Noel & Liam Gallagher, Bonehead, Guigsy & Alan White - Select - August 1997
"Good Aren't They?"
Or such is Liam's evaluation of Oasis as they rock out in their practice bunker. Select joins them as they "work like monkeys", eye up costly Beatles artefacts and settle down for their first ever five-way interview...
"There’s Bald Oasis," says Liam Gallagher, nudging up to the other four as they pose against a purple backdrop, "there’s Stoned Oasis, Rich Oasis, Cockney Oasis..."
"And what are you?" barks his brother, in the manner of one who can’t help but behave like a substitute parent. Liam pauses for about four seconds. "Misunderstood Oasis." The band fall about. And then Liam repeats it, hoping for the extra laugh - which he gets in spades.
It’s a long way from the basement of Manchester Boardwalk, this violet-hued rehearsal space. On the outside, admittedly, it looks and sounds like any of the functional brick boxes that make up London’s post-industrial perimeter: the lifts clatter and wheeze, nondescript haulage vehicles come and go, the intercom occasionally relays suspicious enquiries as to any visitor’s credentials.
Inside, however, there is the kind of furniture one associates with the reception areas of advertising conglomerates and the low hum of deep-pile comfort. All that and a noise that is among the most familiar imaginable.
Oasis are playing ‘Roll With It’. The music is surprisingly coarse, devoid of the strings and horns that occasionally accompany it; a solitary, bespectacled keyboard player provides the only embellishment. So loud are the guitars that you can barely hear him. Today, Noel Gallagher is once again leading a garage band playing to an audience that barely scrapes into double figures.
Which, as anyone sane would surmise, is an extraordinary experience. Usually there would be several million people, cameras, lights and chip vans in the way. Today there is just the group, their close associates (Terry, Liam’s increasingly-famous minder, among them) and Select. The set list is as you’d like it: 'Don’t Look Back In Anger', 'Morning Glory', 'Some Might Say', 'Wonderwall', 'Champagne Supernova'...
...And two songs that, to those outside the inner circle, are brand new. One is the title track of 'Be Here Now', the album that will be released in August; a swampy, boogified song that suggests a more cerebral take on the old-schoolery that defined 'Cigarettes and Alcohol' (in the best possible way it sounds a little like ZZ Top). The other, more notably, is 'D’Yer Know What I Mean', the single that, after repeatedly tumbling from every radio in the UK, will be released on 9 July.
Today, it’s pared-down and basic, a snarling cousin of 'Wonderwall (the chords, as Noel readily admits, are similar; it’s the melody that places it somewhere else entirely). On the few CDs and DATs that are being held under 24-hour security in various corners of London, however, it’s very different: a dark, foreboding song glued together by a truly anthemic chorus - the sound, to get a mite pretentious, of a mind entering the mire of uncertainty only to alight with a strident, reborn confidence. It’s underpinned by beguiling new colours on the Oasis palette: drum loops and layers of strangely treated guitar, among other things. It’s also seven minutes long.
Its release has a touch of the cavalry about it. Watching The Chart Show, one cannot help but feel a slight sense of deja vu: the musical mainstream seems. Superficially at least, to have reverted to type with the airbrushed teen-clones as strong as ever, and to venture into a high street clothes shop is to surrender to the Orwellian dominance of formulaic soul-pop. Back in 1994, such was the air of arid pre-punk boredom, that one could only pray that something - anything - would hurtle around the next corner. This time, thankfully, as we grimly tolerate our Hansons and our Olives, we know who’s on their way. Can you wait to be re-acquainted with that sound? That voice? That sense that we’re in the presence of something properly era-defining?
This afternoon, 'D’Yer Know What I Mean' is sung - as is everything else - by Noel Gallagher. Liam, wishing to rest his voice on account of a sore throat, skips between the ‘stage’ (a mere platform, truth be told) and the rest of the room, at one point taking time to alert Select to the talents of his colleagues. "He’s good, Whitey", he says, just managing to be heard over the din. He mimes an across-the-kit drum fill. "Look at him. He’s good." Seconds later Whitey carries off the heart-stopping mini-solo that takes 'Don’t Look Back In Anger' into its final choruses. Liam looks very proud indeed.
On the table in front of him, aside from he usual debris of the creative process - Styrofoam cups, cigarette butts, cans of Red Stripe - is the catalogue for a forthcoming sale of rock memorabilia at Christie’s, disproportionately tilted in favour of The Beatles. An original copy of the infamous Butcher sleeve? Available for he equivalent of three months’ wages in South Korea. Four nondescript autographs, framed - just to bump up the value - next to the sleeve of 'Help'? A similar sum, if you don’t mind. Liam shrugs a particularly indifferent shrug and then allows himself a laugh at one of Paul McCartney’s more ill-advised haircuts.
Soon after the close of 'Champagne Supernova', he is joined by his brother, Paul McGuigan, Alan White and Paul Arthurs. The idea, never one tried before, is to interview all five at once. The setting rather recalls one of those '70s TV shows where they band would mime their 'number' and be summoned to press Trimphones to their ears and chat to their fans ("Gather round gang," the presenter would say. "The phones have been red hot all morning").
Inevitably, the ensuing conversation lies light years away from any kind of five-way split. Noel just about dominates, encouraged by the way that the faction occasionally known as ‘the other three’ instinctively look to him for any question’s definitive answer. Liam, however, clearly relishes the opportunity to challenge this supremacy: indeed, at times we appear to hover on the brink of yet another one of those arguments.
Bonehead makes the occasional contribution; Alan says very little; Guigs contentedly emits no sound whatsoever, save for joining in with the hysterical hoots that accompany Liam’s more knowingly ludicrous outbursts.
The mood, such as it is, is neatly forecasted by an initial exchange between he Gallaghers. "Sit on me knee," says Liam, as Noel perches on a flight case.
"You’re the puppet," comes the response. "You sit on my fucking knee."
How long is it since the five of you were on a stage together?
Liam: "Eight months."
Bonehead: "Five minutes."
Have you missed it?
Liam: "Oh, big time, yeah. I don’t think we should ever have any time off again. We should work like fucking monkeys. I’m bored shitless. Mad for it."
Noel: "I’m not bored. We’ve been doing the record, haven’t we, so..."
Liam: "No, no, no. He’s asking me that question. I’ve been bored sitting round the house watching Neighbours twice a day. I’m sick of it."
How long did the album take in total?
Noel: "Er... we started in November and finished three or four weeks ago. But it probably only took six weeks working on it."
Liam: "We were having time off, spending money and all that, having a bit of a laugh. Cos if you make the album, bang it out, then you’ve got to go and graft your cock off again, haven’t you? Everyone goes [cockney accent] ‘Go on! Get fackin’ back to it!’"
Noel: This is the man who just said he didn’t want any time off [laughs]."
Liam: "No, I needed that time off. I needed that time off to get me shit together. To basically watch Neighbours twice a day." Bonehead [sarcastically]: "Did you get it together then?
Liam: "I’ve got it right together."
That much seems true: indeed, such is the air or carefree bonhomie surrounding Oasis that the imperative to quiz them about what happened last August becomes less pressing: precise enquiries are better placed in the solo interviews that lie just around the corner. And yet, conversation eventually alights on one of their career’s more bizarre interludes.
They were supposed, for at least 24 hours, to have suffered a career-ending internal rupture. The daily papers, tired of spotlighting the ever-atrophying Major government and in the midst of the annual braid-holiday known as ‘The Silly Season’, whipped up the appropriate cyclone, managing to pull in even the BBC. And Oasis crawled home from the USA in two separate parts, looking like a band who were prepared, in their desperate need for a metaphorical comma, to entertain the prospect of a dreadful full stop.
It blew over within days and yet the episode inevitably scratched itself into their mythology. The images are now crushingly familiar: the red-and-silver kagoule, the ashen facial expression, the newsreaders biting their tongues as affairs of state assumed a lowly priority, the afternoon Mrs Gallagher emerged from her house to smile for the cameras in response to the fact that Oasis had apparently not packed it in after all. In he centre, mundanely enough, lurked five men who simply needed a break.
How did it feel coming off the road in August?
Liam: "It was one of those dodgy skids."
Noel: "It was alright. We’d just been touring for too long. We’d been touring for three years. Sick of playing the same songs over and over again."
Liam: "Plus, we were running out of money, had to write a new album to get a few quid when we had all these fucking tax bills to pay. Ridiculous. I could do with a few more pairs of shoes."
So it would have happened anyway?
Noel: "It was only three gigs at the end of the day. We came back to England and it was like the Pope had been shot. Looking back on it, we should have stuck it out for the three gigs. But we couldn’t be arsed."
Liam [emphatically]: "No, I don’t think we should have. You come home when you come home, you know what I mean? When your mam’s howling, man, you’ve got to come home. We’re only young boys."
Bonehead: "I’m 32, you c***."
Noel: "I’m 30 tomorrow."
Liam: "I didn’t hear that, didn’t hear that, didn’t hear that. Whose birthday is it? You’re getting fuck all. I bought you a five grand picture, you didn’t even give me thanks for it."
Two weeks from today, Oasis will be returning - poetically enough - to the country that last provided them with concert stages, limousines and sound check schedules. They are booked to perform in San Francisco at the invitation of U2: both camps, in keeping with the diplomacy that rules rock music’s more lofty strata, have emphasised that the word ‘supporting’ is not appropriate, it’s more ‘playing with’.
Those who treasure the more melodramatic readings of Oasis’ history will doubtless see it as a staged opportunity for the group to return to the continent that all but destroyed them and re-establish their karma. The group, however, view this engagement as no more world-shaking than any other. Besides, the script soon returns to last year’s hoo-hah, as often happens when Liam or his brother detect the scent of unfinished conversational business.
Are you looking forward to going back to the States?
Liam [with evident sarcasm]: "I really, erm, like Americans. I think they’re groovy people."
Noel: "It’d be alright if it was nearer. I’m not looking forward to getting on a plane for however many hours it takes."
Liam: "But the thing is, what we’re trying to sat here Noel is, right, basically, it doesn’t matter where we’re playing, whether it’s America or Timbuktu. It’s great to be back on the road again. It’s great to be back with your brother again [Noel demonstrates grudging agreement]. I’m just mad for doing a gig: America, Yugoslavia, Sweden, Scunthorpe, wherever."
