Noel Gallagher - The West.com.au - 16th November 2006
At the end of 1994, Noel Gallagher was on tour with his band in the United States. The album he’d just written and recorded had gone straight to the No. 1 spot on British charts and was quickly becoming the (then) fastestselling debut album in British history.
But none of that meant much in Los Angeles. He’d just seen his younger brother, Liam, completely mess up a concert, bent on a cocktail of drugs and booze.
Gallagher grabbed his passport, went to the airport and, without telling a soul, boarded a plane for San Francisco. Oasis were over before they’d barely begun.
This was to be the first of many splits, fractures and punch-ups surrounding the enigma that is Oasis, one of the greatest episodes in the celebrated history of rock’n’roll.
Gallagher is enjoying a fairly relaxed day at his luxurious home in Chalfont St Giles, a short drive north of London. It’s been 15 years and more than 50 million album sales since he joined his brother’s band and drove it to the kind of fame and fortune that made instant rock’n’roll folklore.
“I didn’t think that we’d still be sitting here after however long it is discussing the merits of one’s back catalogue,” Gallagher laughs, reflecting on the tumultuous history of Oasis and the release of the band’s greatest hits album, Stop the Clocks.
“It was good to just be getting off the dole, really, and possibly making some money. Taking as much drugs as possible and have a good time. Rock’n’roll is not about making plans or achieving goals and that. It’s about doing what you want. Of course, Liam takes that to the absolute f...ing extreme, but there was no master plan, really.”
With the release of 1994’s debut, Definitely Maybe, there was no going back to the dole line for the five members of Oasis, which included the Gallaghers, Paul “Bonehead” Arthurs, Paul “Guigsy” McGuigan and Tony McCarroll.
Formed amid the crumbling decay of Thatcherism, for these Mancunians music was the only escape. And they were never going to leave quietly, as Liam so famously stated on the snarling Cigarettes and Alcohol: “Is it worth the aggravation/To find yourself a job when there’s nothing worth working for/It’s a crazy situation/But all I need are cigarettes and alcohol.”
Six albums later, including an impressive B-sides release, and Oasis have run and crawled rock’s gauntlet. (What’s the Story) Morning Glory created Brit-pop and made them filthy rich, Be Here Now pushed them out of favour with the hostile British music press and last year’s superb Don’t Believe the Truth reinstated them as heroes again.
There have been broken spirits and broken noses, and today Noel and Liam remain the only two original members in the band — and even they are hard pressed to muster any scrap of brotherly love.
“He’s a f...ing little idiot is what he is,” Gallagher says matter-of-factly. “I haven’t seen him for four months but I know wherever he is he is being a f...ing idiot. Genuinely, he doesn’t like me, I tell you that for a fact. And I am indifferent to his idiocy.”
Behind the brawls and tabloid fanfare, Oasis were quite simply a brilliant rock’n’roll group. Noel the pop mastermind, Liam the untameable rock star — together they were unstoppable. And hearing these 18 undeniable hits from Stop the Clocks blast through the stereo back to back is all the proof you need: Rock ’N’ Roll Star, Wonderwall, Slide Away, Cigarettes and Alcohol, Live Forever, Supersonic, Don’t Look Back in Anger and so many more.
“We tell it like it is,” Gallagher suggests of the reason for the band’s continued success. “And I guess people have been through the ups and downs with us, and ultimately there’s some good music in there. It’s real as well; I often see the rock stars on the tele and I think, ‘There’s something intrinsically fake about you’. And you don’t get that with Oasis. Ask me the f...ing question, I won’t tell you any lies.
“I guess the 90s would have been a little less exciting if it wasn’t for us.”
Add the 21st century to that as well. Not only did Oasis make English music exciting again in the 90s, the band’s influence stretched across the oceans and has today manifested itself in the contemporary rock vogue, headed by bands as diverse as Jet and the Killers.
While Gallagher, who turns 40 next May, is happy to accept his fate as rock’s elder statesmen — and says he’s currently working on the next Oasis album, which will see a release “later rather than sooner” — he humbly admits his time as rock’s bad boy genius has passed.
“Fundamentally, rock’n’roll is youth,” he explains, “so once you reach a certain age you cease to be rock’n’roll any more. It’s not about bad behaviour or about living on the edge or wearing a leather jacket or having a drug habit and drinking Jack Daniels all day. All of those things help, right, but it’s about being young.
“Then you get older and you’ve got more baggage and instead of music being the single most important thing in your life, it becomes one of many important things in your life.
“A kid who is 24 and has one electric guitar and a f.....g head full of ideas is far more interesting than someone who is in their 50s with five kids and six houses.”