Noel Gallagher - NME - 31st October / 7th November 1998
"It's half-one," says Noel Gallagher. "The Italians will be here."
The Italians, it seems, are exchange students. Once their classes are over, they routinely troupe along to Noel Gallagher's house and then proceed to stand outside. As afternoon recreation goes, it's hardly action-packed. If Noel's going out, they'll get to see him walk down the path, out of the front gate and into a waiting car. If he isn't, they'll have to make do with a fleeting glimpse of the man who writes the songs in Oasis should he come down to make a coffee, perhaps, or maybe tend to the desires of Benson and Hedges, the two conspicuously well-fed cats who slink around the business areas of what must constitute feline heaven: a large garden, lots of comfy furniture, plus a huge fish tank built into one of the living room walls. "I've tried writing songs in there," Noel nods, "but it doesn't work. I just end up spending hours starring at the fish."
All of which assumes Noel's at home in the first place. It's not as if this five storey property on an unremarkable, if obviously well-heeled, Primrose Hill street is his only residence. There's the Home Counties country mansion - infamously complete with five-a-side football pitch - and then the most recent addition to the Gallagher real estate profile, a cosy wee castle in Spain. Except it isn't a castle.
"You may have read about it in The Sun," the owner smiles, "but I can assure you it's not a castle. It's just a house."
A house with it's own swimming pool, mind, paid for by the bonus royalties accruing from Rod Stewart's cover of "Cigarettes & Alcohol". The recipient is suitably appreciative.
"I'd like to say now - thanks for the swimming pool, Rod."
Noel rummages in the fridge for some milk. He hasn't been around Supernova Heights much lately, isn't sure what's available by way of refreshments. Eventually some instant coffee is rustled up and he leads the way to the top floor which, as well as affording the statutory impressive views of central London, houses a fully-fledged recording studio. It's here that Noel's been working on the demos for the next Oasis album.
"Thing is," he chuckles, gesturing towards the various gizmos, "I don't really know how any of it works. I have to get mates around to show me."
This stymies one element of our quest. We are here to discuss "The Masterplan", the new Oasis album of old Oasis songs, the compilation of B-sides oft discussed in misty-eyed, hypothetical terms in pubs across the land, invariably upon utterance of the immortal words: "Anyway, "Acquiesce" should have been the A-side." The initial premise was to listen to each track, consider their merits (or otherwise), then revel in whatever memories they evoke. But unfortunately, Noel hasn't got a tape deck in his recording studio - or at least, one he knows how to work.
So we're falling back on the Gallagher memory bank, which by the host's own admission is impressive in scope but prone to get things mixed up. As regards the existence of the album itself, Noel is ambivalent.
"I'm not really sure if it's the right thing to do, because sometimes when I see these things I think it looks a bit of a con."
To soothe any lingering pangs of conscience, Oasis fans were invited to vote for their favourite B-sides on the Internet, and the most popular selections would comprise the tracklisting (as far as Noel can recall, the top three punters' choices were "Acquiesce". "I Am The Walrus" and "The Masterplan"). T o these were added some of the band's preferences - "Stay Young" is on the LP only because Liam rang up Noel in a strop after it was initially excluded; "The Swamp Song" got nul points from the kids but the bloke who wrote it reckons it's top, so there it is - and the de rigeur pretentious sleeve artwork to complete a nice little Christmas present for Alan McGee and a handy money-saver for Americans forced to hunt down UK singles on import, not to mention a heady romp down memory lane for everyone else.
"I don't believe people can go into a studio and record B-sides," Noel ponders. "It's either a good song or a bad song. And I never intend to write a bad song! The only time I've really sat down to write a B-side I wrote "Cast No Shadow", which was supposed to be a B-side but it ended up really good. There's a bit at the end of "Cast No Shadow" when someone says down the mic really quietly, 'Tha'll do for a B-side'. So we had to take that out when it came to put it on the album."
So "Cast No Shadow" isn't on "The Masterplan". Nor, strangely, is "Round Are Way". But "The Masterplan" is, along with 13 others. Noel has his non-furry Benson & Hedges at the ready and his brow furrowed at the prospect of an old-skool track-by-track run-down of his Greatest Hits That Weren't. We begin, with impeccable logic, at the beginning of Side One...
Acquiesce (B-side of "Some Might Say", released April 24, 1995. Held by many to be superior to the A-side, Oasis' first Number One. The first and, as yet, only Liam/Noel duet.)
"I was on the train travelling up to meet the rest of the band (at Loco Studios in Wales), 'cos I was the only one living in Lodon at the time. And the train stopped, I think it might have been in the Severn Tunnel, leaf on the track or something. I had my guitar with me, and I just picked it up and started strumming away on the train. These are the days before we were travelling first class, of course! I remember it being pretty late at night, and I was sat in the smoking section. Maybe about another five people on the train. I got to the chorus and I was progressively getting louder and by the time we'd been sitting in this tunnel for about 40 minutes people were starting to go: 'Tut! Do you mind?! We're getting bored here, can you stop playing?'"