But there’s very little love lost between Oasis and America.
Noel: "All bands go there for about two weeks, do four gigs and then come home. We ended up going over there for two months, doing shitloads of gigs and that, and you just get bored, and you start getting pissed. All the rows that ever started, we’ve been drunk: ‘Look at your shoes, you dick’; ‘Who are you calling a dick?’; ‘Calling you a dick’; ‘Who’s a dick’... and before you know it, it’s [shouts as if hailing a cab] ‘Concorde!’ It’s all to do with lager, isn’t it? [Points at can] That’s evil shit, man!"
Liam: "Noely, can I butt in there one minute?"
Noel: "Course you can."
Liam: " What it was, as far as I’m concerned, on my behalf, we’d done Knebworth, yeah? Big gig. Really big gig. After Knebworth we should’ve gone on holiday for a couple of months. Chilled right out. It was a big high and all that tackle. Then a week later we were on a plane to fucking America, playing in front of 10,000 people. Which is not good for your ego."
Noel [irately]: "No one ever said that. If anyone’d have said that, they’d have got the sack. Whoever wrote that, that we pulled a gig in somewhere because it was only 12,000 is going to get a crack on the head if I ever fucking see them. Cos it wasn’t that: I’ll play to 12 people, let alone 12,000."
Liam: "We needed a break. We needed to sit in the garden with those polystyrene gnomes."
Noel: "Bit it was good. Out there with the Manics and that, and those big fat blokes The Screaming Trees."
Liam: "The Barking Branches! Crazy Conkers! I’ll rip his head off, that c***. Calling me a daft punk, saying I needed a good fucking crack: you and whose fucking army, you fucking ginger bearded bastard?"
Did you feel like the 10,000 people you were playing to were getting it?
Noel: "Americans don’t get it. There was a point where everything we did was [New York drawl] ‘incredible’. ‘God, the way you guys walked on stage was just incredible! The way you tuned that guitar in between ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ and ‘Live Forever’ was fucking incredible!’ It’s like, ‘Shut the fuck up, man! We’re not even that good live, for fuck’s sake, let alone incredible. We’re pissed up half the time.’ ‘Your dressing room’s incredible! Look at that rider - it’s incredible!’ Fucking wankers."
Liam: "I think they’re a great race and I liked ‘em. And I think they were getting it. They were getting fucking me, anyway."
The way American magazines write about Oasis is always astounding.
Liam: "Yeah, but they’re wankers. They want grungey fucking people, stabbing themselves in the head on stage. They get a bright bunch like us, with deodorant on, they don’t get it."
Noel: "There was one gig where I got fucking bladdered before and I was pissed up, rolling about on stage, on me knees doing that [satanic metal pose], with me tongue out, and they were going fucking mental. That’s how stupid they are. These lot are going ‘Get him back in the dressing room, he’s as pissed as an arse’. But they were mad for it. That’s when you’ve got to go, ‘What time’s the next flight, man?’"
Marcus Russell walks through the door. His status as fixer, negotiator, adviser and svengali is momentarily put on hold. This morning, fresh off a plane from California, he is the man who just got married. "Alright, twatty bollocks!" shouts Noel. "Show us your ring! Show us your ring!"
Marcus shrugs, flashing a singularly unadorned pair of hands and a grin that stretches to within millimetres of his ears.
"He’s not got one," says Noel, with a creeping air of crestfallen bewilderment.
"You’ve not got one?" says Liam.
"I don’t like it," says Marcus.
"Well neither do I," says Liam, ‘but I’ve still got to wear it."
Liam will later estimate the value of the jewellery on his fingers to be somewhere around £18,000.
Do you ever get nostalgic about those early tours, the five of you in a van?
Noel: "Well, I don’t wish we had the same fucking drummer, for a start. You can stick nostalgia up your rectum about that one. [Uproarious laughter.] And I’m not nostalgic about being skint, and being in a fucking van with him [Liam] while he’s pissed and him [Bonehead] driving and me steering. They were good days...The Water Rats and stuff like that was good."
Liam: "The best bit about them early days was when our kid got chinned. That geezer jumped on stage and lamped him in the eye."
Noel [ignoring him]: "There was no pressure on us then. We weren’t..."
Liam: "There’s no pressure on us now..."
Noel [quietly]: "For fuck’s sake."
Liam: "Are you feeling insecure or summat?"
Noel: "I’m answering his fucking question. If you’ll fucking let me."
Liam: "There’s no pressure on us now. Those gigs were great, man. Everything’s great. Life’s great. What’s your problem? Everything’s boss. [To Noel] What’s up with you?"
Is it like looking back at being at school?
Noel: "Yeah. Bonehead was the tour manager, [craftily] I was the treasurer. I had the float. We used to use it as a drug fund. Now you go on big buses and there’s like 50 million people on board. I miss the days of the Boardwalk when we had that little room and we all used to go deaf. But I suppose in ten years we’ll be reminiscing about now. Either that or we’ll be going to see him [Liam] in rehab. With his colostomy bag. Pissing in his trousers."
Why were those early tours so potty?
Noel: "Cos we were potty."
Like the second tour: when that hotel in Newport got trashed...[Bonehead chuckles repeatedly. Eventually they all start laughing]
Noel: "Someone’d give us 300 quid, put us in a ban with all the gear and say, ‘You’re playing at Bath Moles tonight, and it’s 300 miles away’. Marcus’d be going, ‘Right, I’ll see you tomorrow’, and we’d be like, ‘If you’re fucking lucky mate’. And we’d just be off. Off. Turn up at the gig late. Give it the monitor engineer: ‘Oi! Speccy! Fucking turn it up!’ And we’d just signed off. It was our first job. [To Alan] This was before you joined, Whitey. This was the donkey work."
Are you amazed, looking back, that no-one died?
Liam: "I don’t think it was that bad. Personally, form my point of view, we’re not that crazy..."
Noel: "We were in them days. We were mad."
Liam: "I don’t know. It’s normal to me."
Bonehead: "We were off our tits, doing a runner from a hotel, he’s [Noel] like, ‘I’ll for this out - keep the engine running, man...’"
Noel: "He [Liam] might sit here and might make smart quips about it all afternoon, but he fucking knows what it was like. It was like The Magnificent Seven riding into town, and for an hour they were getting it. Whiteout were getting it."
Liam: "There were five of us."
Noel: "There were seven of us. There was Jason and Coyley as well, and we were having it. Fucking big, large one. Every night. I saw him in a room right, with a fire extinguisher in one hand and a chainsaw in the other. Before we went on stage. Then he had to go onstage with a chainsaw singing [choirboy falsetto] ‘You and I are gonna live forever...’ [Chainsaw noise] Rrrrrrreeeeeaargh!’"
Liam: "We were crazy. We should have died. But I don’t believe in death. Death is just a thing, whatever it is."
Did you feel sorry for Whiteout?
Noel: "Yeah, cos they were shit. They were good lads, but they were shit. And the drummer wore gloves."
Liam: "He was about that big [raises hand two feet above the floor]. He was like fucking ‘Mmmbop’... what are they called? Fucking Manson, Hanson, whatever they’re called. He was about 12. He had a dick like that though, the c*** [holds out arms in fisherman-style ‘It was this big’ pose causing hysterical laughter]."
Noel: "How do you know that?"
Liam: "I really don’t know."
Noel: "So that’s what you were doing in the toilet."
Did that ever get scary, the idea that because of your reputation, the local thugs could run in and fancy a bit?
Noel: "Yeah. But it was exciting."
Liam: "They got it though, them Geordie bastards. They got it, as far as I’m concerned That fat prick jumped onstage, gave our kid a clout - which I applauded - but that fucking fat prick got it. Anyone who wants to jump on our stage has got it. And anyone who wants to jump on our stage will get it. Not from me, from Terry [man-mountain minder]. Them hooligans got it."
After ‘Live Forever’ everyone finally realised that it was a music thing...
Noel: "Totally. But even after that..."
Liam: " There’s still that anxiety in he crowd. You can never be too sure. As far as I’m concerned..."
Noel [wearily]: "This article should be called: ‘As far as I’m concerned’..."
But you’re hardly on that kind of knife edge any more. It’s not about to go off.
Liam: "No, the thing is, there’s still that knife-edge, still that [makes growling noise]. It’s not about violence: you can have a knife-edge when the crowd are right over there [points into middle distance], but they’re still giving you that knife-edge. And I’m giving that knife-edge, and we’re still giving that knife-edge. They might not be able to get over the barrier, but they’re still going [makes crowd noise]..And there’s some crazy fucking dudes man in the fucking crowd. Some crazy kooks. That knife edge is still there."
As, clearly, is the comedy - both intentional and unintentional - that has always tinged Oasis’ internal affairs. It’s streaked through the last ten minutes of our five-way encounter, most notably when the conversation takes a slightly off-beam twist, and the between-friends loonery that is Oasis Being Oasis decisively begins.
Which member of Oasis has the weirdest musical taste?
Noel [to Liam]: "You."
Liam [apropos of precious little]: "My favourite book is The Lion, The Witch And the Wardrobe. I like it. I like that thing of just going in a wardrobe."
Noel [to Bonehead]: "You like Nancy Sinatra and all that bullshit."
Bonehead: "That’s not weird though."
Noel: "It’s weird for you. Cos you’re bald. Fucking weird. I like a bit of Burt Bacharach, a bit of hip-hop. Don’t like jazz, though."
Liam: "Jazz is fucking shit. Jazz is fucking stupid."
Bonehead: "Whitey’s probably go the weirdest taste."
Liam: "I bet he’s a right wanker at home. I bet he puts some right shit on."
Noel: "He’s into German porno music."
Alan: "It’s true [he sings a sample bit]."
A sensible question. Will you be touring around this album?
Noel: "I’m not prepared to say at the minute. We’ll definitely start touring. When it’s going to finish, nobody knows. What I’ll say to the kids is, get your fucking tickets in now. There might be only one gig and there might be 151. That’s all I’m saying."
Liam: " I like that answer. You’re good man."
Will there be another Knebworth?
Noel: "This is the thing with people saying we’re going to play Hyde Park. We’re not doing gigs as big as that anymore. I’m not anyway. They’re too big. You do it once and you can’t be doing that again."
