Noel Gallagher - NME - 4th June 1994
How time flies, folks. One minute you're a small band with your debut single in the shops, a battered old van driven by your battered old guitarist and a novel line in hotel redecoration. Next thing you know, you're Chris Evans' best mate, you're awash with cash and awards and even your heroes th'nk your a god. So let's hark back to June 1994, when an emergent Oasis went on the road and SIMON WILLIAMS discovered a band thatwanted the world... and got it.
Liam: "My head's in ruins - so's my shirt."
Noel: "You're a mad c***, you are.."
Liam: "No, you're the mad c***!" (Repeat to fade)
It all started off normally enough. A quiet Monday evening in Portsmouth, a sold-out gig for Oasis, followed by a drug pilgrimage and a 'crap' student party on the outskirts of town. Then back to the hotel for a few swift nightcaps. Simple, eh? In the bar, Oasis bumped into East 17, fresh from their own gig at the Guildhall.
"Are you Blur?" demanded East 17.
"No, why? Are you Take That?" came the stroppy reply. While the Walthamstow terriers wisely retired to their various rumpus rooms, Oasis settled down in the bar with a gin and tonic or ten. There was merciless ribbing of any roadie with more than a passing interest in Manchester United - crowned champions earlier that evening, much to the disgust of the pro-City band. Then a bottle of champagne or two appeared on the table. Then the barman made the terrible mistake of abandoning his post. At this point, some drinkers would notice his departure and wonder how long he'd be, imagining wistfully all the alcohol they could purloin in the interim. Oasis don't imagine - they just do. Before you could say, "Bugger me, free booze!", two of the entourage were scrambling over the bar. Emptyin, the fridges and passing the bounty over the counter. One minute later, 50 bottles of beer were being stuffed under chairs and into innocent bags. Then things got really strange. Guitarist, Paul 'Bonehead' Arthurs, decided to go for a dip in the horribly convenient pool next to the bar. The Gallagher brothers, Noel and Liam, decided to have a scrap about an ex-girlfriend. Allegedly. Expletives started flying. Then punches started flying. Then bottles of beer started flying. Then furniture started flying.
Bassist, Paul 'Guigsy' McGuigan, valiantly tried to separate the Gallaghers, receiving two knuckle sandwiches for his endeavours. Someone started throwing chairs at Bonehead in the pool. Then tables. Liam had Noel on the floor. Noel tore Liam's shirt off. Other residents, tiring of the mass brawl downstairs, started coming out onto their balconies and shouting abuse. One particularly aggrieved sort was accompanied by his girlfriend. While her lover's attention was focused on the mayhem below, she would calmly open her towel to show Oasis either Nothing Very Much At All or Everything, depending on your perspective. At this juncture, the pissed-up band would roar their encouragement, causing the baffled boyfriend to turn and find his demure-looking companion safely covered by the towel. Then he'd shout more abuse and she'd flash again.
And so it went, with a few more punches thrown here and a few more items of furniture thrown there (ie, in the pool). Eventually, at around six o''bleeding'clock in the morning, the night porter appeared to tell the fuzzy thrill-seekers that, actually, if it was alright with them he was going to knock off because, urn, someone had called the police.
It is common knowledge that hotels are utterly brilliant places. Let's face it, if you get smashed off your nuts in the confines of your own home and gleefully decide to trash your living room prior to catching a bit of shut-eye, are the cleaning pixies likely to rearrange the furniture into some kind of social order while your hangover works itself into a midday frenzy? Nope, you'd just wake up to discover that, somehow, World War Ill had kicked off during the night and your house is in a state of blitz. But, hotels being hotels, when Oasis shamble into the bar the following lunchtime - apart from the occasional dark stare from the receptionists - life is back to normal. Stunningly overpriced pots of tea are being drained. Liam and Noel are comparing wounds and laughing about their fight. The swimming pool has been cleared of chairs and Boneheads. And everyone logical decides it was the hotei's fault, anyway.
