Be Here Now is a landmark album for Oasis. It was the peak of Liam and Noel Gallagher‘s fame, selling over half a million copies in the first week, making it the fastest selling album in UK chart history.
As the band’s popularity increased, so did the extravagance and ambition around them. It was only natural that the album’s cover art would be more ambitious than that of the first two records. The sleeve of Definitely Maybe was shot in Bonehead‘s front room. The cover for (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? was shot on a deserted street in London’s Soho area.
For Be Here Now, the sleeve would be something special. Art directed by Brian Cannon and photographed by Michael Spencer-Jones, who had both worked on the previous two albums, the image depicts the band stood around the swimming pool in a garden of a large house.
In the pool is a partially submerged Rolls Royce car (a tribute to The Who’s Keith Moon, who reportedly drove his own motor into a pool). There’s also a moped, a gramophone, a globe and other sundry objects, including a calendar that displays the date of the album’s release: Thursday 21 August.
Speaking to comedians George Lewis and Paul McCaffrey on the BritPopCast podcast, Brian Cannon estimates that the cover was probably the most expensive record sleeve ever created.
He claims: “When everything was considered, when everybody had been paid… It came to about £75,000 in the end. Can you imagine that?
“People don’t even spend that on recording these days let alone a record sleeve. Has there ever been a more expensive record sleeve? I’m sure there must have. But I can’t think of one, can you?”
Cannon is keen to point out that the £75,000 does NOT include the bar bill.
“Creation had a bar tab that ran constantly throughout the day so there’d be waitresses from this hotel constantly coming out all day long with trays full of pints of lager. So come the evening time, Bonehead could not stand up. Towards the end of the shoot, every picture has Bonehead sat down with his feet dangling in the pool, because he was that leathered.”
The photo for the sleeve was shot in April 1997 at Stocks House, a huge Georgian mansion in Aldbury, Hertfordshire – and the day was an eventful one, according to Brian.
First they had to drain the swimming pool to allow them to winch in a genuine Rolls Royce Silver Shadow – there was no Photoshopping involved.
“We had to get the Rolls Royce on a big crane, then dangle it in the pool without any water until we’d approximated how it was gonna look with the nose end sticking up. It’s obviously staged – if you drove a car in a pool, it’d just sink wouldn’t it?”
“If you look at some of the outtakes, we had a couple of guys build a scaffolding rig underneath it, not like you’d get nowadays where you’d have a big professional scaffolding team come in. It was just some lads we knew, who got a bit of scaffolding and propped up this three ton car.”
“At one point there were actually some beer crates and old tyres involved. It was so spectacularly dangerous, it was unbelievable.”
“Then we had to fill the pool back up and the amount of water required to do it in such a rush meant that nobody in the village around the location could flush their toilet for 24 hours, because we’d sucked all the water out!”
The crew then retired for the night, to await the actual shoot the next day.
Cannon continued: “I stayed in a hotel that night and out of my window I could see the pool and I could hear this car creaking under this ramshackle support we’d built. I thought, if that goes over, we’re knackered. It’s obviously gonna smash the tiles, presumably the water’s gonna drain out, then we’ve had it. We can’t do it again. It was the worst night’s sleep I’ve ever had.”
Nevertheless the car stayed upright and the shoot went ahead.
Cannon recalls: “People were under the impression that we actually bought a Rolls Royce and trashed it – no we didn’t, we hired it for £1,000. There was no engine in it. We had to give it them back, but it still cost us a grand. Then it went back to the scrap yard.”
Source: Radio X