Liam: "Why can’t you? It’s a great day out. Packed lunch, all that: it’s a great day. You’re trying to tell me you hated it? Knebworth was fucking rocking."
Noel: "Knebworth was top, but I wouldn’t do it again. There’s too much flying about in fucking helicopters with those gigs. I don’t like flying: it’s fucking petrifying."
Alan: "What’s the point of doing it again? You’ve done it once."
Bonehead: "Sitting in a mobile home with The Prodigy on. With me head in bits..."
Liam: "He’s going, ‘What the fuck’s going on here? I’m trying to get me head down before the gig! All I can hear is boom, boom, boom. Who the fucking hell put these on?’ Bonehead’s going, ‘If you’re fucking going to start a fire, fucking start it, and shut up!’"
Liam: "Proper grandad. It was top."
Noel has said he wants a sizeable amount of time off after this record.
Liam: "Fuck that. Work, work, fucking work. Cos that’s all we know. Or else I turn into the normal Liam Gallagher. It starts to piss me off, cos I start to be that geezer I used to be, and I don’t particularly care for him that much. I like to be the Liam Gallagher who’s like ‘Woo! Mad for it!’ I’m trying to get back to me roots, basically. Time off? Fuck that."
You’re meant to have a year out and go and live in Ireland, according to the rock star manual...
Liam: "I am doing."
For tax purposes?
Liam: "Yeah, that’s for wankers though. Greedy bastards."
Bonehead [mimicking]: "‘I am, yeah. But that’s for wankers’. Fucking hell!"
Liam: "No, I’m going to live in Ireland. But not for tax purposes. That’s for greedy c***s. I like the taxman. The taxman’s good. Fuck it. And anyway, England’s good. It’s full of people walking the streets like me."
Bald Oasis, Stoned Oasis, Rich Oasis and Cockney Oasis resume their places, and the sound fills the room: steely and water-tight, human and affecting in the way that only Noel Gallagher’s songs can be. "They’re good, aren’t they?" shouts Liam, pointing at the band. "Look at them. They’re good."
"It's Good To Talk"
The voice. The 'Outrageous Millionaire'. The man who can barely nip round the corner without it making the papers. Presenting Liam Gallagher's first ever solo UK interview...
"Who," asks Liam Gallagher, with purposeful glare, "is your favourite member of Oasis?" It could, of course, be his equivalent of "Feeling lucky, punk?" - the gauntlet thrown down, a hand beckoning towards the ultimate no-winner, the kind of question that has doubtless been used as an excuse to exit college radio stations, slime-drenched meet’n’greets and pointless interviews.
"No, really," he says. "Who’s your favourite?" Liam Gallagher, thankfully, seems alarmingly affable today. The walk - feet pointing outwards, knees bent, head forward as if who-knows-what-delight is waiting around the corner - is the same. The behavioural code is adhered to as strictly as ever - cigarettes must be ponced, cameras treated to the pose-as-non-pose. The clothes, meanwhile, are unimpeachably sharp, as usual: purple-hued denim work shirt, jeans of the kind that Top Man customers wouldn’t recognise, shoes bought in a different cosmos to the one that spawned the average British High Street.
He isn’t Liam Gallagher Airport Terminal And Awards Ceremony Monster today, though. You begin to wonder, in fact, what’s happened to him.
"Who’s your favourite?" he re-asks. "Come on!"
An inordinate number of celebrities, once their time has truly come, adopt some superficially meaningless accoutrement as an extension of their personality. John Lennon had his glasses: placed on his nose to inform the world that he was no longer a cuddlesome moptop, then darkened when he relocated to the USA, and finally expanded to designer size when he became a moneyed New York parent.
So it is with Liam Gallagher’s whiskers. The more of them there are the close he gets to the Dionysian human hurricane of legend, the man who, in the words of one biographer, "will not censor thought of deed, regardless of who gets hurt".
At 1995’s Brit Awards - where he indicated his separation from the raffish quaff-fest around him by clutching a can of Red Stripe, indicating that his awards truly belonged up his arse and informing Michael Hutchence that his career was well and truly over - he jeered the press pack through a beard that all but reached his cheekbones.
The bristles soon went, though they seemed to return, at least in part, whenever required. Stubble had crept back over Liam’s face when he indicated his rejection of New York etiquette by releasing a ‘greenie’ at the MTV awards. Yet more had sprouted when, in contrast to his brother’s air of ashen-faced misery, he merrily bowled into Heathrow Airport about a week later, apparently unconcerned about that fact that half the country thought his group was about to break up.
When Primal Wildman is what the occasion demands, Liam Gallagher can apparently turn it on to perfection. You want that quizotic, sullen, uninterviewable, perma-smoking, all-snorting, groupie-fucking, Yank-hating embodiment of anti-establishment cool that first found its expression when Keith Richards turned to a High Court Judge and said, "We are not old men and we are not worried about petty morals"? Given a week’s abstinence from shaving soap you can have him.
Today, however, as the sun floods into every corner of the rehearsal studio’s roof garden, trains rattle past at six-minute intervals and Oasis songs - delivered by Noel - blare from a nearby doorway. Liam Gallagher is clean-shaven, well groomed and impossibly charming. He wants to be interviewed. "I’m with Bob Hoskins on this one," he says. "It’s good to talk." Perhaps it’s the fact that, for the first time in too long, a tape recorder is being placed under his nose in a friendly fashion; maybe it marks an opportunity to fracture the impression that the group’s sole spokesman is the one whose vocals are booming forth from inside.
The music gives some kind of contextual back-drop to a lot of what Liam says. At one point he gestures towards its source to illustrate what it is that shields his attentions from the kind of journalists whose lives are spent in rhododendron bushes. What the nose lacks, of course, is him: the strident, me-against-the-four-winds sound that has long given Noel’s songs their most immediate stamp of identity.
When the lyrics expressed the need to escape, do it, get out, it was Liam’s vocals that decisively conveyed the mixture of goggle-eyed romance and hard-faced ambition that was the hallmark of ‘Definitely Maybe’. And on ‘What’s The Story?...’, when the picture was complicated by the ennui and travel sickness of the freshly-minted star, the Liam element gave the songs their yin-and-yang dynamic: word that expressed misgivings about hurtling into the abyss, sung by someone who’d considered their concerns and still wanted to do precisely that. In both cases it was easy to be reminded of John Lennon’s awe-struck analysis of Bob Dylan: "What he’s singing about doesn’t matter - it’s how he sings it."
What we now know as Liam-ness wasn’t always part of the Oasis puzzle. Early bootlegs show him to be a disciple of Ian Brown, the words sung in a non-descript South Mancunian drone that suggest he’s slightly embarrassed about being thrust out in front. There’s no attitude, no growl, none of the Herculean element of today. In fact, he sounds a bit effeminate.
The voice we cherish starts to sprout on ‘Supersonic’, on some of those strangled, elongated words - "autograaaph", "yyyyelllow" - and the proud moment when he rasps, "You need to find out/No one’s gonna tell you what I’m on about". Throughout ‘Definitely Maybe’ - on ‘Shakermaker’, ‘Cigarettes and Alcohol’, ‘Live Forever’ - there’s a sense of Liam Gallagher realising how he’s meant to do this singing business. "Without sounding arrogant, success fits my ego. I’d feel cheated without it."
All that’s missing, as 1995 dawns, is the aforementioned growl; the sense of bulgy-veined menace that would compliment Noel’s occasional fondness for cooing romance (‘Talk Tonight’, ‘Half A World Away’, ‘Sad Song’), and prove that Oasis could reach either end of the emotional scale. It arrives on the B-sides of ‘Some Might Say’, present, but held back on ‘Acquiesce’, given full vent on ‘Headshrinker’.
Rarely played live, that song stands as on of Oasis’s few lost gems. "Lost in the fog/I been treated like a dog/And I’m outta here," Liam sings - it’s a vicious ‘Rock’n’Roll Star’, the moment at which his vocals reach a sneering peak. The feat is sustained (even improved upon) on ‘What’s The Story...’. By the summer of ‘95, Liam Gallagher had chiselled away his place as on of the finest singers this country has ever produced. To some people, mind you, that is hardly the point.
Rock star Liam Gallagher. Millionaire rock star, Liam Gallagher. Outrageous Liam Gallagher. Rock Liam Outrageous Gallagher Star. Singer Liam Oasis Outrageous Star Millionaire. Liam. Patsy. Latsy. Piam. Millionaire Love-nest Outrageous Millionaire. Turn To Page Three. If you can be arsed.
There is a notch on the scale of celebrity beyond which what actually got you that far - acting, singing, politics, eating the component parts of airliners - ceases to matter a jot. Viewed through the lenses of the press, your existence has four cornerstones: your marriage/relationship/absence of similar; which receptions/parties/boat-launches you’ve been to; how much you drink/smoke/snort; and your latest haircut.
Thus, thanks to the ever attendant tabloid spies, most people in Britain know that once, in 1996, Liam Gallagher and Patsy Kensit went to the cornershop and she carried both the bags home.
They’re also aware that Liam had his hair cut in Macclesfield and that he occasionally greets the phalanx of photographers who stand outside his house in a distinctly irate fashion. They may also remember that on one occasion early this year, he is alleged to have risen at 7am and sung two versions of The Who’s ‘My Generation’.
In the face of all this, Liam Gallagher is actually doing very well. Having mastered the slippery late 20th Century art of Keeping It Together, he’s surprisingly relaxed and fatalistic about most of the nonsense that surrounds him.
For the most part he’s the dream interviewee. Events worthy of dramatic reproduction get played out as one-man mini-plays, and almost everything he says is shot through with the unswerving irreverence that has always been his calling card. You can occasionally see why his brother has had deep-seated misgivings about letting him near a microphone - the odd friend-offending put-down here, a handful of Noel-baiting quips there - but as a one-hour conversational companion, he truly is ‘the bollocks’.
So how’s marriage?
Everything you imagined, and more?
"Aye. Fucking too right."
What happened that day when you seemed to be planning to get married in four different places at once and then called the whole thing off?