"It's a stupid place to put a pool, innit?" frowns Liam. "It was asking for trouble putting us in this hotel."
"It's true." nods Noel. wisely. "Those plate glass windows are just saying, 'THROW A CHAIR THROUGH ME!" were it not for a bar bill totalling £150 or so, the odd bruised ember and some us chinking noises emanating from a large black bag through the foyer out to the van, you could almost yourself that nothing happened. Really.
"Still we don't need a rider," sneers Liam, waving carelessly at the departing baggage. "We can just go in and say, 'Newport - you can stick your YER ARSE!"
This is life on the road, Oasis style. You may not think it's big, or clever. But it is rock'n'roll bonkers. This becomes screamingly apparent when lounging around the hotel lobby preparing for the drive to Newport. While most sane people are dreaming of a world with no spirits and a nice weekend on a health farm lest their livers quit and their brains implode, Bonehead studies the tour itinerary and suddenly yells, "F***ing brilliant!" The curfew at the venue tonight is half past one!" Oh good.
Our task is to follow Oasis around the country for three nights, from Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms to Derby Wherehouse via Newport TJ's and points in between. In this time various people will threaten to leave the band to set up habardasheries, the band will threaten to leave, several people and several senses will most leave everyone.
Liam, Noel, Guigsy, Bonehead and drummer Tony McCarroll fuelled by little more than raging testosterone, Big Macs, gin and tonics and whatever powders dust their nasal passages - will play splendid sold-out gigs, abuse more hotel staff and talk utter brilliant bollocks. Like about the time they stunned half of Manchester by appearing on The Word a full month before the 'Supersonic' single was released. Paula Yates was 'up for a bit of sorting out", according to the ever charming Liam, and Oasis once again made friends in their own inimitable style.
"Bonehead had his arm around Hufty," recalls Noel with a sad shake of his head. "He was shouting in her ear, 'What are you into birds for, anyway?' Then he started licking her head, right in the middle of the bar..."
It's hard to tell when the on the-road psychosis actually kicks in, such is the all-pervading air of insanity from day one. This is the second nationwide jaunt by oasis, the first being a co-headline with Whiteout. And beneath the manic exterior, the swaggering, crowdshagging arrogance that dictates that they think they really, really are the best band in the entire galaxy, Oasis are freaked. Totally. The first date was in Hull, where there were more people turned away than actually allowed in. The promoter eventually threw open every door of the venue, so the building was svvarming with would-be punters peering in, striving to get even the smallest piece of the action.
Then 200 punters were turned away from the Coventry gig, where massed stagediving was the order of the night. So much so that Noel - possibly being as sensible as he'll ever be on this tour - suddenly has the diamond idea of, like, escaping unscathed. So halfway through the last song, he hands his guitar to a roadie and, with the legendary words, "I'm f***ing getting out of here!" heads towards the dressing room.
"I had to climb onto the PA to escape," he winces. "And someone's trying to untie my laces and someone else is grabbing hold of my trouser leg. I get to the dressing room just as the crowd is spilling onto the stage. Three-quarters of an hour later, the rest of the band appear and they look as though they've been in a fight! They were mobbed - the crowd wouldn't let them go! It was f***ing hysterical, like Beatiemania or something!' "We expected the gigs to be full," he admits, warily, "so we could be arrogant and say, 'Oh yeah.' But I tell you man, we're more shocked than anyone! It's like, we've only had one record out - what's it gonna be like when we get an album out?"
There's a great - probably entirely mythical - story which sums up Oasis perfectly. After all the band (bar Noel) were arrested on the ferry to Amsterdam a couple of months back (in April 1994), Creation President, Alan McGee, took the group's press officer to one side and said: "F***ing hell, man, I've been trying to make Teenage Fanclub interesting for five years! Look what you've landed here!"