"But by the time I'd got there I'd worked out the arrangement. We went to the studio and I made the lyrics up on the spot, really. We went back to America, and I got a call from McGee, seven in the morning, and he's going (adopts not wholly authentic Glaswegian accent), 'Och Noel, I've just heard "Acquiesce", it's got to be a single'. And I'm going, 'F*****g not now mate, I've got a really bad head, not now'. He went into this big rant about it and sand it down the phone, really badly. And I'm thinking, 'F*****g hell - it sounds shit!' So we had this argument. I'm going, 'Well, I think "Some Might Say" is a better song', and he's going, 'Well, I think "Acquiesce" is'. But I suppose I was just being a stubborn c**t, ' cos he's from the record company and I'm from the band and if he wanted it then I was gonna do the opposite."
"Liam couldn't sing the chorus for some reason. I think he was drunk or something, but he couldn't get the high notes. So I decided to sing it. When the record came out everyone was going, 'It's a song about Liam', and that I was saying that we need each other, we believe in one another - which was total f****g bullshit. It wasn't about that, but 'cos he was singing the verses and I was singing the choruses people were like: 'Oh God man, the two brothers are, like, sharing their love for each other, even though they hate each other. It's just like, wow, they're bonding on record'. Haha! So we went along with that for ages!"
For a couple of years, "Acquiesce" was the first song in every Oasis set, enhancing its mythical status no end.
"It was weird when we first started doing pretty big gigs in America. There'd be an uproar when we came on, then we go into this song and everyone would go: 'What the f***'s that?!' 'Cos you're supposed to do your big song first. Liam comes on and just goes, "Acquiesce"! (Adopts highly convincing stoned American dude voice) 'Hey man, the guy just said Acquiesce"...'Looking back, it should've been a single."
The title apparently derives from a question Noel was asked during an interview.
"I didn't know what it meant. The person described as when the Pied Piper took all the kids out of the city, playing his flute like the geezer out of Jethro Tull, all the kids were experiencing acquiesce. And I was like, 'That's ridiculous, I thought it was the drink!' But it was good, 'cos it confused Liam. Hahaha! 'What's a f*****g acquiesce?' 'It's a new car by Volkswagen. F*****g great, you wanna get yourself one'."
It's become a big song, hasn't it?
"We had to drop singles (from the live set) in order to keep that one in, just because the place would go f*****g ballistic when we played it. I think it's one of the better songs. If I had my way again I'd rerecord it ' cos it sounds really thin to me and I'd don't like the guitar sounds. And of course, the drumming's not much cop. Allegedly. Your honour. But, yeah, a good way to open the album."
Underneath The Sky (B-side of "Don't Look Back In Anger", released February 19, 1996. Distinctive guitar sound created by playing through a Leslie cabinet. Opening line: "Underneath a sky of red there's a storyteller sleeping alone")
"When you go in those bookshops at airports they have these little books, like 'The Tiny Book Of Wisdom', and there was a book of travellers' quotes, and most of the lines are adapted, that's adapted, from one of them. Not stolen! Poems by travellers, by people who travelled the world. And as we were travelling around the world at the time..."
"It's one of my favourite songs. There's a piano solo in there, and Bonehead's playing the top half and I'm playing the bottom half. And of course, we're both pissed. It must have been the longest take for a piano solo ever, ' cos the pair of us are sat on this stool together, and we're slipping off all over the place. I think it might be slightly out of time as well. I only play two notes but because I'm in charge I had to have the lion's share of the stool! 'Listen mate, I'm having at least 60 per cent of this stool, and you're getting your rhythm guitarists's 40 per cent...'!"
Talk Tonight (B-side of "Some Might Say". Noel's account of his notorious Vegas-to-'Frisco-with-all-the-drugs AWOL experience during Oasis' first American tour. Famously loathed by Liam.)
"It's a true story, really. Liam f*****g hated it at first, and I remember him saying in an interview that I was singing it with an American accent. Which just shows you how strung out on drugs he was at the time. I went to San Francisco, 'cos I'd left the band at that point and I was, well, I don't know what I was doing. I was just off me f****g head. And I met this chick and she sorted me head out, really. Actually, she ended up grassing me up to the record company, 'cos they were all looking for me, so she told them where I was and they came to get me!"
"Then we recorded it in f*****g Texas of all places. Two takes. The bits I like are where I take me watch off at the beginning and start coughing - it sounds really honest. It's quite a sad song but it's quite uplifting as well."