"That was bollocks. We were meant to be getting married and all the press started getting silly so we fucked it off. But all those different places: I don’t know where all that came from. We were going to go to the place where all the champagne and flowers were, but fucking everyone knew about it - and I’ve got eight grand’s worth of bleeding champagne in my house. Fucking loads of it, coming out of my ears. Sick of it."
It finally went off at Marylebone Registry Office.
"Half seven in the morning, in me jeans. It was top. Me, Pats, the builder who’s doing my house and her hairdresser. Just kept it really small, otherwise we were never going to get it done. And we thought, if we go on honeymoon everyone’s going to follow us, so there’s no point. We reckoned we’d leave it for a bit. That was it: just stayed in a hotel for three days and got off it. Like you do."
Are you very alike?
"Me and Pats? I think so. We’re both moody bastards. [Pause] Both singers, man, aren’t we? She was top. I bought that ‘I’m Not Scared’ when it came out. Top. Sexy as fuck."
What’s your favourite Patsy film?
"Of hers? I’ve not seen any. No, I’ve seen 21 - very ‘80s, cos it was made in the ‘80s. I saw it a couple of weeks ago. She’s alright, you know. She’s good."
Is she a lot more acquainted with being a tabloid celebrity than you are?
"No, no... yeah, sometimes, but I don’t think anyone can be experienced in handling it. It can get right on top of you, make you ill, do your head in. It’s shit, isn’t it? People hanging about outside your house every day. [Testily] Who gives a fuck?"
It has got to the point where you going to the off-licence is a national event.
"Yeah, yeah, or where I bout me hat from. It’s ridiculous. Them lot, I think they fancy me. It think they’re all gay. That’s what I think, anyway."
Is it difficult not to lamp those people?
"It’s double hard. I can’t afford it. I’m up for lamping people, but not these days. You can lamp ‘em when you’ve got no money, but when you’ve fucking got loads of money, you can’t lamp ‘em cos they sue you. No, it is hard."
Ordinarily, people in your position sprint off to the country and become reclusive - and yet you and Patsy are very visible. It’s almost like you’re defying the tabloids...
"Yeah, exactly. They want to ruin your life. They want to run it. They want to have you under the thumb, but fuck it. The way it’s gone is ridiculous."
People have said that what happened the night of the Q awards with the News Of The World looked a bit like a conspiracy...
"Well, that’s what I mean - it ends up sending you paranoid. But I shouldn’t have been out at that time in the morning, on me jacks, with cocaine in my pocket."
Was your minder around when you were nicked?
"Well, we both went back to the hotel, and he goes to bed. He goes in his room and I’m sitting up, and I thought, ‘Fuck it - I’m going home’. I just bailed out - I should’ve got a taxi, I didn’t get one. I was fucking walking down the street an that was it."
Just what happened at the police station?
"It was top, actually - all the police were singing ‘Roll With It’. I was thinking, they’re either going to well do me in or they’re going to let me off. As soon as I heard them whistling ‘Roll With It’ I thought, I’m well away. It was all, ‘Can you sign this for my daughter?’ While I was doing my fingerprints. It was top. The main sergeant’s going [shakes invisible hand and affects cockney accent] ‘I darent’ wash my hands now, my daughter’ll kill me’. I was well away."
America last August. What actually went on?
"Little bits of arguments, you know what I mean? Little niggly bits and bobs and that. Like you do, every day. We could have on in ten minutes here - but over there it was different. We didn’t want to be on the road anymore. It was nothing to do with ticket sales - as far as I’m concerned, every gig sold out, bar a couple of hundred tickets. We had to come home. We left all that chaos in England, Knebworth and all that, we were back over there again...We were just tired."
Can you remember what it was about?
"Abba or summat [laughs]. I think it was about Abba, yeah. No...I can’t remember. He [Noel] went home, we stayed there and got pissed. I was arsed. He was going [moany voice] ‘Oh, that’s it, it’s over’; ‘Shut up, you c*** - we’ve got a new album to make’; ‘No, that’s it - I’m sick of it’. It was having all these people around you all the time - minders and that. You can’t do whatever you want...We were getting sidetracked about what we’re about. We had to come home and make a new album."
Those photos of Noel coming through Heathrow Airport - he looks extremely miserable...
"He’s always like that, the c***. He’s like that every day. He’s probably like that now."
What was going through your head coming home?
"Fuck all. Lager. Lager. I was mad for it, for beans on toast, man - a nice cup of PG Tips. It was top." So what was the first thing you did when you got home? Patsy was in LA, wasn’t she?
"I took my shoes off, man. I put the TV in the garden and I had a cup of tea. I unplugged it [gets up and mimes putting TV in garden]. I went back, and put it there. Had a bath, picked me nose, and put a tune on. Watching the telly and reading the papers, it was like someone had stolen the crown jewels. It’s only a band. Only us. It was mad."
What happened next? You stayed at home...
"No, me and our kid went to a country house. The pair of us stayed there and got pissed. Me and him weren’t arguing. We got slaughtered. And Marcus [Russell, manager] was saying, ‘Lets put a press release out’. Me and him [Noel] were taking the piss, going ‘Fuck it - if anyone asks where we are, tell ‘em we’re chasing sheep round the fucking country.’ But it would have started to get silly. So we put one together.
"Anyway, we all needed time off. But I’m the only one who had no house at the time, I was still renting. It did feel a bit shit coming home and not having me own fucking house. And now I’ve got the fucking gaff, and I’m moving in the day we start the next tour. Bastard. Got it all made fucking up, got it all done... Fucking bastard."
Is fame still enjoyable? You used to insist that you were mad for it...
"I am mad for it. But what’s fame?"
The day-to-day business of being in your position. Can you go for a pint?
"Yeah, I enjoy going for a pint. I can go to that pub across the road, sit down, talk to anyone. I’ll talk to a geezer who’s 85, a young girl who’s ten. If people start mithering me, I tell them. Or switch off. Fame? What’s that? It’s the state of your mind..."
It’s destroyed a lot of people...
"It’s not going to destroy me. Cos I’ve got this [gestures inside, where the band are playing ‘Morning Glory’]. That sound in there that keeps me going."
Having a home life now - has that kept you sane?
"That’s good, yeah. Everyone needs a home - we all need looking after, don’t we? But there are some fucking stupid people out there who are pretty daft, who’ll knock on your door at 12 o’clock at night, thinking like ‘Mad for it’. I’m in bed. In bed. They knock on me door going, ‘Alright Liam - mad for it’. I’m like that, ‘Nah, I’m in bed’. And then they go, ‘Fame’s gone to your head’, cos I’ve snapped at them. No, I’m in bed. I’m like you. I’m tired.
"But I never said I wanted to be famous. I don’t think I did, anyway. I was mad for being the biggest band in the world and if that involves fame - which it does - then yeah. But I hate signing autographs. I’d rather shake people’s hands."
Noel’s said that when he meets people who say they love his records, he wants to thank them for buying them...
"Yeah, I’m into that. I don’t even call them fans - I just love people. It’s not like [affects blasé tone], ‘Oh yeah - fans’. I’m their fan, know what I mean?"
You and your brother have reacted extremely well to that level of fame. It’s like Kurt Cobain is over there, and Oasis are like his polar opposite.
"Exactly. If you’re not into fame, chill out. Go and play your guitar under a tree somewhere. There’s no point shooting yourself in the head, is there? It’s easy - just go and play your guitar over there. If fame started doing my head in, I’d leave it."
Is it still possible for you and Patsy to have the kind of night that any regular couple would see as normal? Go to a restaurant or something?
"Yeah. Of course. If we couldn’t, we’d be fucked, wouldn’t we? If you can’t go out for a meal you’ll fucking starve, won’t you? Everyone just looks and goes, ‘There’s the guy off the TV, that mad-for-it geezer.’ And that’s it. It’s cool."
What about the fact that everybody seems to know where you live?
"The thing is about the press, I hate the bastards, but when they print your address in the paper... I get letters sent to me house - ‘Oasis singer, St John’s Wood, London,’ and it arrives. Fucking ‘Oasis singer, St John’s Wood, London’. From fucking Venezuela. And that’s dangerous, cos there’s some nutters out there, isn’t there? We had one the other day - I was asleep and some girl jumped into the house, losing the plot. But they [the press] are c***s. It’s like, ‘Don’t you like sex? Why don’t you go shag your wife? Why follow me to the shops?’
"When it first started happening,I was nice to them - ‘Do your picture and then we’ll get off’. But then they wouldn’t leave me. I was being nice to them but they fucking blew it."
Which other singers do you rate?
"At the moment? I like that geezer out of The Seahorses, he’s got a top voice. Who else? [Long pause] Who I really dig? No one, really. Let me think a minute...no, no one. Like, you get Ocean Colour Scene, it’s too ‘yeeaarrgh’. And that geezer out of Reef is on top. It’s horrible, isn’t it? Can you imagine him singing upstairs in your bed? As soon as he comes on TV, you’re like, ‘In the garden again’ [repeats mime of removing telly from house]. Richard Ashcroft - great fucking singer."
"You can lamp the press when you’ve got no money, but when you’ve got loads they’ll sue."
All the bands you’d have been into as a teenager - Charlatans, Roses - had weak singers. Tim Burgess didn’t have much of a voice...
"He’s terrible. He can’t sing."
And Ian Brown...
"He had summat. But he didn’t look after it, did he? Or he didn’t want to. You’re only as good as you want to be. If you want to be a good singer, you can be good, if you choose to. I don’t think Tim Charlatan wants to be a good singer..."
So who inspired you to sing like you do?
"The Beatles. John Lennon. You’ve got to say it. Sing it loud. It’s like ‘Live Forever’ - it started off [soft, sensitively], ‘Maybe, I don’t really...’, and I’m like ‘MAYBE...’ ‘Wonderwall’ - ‘Today..’ As soon at it kicks in, it’s my time to shine, I’m in there.."
Which do you think are your best vocal performances on Oasis records?
"‘Cast No Shadow’. ‘Wonderwall’. ‘Hello’. ‘Roll With It’. ‘Champagne Supernova’. I don’t think I’ve done a bad job on any of them. I think I’ve done alright on them all."
Do Noel’s songs still surprise you?