Fact is, Oasis are a dream come true. They fight! They flirt! They go f***ing mental! And they make music that creeps through your intestines, squeezes your kidneys and proposes to your heart. Probably. They are so OBVIOUS that the more manipulative record company sorts should be leaping off their high-rise ledges in droves, because Oasis - with their housing estate backgrounds, their working-class clumsiness end semi-genius pop sensibility could never be invented in a million units. To put it simply, as The Stone Roses once said, Oasis are what the world has been waiting for.
Which, funnily enough, takes us to Newport, where Noel is comforting yet another G&T in a pub around the corner from the hotel. The fact that this particular hostelry has so many games it resembles a boozer's indoor sports centre, and thus leads to all manner of theories, vis-a-vis whether people in Newport actually talk to each other, is only marginally interesting. What is fascinating, however, is that the posters advertising tonight's gig proclaim Oasis plus Very Special Guests. With The Stone Roses supposedly recording a few miles up the road in Rockfield, it doesn't take a Nobel Prize winner to hazard a wild guess that the Manchester of yesterday is going to make an appearance next to the Manchester of today. Noel laughs off the idea that the Roses intend to play, although subsequent rumour-mongers insist that Geffen had phoned TJs a few days before to book the slot for Ian Brown's bunch. Yet you can't rid yourself of the feeling that, in the absence of the Roses and Happy Mondays, there is a massive demand for a cocky,
rocking, PC-shocking Manc band. And that is Oasis.
"It's like, you get a band like Suede," ponders Noel, "and they write pretty decent music and all that, but Brett Anderson's lyrics are basically a cross between Bowie and Morrissey, and I don't think that some 16-year-old on the dole is going to understand what he means by "Animal Nitrate" or whatever."
"The thing about The Smiths is that Johnny Marr was a lad and you knew he was a rock'n'roller that's why I got into them. And I think a lot of kids find Suede too intellectual, while with Blur they don't understand all that stuff about sugary tea. But with Oasis, like the Roses and the Mondays, it's the bottom line: here's a guitar, here's the songs, you have them. We're not preaching about ye olde Englande or how it was in the '60s. We're not preaching about our sexuality, we're not telling people how to act."
"You want to write about shagging and taking drugs and being in a band. You don't wanna write about going down the supermarket or anything like that - I know it's terrible, so I'm not gonna write about it. I met a girl the other night and I felt really sorry for her, because she came up to me and said (really quietly), 'I've got Supersonic' and I'm, er, really into your lyrics and I've been through a lot as well.' And I went, What do you mean? 'Supersonic' is about some f***ing nine-stone geezer who got Charlie'd off his nut one night... it's not about anything!' It's just about a feeling, you just get up and play it. All I know is the gigs are selling out and we're probably gonna get loads more trouble on this tour..,"
Fact: Oasis talk a lot of bullshit. After the Portsmouth gig, Liam insists that he's going to 'sort out' East 17 because, he alleges, "They've ripped off "Imagine"." Half an hour later, the singer is insisting that all he wants to do is sit down with East 17, neck a few beers and sort out how they can "topple Take That".
The same applies for Noel when he's told that Manic Street Preachers are coming down to the Newport gig: 'Do they wanna fight?' asks the guitarist. Nah, the Manics don't fight, comes the answer. "Right!" beams Noel, "we'll kick their heads in, then!" The beauty is, much like all their hormone-raging banter about 'shagging' and 'birds', Oasis are never actually doing anything. All mouth and no trousers, they're simply on a half-drunk, half-addled crusade to mollycoddle their audiences into believing that Oasis are the gnat's knackers.
Simplicity is the key: Newport, much like any other set on the tour, is utterly straightforward and unnervingly familiar. There's the Coca-Cola song! The one-that-sounds-a-bit-like-Blur-song! The Wham! song! A cover of "I Am The Walrus"! And no bleeding encores! It's the history of rock splattered over the past 30 years from The Beatles to the Mondays, played by five blokes who scarcely move a muscle onstage, who barely communicate between songs, and who are hardly likely to rival Bad Boys lnc in the,"Woof woof! Down boy!" stakes.
