August 26, 2000 - The Times

Title: End Of Story
Author: Paul Connolly
Publication: The Times, UK (August 26, 2000): p4. (3048 words)

Has Liam and Noel Gallagher's fractious relationship finally put an end to Oasis? As Noel explains to Paul Connolly, definitely, maybe.

Noel Gallagher, tanned and looking surprisingly healthy, leans forward with a grin. "Now I've not told anyone this," he says, "but I know how all this started." He takes a drag of his cigarette and continues: "When we played the Bolton gigs about a month ago, I went back to me mam's house. I haven't been back for ages, because you always get crap, and she comes down to London loads. Anyway, she showed me the tiny room that me and Liam shared for more than 15 years and I said, 'No wonder we hate each other'."

This weekend, at the Carling Festival in Leeds, the Gallagher brothers' band, Oasis, will be playing what could be their last gig. Riven by squabbling, the band who defined the Nineties are in a critical condition. Noel sighs when I ask him if Oasis are going to split after the Leeds show: "It can't go on like it is. It's either got to stop or we break up, it's as simple as that. My gut reaction? I'd love for Oasis to go on but, well, I can't see how we can. I don't know if there's ever gonna be another Oasis record. I wouldn't hold any breath-holding contests, you know what I mean?"

He sits back in his chair and swigs a beer. "The problem is that Liam wants to be the daddio, he wants to lead the band," he says. "I didn't get this far to be told by him that this is where the band is going in the next four years. I won't take that from anyone, least of all him. Liam's convinced that he's the best songwriter in Britain. He's written one song (Little James on Standing on the Shoulder of Giants) that suggests he's anything but. I'll listen to anyone's songs. But the songs he's played me sound like Elton John and I'm not being in a band with anyone who sounds like Elton John. It's my band. Full stop."

Liam, who at first assented to being interviewed (on the condition that it was apart from his brother), has now refused to talk to metro. This turnaround has been blamed by his publicists on his split with Patsy Kensit and subsequent relationship with Nicole Appleton but Noel's not so sure. "He's been trying to blame the problems on my solo ambitions but I think it's him who needs to get songs out of his system. My songs have sold millions around the world; his certainly haven't."

In 1996 Oasis played at Knebworth in front of 250,000 people; 5 per cent of the British population applied for a ticket. It was the biggest rock gig to take place in the UK. Oasis were at their zenith.

Noel, a disarmingly bright and candid interviewee, is glad he failed to comprehend the enormity of the occasion. "If I knew that that was as big as we'd ever be I'd be a loony by now; a recluse," he smiles.

Noel was born in 1967 in St Mary's Hospital in Moss Side, "the day the Beatles released Sergeant Pepper's; and apparently it was played day and night on the radio for the next two weeks - so that's how that started," he laughs referring to his fondness for appropriating Beatles' riffs and melodies for Oasis songs.

The family moved to Burnage when Liam was born in 1971. It was here, when he was 11, that Noel fell in with a group of older lads who introduced him first to the Sex Pistols and then to the Jam.

Noel smiles as he recalls how he acquired his first guitar when he was 13. "My dad went out one Friday afternoon to buy me mam an anniversary present and came back on Monday morning with a guitar, which me mam was not best pleased with. We think he won it in a card game. He used to try and play it but he was crap," he laughs.

"Anyway, as I was always up to no good and getting grounded all the time I started to play Joy Division basslines. I rediscovered the Beatles when I was about 14, because Paul Weller used to go on about them in interviews."

It wasn't something that Noel took too seriously. "I was only interested in birds, getting stoned and football. Playing guitar seemed too much like hard work. And all the people on Top of the Pops, well I thought, 'People from where I come from don't get to places like that'."

Noel wasn't much interested in school and left in 1983. "My first job was as a trainee signwriter - but all I ended up doing was stapling estate agent signs together. These staple guns were like staple Uzis. We used to leave bits of bread outside to entice pigeons - this is so politically incorrect, me missus will kill me - and as soon as they landed we'd go rat-a-tat-tat. Never got any of the bastards. They were too quick! Used to try it with cats as well using ham as bait - but we got caught by a copper and were sacked."

Meanwhile he had little to do with Liam even though they shared a room: "He's five years younger than me. We weren't going to be mates when I was 16 and he's 11. If you told me then that we'd be in a band together, I'd have rung for an ambulance."

In the mid-to-late Eighties Manchester's music scene took off and as bands such as the Smiths (whose guitarist Johnny Marr became Noel's hero) and New Order achieved acclaim, Noel realised that maybe music could save him from dead-end jobs. "I was about 18 when I decided that the only thing I had a modicum of talent for was playing the guitar."