"That’s what gets me out of bed in the morning. He’s top. A fantastic songwriter. He’s the devil, isn’t he, man? You might as well sell your soul. I’d sell it. No one knows where it goes. It’s better than turning into a cat, isn’t it? I’d rather get a few quid for it and a few songs. No one knows where your soul goes. What is a soul? You’ve got a voice, a big dick, or a fucking top pair of trainers. What’s a soul?"
What is there left for you to achieve?
"Kids. Musically - satisfied. Just keep plugging on. I wanted to write one song, and I’ve done that with [John] Squire, which is good. I wanted to write an ‘Imagine’ - like, ‘Don’t believe in this, don’t believe in that.’ I want kids, man. Keep on living."
When do you think you’ll have kids?
"Fuck knows. They’ll have me [laughs]. I don’t know, man. When I get me shit together. I don’t want ‘em yet."
You’ve done a lot for someone who’s 24. Some kids would have only left college two years ago...
"Without sounding arrogant, it fits my ego. I’d feel empty without this success. I’d feel cheated."
Does it feel like a fairy tale?
"It’s pretty weird, isn’t it? I don’t think about all that too much. I get the shakes and it’s like, ‘Stop thinking about it’. You look around and think, ‘What have I got?’ I’ve got 18 grand on my fingers [holds up jewellery-sprinkled hands]."
Do you ever feel like giving any money away?
"I give two grand a-fucking-way every six months. To kids and that. But I’m not giving any to any other fucker. I do me bit for fucking charity. Why should I have to go and sort out a machine in a hospital? But it’s nice to be able to do it?"
Last question. How would you mark your peace of mind out of ten at the moment? "Eleven."
...which, as far as Liam Gallagher-type replies go, is only right. Only one question therefore remains.
"Who’s your favourite member of Oasis?"
"You are Liam."
"It’s your voice."
Which, as far as decent answers go, is even righter.
THE OTHER THREE
"Nice work if you can get it"
And so to the infantry. One of them cries when he hears a good Noel tune, one's been to hell and back, and the other is Oasis' true viruoso. Oh, and two of them formed the band...
"After a show in LA in February ‘95, some guitar fetishist bluffed his way into the dressing room and began to offer his opinions, completely unsought. ‘Man, all you played was, like, A, C, D or G.’ Bonehead’s reply could only be construed as helpful. ‘Listen, dickhead, that might well be all I played, but I’m the one playing it, I’m the one in the band, and you paid to see me do it."
From Oasis: What’s The Story by Ian Robertson
"You always used to see 'em knocking about, but I didn’t hang around with their crowd. The area I lived in and the area they lived in used to be at fucking war with each other, man. It was serious: two mad gangs used to kick fuck out of each other."
Paul Arthurs is remembering his particular patch of South Manchester around the mid-80’s. He speaks, as is his style, in curt, slightly defensive sentences that will always contain at least one emphasised word (often an expletive, as it happens). He smokes - as is Oasis’ in-house rule - Benson & Hedges. And he’s recently moved to the verdant Cheshire suburbs, escorting his wife and daughter to what’s best described as Manchester’s footballer belt.
"So yeah," he concludes, having momentarily lost his thread. "Them two areas hated each other. But I knew who they were." He’s talking, of course, about the twin-headed cultural cyclone who all but define Oasis’ persona. There is more than enough raw material to ensure that Liam and Noel alone can manufacture the requisite levels of superstar intrigue. The synopsis for the eventual bio-pic is surely over-stuffed already - what place for the three figures that hirsute disco prince Peter Stringfellow once labelled "The Tailgunners"?
To omit Bonehead, Paul McGuigan and Alan White from the script, however, would be an act of quite considerable idiocy. Their experiences, after all, provide a neat reflection of the Gallagher brothers’ progress, as proved by a clutch of episodes from the last three years.
When Noel Gallagher called an ad hoc band meeting in a parked tour bus to premiere the songs he had written for ‘What’s The Story...’, it was Bonehead’s reaction that gave the clearest indication of what they had in their hands: having heard ‘Champagne Supernova’, he openly wept. Alan White’s place in Gallagher-centred mythology is amply demonstrated by the occasion when he and Noel sped out of Rockfield Studios, leaving behind the wreckage from the brothers’ worst ever ruck.
And Guigy’s centrality to the story is surely demonstrated by the pivotal gigs that took place at Earl’s Court, lent a tear-jerking resonance on account of his return form a nervous breakdown.
Thus, even in the most cornball reading of the Oasis story, their presence would be assured. Besides, these are the three men who, in a centuries-old rock tradition, have come to supply Oasis with the level-headed, earthed element that all groups must possess if they’re not to implode within minutes of their decisive splashdown.
The Beatles had Ringo. The Rolling Stones had Charlie Watts. The Who had John Entwistle. Noel and Liam Gallagher, fortunately enough, have triple their permitted share - there, surely, lies much of the explanation as to why Oasis have remained intact despite fall-outs that would send most groups spinning towards termination.
In addition, such speculative thinking clouds one concrete fact. Remember, it was Guigs and Bonehead who formed Oasis in the first place.
Guigs is an extremely likeable interviewee; a little shaky at first, but endowed with an ability to recount chunks of Oasis’ history - replete with dates, times and price-tags - in the manner of a soft-spoken raconteur. A fat joint, never offered to the journalist, is glued to his right hand, and he speaks in a measured drawl that never picks up speed, even when his anecdotes are spiralling into hilarity. That he is the member of Oasis whose loyalty to the other four has often led him into violence is hard to believe; this afternoon, in fact, he is about as placid as any member of a world-renowned rock band could conceivably be.
He looks a little more lithe than he has in the past - rid of the weight that appeared in the wake of his breakdown - scrubbed and polished in the manner of the freshly wealthy. He’s married too: resident in London with Ruth, a picture framer who he met on a plane to Japan.
Back, anyway. To Burnage, at the start of the 1990s. To a Friday night enterprise that was at least cheaper than throwing money into the tills of the local pub...
"Me and Bonehead had this band," he remembers. "It wasn’t really a band, actually: it was just three geezers and a drum machine, trying to fucking do something. The geezer we had as a singer was a twat, basically - so we sacked him. He sang things like ‘Wild thing, you smoke a draw’ and fucking things like that. He was a twat. Swung his microphone round and all that. His favourite ever bands were New Order and Joy Division...but he didn’t have any of their records."
The surname of this individual is all Oasis have ever been prepared to give away. He was called Hutton - and history relates nothing of him after his sacking. He was elbowed out, as was only right, by one William John Paul Gallagher - by which time the sprig-headed Tony McCarroll had replaced the drum machine, and the name ‘Oasis’ had replaced the flatly awful ‘Rain’. The true quantum leap, however, continued to elude them.
"We didn’t find our feet for a long time," says Guigs. "What happened then was, we had a drummer - as everyone knows - who no one particularly liked, and the four of us did a gig at the Boardwalk in Manchester as Oasis. September 14th, 1991. I’ve got the poster for it. And it was fucking terrible.
"Anyway, Noel came down to the rehearsal the next Sunday after that, and after about half an hour he said, ‘I’ll go and get me guitar.’ Then he came down and said, ‘Your tunes are shit. I’ll show you some tunes’. Everybody knew he was into playing his guitar and that, but he’d never been in a band in his life. So then he went, ‘Right, I’ll be in charge’."
And, even then, was he convinced that the world would fall at your feet?
"[Pause] I know he thought that if it was going to happen, the only way it was going to happen was if we started grafting, and got our heads proper down. We started rehearsing every day of the week. And that was as well as trying to do day jobs. We spent about 18 months rehearsing. Without doing any gigs. We played every single day of the week: if we were working, we’d rehearse from 6 till 11. If we weren’t we’d go from midday to 10 at night."
"The Stone Roses?" says Bonehead, in response to an inquiry about the group that sired Oasis, only to be superseded by them. "Smoke too much pot, don’t’ they? Or summat like that - I don’t know. Us and them were like chalk and cheese, really. Our attitude is, ‘Right, we’ve got all these tunes, and we’re going to get out and graft and play ‘em to everyone. We want everyone to hear ‘em.’ We’re passionate. So that’s what we do, full on - which is, like you say. Totally opposite to the Roses."
Pride about the songs runs almost as deep in Bonehead as it does in his boss; indeed there are times when he appears to be more evangelical about the Oasis cannon, given that his enthusiasm need not be couched in any kind of humility. They’re someone else’s songs, after all - so why not proselytise about them? Besides, among all the members of oasis, it’s Bonehead who seems to be the most touched by Noel’s gift.
"He showed us ‘Whatever’ very early on," he recalls, "and it freaked me head out when he came in with that. I was like, ‘Nah, you haven’t fucking written that’. But it’s like that now - every time he comes in with a song, it blows my head off."
As with ‘Champagne Supernova’, Bonehead has occasionally admitted that ‘Cast No Shadow’ has the power to make him weep. As, it appears, does at least one of the songs on ‘Be Here Now’.
"The one that sticks out," he says, "is ‘All Around The World’. Before we got signed, we were like, ‘Fucking hell - that’d be a killer single to come out with’. And he was like, ‘Nah, I’m going to save it for the third album, when we can afford strings and get an orchestra in’. We were all laughing, going, ‘We haven’t signed a deal yet - what are you on about, third album?’ But when you hear it now it’s a killer. Having said that, I think ‘Fading Out’ is my favourite."
For ‘Cast No Shadow’ like reasons?
"Yeah. Absolutely. You put it on at 4am and it’s like [deep breath], ‘Fucking hell’."
Bonehead looks out onto the nearby railway line and mutters the kind of sentence that illustrates precisely how awe-struck he can be by the unfathomable ability of Noel’s songs to hit him just there.
"The thing is,’ he says, "there’s just something about the tune..."
"'Wonderwall'. ‘Don't Look Back In Anger’. I was let loose on that one. I’m really proud of ‘D’You Know What I Mean?’, ‘Stand By Me’, ‘All Around The World’. Most of these ones, really."
‘Definitely Maybe’, in retrospect, was a fine example of the only kind of record on which Tony McCarroll could have done a satisfactory job: a debut shot through with goggle-eyed enthusiasm and ambition, true - for the most part - the garage-band blueprint. Once Noel resolved to send his music elsewhere, a more virtuoso approach was bound to be required - which explains why an alarmingly affable 25-year old native of South London (who’s freshly engaged, incidentally) is sitting on the rehearsal studio’s roof, rattling off the performances of which he’s most proud.