And if you believe Oasis are adhering to some sort of genius game plan (Look sultry! Look disinterested!), then Noel's confession that he'd 'love' to dance around on the stage, but he has to concentrate on playing muscle onstage,but he has to concentrate on playing guitar because he isn't that good will blow any conspiracy theories out of the water. Fact is, far from swanning through the ranks to run rampant in the Fab 40 with their debut single, the Oasis success is...an accident.
"They were just an indie band before I joined," explains Noel. "It was all right, it just wasn't rock'n'roll. But the bassist looked good, the drummer didn't look too bad, and Our Kid looked pretty f***ing cool. At the time I was a roadie and I thought, "F-me, it's looking me in the face." So I bowled into the practise room one day and said, 'Right, change that guitar, take them shoes off, cut your hair, I'm gonna be doing this from now on.' And they just looked at me and said, 'oh, all right, then."
So Noel took control of the band, injected it with the requisite rock'n'roll spirit, played the others stuff by T Rex, The Faces and, urm, Burt Bacharach, started writing all the songs, insisted that the band rehearse three times a week including Saturday nights - and then... nothing happened.
"We were actually trying to convince people we were great," sighs Noel. "But after the first four gigs in Manchester no-one would put us on, because we had this reputation for being...not lads, just difficult. We had a fight with the headlining band one night 'cos they pulled the plug on us during the last song. That's when it started, because loads of A&R men had come to see this other band and they saw them have this MASSIVE scrap onstage with us. It got us a bit of a reputation.
"It's like McGee saw us by accident in Scotland and he says, 'Have you got a record deal?' and we said no and he said, 'D'you f***ing want one? I'm the President of Creation Records!' So I said, 'Aha! So it's your fault then is it, you twat!' And he says, 'What do you mean?' And I said, 'Shonen Knife is your fault! It's all down to you, son!"
Now, naturally, the phone doesn't stop ringing. Manchester rumours abound (the one about Oasis buying a massive house in London and living it up with butlers and limousines is a peach). And Oasis don't give a f***.
"That city's done us no favours, man,' shrugs Noel, defiantly. As well he might, because ultimately Oasis have rolled along under their own steam. In "Cigarettes And Alcohol", Liam sings, "You've gotta make it happen", and, in a very real sense, that line could be taken as the band's short, sharp sense manifesto. Noel reckons he hasn't had a day off since the previous October. In a recent two-week break between tours the rest of the band went home (mostly to their Mams) while the guitarist stayed in London doing press and mixing the album. So it's little wonder he's letting his hair down, raving about. Enjoying yourself, about making the most of it while you can and taking in the smell of the crowd while the fans can still get close to you.
"It's all new, no-one's seen it all before," he insist. "The next tour will be even better because we'll have another record out. Then there might be ambulances at our gigs!"
He knows that this is the optimum time for really appreciating why you're in a band, when you're buzzing on your new-found infamy, when all the gigs are packed out, when the crowds are all singing along even though only a minuscule part of the set has actually been released. And - better still - Noel Gallagher knows precisely how f***ing ridiculous this entire situation is.
"Who'd have the bollocks to release a first single like "Supersonic", with lyrics like that about Alka-f***ing-Seltzer?' he rants, waving his G&T around. 'I just hope that some band reads those lyrics and goes, 'What does it all mean, maaaan?', while the guy who actually wrote it is in a pub somewhere, pissed as a F**ING TWAT!"
"Music for me at the moment is DEAD. It's poncey and serious and everyone's gotta make some sort of statement, whether it be about 'Parklife' or their feminine side or their politics. But we're a rock'n'roll band - we say all you need is cigarettes and alcohol. Everyone's dead into analysing, but don't analyse our band. 'That's a good song, that is. What does it mean? 'Who gives a f*** what it means?"