It seems unlikely now that an Oasis fan could hand out with you long enough to invite you back to their place for a soft drink. This seems quite a reclusive life.
"The reason why I don't live here so much is because sometimes it really becomes unbearable. We've been burgled here twice. We nearly got cleaned out one day. We've had the windows put in. It's usually every time I'm on live radio or live television, drunk, and I say something about summat or another. The last time it happened was when I was on 'Fantasy Football', and I said summat about Romanians. Little did I know that there's a load of Romanians living in the block of flats up the road."
"Some of the fans are alright, some of them just wanna come and get your autograph and have a chat. And that's cool, but you get the ones who think you've got the answers to all their problems, the ones that have run away from home and all that. And you feel sorry for them, but what can you f****g do? I can't help everybody. And if you help one person I suppose you've got tot help them all."
"Then you get the ones about two or three in the morning as they're coming back from the pub. 'Alright Noel, mad for it!' 'Are you?' 'Yeah, mad for it!' They come round with beer, going, 'We've just come round for a beer...' 'Oh, just come in!' D'you wanna stay?! D'you wanna bacon sandwich?!' I always used to read people moaning about the fans and I always thought, 'You moaning c**t, what's up with you? Just get on with it'. But I sort of understabd now. I was recording in here last week and the amount of times I walked down the f*****g stairs. I mean, people had been there for hours in the pissing rain and you feel obliged to go and sign their albums. A mate was going, 'Why don't you just ignore the door?' And I'm going, 'Well frankly, it would be hard to play without the equipment they paid for!'"
Don't you regret making yourself so visible then? This is the house, after all, with a sign over the front door proclaiming itself Supernova Heights.
"Oh, that's drugs again for you, mate. I shall have the biggest house in Primrose Hill! I've calmed down now, kicked it on the head, it got too much and it's too boring for me now. But last year and the year before it was just f*****g mental. We were going to have a flag on top of the house, we were going to have it at half-mast when we weren't here, shit like that. Our manager would go, 'Just calm down, you don't know what you're letting yourself in for'. Naming your house is basically just out of being into drugs. I was actually going to get a blue plaque put up as well: Noel Gallagher Lives Here Now! Instead of having one when I'm dead. Actually they'll probably have one outside the off-licence round the corner."
Going Nowhere (B-side of "Stand By Me", released September 27, 1997. Significantly, one of only two "Be Here Now"-era inclusions. Another Noel lead vocal.)
"That one's off "Stand By Me", isn't it? The other two, "(I Got)The Fever" and, er, thingy (he means "My Sister Lover"), they're the ones I like the least. That was when we were like, 'Oh f**k, gotta write some B-sides'. They were just f*****g bashed together, couple of chords and a chord change. Which I hate doing, because it's selling yourself short, really, and it's not fair on the people who buy the records. But "Going Nowhere" is one of the better ones out of that period of time. It's actually a very, very old song, from when I was heavily into Burt Bacharach. I wrote that just after we got the record deal. I was going down to ondon to see McGee - me, Liam and Bonehead, I think actually, I'm not sure if they helped out on the lyrics of that. They might have done, I can't remember."
"Yeah. No, they didn't. They definitely didn't. I remember now! It was all me! If it is about anything, it's just about what we were going to do when we were all millionaires. "Gonna get me a motor car..." And cleverly rhymed with the word 'Jaguar'! I used that in "Step Out" as well. Will anyone notice? Nah, will they f**k! Then we binned it for ages."
Any particular reason why Liam doesn't sing it?
"I don't think we were getting on really well. He came down to do the backing vocals, and I didn't like what he was doing and then he subsequently called me a c**t, and then I called him a c**t, and then he walked out of the studio, and that was it. So I said, 'Right, we're taking them off for a start!' I'm not sure whether he likes the song or not. He probably doesn't, that's why he doesn't sing it. If Liam doesn't like it, he doesn't sing it, it's as simple as that. Or if there's something more important going on, like a pub crawl, then he won't do it. Bless him. Lager before music."
Fade Away (B-side of "Cigarettes & Alcohol", released October 10, 1994. A highlight of early British tours. Mystifyingly, did not appear on "Definitely Maybe". Melody allegedly bears a passing resemblance to "Freedom" by Wham!)
"That was a real, real early one from the days when we rehearsed down at the Boardwalk. I think people got on the line, "While we're living the dreams we have as children fade away". Which is quite true, really. It was a live thing in the studio and Liam just overdubbed his vocals, and these are the days before I turned into Jimmy Page and tried to do a guitar solo over every bit where there's no singing. So there's no guitar solo on it, which is cool. Sounds great when Liam sings it. It used to be f*****g amazing live."