It’s understandable, of course. Alan White’s drumming on ‘What’s The Story...’ is one of the key ingredients that give it that air of dizzying progress: ‘Wonderwall’ and ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ are the most obvious examples, and yet even on the superficially straight-laced ‘Roll With It’ and ‘Hey! Now’, his contribution is absolutely crucial. It’s what imbues these songs with newly-acquired panache; the sense that, even if the chord structured and lyrical sentiments remain largely the same, the music has a strikingly fresh, nimble perfection.
Bonehead and Gugs’ contributions tend to be subsumed within the songs’ backcloths; Alan White’s often seem part of the foreground. His colleagues were doubtless aware of it as soon as he played with them - which may explain (in addition to their hatred of McCarroll) why he was welcomed so readily.
"I soon cottoned on," he laughs. "I was the Cockney c*** and they were the Manc fuckers. It was easy, really - as a kind of family unit, it felt really good really quickly. Before I joined I was reading all these things - you know, Liam and Noel are always at one another’s throats. But my brothers used to do that, so it was no big deal."
One rather doubts whether Steve White - drummer with Paul Weller and inspiration to the adolescent Alan - ever beat up his siblings with a cricket bat, argued with them about what time of day it was, or resolved to smash their dearest possessions into small pieces. Whatever, the ease with which Alan has slid into his role is admirable indeed, not least on account of the seismic jobs that he faced from the beginning.
"I did ‘Some Might Say’ on Top Of The Pops," he remembers, "then a gig at Bath Moles [it was Bath Pavilion, actually], and then Glastonbury. That was my second gig [laughs]. After that, it was just steamrolling, so I never really thought about it until the time we had off not long ago, when it all went pear-shaped." Then, pleasantly enough, came a belated revelation.
"I felt fucking brilliant," he enthuses. "Top band, great record, just about to start another one...it’s fantastic." His enthusiasm about this album, needless to say, is overwhelming. Alan White, it appears, is as ecstatic as he probably should be.
"The thing is," he says, "we had time to think about this record. The last one, I was straight in, and I didn’t really know the songs. With this one we had the tape for three months, cos Noel had demoed it in Mustique. I think it sounds a whole lot more together as a band now. I’m happier. Overall, I think it’s fucking... having it."
Mark your current peace of mind out of ten.
"Double happy. Ten out of ten."
"It's difficult to say what was wrong with me, really. It’s pretty weird. I went to see about 15 different doctors and the all gave me a different explanation. At first, I couldn’t even get out of fucking bed; couldn’t stand up or nothing, I was fucked. My body was fucked and my head was gone. Nervous breakdown, my crumbling...whatever you want to call it." In addition to the Gallaghers’ two epochal bust-ups, one key episode has temporarily fractured Oasis’ internal chemistry - when, soon after the release of ‘What’s The Story’, Gugs fell victim to the kind of spirit-sapping stresses that were bound to claim at least one of the group. One Scott McLeod briefly took his place - before absconding in America and joining our friend Hutton in the ‘Who The Fuck Are They?’ file.
"I didn’t know if I’d get better of whether I was ill or what, so I was happy it went on without me," says Guigs. "There was talk of it all stopping cos I wasn’t there, but it’s bigger than that. It was down to me to get me head together."
Was he ever worried about falling out of the band for good?
"[Pause] Course, I was double worried. But not for the sake of not being in the band - more cos these four geezers are me four best mates. And not being able to see them every day was very difficult."
And how’s it been since?
"Top. Everything’s good man. I got some pills for a bit: beta blockers. I’ve got variable blood pressure of summat. Me mum’s got it actually. It’s a hereditary thing. So they gave me some of those, and some other things - Temazepam. Fucking no thank you, a spliff and beer’ll do me very nicely."
Guigs seems to be markedly less pleasure-crazed these days; to have arrived, finally, at something like adulthood.
"Well, we don’t go out every day, which we used to. I think on the first two British tours I didn’t actually get in a hotel bed the whole time. I sometimes got carried up to one and put on it, but I didn’t ever get in one. That’s how it was for everyone, really."
A little while later, as Liam's guitar-playing blares from an open fire escape - basic blues, played pretty well - Bonehead reaches for the last of his Bensons and gropes towards a conclusion.
"We’re still the same people," he says, just as he’s called back to rehearse. "Everyone’s changed in obvious ways - ‘He drives a flash car, he’s got a big house,’ whatever. But all that aside, we’re still the same lads. I was having a bit of a one in the studio once and Noel said to me, ‘Bonehead, man, all it is, is five lads making music. That’s all it fucking is. So get on with it or you’re sacked.’"
"The king of the world"
...well, Planet Rock at least. But there's no regal garb for modern music's man of the people - just a few G&Ts, some pork scratchings and the album we've all been waiting for...
"My missus is fucking bending my ear so I’m going to fucking have to get married, aren’t’ I?" says Noel Gallagher, as his entire face bends into an expression of mock outrage. "Every other c*** had done. They’re all at it. You know what it’s like with birds, right? All their mates, now they’re all married, it’s like [affects prissy voice] ‘Euurgh! I don’t wanna be the odd one out! Euurgh! I can’t be the odd one out, can I?" But the thing is, who’ll be the first to get divorced?"
His brother, sitting close by, says absolutely nothing. Little more than a week later, meanwhile comes the new that gives his superficially joke-laden pronouncement that decisive ring of truth. "Oasis Superstar Noel Gallagher wed fiancee Meg Matthews in a secret ceremony in Las Vegas last night, without a word to his brother Liam," explains The Daily Mirror. "The millionaire rocker said ‘I do’ during a late night, £275 quickie ceremony at the Little Church Of The West. The couple then danced in the aisle as an Elvis Presley impersonator serenaded them with ‘Viva Las Vegas’, ‘Falling In Love With you’ and ‘Love Me Tender’."
So, no flotilla of barges, specially-hired Viennese choir or helicopter salute. Read it again: ‘a late-night £275 quickie ceremony’. Location aside, maybe the eternal everyman strikes again...
Since 1965 or thereabouts the image of the archetypal British rock star has been scratched into the popular consciousness. He is impossibly thin, gifted with ‘hollow cheeks’, and able to ooze a mix of hard-faced assurance and doe-eyed naiveté. A fistful of examples illustrate the point: the young Keith Richards, Jeff Beck, Ron Wood, Jimmy Page, Paul Weller, Johnny Marr. Lately one could probably pick out Bobby Gillespie (non-greasy look preferred) and Bernard Butler.
American women have long swooned over this particular genus; callow teenage boys have stared into bathroom mirrors wondering if they’ve been blessed with the requisite features. Noel Gallagher, needless to say, has been hewn from the same genetic rock as the rest of us. (His brother, if anyone was wondering, fits the breed, with points deducted for unwelcome beard growth). Noel was never really going to rack up awards for his cheekbones. And that, of course, is part of his allure. If Oasis are a People’s Band, conquering the globe but giving the impression they still know how much a pint of milk costs, then Noel Gallagher is the embodiment of that asset.
The best illustration of all this occurs within the opening moments of the There And Then video. We are at Maine Road in April 1996: the introductory helicopter noise is just beginning to subside, and Noel is the first on the stage. His arms go out in a crucifix pose, and he stands stock still, hands wafting up and down, seemingly conducting the applause. Just at the point when he’d start to appear smug, the arms draw parallel, and the does the ‘We are not worthy’ move. As hands-across-the-pit gestures go, it’s faultless.
Much of this, of course, is down to the culture from which he came, what it means for someone from an unremarkable enclave of South Manchester to ascend to the point where he can hold court with anyone. "I meet these kids in the street and they’re shaking," he said in 1996. "But I’m saying, I’m honoured to meet you. It makes me cry. It’s beyond special." Spoken in the kind of voice that dominates Hollywood, these words would sound ridiculous. Rendered in Burnage-ese by someone who once earned a crust by laying floors, they can’t help but seem sincere.
Oasis biogs bulge with the heart-wrenching facets of Noel Gallagher’s pre-fame life: notably the violent father who gave the teenage model of this none-more-confident operator a mercifully-cured stutter. The remnants of that stammer perhaps remain in the fact that Noel now can’t seem to get the words out fast enough. As anyone who has interviewed him will testify, he fills a C90 with the number of words that would ordinarily need one of those audio-shop five-packs.
Whatever happened back in Ashburn Avenue, M19 - contrary to the more romanticised reports there are worse places to grow up in Greater Manchester - the simple facts of Noel Gallagher’s rise are enough to lend his story an affecting drama. Think about it this way: three years ago he was a 26-year-old ex-roadie Beatles obsessive who looked after Oasis’ touring expenses. Roomed with the sound engineer and was convinced - to the point of real evangelism - that they would become the biggest band in the world.
"And the funny thing is," as he told Select last year, "we did it. And it was a piece of piss."
Early in Oasis' progress when they were still being lauded over their skill at stealing golf carts, being ejected from ferries, bringing down European governments and the like, Noel Gallagher tended to get angry. On one much-documented occasion, as his younger brother gloried in his tendency to "get involved in situations", he snapped. "Rock’n’roll is about music," he said. "Music. Music. Music. It’s not about you, it’s not about me. It’s about the songs."
In retrospect, it isn’t difficult to see why Noel Gallagher was so irate. As people flocked to his door to discuss the finer points of offstage horse-play, he was sitting on ‘Live Forever’, ‘Whatever’, most of the contents of ‘Definitely Maybe’ and a song called ‘All Around The World’ that he has occasionally claimed is better than The Beatles’ ‘Hey Jude’. "How much cocaine do you take?" went the average question. In the mind of Noel Gallagher, it was a little like asking Einstein about the last time he’d had his moustache trimmed.
It would be convenient to apply the same improvement curve to Noel’s songs as the one that fits his brother’s vocals; to paint a picture of a talent that snowballed in proportion to the level of shrieking acclaim. The truth is more complicated, for the birthdates of Noel Gallagher’s songs occasionally precede their public unveiling by years. While, for the most part, ‘Definitely Maybe’, ‘What’s the Story..." and ‘Be Here Now’ were written one after the other, Noel still delights in revealing that what appears to be an embodiment of maturity was finished eons ago - as he slouched in the builder’s hut or bedroom where so many of his first songs were written.