So "Shaker Maker" (the Coca Cola song), naturally is the new Oasis single, and it's kind of something to do with the Mr Fluffy guy who sells Soft Mints by wobbling into lampposts. And Mr Benn's in there, as well as a load of other characters, and Noel says that, more than anything else, it just makes him laugh.
"There hasn't been any 12-bar blues in the charts for as long as I can remember. And I don't think anyone's ever sung about Plasticine and Coca-Cola in the same song, so that's the one for us, that is. Get it in the charts!"
"Like I said before, it's just a feeling. if you sit down and think, 'Why do I like this band so much? Well, the singer's an arrogant git, I'd like to twat him one. And the rest of the band might as well be cardboard cutouts.' So you end up thinking, 'I don't like f*** all about this band, but... the songs! Aren't the songs F**ING GREAT!?"
A few more things you may or may not need to know about Oasis on the road. Already a seasoned autograph campaigner, Liam has sussed that signing fans' chests is a daft idea because cleavage perspiration prevents your pen from working properly. Whenever two or three of Oasis are gathered around the piano they will bang out a cheery version (to the tune of The Small Faces "Lazy Sunday") of, "Wouldn't it be nice to be a f***ing cock-er-nee I Wouldn't it be nice to be in f***ing Blur - SLAG!" And Newport witnesses some serious psychological collapse.
It may be something to do with the manner in which Oasis valiantly attempt to get a goodly proportion of the TJ's crowd into the hotel after the gig. Dispensing with the trite formalities traditionally deployed to convince suspicious hotel staff of their guests' worth, Liam simply harangues and abuses the night porter until the poor bloke's left with the choice of opening the front doors or being chased around by drunk Mancunians. It may then be something to do with the six-hour drinking session that ensues in - spookily enough - the hotel's Oasis bar. Whatever, the following morning is a sad sight for bloody sore eyes.
Bonehead has trashed his room. You can tell this by the way the morning staff patiently file in from the street carrying paraphernalia (telephones, cushions, pillow cases scarred with tyre marks). Bonehead would have thrown the bed out as well but it was too big. Now he is sitting id the lounge with a transparent shower cap on his face, muttering, "I can't do it any more."
"There's no such word as 'can't'", a worryingly wise Guigsy informs his colleague.
"But I CAAAN'T!" howls Bonehead. "I'm giving up this rock'n'roll business, I'm gonna be a Tory MP. GIVE ME A SATSUMA! GIVE ME A SATSUMA!"
Over on the other side of the bar, an irate Liam is throwing this morning's music papers around and ranting about Oasis being exploited or some such like. Noel watches his brother, adjusts his shades and sighs. "I'm gonna tell him that Henry Rollins has been slagging him off," he decides. "He'd rip Our Kid's leg off, shove it up his arse and then lick him to death like a f***ing lollipop!"
And over in the corner, Guigsy sits wondering why his hands are shaking so much, enthusing about Star Wars and planning for the future: "You know Leonard Nimoy is on Creation?" Erm, yes. "Well, I want Spock to be our tour manager. Could you imagine it? 'You have just thrown that table out of the window - that is highly illogical, Guigsy'..."
Obviously, confronted with all this evidence, any sane sort without direct responsibility for this oasis tour would pack their bags, slink off to the nearest mainline station and get the first train back home to Normality, pronto.
Sadly, the NME crew simply sits in the midst of the chaos and twitches.
Eventually, after losing the band transport for half an hour, oasis apologise to the staff, pile into the van and head off to Derby armed with half a local McDonald's. It's one of those afternoon-after-the-few-nights-before journeys, where a sense of communal numbness prevails, Bonehead wants to vomit and the tape deck blasts out The Beatles, The Who and the Sex Pistols. Then we hit the traffic jam from hell outside Birmingham.