"People were, I wouldn't say pissed off, but pretty surprised when it wasn't on the first album. I don't know why it never made it. I was listening back to it the other day and it's a pretty raucous song. It would be nice to put it back in the set, actually, but because most of the people that come to the gigs now, well they just wanna hear "Wonderwall", we'd be playing it in silence to a load of people going to the bar."
The Swamp Song (B-side of "Wonderwall", released October 30, 1995. Born out of rehearsals with new drummer Alan White, a jam on a riff sounding not too dissimilar to Canned Heat's "On The Road Again")
"At the beginning you can hear a crowd noise, and "Swamp Song" was the first track we played at Glastonbury. So we took the drums from the Glastonbury performance, 'cos it was the right pace, and then we just overdubbed all the guitars. I think I played bass. And the guitar on it is by Paul Weller. He'd come down to play the solo on "Champagne Supernova". So we thought, 'Might as well get our money's worth out of him'. And he plays the mouth organ as wello. It's one of my favouries, actually, but everyone was dead against putting it on this album."
"It's just a jam, really. It was called, for ages, "The Jam". Totally inspired title. So then when Paul played on it, we thought, 'We'd better change that'. So when we changed it he said, 'How come you've changed the title?' I said, 'I thought it would sound a bit corny'. And he went, 'No, I really liked that title!' For the life of me, I don't know why we called it "The Swamp Song"..."
I Am The Walrus [live Glasgow Cathouse, June 1994] (B-side of "Cigarettes & Alcohol". Perennial set-closer back when Oasis didn't do encores, then subsequently an encore itself. Not, in fact, recorded at Glasgow Cathouse in June 1994, or indeed, at any other time)
"Well now. I'll tell you what happened with this, and nobody knows this story. We went up to do the Gleaneagles Hotel Sony Seminar. It's one of them shit things where all the twats in suits get together and they roll on the new signings."
To entertain them...
"And oh f**k me, did we entertain them! So we were doing the soundcheck, and we did "I Am The Walrus". There was no-one there, it was empty. So that song was actually recorded at a soundcheck in Gleneagles, right? And I'm going to get in trouble for saying this, but the crowd noise was taken from a Faces bootleg album! Because it would look shit if you put 'Live at Sony Seminar in Gleneagles'! We had a version of it from the Cathouse in Glasgow, which sounded quite similar but it was f*****g rubbish. So we thought, 'F**k it, no-one'll f*****g know'. But I always meant to set the record straight one day. Sorry to anyone who bought it on the premise of being at that gig."
"It was an absolutely empty hall. At the beginning Our Kid's going, 'Doesn't matter if it's out of tune, because you're cool'. I was pissed as an arse. It was ten in the morning when we got there and I had to do these interviews with all these Sony people from around the world going, 'So how does it feel being signed to Sony?' And we were going, 'But we're not, we're signed to Creation, aren't we?' And then, of course, it dawned on us that somebody hadn't bothered to tell us, 'Well, no, actually you're signed to Sony but you're licensed to Creation'. We were going, 'But you f*****g told us we were signed to Creation!' And McGee's going, 'But it's the same thing!' And we're going, 'It's not. Does it we get more money?' 'Probably' 'Oh well, that's fine then.'"
"But it used to be great playing it, because Liam would walk off first, then I'd put my guitar down and leave all the effects on, saying to the rest of the band, 'Keep it going for as long as possible'. Just so me and Our Kid could drink the two bottles of champagne we used to get on our rider! By the time the band would get back me and him would be sat there f*****g pissed as arseholes. They'd say, 'Where's the champagne, mate?@, and we're hiccuping! 'We've f*****g drunk it, haven't we!' Bonehead would be well pissed off. So what used to happen at subsequent gigs was it'd be arace to see who could finish first. I'd put my guitar down, then Bonehead would play a chord and put his guitar down, so it would leave the drummer and the bass player. And because the drummer and bass player were a f*****g useless pair of c***s at that time they could never nod when to finish it properly. So it used to go on for f*****g ages! The we started getting three bottles of champagne on the rider and Bonehead would have one. The three of us sitting there, slaughtered, going, 'Come on now lads, keep it going for another two minutes and maybe the drugs'll have turned up and they'll be gone as well'. Hahaha!"
What was the longest you ever played it?
"I think there's a 19-minute version somewhere. We done a festival in Belgium. We'd all been out the night before, and we were on before Simple Minds. Simple Minds. Yes. There was a catwalk for Jim Kerr to walk up and down on, as he does. And it was just a really shit vibe, so we done four songs and a 19-minute version of "I Am The Walrus" and got off, 'cos we all had shit hangovers. We just said to them, 'Whatever you do don't finish until the 40-minute time limit'. I think Paul Weller might have come into the dressing room and siad, 'Your band's onstage, playing'. And I goes, 'Too f*****g right they are mate! D'you wanna drink?! Have some champagne!'"