Such were the origins of ‘Live Forever’, ‘Slide Away’, and ‘Rock’n’Roll Star’. But the same also applies to ‘Whatever’, ‘Rockin Chair’ (a gleaming B-side on 1995’s ‘Roll With It’ single) and ‘Hello’. And ‘All Around The World’, the reportedly world-beating ballad that acts as the linchpin of ‘Be Here Now’ - it’s on there twice, in full-length and ‘reprise’ form - was written several centuries ago.
That said, the songs have developed in line with Oasis’ experiences. ‘Cast No Shadow’, arguably the most affecting song they’ve released thus far, could never have appeared on ‘Definitely Maybe’. The same applies to ‘Morning Glory’. And when ‘Wonderwall’ and ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ are added to the debate, the idea that ‘What’s The Story...’ had much in common with the first album breaks into small pieces.
The new single represents another ambitious jump: all backwards loops and echo-drenched drums. Noel, however, is prone to claim that this is misleading: that despite renewed concentration on the lyrics, and the opportunities that more time and money afford, the real stylistic step forward will occur when he allows himself the kind of breathing space that prompts stock taking and a considered survey of the wider musical world.
In which case, Noel Gallagher may well have recorded the ‘Revolver’ to 1995’s ‘Rubber Soul’. Who, really, is complaining?
In addition to the quality of his song, Noel Gallagher has two other key sources of artistic pride. The first is that simple fact that he’s so prolific. The ‘D’You Know What I Mean?’ single, predictably, contains a brilliant song that will prompt pub debate about which tune should really have been the A-side (it’s called ‘Stay Young’). It’s author, lest we forget, is the man who decided ‘The Masterplan’ should be a supporting feature to ‘Wonderwall’, that ‘Acquiesce’ should be down the bill from ‘Some Might Say’.
Noel Gallagher’s parallel virtue is his emotional breadth. Though is own voice will be forever associated with the moment at which a stool appears and he demonstrates the contemplative side of his oeuvre, he is as much noise-addict as a balladeer. For every ‘Sad Song’ there is a ‘Headshrinker’; for each ‘Talk Tonight’ a ‘Bring It On Down’. It’s not hyperbolic to suggest that the four tracks on the ‘Some Might Say’ single take in more emotions than some groups manage in a career.
Of course, there are those who zero in on his Achilles heel. The lyrics, we are told, don’t pass muster. The point can be parried on two fronts: firstly, that he’s only written a handful of howlers; and secondly, that he peppers his lapses into doggerel with lined that are tremendously affecting. Thus ‘Roll With It’, though home to some of his worst lines ("You gotta say what you say/Don’t let anybody get in your way") also contains a fine encapsulation of the burnt-out bleakness from which he clearly suffers: "I think I’ve got a feeling I’m lost inside/I think I’m gonna take me away and hide/I’m thinking things that I just can’t abide".
Besides, this is the man who wrote ‘Masterplan’. Taking stock of his creative gift and the bond he shares with his public, without going anywhere near triumphalism: "Take some time to make some sense of what you want to say/And cast your words away upon the waves/And send them home with ‘Acquiesce’ on a ship of hope today/And as they land upon the shore/Tell them not to fear no more." He also wrote lyrical pearlers like ‘Talk Tonight’ and ‘Fade Away’ and ‘Sad Song’...
His other attribute, of course, is his ability to talk. Noel Gallagher has managed to sustain the impression that he loves being interviewed - that to him it’s as integral to his existence as climbing from limousines. So, squinting into the sun and tugging on a stream of Benson & Hedges, Noel Gallagher spends an hour explaining himself. The music that has burst onto the roof terrace all day is now absent: the guv’nor after all, has but down his guitar.
NOEL & LIAM
How would you describe this record? You’ve hinted it sits between the previous two LPs...
"It’s part three of a three-part box set. With a song like ‘D’You Know What I Mean?’, which is one of the last ones we wrote, that’s the one I wanted to sound like ‘Strawberry Fields’, and it came out like fucking Led Zep. That’s a really dense, thick-sounding song. The rest of it’s alright. I’m proud of the songs, but I think me and Owen [Morris] got a bit lazy in the studio. [Craftily] That’s my opinion and I’m allowed to say it - nobody else is. We weren’t taking too many risks."
The single takes a few risks...
"That’s cos the song needed it. But I’m getting a bit bored of the ‘Roll With It’-type song, the ‘Wonderwall’-type song, and summat in the middle. That’s why I was saying, years ago, about doing three albums and having a big re-think, So, I like the songs, but the production’s a bit... bland. Even though I produced it myself.
"There’s songs like ‘Don’t Go Away’ and ‘All Around The World’ that you can’t go mad on, with effects and backwards loops, cos the song doesn’t call for it. But there’s a song called ‘Fading Out’ that’s got loads of backwards slide guitar. There’s backwards drum loops all the way through ‘D’You Know What I Mean?’... I want to write more like Jimi Hendrix and less like The Beatles."
But you’ve said before that you haven’t really got a psychedelic mind.
"That’s true, yeah."
So maybe that’s not what you’re about. You know you’re a great songwriter - might it be that experimentation is a red herring?
"Well, I’ve had this argument when people say we don’t take enough risks, but I mean...I wouldn’t try and experiment for the sake of it, just to get a song and decide six weeks later that all the shit you put on top of it isn’t doing anything for the song and revert to the way it was anyway. Maybe that’s the way I think."
What about lyrically? Did you sit down and try to change your approach for this record?
"Yeah, I like the lyrics on ‘D’You Know What I Mean?’, I like the lyrics on ‘My Big Mouth’ and ‘Stand By Me’. There’s a song called ‘I Hope I Think I Know’ which is a bit [makes fart noise], a bit like ‘Roll With It’ - pie-in-the-sky fucking shit, really. ‘All Around The World’, that’s a bit cheesy. But I definitely took a lot more time over these ones.
"This is the first time I went away to write a record. The last batch of songs [ie ‘What’s The Story...’] were written in London, sat around the house and in the studio and what have you. There were loads of people there, so I tended to write down whatever rhymed, like ‘Fuck it - that’ll do.’ This time I went away.
"I’d like to write darker lyrics. Everybody’s lyrics these days, they’re all too happy - music’s getting a bit boring now. Two years ago, music was really exciting, but now it’s boring again."
Do you think some of the problem is that there’s loads of bands who just want to sound like you?
"Yeah. Yeah. Definitely. I think making great records takes a lot of time, and I think that bands these days aren’t given the time by the record companies. You know, ‘Sgt Pepper’ took a long time to write and record..."
If it was said that single sounds like ‘Second Coming’-era Stone Roses, would that offend you?
[Indignantly] "No. I like ‘Second Coming’. It wasn’t a great album but, looking back on it, it was a pretty good album. I mean, I prefer ‘Second Coming’ to the Seahorses album. John [Squire] seems a bit too happy at the moment."
Aside from all the animosity that’s flowed between you and Blur down the years, did you hear ‘Beetlebum’ when it came out?
[Forcefully] "Yeah. It was alright. It was alright. I’ve not heard the album. That’s the best thing they’ve ever done, that record. I think it’s really good. But I still don’t like them. Especially when he’s going round saying next time he seems me he’s going to twat me [laughs]. Which is fair enough, but he better be prepared to do it next time I see him.
"There’s a lot of people like that knocking about. You read their interviews and they’re giving it this and that. I’d just like to say to them now - they’d better be prepared to say it to my face. Like these idiots from Embrace going, ‘When Noel Gallagher hears our record, he’ll have to get back in the studio and sort it out.’ That c*** better learn to sing before he talks about my fucking records."
So you still read the music press?
"Yeah. Course, yeah. Totally."
You don’t think it’s a world that you don’t have to worry about any more?
"No. I love English pop stars, cos they’re all full of shit. Same as me. I mean, the geezer out of Placebo - he makes me piss myself. He’s fucking hilarious. A lot of it goes back to American bands - as much as I hate people like Damon Albarn [pronounced ‘Alburn’] and him out of Placebo, it’s better than fucking Hootie And The Blowfish."
Do you think one day you and Damon might sit down and say, ‘Alright, Ok...’?
"Probably do it right now if I saw him, go and have a beer. [Pause] But he was saying, when ‘Beetlebum’ came out that he hoped I realised it was closer than I was ever going to get to The Beatles. Which is fair enough, but if he wanted me to hear it, he knows where I live - why didn’t he stick it through the letterbox instead of me hearing it on Radio 1 with Nicky Campbell?"
If the lyrics on ‘Definitely Maybe’ were about wanting to be a rock star, and ‘What’s The Story...’ was about the more introspective element of getting there, where does this one stand?
"The first two albums, the lyrics are a bit...I don’t know anyone called Sally, and I don’t know what a champagne supernova is. I suppose these lyrics are a bit more realistic. A bit more personal."
What’s the single about? There’s a line about getting off a train at dawn...
"‘Going back to the hole where I was born.’ That bit’s about going to see me mam, and it’s still raining in Manchester. Every time you go back there, it still rains. People in Manchester get pissed off cos you say it always rains, but it does.
"The chorus says, ‘I met my maker and I made him cry’. That’s slagging off religion in a way. ‘He asked my why his people wouldn’t fly to him through a storm/ And I said, listen up man, you don’t even know you’re born.’ That’s an Irish Catholic thing. But it’s about preachers too. People who get on their high horse. Someone said about me...I think it was that guy our of Placebo said I wrote kindergarten lyrics, and I must have learned to play guitar out of a Play In A Day book. Which is fair enough - but again, he better be prepared to say it to my face next time he sees me.
[Going off on a tangent] "I always fall for this thing - I pick up the press and there’s this band everyone’s raving on about. So you go and buy the record and it’s shit. It’s like Symposium - what do people see in them? I know they’re young kids and all that, but if you’re on a stage it doesn’t matter how old you are, if you’re shit, you’re shit."
Why did you sit on ‘All Around The World’ for so long? Three years ago you were telling people it was better than ‘Hey Jude’.
"I suppose now is the only time we can get away with having an 11-minute single out at Christmas. We sat on ‘Whatever’ because we didn’t have the money to record it. We did that with an eight-piece orchestra, and this has got a 36-piece orchestra. The full lot. We didn’t have the money to do it last time."