In 1988, after a chance encounter at a Stone Roses gig, Noel landed his first rock'n' roll job - as roadie to the Inspiral Carpets. "They'd asked me to try out for the singer's job but I ended up looking after the equipment instead. I wasn't complaining, I had a fantastic three years. But I was clever too, because I got a feel for how the whole industry worked, with managers, PRs, producers and journalists."

In 1990 Liam along with Paul "Bonehead" Arthurs started a band. Noel guffaws. "He actually asked me to become their manager which I thought was hilarious. I said 'I'm not going to be your manager, 'cos you're rubbish. And I've got this full-time job with the Inspirals'. But then the Inspirals sacked the whole crew for excessive drug abuse and being generally unprofessional."

Noel sighs. "So I joined the band in 1991. And at the time it was Bonehead and Liam writing the songs. I still didn't take it seriously; it was just something to do with me time. We played our first gig in October 1991 at the Boardwalk and a couple of people who saw us said, 'You've got something going here. Liam looks great, you look good with your flashy guitar but the songs aren't that good.'"

The turning point came later that year when Noel had a massive panic attack. "I went to the doctor who asked me if I smoked pot," he says. "And of course I smoked loads of the stuff; I was always stoned off me nut. So I stopped. And suddenly the world went from black and white to colour. Me brain cells stopped dying, and I started writing millions of songs. The first song I wrote was Columbia, then came Rock'n'Roll Star, a song called Strange Thing, which is still knocking about, and Whatever."

In 1993 Oasis forced their way onto a bill in Glasgow they knew talent scouts would be watching. The fact that the band had brought 12 friends helped. "They wouldn't let us play. They only had a licence for three bands and three had already been booked. We kinda persuaded them it would be for the best if they let us play," Noel grins.

"After the gig someone brought Alan McGee (head of Creation records) to see us, and he said, 'Have you got a record deal?' I said, 'No' and he said, 'Do you want one?' And I said, 'Yes'."

Back in Manchester a few days later, Noel was coming out of HMV when he bumped into Ian Marr, Johnny's brother. "I didn't know who he was," says Noel, his face lighting up at the memory. "I'd met him loads of times but when he told me who his brother was I gave him one of our few demo tapes and he said he'd pass it on to Johnny."

The next day Noel's phone rang. "I picked it up and it was Johnny Marr. I said, 'Hang on Johnny, I've left the kettle on' and ran round the flat punching the air," he says running around the room mimicking his reaction. "Johnny Marr, my hero, calling me?"

They went for a drink the next day before Noel took Marr to Doncaster to search out his favourite guitar store. "So we find this shop, and I've got about two quid in me pocket and he buys nine grand's worth of guitars on his American Express card. And I was just standing there, thinking, 'This is what it's all about. I so want to be you'."

Marr played Oasis's demo tape to his manager Marcus Russell who phoned Noel telling him it was the best thing he'd heard for ages and that he wanted to be Oasis's manager.

"So I went down to London," Noel says, "made a verbal agreement with Marcus (they only signed a formal contract 18 months ago) and came back thinking, 'Wow, we've a manager and a deal on the table.'

"I woke up the next day, wrote Live Forever in 25 minutes and I was the happiest man alive. I played it to the band that evening and they just applauded; it was such a good song even Liam had to realise which side his bread was buttered on, while Bonehead thought it was a cover," Noel laughs. "I must admit though, that I was taking so many drugs at the time that I began to wonder if I had written it. When it was released (in 1994) I imagined some guy flipping burgers in Louisiana hearing it on the radio, stopping and saying, 'Sheeit, I wrote that song…'"

It was Noel's most creative period. "From that point through Definitely Maybe (1994) until finishing (What's The Story) Morning Glory (1995), I was writing songs every day and they lasted me, (the lacklustre Be Here Now (1997) comprised of offcuts from the first two albums) until I wrote songs for Standing on the Shoulder of Giants."

The glory years of Oasis are well-documented, although the tension between Noel and Liam was obvious throughout; Liam walking out before the start of an American tour and various on-stage spats, fuelled, according to Noel, by drugs and by Liam's inability to hold his booze.

But it was the backstage fight in Barcelona on their recent European tour which brought Oasis to their present parlous state. "There had been an undercurrent of us not getting along for a long time which we'd not recognised," Noel says. "It all blew up that night. We were all drunk and there was a lot of truth-telling, which is what happens when you're pissed. And I've been an idiot in the past and been wrong a lot," Noel admits. "But that night Liam was laying in to me and I said, 'One of us is going to have to go. Either you go and we get a new singer or I go and we get a new guitarist'. But I didn't really want to go on, so I went. But the tour had to go on. If we'd pulled out Oasis would have been sued for everything; and I mean everything."