When a sleek business type refuses to let the van sneak in front of his saloon in the outside lane, the previously dozy band suddenly erupt, banging on the windows and hurling abuse at the unfortunate driver. Then, as we crawl through the roadworks, Bonehead spots a clutch of archetypal British workmen doing bugger all and yells, "START DIGGING!" Five minutes later, and now fully warming to the task, Bonehead decides to stagedive. Clambering on to his seat, he throws himself headlong into the back of the van. Nothing wrong with that, you might say. Except Bonehead is driving.
It could be said that if in hedonistic terms Primal Scream are The Muppets, Oasis are more like The Muppet Babies: a danger only unto themselves, they're the sort of trainee rock'n'roll gits who may be sussed enough to go backwards for their musical inspiration, but they've mercifully left behind the nastier elements of the trade RAWK lifestyle. So their bag is speed rather than smack, and their attitude is based upon bewilderment rather than insufferable belligerence.
Noel's the one with the permanent half-smile who appears to get most of his kicks from watching the rest of the band's antics. Tony barely utters a single word in the entire three days. Guigsy, general consensus has it, is coming out of his shell and becoming more and more unhinged the longer the tour progresses. Bonehead is simply bonkers. And Liam...Liam is the loose cannon, the one who spends ten minutes abusing receptionists and the next half-hour trying to chat them up. Lippier than the rest, he's always up for something. And when he recounts the Portsmouth saga to an enraptured mini-audience in the Derby dressing room, you can see how much he gets off attention.
"Beer is the best drug ever!" he bellows at one point. "I do f***ing care, me."
"I feel sorry for our kid sometimes," Noel had mused back in Newport.
"I get all this shit going inside my head and I can write it all down and get off on that. But he can't, so his release is to get off his head."
Noel admits that he worries about some of the, uh, less PC things Liam is inclined to blurt out. "There's no need to say them, really. He just sets himself up." He talks about his brother's responsibility towards the I pointing out that he's representing five people, including himself. And sighs heavily again. "Our Kid thinks that I was sitting in a room reading a don't want that at all, man he f***ing winds me up. He's the one person I argue with. He goes on about this and that and say, 'Shut up, you f***ing dick - I used to change your f***ing nappies!' Basically, if he's a for a smack in the mouth, I get one. And the same applies to me - if I'm asking for a smack in the mouth, I'll get one."
What if Wank Weekly phoned up and asked Liam to romp around in a soapy bath full naked models for the centrespread? 'He wouldn't do it,' frowns Noel, after a long, considered pause. "That'd cause another fight. But do you know what really worries me? I worry that someone's gonna throw a bottle at Our Kid one night and he's gonna casually move out c way and let it smack me right in my mouth!"
So Oasis do another cracking gig, and some more substances and more socialising. And then - no doubt to the relief of five horrendously overworked constitutions, not to mention all of Derby's hotels - they go home. After a bizarre night drive a England, there's a quick sprint around Manchester dropping various members off at their houses.
It all ends at 3am in the Britannia Hotel, where The Buzzcocks are retiring to bed. These Animal Men cower in shady corners and the bar bulges with soft Southerners in crap Adidas gear loudly celebrating United's championship success.
In the midst of all this, Noel Gallagher partakes of one last G&T and contemplates the next step in the Oasis plan for global domination: Glastonbury.
"People go on about the pressure and all that because they sit and think about it ail day," he decides. "But we'll just bowl up there, arguing in the coach on the way. Someone will probably have a tooth missing by the time we get onstage and we'll play the gig and then we'll get off and start arguing again.
"This is another dream: I always wanted to go to Glastonbury but I could never afford a ticket, and now, all of a sudden, someone's paying me to play to a load of people and give me loads of beer and drugs. It's gonna be brilliant, because once you're in that field anything goes. When you're at home in your local pub and announce, 'I'm gonna get my face painted like a panda,' everyone goes, 'What the f*** does he mean? Let's bottle the c***!' But at Glastonbury you can take all your clothes off and run around naked - that's what it's there for! Same with this band: let your hair down man, have a good time, that's what it's there for. Then you wake up the morning after and do it again.' And again. And again. And again...