For the umpteenth time in the past two hours, Noel Gallagher spreads his hands pleadingly and offers the same two-word explanation. We've just concluded our dissection of his flipside, as detailed in "The Masterplan", the album that confirms what everyone already suspected: now and again those crazy Oasis guys stuck some of their best songs as extra tracks on singles.
During Side One, Noel confessed that the version of The Beatles' "I Am The Walrus" supposedly recorded at the Glasgow Cathouse in front of a beered-up mob was actually recorded at a soundcheck for the Sony seminar in Gleneagles in front of absolutely no-one; the crowd noises featured were actually nicked from a Faces bootleg album.
Then he struggled to explain the wanton rock star hubris which not only led him to call the house in which we are sat Supernova Heights, but very nearly resulted in an Oasis flag being hoisted from the roof and lowered to half-mast whenever Noel and Meg weren't in. Only the advice of his seriously canny (and sober) manager prevented this burglar's beacon appearing above Primrose Hill.
And now we're at the end of the album, but still Noel has cause to smile a faintly rueful smile. It concerns the sleeve to "The Masterplan", which, following in the long and dishonourable line of hamfistedly pretentious Oasis artwork, features a small boy ("who sort of looks like me," says Noel) at the head of a classroom full of teachers. The boy is pointing to a blackboard, on which we see the musical notation for the song "The Masterplan". Teaching the teachers the masterplan. Mmmmm.
"All down to drugs, I'm afraid," says the man who is ultimately responsible, before adding, "and I apologise profusely for it."
Apology accepted, young man. Provided, of course, you now put the needle on the record and return us to the beginning of Side Two. For we have a further seven songs upon which to ruminate. We demand another anecdotal avalanche of tales from yesteryear about Our Kid, getting steaming drunk, the incomparable virtuosity of Bonehead, going mad and, err, brackets. Most of all, we need to know: which one's Benson and which one's Hedges...?
Listen Up (B-side of "Cigarettes & Alcohol", released October 10, 1994. A great song, but then seeing as it essentially comprises the intro to "Live Forever" followed by the chords for "Supersonic", it was bound to be.)
"That's one of my favourites. I remember writing the lyrics in the kitchen at Maison Rouge [recording studio on Fulham]. I was living in Chiswick at the time, while the rest of them were at the Columbia Hotel. So I went home early, about 8pm to write some lyrics. So everyone said, 'Right, midday tomorrow'. I got there at 11.30am, started messing around with these lyrics. An hour goes past, then another, and another, and another. They trun up at 8pm looking like they've still been up. It was the night they got barred from the Columbia for f*****g decimating the gaff. So I spent eight hours in the kitchen at Maison Rouge writing lyrics, and I've never forgiven them for that. Although I suppose it worked out well in a way 'cos the ones I had at 11.45am were f****g dreadful. But I like the line, "I don't believe in magic 'cos life is automatic". I think it means something but I'm not quite sure what."
"I remember Liam going, 'That f*****g guitar break's too long, 'cos nothing happens and it's the same riff going round and round and round.' And 'cos I'm a stubborn c**t I was going, 'No, it's right.' And then when I was mastering it the other day, four years after the fact, I decided he was right in the first place, so I edited four bars out! He was round our house the other day so I played it to him and he went, 'D'you know, that sounds better than the original.' I went, '(Cough). Yeah I edited it...' He went, 'You f*****g what?' 'I edited four bars out'. He went, 'WHAT? AFTER ALL THESE F*****G YEARS NOW YOU'RE ADMITTING YOU WERE WRONG??!!' I said, 'I never said I was wrong. I'm just saying I wasn't right at that particular time.' Heheh! So, he thinks I'm a c**t now."
"It was one of the ones people voted for a lot. When I was listening to it, before I edited the bit out that makes it a good 40 seconds to a minute shorter, I can see now that was the start of the prog rock phase where I was gonna just chuck guitar solos over everything, because I'd a brand new guitar that day, and by golly I'm gonna use it. So that's the start of my axe-wielding days, I think."
So presumably the fact that you've edited it now means your prog rock days are over?
"Yeah, well I've written five songs lately. And I've done no backing vocals because I'm sick of singing backing vocals live. I've been listening back to some of the live stuff and I don't know what it is but my backing vocals are shit. I've actually realised I can't sing! After four years I've gone, 'I'm not very good at that, really, am I?' So I'm not doing any harmonies on the demos I've done. And obviously, if I don't do any harmonies it means Liam's got to turn up for the gigs, because I won't have a microphone! But I've never considered myself to be a good guitarist. I mean, I can blag it. And there's some good stuff on "Live Forever" and "Slide Away" that I like, and the stuff that I do live on "Champagne Supernova" I like, but I'm sorta getting a bit pissed of with playing the guitar. Especially being a lead guitarist. I look at Bonehead sometimes and think, 'You f*****g jammy c**t. Standing there going like that [does cruelly accurate mime of Bonehead's inimitable why-play-two-chords-when-one-will- do guitar style], while I have to concentrate."