What’s Liam’s performance on this record like?
"The thing about Liam, which I still can’t get me head round at all, is this: I gave him the demo tapes a year ago. It was last May, right. We’d done all our bits for the album and we had two weeks off. Liam was going to sing all the vocals in two weeks. Of course, once I was out of the country he sent and sat in the pub for two weeks. He won’t sing unless I’m there. And then he moans if I moan at him. [Shakes head despairingly] But no, it’s pretty good actually. It’s very good."
Does he have it in him to surprise you, vocally?
"Yeah. Yeah. [Smiling] He surprises me all the time. Every day."
What’s the contribution of the other four to your songs? How much do they shape them?
[At this point Liam briefly reappears] "I never get the fucking credit," he says. "I am the producer."
[Noel picks up the thread] "His [Liam’s] whole contribution to the album for words is, ‘Come on, come on, yeah, yeah, yeah’. No, I put it down with an acoustic to a click track, then go in the pub and let Alan do his bits, and then they add their bits. I put my bits on last. I don’t tell them what chords they are. They’ve got to work it out for themselves these days. They’ve got as much input as they’ve got. When a song’s written, it’s written. It’s finished."
Do you suffer from that Brian Wilson thing of being eternally frustrated because you can’t realise the sound in your head?
"Totally. I think everybody does. And anyone who says they don’t is a lying c***. You’ve got to accept that you’re never going to get a record sounding like ‘Strawberry Fields’. If you think that, you might end up like Lee Mavers. Know what I mean?"
John Lennon said that most of ‘Sgt Pepper’ never got near the sound in his own head.
"No. And he even said ‘I Am The Walrus’ never got near the sound in his head. He must’ve had some mad shit in there! You get close, and you run out of patience, or you run out of time. I’m lazy - a lot of the time I give up and think, I’ll do it right next time, on the next album. I’ve always said I’d never like to record the perfect record, or I’d pack it in. And I don’t want to pack it in."
If you look at a lot of archetypal ‘60s rock stars, when they’ve been at it a while they retreat, become reclusive, have a motorcycle accident or go and live in the countryside. Is that lifestyle ever tempting to you?
[Laughing] "I’ve just bought a house in the country, as it happens. Only because I couldn’t get planning permission for a ten-foot wall round me house in London, so I had to go and buy one in the country with a 50-foot wall."
In the face of all that, for someone in your position, you do go out a lot.
[Laughing] "I know. I know. I like going out. I love going to see bands, I think it’s fucking ace. People have this idea that once you’re a big star you can’t go out. I went to see Travis two nights on the trot, down the 100 Club, and no-one knew who the fucking hell I was. You can go out if you want to and you can stay in if you want to."
Is it strange that wherever you move, within about two hours of you unpacking your tea chests everybody knows?
"I know. It doesn’t annoy me in itself - it annoys me that they’ve got fuck all better to do with their lives than to write about his [Liam’s] wife. Or my girlfriend. I mean, fucking hell. Why don’t they write about me and him?"
[At this point, Liam becomes a permanent presence, pulling a chair to within inches of Noel, and establishing his place in the interview. By the end, the two of them are equal participants, laying on a display of how the partnership works during it’s more rosy phases. Liam dispenses a flurry of one-line contributions that often bring a conclusion to a subject. Noel supplies the verbal meat. He also becomes way more animated, playing for Liam’s laughs.]
Liam: "What was that you were saying?"
Noel: "Why don’t they write about me and you instead of your bird?"
Liam: "I get sick of it, me."
Noel: [Into tape recorder] "Birds are rubbish!"
How often do you get really pissed off with it? With ‘If I got to the newsagent, there might be 12 photographers following me’?
Noel: "When you’ve got a hangover, man, it’s a fucking downer. But we’ve always been seen as these iconic mad rockers since the day we started putting records out, so I don’t know any other way. In fact, if they weren’t following me around I’d probably be phoning the fuckers up saying, ‘Eey’are, I’m going to the shops now for a pint of milk, do you want to follow me?’ I didn’t work this hard to be some anonymous twat from Manchester with a ‘tache and a pair of fucking size-eight trainers, or wearing fucking black nail varnish, making a song called ‘Nancy Boy’. Fuck that for a game of tennis."
Going back to September last year and the events in America - what exactly did happen?
Noel: "We all got pissed and started taking the piss out of each other, somebody smacked some c***, and some body smacked some other c***, and it was all cos we were drunk."
Liam: "Shhh! I said we were arguing over Abba."
Noel: "It was all down to being off your head. In hindsight, I think somebody [smirks] was just waiting for it to go off so they could get off. Me. I thought, ‘I’ll smack some c***, it’ll all go off, and I can go home.’ [Laughs, then adopts serious tone] It was one tour too many. We needed a rest."
Liam: "He’s getting old, man. You can’t have these boys on the road that long."
What was going through your mind on the flight home? How long was it - seven hours?
Noel: "Seven hours?! I was on fucking Concorde, mate! Who d’you think you’re talking to, one of Placebo? The funniest thing is, I was in New York airport and Neil Aspinall walked past. You know, him who used to work for The Beatles? He came over and had a chat. So I was talking to him on the way back, an then...I don’t know, I probably regretted doing it really, because I know it was going to be blown out of all proportion. You get The Sun saying we’d split up, and then they’d actually got us back together again. ‘It was The Sun Wot Dun It’. For fuck’s sake..."
Were you aware just what was waiting for you?
Noel: "When I’d landed, I phoned Marcus on his mobile. He was outside waiting. I asked him, ‘Is there any press?’ He went, ‘Is there any fucking press here? Wait till those doors open.’ The doors opened and it was bedlam. I wanted to go back to America."
The footage of you walking through the airport - you looked miserable beyond words.
Liam: "He’s always like that. He got 11 million in the bank that day. That’s why he was pissed off."
Noel: "People were saying, ‘Look, don’t say anything’. You want to answer all the questions, but you’re like [poker face]. I just went to the pub then. In Chiswick. ‘Two large gin and tonics, some pork scratchings.’ Then I stayed up all night getting off my tits, and then there was a news flash then these lot [points at Liam] were coming through the airport, live on This Morning. Him looking like a proper paraffin man, big beard on, grabbing arses on the way through the airport..."
Liam: "Check this out. Those bastards, my so-called minders...I get off the aeroplane, right. He’s [Noel] in a top house in the fucking country. Guess where these bastards take me? They take me to a fucking graveyard. I’m sitting there with two big meatheads going, ‘What’s all this about?’"
Noel: "He thought he was in Casino where they get the baseball bats out."
Liam: " I was sitting there, thinking, ‘The bastards are going to fill me in’...I went in there [the graveyard], had a fucking egg and bacon sandwich in a fucking graveyard. It was top."
"I didn’t work this hard to be some anonymous twat with a ‘tache and a pair of fucking size eight trainers."
How do you feel about your brother Paul’s book? His profile’s rather increased in the last year.
Noel: "His fucking stomach has. I don’t know about his profile."
Is he a better author than he was a road digger?
Liam: "Road digger. He’s a classic road digger."
Noel: "I wasn’t upset that he did it. I’d rather he got the money than some other people who’ve brought out books."
Were you asked for any endorsement by the Labour Party?
Noel: "Yeah, but it’s not what I’m into."
You pretty much gave them an endorsement at the 1995 Brit Awards.
Noel: "Yeah, but we were off our heads that night. We were talking some right bullshit."
Wouldn’t they have worried about having you on board anyway?
Noel: "Totally. Imagine that - if the newspapers saw me and Tony Blair coming out of a bog, even though we’d only been for a piss. Imagine that! [Laughs]. Some fucking questions to be answered there, wouldn’t there?"
What are the best songs you’ve written thus far? The one’s we’d send to an alien civilisation?
Noel: "‘Live Forever’. ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’. ‘Wonderwall’. ‘Champagne Supernova’. ‘The Masterplan’. ‘Magic Pie’."
Liam: "‘All Around The World’."
Noel: "‘All Around The World’. ‘Supersonic’. ‘Listen Up’. Most of ‘em really."
What is there left to achieve?
Noel: "I just want to carry on making great records. To not become shit."
Liam: [Tenderly] "It’d be nice to have kids..."
Noel: "Nah, fuck that. I’ve got two cats."
When were you last back in Manchester?
Noel: "About three months ago, to see me mam. It’s easier to bring her down here. As soon as you go back there, someone’s on the phone to the Manchester Evening News, and they come round saying, ‘Ooh, what are you doing back in Manchester?’ It’s like I said before - we don’t give a fuck about the press, it’s the people around us. You shouldn’t have your mam going through that. She’s had enough shit in her life."
Have you thought about buying her a house somewhere else?
Liam: "I did - 170 grand and she didn’t want it. She said [Irish accent], ‘Can you not buy me a kettle or something?’"
Does going home trouble you to any extent?
Noel: "I always think you’re going to get shot."
Liam: "I do and all."
Noel: "I always think a load of thugs from Moss Side are going to be driving past in a car, going, ‘There’s that c*** out of Oasis’. And they’ll get out and beat your head in, pinch your watch or shoot you in the foot or summat. That’s what worries me about that city.
"Imagine me and him walking through the Arndale Centre! Walking through C&A! ‘Got any underpants, mate?’"
Y-fronts? Boxer shorts? Who d'you think you're talking to? One of those anonymous fucking twats from Manchester with a ‘tache and a pair of fucking size-eight trainers? That guy from Placebo?
Noel Gallagher and his brother couldn’t help but wave bye-bye to such workaday scenarios a long, long time ago. True, in contrast to many of the plastic-faced ghouls with whom they occasionally mix, their world still takes in such reassuring reference points as Stella Artois, trips to the cornershop and egg-and-bacon sandwiches - but they are also geared in to considerations that the man in C&A will never have to address. Like ‘Be Here Now’. And what happens then. And where they want to arrive soon after.
"I just need more time to think about where the band’s going," says Noel, a man from Manchester with no ‘tache and a lovely pair of size-sixes.
"Shit’ll happen when shit happens," Noel Gallagher smiles, "and if shit doesn’t happen there’ll be no shit happening."