Noel Gallagher - Loaded - April 2001
Noel just didn't seem bothered any more. Quite obviously enjoying his semi-exile on the magic isle, the only long term plans he spoke about were his desire to sling on a backpack and get out and actually see some of the world, away from the tour-bus/hotel/gig routine. China was apparently first on the list.
Fast-forward to summer 2001 (at least the one the southern hemisphere is currently enjoying). It's 90 degrees in the shade and we find ourselves in the bar of the Sheraton Hotel, Buenos Aires. They've just flown in from Brazil where they've played the biggest gig of their lives (quarter of a million people at 'Rock in Rio').
So what happened?
"I personally wasn't gonna tour outside of England again," says Noel, "but then Marcus [Russell, Oasis's manager] called in to say there's three gigs offered. I said we're not interested, really, but then he says one of them's Rock in Rio, one's opening up for Neil Young and one's in Venezuela. It was like, 'Fucking hell, ummm, when is it?' and he said January and it was like, 'Aah, fucking cold and wet... January in South America? That'll do me."'
And guess what? Liam and Noel are getting on famously. In fact, the overall vibe in the camp is as upbeat as I've seen for ages."
The last time we passed through Buenos Aires in '98," recalls Noel, "we were pretty much all out of control, man, but everyone seems to have grown up a little bit and it's a bit more... I don't know, everybody still likes a drink and that, but we don't do so much of the other stuff:"
Liam reminisces about their previous stay in the hotel, though not surprisingly details remain a little blurry. Word had come over- "I want to meet the brothers Gallagher" -and they were duly summoned to an upstairs suite, where they not only met, but became guests of honour at the court of the King of Argentina, Diego Maradona himself. Daylight was not admitted. Other more enlightening influences may have been. Maybe it's the heat, but everything seems so much more relaxed here than last time I met Oasis. More importantly, the band are looking and sounding top dollar right now. Much is made of the brothers and the creative tension at the heart of Oasis, but the addition ofthe likes of Gem and Andy Bell is going to show on the next album, reckons Noel."
This time the album's gonna be on Big Brother, our label, and it's like, we're calling the shots and we can actually do like a fucking quadruple album if we want now. It's really good to be going in there and just thinking, 'We could put out two albums in a year if we wanted to'.""
How's Mark Gardner doing, Andy?" I happen to ask of Mr Bell's former Ride mucker."
He's great," says Andy. "He's got well into Tai Chi now."
Liam walks in."
What's that, cookery?"
He's just returned from a quick game of footie ("Them Brazilians, they ain't up to much, y'know?"), only to spot himself in the mirror, "Oh no. I've gone and fucking done me gig hair in!"
But, as Oasis crises go, it's small bananas. "It's good now, man," claims Noel. Liam's calmed down a lot, you know, he's happy with Nic, got a kid on the way-everyone's grown up a bit. Trouble is, shit happens when you've got three days off in somewhere like Albuquerque. You're in a bar on a Wednesday afternoon and someone'll say, 'I don't like thatjacket' and you're like, 'What, are you calling my jacket a poof?' And you've got nothing better to do, so you start picking arguments with people. When he ain't drinking and he's not being a cunt it just makes it easier for everyone else to just do their shit and just get on with it and have a good time and just come home, as opposed to, like, having 500 photographers at the airport, going, 'What's happened this time?"'
What happened last time was that tabloid story about Liam pinching an air stewardess's bum on a plane, and her claim to be 'traumatised' and her threatening legal action."
Well I was on the plane first," explains Noel, "so I don't know what's fucking gone on. He's stayed out in Miami with Nic, and I can't speak for him but, Liam being Liam, he's always pinching my arse on stage, and I hear words like 'traumatised' and all that and I think, 'Fucking hell, you want to try playing rhythm guitar for the cunt!' Fucking hell, that's traumatised!"
To tell you the truth, I don't know what to expect tonight. It's the third and closing night of the Buenos Aires Hot festival, which features one of the all-time legends, Neil Young with his band Crazy Horse. Oasis have come a very long way since that night at the Powerhaus, when I saw them play their first London gig back in 1993. I shared a flat with Alan McGee at the time, and he just wouldn't shut up about them. I remember him practically breaking into my darkroom, thrusting their demo into my hand and screaming, "Granty, listen to this, this lot are going to be the biggest fucking band in the world!"
He wasn't far wrong either. And any callers on that demo, still in my possession, shouldn't even think about it for less than a grand. No time-wasters.
Anyway, fuck me with a red-hot poker if the 20-odd thousand Portenos (read Cockneys or Mancs) aren't so pumped up you wonder if this might be the best night of their collective lives. Come on then! Human fireworks all around - the place is going off? 'Fucking In The Bushes', 'Go Let It Out', 'Who Feels Love?'. Then comes 'Supersonic', and we're already in fifth gear.