"I always end up playing the same guitar solo over different songs and hoping no-one will notice, but one guy on the American tour said, 'Hey man, I just love the way there's a whole thread to everything that you do.' And I'm going, 'How's that then?' He says, 'It's the same solo in every song, isn't it? Is that some sort of subliminal message?' I'm going, 'No, it's not, I think if you listen closely, man, it's not exactly the same'...And he's going, 'I think it is...' Bastard! Rumbled!"
Rockin' Chair (B-side of "Roll With It", released August 14, 1995. The lonesome organ and dainty guitar-picking betray Noel's love of Johnny Marr. One of Liam's greatest vocal performances)
"I think that was an early one as well. Like a lot of the early ones it's about wanting to leave home. "This town holds no more for me..." I must have wrote it in Manchester. The song's about wanting to be somewhere else. Again, it mentions the telephone as a lot of my early songs do. And the rain. The rain and telephones. I think we played that one live once, the first date of the British tour when Guigs couldn't be bothered getting out of bed 'cos he had his nervous exhaustion, and we had Scott in the group, briefly. I think we played it on the first night and then sacked it after that 'cos the chorus was too high for Liam."
"It was gonna be on the album, and then I wrote something else. I think it was "Wonderwall". So it was "Rockin' Chair" or "Wonderwall". Imagine if "Wonderwall" had been a B-side! We wouldn't be sat here now, I tell you that. We'd be in the f*****g Falcon in Camden, going, 'have you got any money for a beer, Keith, and then I'll tell about my new record?' I think I made the right choice. Rod Stewart's done a cover of "Rockin' Chair". I'd like to hear it."
What did you make of his version of "Cigarettes & Alcohol"?
"It's alright. At one point they wanted us to go and play on it. And they wanted us to do that 'Audience With Rod Stewart' [TV programme]. The producer said, 'They're gonna reform The Faces, him, Kenny Jones and Ronnie Wood, and they want you to go and do "Cigarettes & Alcohol" with The Faces.' Of course, I was f*****g well up for it, until I found out that f****g wotsit, f*****g Baby Spice was gonna be on it. F*****g no way! No, no, no! So I decided to watch it on telly. Me mam likes it. Liam f*****g hates it. But he would do, wouldn't he?"
And the other covers of your songs?
"Well, the other day, I was in one of those little record shops behind Virgin on Oxford Street, and there was this bloke behind me, 6ft 2ins, bald head, and I can feel him looking at me. He comes up with his wife and goes, 'Sorry to bother you, you don't know me, but I covered one of your songs once.' I thought he was a busker, or summat, and I was going, 'Oh, right mate.' And it's Mike Flowers! He's going, 'I'd just like to say thanks for letting us put it out.' I was going, 'Phhfftt! Don't you worry about it mate, just f*****g thanks for the cheque!' That's the only time I've ever met him. And he's bald, I'll have you know! Bald as a coot!"
"But the funniest story about the "Wonderwall" thing was, we were in America, and the fella who played it [ie. Mike Flowers' version] for the first time, I think it was Dave Pearce on Radio 1, he was doing a spoof saying that was the original of "Wonderwall". So I get a phone call off the wife. And it's another one at 7am, and I'm like, 'What do you want at this time?' She's going, 'You know that song you wrote for me?' 'Yeah...' 'Well it's not even one of your songs, is it?' I was going, 'What are you f*****g going on about?' She says, 'Listen to this' - and she's taped it off the rdaio! She's going, 'That's the original.' I said, 'Play that again!' Then she sent the tape over and eventually we found out what it was. But for a minute I was going, 'Did I? Maybe I did!' She was well pissed off for about an hour-and-a-half. 'No, honestly, I did write about you...!"
Half The World Away (B-side of "Whatever", released December 19, 1994. Bacharach-styled acoustic melancholia featuring Bonehead on Wurlitzer. Covered live by Paul Weller.)
"Another one about leaving cities. Doesn't mention telephones or rain, though, does it? It could do. We done that the same day as we did "Talk Tonight" in Texas. The drumming bit that comes in on the brushes, our ex-drummer had these two brushes which he was looking at and going, 'What do they do?' 'Well you do that with that one and you play it like that...' And after about two hours I got annoyed with him and threw him out of the studio. So I played the drums on that track, and the bass. I like some of the lyrics: "Scratching around in the same old hole/My body feels young but my mind is very old...""
"It's Weller's favourite Oasis song. I don't know why. He likes all the B-sides. He's well looking forward to this album coming out, actually. I said, 'Well I hope you go out and buy it, Paul.'"
