intent of owning the rights to Ocean Colour Scene. Despite their enthusiasm for the band, the label's head of A&R, Dave Bates, rejected the group's first attempt at the album and asked them to re-enter the studio to re-record most of the album with another producer, Tim Palmer, who had previously worked with Tin Machine.

Palmer also remixed the remaining cuts, resulting in a slick, over-produced debut album that was delivered belatedly in the spring of 1992. By that time, the music press had abandoned the "madchester" scene that the Stone Roses spawned and, in turn, they rejected the return of Ocean Colour Scene. The public also refused to buy the record and it sank upon its release. The band made some headway on an American tour, but tensions with Fontana continued to increase throughout the year.

"...Davey got us down but we got away, and drank to all the days, that we had whiled away just playing Robin Hood a little out of phase..."
Ocean Colour Scene returned to England halfway through the year, planning to record a new album quickly, but Bates rejected their new material. Bates condemed the set of demo tapes, which contained 'The Riverboat Song', 'The Day We Caught The Train', 'It's A Beautiful Thing', 'Hello Monday' and the currently unreleased 'Magical', accusing them of sounding like Simon and Garfunkel. He also critised the lack of any obvious singles. Soon, the band sued to get out of its Fontana contract. By the time it was settled in early 1993, the group owed hundreds of thousands of pounds to the label and they were back on the dole.

They converted their rehearsal space into a recording studio and began recording constantly, but their break didn't arrive until they played a gig supporting Paul Weller's new band in early 1993. Weller was impressed with Steve Cradock's playing, and asked him to play on his forthcoming single, "The Weaver." Cradock gradually became part of Weller's backing band, performing on much of Weller's second solo album, Wild Wood, and touring with him around the world.

"...Stevie burned the sky when he flew away, and left us things to say, when all the world was falling down around our shoulders; cold and grey..."

However, the guitarist didn't abandon Ocean Colour Scene -- all the money he was making was funneled back into the band, and he landed Fowler a gig as a backing vocalist for Weller. By the end of the 1993, Cradock, Fowler and Minchella were all playing in Weller's band.

The next break for Ocean Colour Scene arrived in late summer of 1994, when Noel Gallagher, the leader of Oasis, heard the band's tape in the offices of his record label. Gallagher offered OCS the opening slot for Oasis' breakthrough autumn 1994 tour, which provided the group with needed exposure. Soon, the group was subject to a bidding war among several major labels, all of whom wanted the band to change their name. Eventually, the band signed with MCA in the summer of 1995; they were one of the few labels not to insist that the group change their name.

During early 1996, the hype machine began to go into overdrive for Ocean Colour Scene, as Gallagher proclaimed them the best band in Britain in several interviews and Chris Evans, a DJ on BBC's Radio 1, constantly played Ocean Colour Scene's comeback single "The Riverboat Song," essentially using it as his theme song. "The Riverboat Song" entered the charts at number 15 early in 1996. Mosley Shoals, the band's second album, was released in April of 1996, unexpectedly entering the charts at number two. The album was a fixture in the British Top 10 throughout 1996, spending six months total in the upper regions of the charts. Two subsequent singles from the record, "You've Got it Bad" and "The Day We Caught the Train," reached the Top 10 and the album continued to sell strongly throughout 1996, going multi-platinum in the UK.

To this day, it has sold over 1 million copies world-wide. Ocean Colour Scene also became a popular live attraction in Britain, selling out concerts during their summer tour. Moseley Shoals was released in America during the summer, but it failed to make much of an impact in the US.

As the band was working on their third album, Ocean Colour Scene released the b-sides compilation 'B-Sides: Seasides & Freerides' in March 1997. By the late summer they had completed the album and had released "Hundred Mile City" as a single; it debuted at number two on the UK charts. Marchin' Already, OCS's third album, was released in September 1997 and it debuted at number one in the UK, knocking Oasis' Be Here Now off the top slot.

Ocean Colour Scene released their fourth album, One From The Modern, in September of 1999. Although, in comparison to the previous two releases, the album fared disappointingly in terms of chart position, it has sold steadily and, turning gold soon after its release. The band have continued to tour, playing at a number of festivals during the summer of 2000, with a full UK tour taking place in early 2001. The band, following recording sessions in North Wales and London in addition to their Moseley Shoals studio, plan to release a fifth album, 'Mechanical Wonder' in early April of 2001.