At one point between numbers, with the crowd together as one in some kind of football-type song, girls and boys alike, Oasis look on in complete amazement, until Liam chips in: "Hold on, I thought we were having the gig 'ere on the stage!"
For some reason, an assortment of training shoes keep flying into the air, as do many a dancing body passed overhead, but the biggest surprise is the waving in the crowd of the odd Union Jack. Not exactly rare, I'd have thought, wherever Oasis play - but given the recent history between our two countries, still an unexpected sight.
Mind you, that's nothing in the surreal stakes. Get this tale from Noel: "We're doing two nights at Radio City Music Hall [New York] later this year, and the last time we were there, there was loads of the fucking Mob turning up, because apparently they're big Oasis fans. So there's this big block of seats, and it's all guys with suits and sunglasses... I was looking out for Tony Soprano down the front"
As for the Gallaghers, well, on tonight's showing they d be fucking mental to let it fall apart again. Thing is, fellas, life's too short and when you've got it, flaunt it. As Noel told me back in Ibiza, he and Liam had never had words, let alone rucks, before the group -and even though you may never be the best of friends, you'll always be brothers. Family. Blood being thicker than water, as they say. Or champagne. Or cocaine.
Liam is in fine voice, still taking his position centre-stage and not budging, but every bit the rock'n'roll star that seemed to have disappeared at last years Wembley shows. Meanwhile Noel, when taking the lead on 'Wonderwall' (I'd wondered if he would, given its sensitive subject matter, but to his credit he performs a brave and even more poignant version, if that's at all possible) and with 'Don't Look Back In Anger', he's right there back at his best."
We probably won't be playing 'Wonderwall' ever again after this," admits Noel later. "It's time to take it to somewhere else, really. Stop playing all the boring old songs and do something different for us."
For now, though, REM are watching from the wings, and later Neil Young tells them how they're one of his favourite groups. That's some reputation to keep up, and tonight they've more than managed it. Post-gig, backstage, and everyone's well happy. "When Noel comes in," bass player Andy Bell tells me, "shout 'Buckethead!'"
Door opens, in walks Noel. l shout, "Oi Noel, Buckethead!""Fuc-king hell! Buckethead, man! I'm not worthy!"
All are in complete uproar at the legend that is Buckethead. Brought in as a replacement for Slash in the Axl-only version of a latter - day Guns N' Roses who were on the bill at Rock In Rio, this fella played it lick for lick but remains a complete enigma due to the upturned KFC bucket he wore on his head. If, on the cover of the next Oasis record, you see Noel sporting something similar, remember where you read it first. "
We start recording our new record in about two weeks," he tells me. "Just tentatively going in there and splashing some of the ideas around, and then when we come back we'll probably start recording it properly. We've got 16 shows with the Black Crowes and then we've got some recording to do, and then put out a new record. Apart from that, with all the other fucking personal shit that's all gotta be dealt with, it's gonna be another pretty chaotic year... but hopefully out of all that will come a record, you know."
A bloke from REM's crew approaches Liam and says, "Hey, I haven't seen you since '95!" "Haven't seen myself since then either, pal."
Despite the image that the press have created around about him, Liam is one funny fucker. And maybe even mellowing in his old age... After the gig, a fit little fan strolls into the dressing room out of the blue and bleats, "Ronan! Ronan!" at Andy Bell -who proceeds to knock out a chorus of 'Back For Good' for good measure. Then Liam rounds on her: "You sure you've got the right band here, love?" She replies, "Ohhh, you are the singer, aren't you! Shall I bring some of my beautiful girlfriends back to meet you?""Not 'ere, love, I'm in a serious relationship. l know people find it hard to believe, but l am."
Hang about - this is going a bit too far. There's been no fights, no drugs, and there's fuck-all chance of any girls now. And as for the alcohol, well there's still a fully stocked fridge over there! What gives? I, at least, can't leave that bottle of vodka all alone on the shelf. And doesn't it go nice with that apple juice? A Guinness to chase, and the next thing I remember is standing side-stage for Neil Young, singing 'Down By The River' and 'Like A Hurricane', a trip to a bar with Neil and Oasis, then feeling all tired and finding a tree outside the hotel where the band were staying, and pulling round a screen. But I think my feet were poking out, which the security see, then it's me and five of them, and I'm like, "Give me your name, I'll have you, ya bastard!", and then the sun coming up as my head goes around- I hear talk of Caracas but I think somebody is calling me crackers, and I'll have them all if I could only see them. Best off it before I get certified, or nicked, or both. Do me a favour though, security twats - give Oasis a message from me: Be seeing ya, lads. Maybe? Most fucking definitely.