(It's Good) To Be Free (B-side of "Whatever".) Features the ever-versatile Bonehead in jolly jack tar accordion incident towards the end. Note gratuitous use of brackets in title.)
"Done that one in Texas as well. I'd been in Las Vegas, strung out for four or five days. I wrote that there. That's one of my favourites. "Just the little things make me so happy/All I want to do is live by the sea". I suppose I was thinking mentally I'd freed myself, me off my f*****g tits on drugs, by the way. It was shit at that time on that American tour, I remember it being f*****g horrible. 'Cos we were in the position of blowing it big time. We were only playing little clubs at the time, 1500 people. The gig at The Whiskey was shit. Everyone was just going mad, me included. Somebody put out a setlist for me from the previous British tour. So I was going into these songs and everyone else was going into a different one. The gigs were f*****g buzzing and sold out, 'cos we were this new, y'know, [adopts Artie Fufkin whine] 'These dudes are like a cross between The Beatles and the Sex Pistols...' And we were like The f*****g Troggs, man."
"The bit at the end is off 'Captain Pugwash'. 'Cos Bonehead can play the accordion, he used to play it in some Irish band he was in, and we recorded it on a little Walkman. God knows why we put that on at the end, but it still makes me laugh when I hear it."
Why do people put brackets in song titles?
"I've often wondered that, and that's why I do it - 'cos I don't know. See like on "(What's The Story) Morning Glory?" there [points to a jewel-encrusted disc on wall]? I thought, 'Well everyone's gonna call it 'Morning Glory' anyway', so I started doing it just because I didn't know why people do it. I've done it loads of times now. If you take the brackets away it's called 'To Be Free', which makes absolutely no f*****g sense whatsoever. It's like, they think I'm some f*****g thicko from up north, well I'll show them. Heheheh! I don't know why I do it, but there'll be plenty more. I'm thinking of the album title to be all in brackets and nothing outside them. Just call it 'The Bracket Album'!"
Stay Young (B-side of "D'You Know What I Mean?", released July 7, 1997. The first song recorded at the "Be Here Now" sessions. Controversially 'flipped' by Radio 1, who deemed its breezy good vibes preferable to the A-side's length and alleged 'weirdness'. Hence, perhaps, not regarded too fondly by its author.)
"That was actually going to be on "Be Here Now" but it got ditched in favour of...I don't f*****g know. But anyway, I got a phone call off Liam. And I never get a phone call from Liam unless it's a problem. Meg's going, 'Liam's on the phone.' And you have to go, '[Muttering under breath] C**t.' Then, ' [Extravagantly friendly] ALRIGHT MATE!' '[Threatening Liam voice] Why's f*****g 'Stay Young' not on that album?' 'Um, I was gonna put it on.' 'Right, that's alright them...' So he wanted it on, 'cos he likes it. But I don't. I suppose people like it because it says, "Hey, stay young and invincible". And, "Come what may my faith's unshakeable'. I like that line. But it's a bit happy, it's a bit of a jolly pop song. And I don't really like the way it sounds, either. But if other people like it, and if Liam likes it, then it must go on. And on it went. But that'll be the one I'll be skipping past. Just after "D'You Know What I Mean?" came out they played it loads on Radio 1, for some reason which I could never fathom out."
Probably because it was shorter and uptempo.
"Yeah. I've only just realised that now about the last LP. The songs I've done now I've limited meself to four minutes. Just 'cos some of them are too f****g long. It's the arrangements as well. You'd have your feet up on the mixing desk and everyone's telling you you're the greatest thing since the invention of the wheel, and you're half pissed and off your head, going, 'F*****g too right I am!' And then it's like, 'D'you think that song's a bit long?' 'No! Too long for what?!' I remember having this argument with the radio pluggers when we played them "D'You Know What I Mean?". This plugger's got a stopwatch! It gets to the end, and I could tell that nobody, but f*****g no-one, had a clue about what was going on. I stopped the tape and said, 'So what do you think?' 'Yeah, it's f*****g long, isn't it?' 'Yeah'. 'I don't think they're gonna play it on the radio.' 'Of course they're gonna play it on the radio, it's f*****g Oasis!'"
Headshrinker (B-side of "Some Might Say", released April 24, 1995. The closest Oasis have come to speed metal. Intro bears more than a passing resemblance to The Faces' "Stay With Me". The last song Tony McCarroll recorded with the band.)
"Another mad punk rock one. It's about a chick Our Kid was going out with once who was a f*****g pain in the arse. Mentioning no names. This is years ago. We played it one of the first tours, I think, it's like the Stones meets the Pistols on speed. I hadn't heard it for ages until we were recording the last album at Ridge Farm, and Owen was playing loads of old stuff. He put it on through the big speakers and it sounded f*****g ace. It still sounds good to this day, I love that track. And, it's really short. I think that was the choice of the band as opposed to the people."