When I suggest that he might have been put out by their decision to carry on without him, Noel's reaction appears to be emphatic. "I was proud they played on," he insists. "I told the replacement guitarist Matt (Deighton) to use all my kit." But his mood darkens briefly when I ask him how he felt about Liam after the fracas. "When I got back it was like if anyone mentions his name I will kill them; his name will not be mentioned in my house."

So why did he agree to the UK leg of the tour? "Because we were playing Wembley Stadium, man," Noel jumps up excitedly. "It's where Dennis Tueart (Manchester City striker) scored that great goal (in the League Cup final in 1976). I had to play it."

The second of Oasis's two July weekend Wembley shows deepened the rift between the brothers. The Friday gig seared through their finest songs, peppered with the best tracks from their unfairly panned current album, such as Go Let It Out. The Saturday show, however, screened live on Sky, was great rock'n'roll theatre. Liam blundered around, clearly the worse for wear, hollering the songs out-of-tune and making snide remarks about his brother who glowered at him from across the stage.

Noel still smarts at the memory. "Friday was amazing, we were brilliant. But then he goes out all night with Mel C. One of Oasis out on the lash with one of the Spice Girls," he exclaims, "What has it come to?"

He continues, his natural exuberance again dampened by the memory of his brother's behaviour. "So as soon as he walked bladdered into the dressing room, you could feel the atmosphere go wallop to the floor. I just thought, 'Oh. My. God. There's going to be 60 million people watching.'" Once on stage Noel was hugely irri- tated by Liam's drunken ranting. "I could have walked over and leathered him but I chose to ignore him. But I did want to say, 'If people have paid Pounds 25 a ticket the least you could do is sing in tune'. To be honest, though, we've not spoken since the gig in Edinburgh on July 29 when he asked me what song was next."

Noel leans forward again. "And this is the real reason why Oasis is so close to splitting up. When we get backstage, I'm the only one to have a go. I say, 'What was that all about? Am I going mad? Is it just me? If I turned up half-cut, and couldn't play me guitar he'd go off his nut. So why does he think he can get away with it?' And they all say, Alan (White, the drummer since Tony McCarroll's departure in 1995) included, 'It's between you and your brother'. But we're supposed to be a band. So Liam thinks it's just me having a go at him."

Noel, who will obviously miss Oasis more than he lets on, claims that "we do plan to reconvene some time after the show to try and salvage things but I'm not too hopeful, because band meetings are a nightmare. Whenever these meetings are called, Liam either doesn't turn up or he's hammered. So if he's drunk I walk out, 'cos he's not rational. I'm like me mam when I'm drunk; I'm a happy drunk. But Liam's a nasty drunk like me old man. He's fine for three or four hours but after that he wants to fight everyone. It's just not worth it."

Noel takes a drink from his bottle of beer and says wearily, "I love him but I don't like him. If I walked into a bar and he was there, I'd walk out. We just don't get on. He's loud, he's too tabloid for me. I can't deal with that. He embarrasses me. Like that thing in The Sun about his hairy bum. I felt like phoning the paper and saying, 'Hey, his hairy bum has been popping out of the collar of his shirt for the last ten years.' Of course he's got a hairy bum."

Noel has just returned from three weeks at his house in Ibiza (he owns another in Buckinghamshire - "David Seaman's a neighbour" - which he bought after selling Supernova Heights in Primrose Hill, North London).

"I came back yesterday feeling more depressed than I've ever been; I've not written a song for 18 months and we don't know what's going to happen to the band after the tour. But last night I came back, picked up an electric guitar and because the missus (Meg Matthews) and the kid (Anais) are away I pushed the amps up to ten and went for it. You can't do that with a kid around. And the song's fantastic. It's like back to the old days; it contains four chords, about eighteen words and the chorus is just 'Come On'. It's called Revival and it's brilliant. I hope there's a lot more on the way."

Noel nods when I suggest that maybe he no longer has the hunger he used to. "It's like when you've got a good few million in the bank and everything you've ever wanted you just think 'I can't be bothered'. It's not that the fire's totally gone out. But our first two records hang over us; I mean don't get me wrong, we sold millions of records in America (six million so far) but we didn't become an enduring part of their culture. Here Don't Look Back in Anger, Wonderwall and Some Might Say were integral to the Nineties. We played to 250,000 people at Knebworth because of those songs; we were huge. And that kind of weighs you down."

Does he miss those times? "I'd be lying if I said that I didn't. I miss the euphoria of selling 600,000 copies of a new album in the first day like we did with Be Here Now. But if we don't get that back again or if we split up it doesn't matter. We've had it once. I'd rather have had it and lost it than never had it at all."

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