From photographing the worst record cover of the year to the early days of superband Oasis, James Fry reflects back on his career
“When you’re young you’re willing to try things, you’re willing to fail” remembers Mancunian musician, artist and photographer James Fry. For the final installment of the FullBleed series, Fry remembers the early days of his career, working to establish a name for himself in the music industry and documenting the newly-formed Britpop band Oasis in nineties Manchester.
Growing up in the suburbs of Stockport, South Manchester, Fry had few aspirations except to be in a band. The release of the Ramones self-titled debut album in the spring of 1976 was a landmark moment for the photographer. “It wasn’t just the record that was important it was the cover. The 4 of them stood against the brick wall. The thing about the brick wall is it could have been anywhere … Anyone could be a Ramone.”
Fry went on to form the band World of Twist with a group of friends, holding practise sessions above a cake-shop in Sheffield. As well as being the lead vocalist, he was working as a photographer, capturing the electronic music phase of the group Clock DVA. Enticed by London, Fry moved to the capital to document upcoming bands there and “ultimately chase that Ramones idea that had started back in Stockport.”
The rest of World of Twist moved to Manchester, where the music scene was blowing up with the rise of the Stone Roses and Happy Mondays. Returning to shoot the cover of the first and only album made by a reformed version of the band, Fry produced what the Independent Newspaper would dub “the worst record cover of the year.” But, back in London, Fry received an unexpected call: a new band named Oasis had seen the cover and wanted whoever had photographed it to return to Manchester and shoot them.
FullBleed founder Jude Edginton and director Richard Butchins present a gripping insight into the start of Fry’s relationship with Oasis. “I got a cassette dropped round to mine, which would ultimately become Definitely Maybe” Fry recounts. “The next day I’m introduced to the band. Within two minutes Liam Gallagher asks ‘what are you a drinking?’ I say a pint of lager and he comes back with a Jack Daniels, ‘you only drink Jack Daniels when you’re with us’ he said.”
These early black and white images, many of which are interspersed throughout the film, capture the genesis of one of the biggest rock bands of the decade. Shot around Manchester, the stills show the five bandmates hanging out and laughing. “There certainly wasn’t this Liam and Noel show thing that would happen a lot later. This was about 5 people cutting about Manchester. They all got on really well and were good mates,” remembers Fry.
Telling the stories behind these iconic images, the short documentary sheds light on a significant moment in music history. The beauty of the photographs lies in the fact that they were taken before the group’s meteoric rise to fame: “no one saw that one coming – that it would be so fucking massive,” says Fry. But one image, of the band in their studio, is almost emblematic of what was to come. With Liam and Bonehead fading into the background, the photograph centres on Noel, sat laughing with his guitar.
For Fry, the photographs hold a personal significance too. “The beauty of it is that they’re from Stockport like me. I love the fact they took on the world and won it.”
To learn more about James Fry and his work, watch the complete documentary on FullBleed.TV. For more FullBleed films, sign up to FullBleed’s channel and keep an eye on BJP’s Twitter and Facebook for new releases.