"It was a mad time at Loco [recording studio in South Wales countryside], that. There were lots of people there. When we used to go to a recording studio, no matter where in the country it was, everyone would find a way there after about two days."
"Do you ever get nostalgic for those heady times?
"Sometimes, because we could just go to the local pub and have a beer. We'd been on 'Top Of The Pops' and we'd had a number one album, but we hadn't had a number one record, it wasn't like it is now. We could go out shopping without causing too much fuss. And as well, we didn't really know what we were doing. Now, every time you write a song you're conscious millions of people are going to hear it, so you deliberate over every single f*****g thing, whereas then it was go in, bash it down and we've got a gig next week. I suppose I miss the anonymity of it all. Just being able to really do what you want. You could come out of a pub drunk, have a piss in a car park and nobody would be arsed. Whereas if you come out of a pub drunk now, and have a piss in a car park, the bricklayer who laid the bricks'll sue you. I don't get nostalgic for having no money, though."
"But yeah, they were good days because every gig that we done was better than the last one and every tour that we done was bigger than the last one, and the records were coming out every three months and there was a buzz about the group. Then you get to a point and it levels off and then it just depends how far you want to go with it after that. But when we were in the ascendancy, well, I'll never forget them days. It all got as bit professional after that."
But you can't go back, can you?
"No, no. I mean, I suppose you could do little gigs unannounced but it's not really fair on the people who can't go and see them. I've got good memories. I've got bad memories as well, 'cos we were surrounded by absolute f*****g chaos. A good laugh, though. A good laugh living up to the image we had!"
The Masterplan (B-side of "Wonderwall", released October 30, 1995. Epic production number of which Noel remains inordinately chuffed.)
"I wrote that in a hotel room in Japan. And looking back on it, it's the only song where I think I got it right. I got the sound of it right in the studio, I got the words right...When I was writing the lyrics down and I read them back, I thought, 'F*****g hell, this is it! I've come of age as a lyricist! I'm gonna be really good from now on!' And then I wrote "Bonehead's Bank Holiday" or something ridiculous like that. I was really f*****g proud of it and I still am. It's everybody's favourite B-side. I think it's the best song I've ever written. But I was gutted because Our Kid - who loves it, it's one of his favourites - but he was just walking around going, 'You f*****g knobhead! Why did you write that now? Why couldn't you have waited for a year so it could go on the next album? Or why didn't you write it for the last album, you f*****g dick!' And he works himself up into a frenzy where he hates me for writing this great song at that particular point. And I'm going, 'So basically what you're syaing is you love me and it's a great song?' 'Yeah! You f*****g knobhead!'"
Were you always going to sing it?
"Yeah. I always wanted to sing "Wonderwall", but I'm glad he sang it 'cos he sings it better than I do. Liam can only sing one way. You put the mic there, you put the beers there, the fags there, and you just wind him up and wind him up until he gets that irate that he f*****g screams his bollocks off, and he'll do it in just one go and that's it. And sweats like a f*****g madman, he looks like he's just done a gig when he comes back, and it's f*****g genius what he does. But when you try and get him to build something up from really quiet, forget about it, man."
"But that's why we called the album "The Masterplan". It's the best one I ever wrote. That and "Live Forever" are my favourites. And "Wonderwall"..."
Ah yes, got to mention "Wonderwall", the song unquestionably written by Noel Gallagher for his then girlfriend and now wife Meg. The song that had it been a B-side, like he says, we wouldn't (ahem) be here now.
Here being Supernova Heights, the modest pile of which we must now take our leave. Noel's got to go into town to meet the wife. "Promised I'd take her to lunch," he grunts, his slightly pained expression suggesting lunch might well be followed by a quick flexing of the Gallagher plastic around some of Mayfair's more exclusive boutiques.
Noel's attitude to money is admirable - he hasn't a clue how much he's got, only that it's "shitloads" and he hasn't a problem spending it. The ultimate irony is that there hasn't really been a masterplan for Oasis: amidst the black eyes, bust-ups, breakdowns and cancelled tours, they've survived, prospered and made some great music. Truly, a case of cash from chaos.
Album number three was a flabby letdown, though, and not even Noel seems to regard it with much affection. Which is why "The Masterplan" comes as something of a relief: brimful of tunes, attitude and mental yarns, it serves to remind us why Oasis mattered in the first place. It also suggests there's more to come, if they really want to look for it.
All in all, not bad for a bunch of B-sides.
"Too f*****g right, mate." Noel Gallagher stares out of his top-floor window at the London skyline and wonders where the next song is coming from. "Not bad at all."