What’s on the TV on the cover of Definitely Maybe by Oasis?

31 August 2019, 16:30 | Updated: 10 September 2019, 12:19

Definitely Maybe cover detail
Definitely Maybe cover detail. Picture: Press

25 years after the debut album by Oasis was released, we answer the burning question: just what IS Tony McCarroll watching on the telly?

On 29 August 1994, Oasis made rock ’n’ roll history by releasing their debut album, Definitely Maybe. The album changed everything about British music and was housed in a sleeve that featured a photo that was both casual… and yet every detail was carefully considered.

The famous picture was taken by photographer Michael Spencer Jones at Paul “Bonehead” Arthurs’ house in West Didsbury, Manchester. The shot features the original line-up of the band sat in a room surrounded by meaningful objects: an inflatable globe, glasses of red wine, a Burt Bacharach album and a photo of footballer George Best.

Oasis - Definitely Maybe album cover
Oasis - Definitely Maybe album cover. Picture: Press/Creation Records

Noel Gallagher was inspired by the photo that appears on the back of the 1966 compilation A Collection Of Beatles Oldies. The photo was taken by Robert Whitaker during the Fab Four’s dates in Japan that summer and sees them sat around a table, caught in an off-duty moment.

Spencer Jones told The Guardian earlier this year: “[Noel's] idea was that the band would be photographed around the dining table at Bonehead’s house. I thought, What are they going to be doing at the table? Playing cards? Having a seance? There was no way I could see it working.”

The photographer’s suggestion was that they shoot in the lounge towards the big bay window, and positioned Liam Gallagher on the floor to distract from the bare floorboards: “[Otherwise] it looked like an advert for Ronseal varnish. Liam was up for it straight away.”

Meanwhile, in the background, original Oasis drummer Tony McCarroll gazes up at a television showing… what, exactly?

The Good The Bad And The Ugly poster, 1966
The Good The Bad And The Ugly poster, 1966. Picture: LMPC via Getty Images

According to Spencer Jones, what’s showing on the TV is Noel Gallagher’s favourite film: Sergio Leone’s 1966 “spaghetti western” The Good The Bad And The Ugly. The movie concerns three gunfighters who are on the trail of some Confederate gold during the American Civil War.

The moment pictured on the cover of the album comes about an hour and ten minutes into the epic three-hour film, where Tuco aka “The Ugly” (played by Eli Wallach) discovers a runaway horse carriage full of confederate soldiers. One surviving soldier, Carson (played by Antonio Casale), offers Tuco $200,000 in gold if he brings him water.

The screenshot comes as Tuco grabs Carson’s face and demands to know the location of the gold: “Come on you dummy, talk!” Carson replies… “There’s no number…”

The moment from The Good The Bad & The Ugly featured on the Definitely Maybe cover
The moment from The Good The Bad & The Ugly featured on the Definitely Maybe cover. Picture: YouTube

Noel Gallagher wasn’t the only musician to have a fondness for Leone’s epic movie. Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys used Ennio Morricone’s evocative score from the climax of the film as inspiration for his classic ballad 505…

The Definitely Maybe album cover shoot became so iconic that when Oasis organised an exhibition called Chasing The Sun in 2016, fans could pose in a replica of Bonehead’s front room, complete with Eli Wallach and Antonio Casale frozen in time on the TV.