Noel Gallagher - The Times - September 2001
Noel Gallagher sits there for two hours and Never plays a false note. I have no reason to doubt him when he says his approach to interviews is: 'You ask me a question, I will not tell you lies.' (Actually, he says f****** lies, but if I left in all his expletives, this article would have more asterisks than words.)
For instance, Noel admits he always wanted 'to become very,very,very,very wealthy'. He says he had nothing to write about on Be Here Now, the dissapointing third album because 'I was just a big fat charlied up rock star sitting in Limos and going to parties.' He is 'well aware that as a group, and me as a songwriter, from Morning Glory (the best British selling album ever) onwards, it's sort of levelled off a bit.' He says that the lyrics to Don't Look Back In Anger, considered a modern classic, are 'just nonsense' the result of 'sitting down with some Red Stripe and a spliff'. He agrees that the intro sounds a lot like Let It Be.
He cringes at fans' favourites such as Roll With It (the single which came 2nd in a Britpop war to Blur's country house in August 1995). 'Before we played Wembley last year, they were interviewing fans outside. There was this guy, skinhead, couple of eteth missing. Ben Sherman shirt. I'm waching the television thinking: what's this guy gonna say? He's going: 'Oasis! Best band in the world! Better than the Beatles!' And then he recites the words to roll With It, and I'm thinking, 'what the F*** am I on?' (Cocaine, lots)
He admits he used to borrow melodies, not just from the beatles, which is unavoidable-'I learnt to play guitar by opening a Beatles' songbook.' -but also from T Rex, Sldae, David Bowie and even vindication this for Damon Albarn, six years on from his 'Quoasis tag) Status Quo. Yet Gallagher isn't saying, as Malcolm McClaren once did of The Sex Pistols, isn't it funny how we managed to swindle everybody? He is instead being candid about how a songwriter starting out starts to write. Most songwriters early efforts don't sel in millions.
'When I was a roadie, I made a compilation tape of strictly Slade, Bowie and T rex. That's all I listened to for two years. Everybody on the bus would go 'Turn It Off'!' and I'd say 'Listen to the guitars!' I'd copy the songs, like Cum On Feel The Noize, change the chords a bit. I make no bones about it man, I wasn't taught music by anybody. I didn't learn music at school. I can't play the piano.' He lifted the melody for Cigarettes and Alcohol, their first top 10 single, from t rex's 'Get It On'. 'I wouldn't attempt to do that now....That was written before we got a record deal.' We were playing pubs in Manchester. I brought this song to the band, expecting they'd go, 'We can't do that!' and of course everybody went 'that's Amazing!' I said to McGee (Alan, boss of Creation Records and the man who discovered Oasis) 'Er, are you allowed to do this kinda thing?' and he was 'oh I don't know, but it's great!'
We never got sued.' (Except by the New Seekers, of all people, who took exception to Shakermakers resemblance to 'I'd Like to teach the world to sing'. The New Seekers got £175,000. And Gary Glitter got £200,000 for the line 'Hello, Hello, It's good to be back.' It's worth noting that these songs, along with almost all of the others Gallagher used, had been Number One Singles in their time. There's no faulting Noel's ear for a popular tune)
I say: a really harsh interpretation of your songwriting might follow that old quote about a piece of work 'being both good and original, but the parts are good not original, but the parts that are good are not original.....' He finishes the line, 'and the parts that are original are not so good.' You could say, here's a guy who put some memorable melodies together, but many of the most memorable had, er I'm not being funny, already written by other people, and since then, what has he done?
'It's true,' he says disarmingly. 'I would agree with that because factually you're exactly right. I would disagree beacuse: Don't argue with the man in the street. There is no greater accolade than Joe Public.' Going back to the man in the Ben Sherman shirt, Gallagher says. 'I'd love to sit him down and say: 'What does this song mean to you?' 'Cos I don't know what it means to me, but he'd probably give a good explanation for it. It means summat in his life.'
He's not all self-flagellation. 'Couple of songs I'm really, really proud of. The six I've done for the new one I'll stand up and fight anyone for. I'm still learning as a songwriter. I'm never happy anyway. I think I think I'm equal parts genius, equal parts buffoon in the one day.' On a Lennon and McCartney timescale, I say, you shuld be about to write your Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt Pepper trilogy. He says with sadness and determination, 'Yeh, Yeh definately.... I've put out a lot of crap in the past. Not crap, just stuff I don't like anymore. I have to live with it. Gonna take a bit back for me now, say (to the band and the record company): 'Well, you might like it, but I don't.'
Next month, Oasis will play a short tour to mark their 10th anniversary. For several of those ten years, Oasis was the biggest thing in British Rock. Seven consecutive records went in at number 1 or number 2. In 1996, they sold 18 million albums and, that August, played to a quarter of a million people at Knebworth. Critics loved them. 20 year olds who'd previously bought only dance music loved theme. 30 year olds who'd given up on the charts loved them. The new Prime Minister invited Noel to Downing Street. They were, defiantly, much more than the sum of their parts. If some of their tunes were derivative, the Gallagher brothers had a sound and an attitude, all their own.