photo by Lawrence Watson
A week ago, a desperate plea-disguised-as-an-insulting-tweet from Liam Gallagher all but begged his brother Noel to reform Oasis. Lord knows Liam’s career could do with the help, though how they’d cope in the same room/stage/plane without turning on each other again is anyone’s guess. Noel’s always said he’d need to be sectioned if he was ever tempted but then one of the independent financial entities which comprised ‘70s behemoths Eagles once said they would reform when hell freezes, and lo they did merge/reform, though hell is still unfrozen and looking a lot like Parramatta Rd at peak hour on a Friday.
So, you wouldn’t rule it out completely even if it’s more a running gag than reality. Still, it was enough to even get respectable newspapers treating it as a story. And enough of an excuse for Wind Back Wednesday to return to a morning after the night before in 2002 when Noel talked fame, mystery blondes, and Billy Connolly.
(NB: while this story is as published, without newspaper censors, all appropriate Gallagher swearing has been restored.)
“EMBRACE THE MADNESS BECAUSE IT’S NOT GOING TO LAST FOREVER.”
It's about 10am in London when I phone Noel Gallagher, the senior Gallagher brother in Oasis. The operator has warned me that when the earlier callers to Gallagher's house had asked him how he was, his answer was "still pissed" - so I offer, "Noel, I hear you've been drinking?"
"Whoa, it's not been in the papers already, has it?" he asks with a less impenetrable Mancunian accent than you expect.
“Yeah, I'm still a bit drunk. I'm not too sure about what happened. I do know that I've been downstairs - obviously I'm still in bed - I've been downstairs to get a drink and there's a child's plastic tricycle that doesn't belong to me in the front room. I don't know where it's come from."
Perhaps you rode it home last night or this morning?
"I actually went out with two of the girls from my office, who are a bad influence. I'm sure it will be in the tabloids tomorrow morning. Sometimes that's good because you can get up, read the papers and 'ah, that's who I was with last night'," he chuckles contentedly.
"But the thing is, I'm newly single, I just broke up with my girlfriend, so the girls from the office will now become mystery blondes, in tabloid speak. There will be a picture of me and the two girls being pretty fucking drunk and lewd - did I say lewd, not lewd, loud. But obviously there were paparazzi there and it was like 'give us a kiss for the cameras' so there's going to be loads of pictures of us in a threesome snogging and that will bring the tabloids out with 'Noel and two mystery blondes having it'."
There's that contented chuckle again. Unlike, say, a Tom Cruise or Russell Crowe, Gallagher doesn't have a problem with his place in the tabloid world of muck and mire.
"Honestly man, you can't sit down and worry about shit like that. Because I'll tell you what, man - every other band in England wishes they were in Oasis, they do. Fucking idiots at award ceremonies, when they're picking up awards for best knobhead who plays bass in a group or something, come up to me and say, [affecting a humble mumble] 'man, it must be really terrible being in the papers all the time'. I'm like, 'why don't you fuck off man, you know what I mean, because you're desperate to be in the papers, we can't stay out of the papers'.
“But you can't let it get you down. Embrace it I say. Embrace the madness because it's not going to last forever."
If you want to be the biggest band in England or the biggest band in the world, it's going to come with the territory, isn't it?
"You can't sell 35 fuckin million albums and be anonymous. Unless you're a country and western artist. It's like you can't be Elvis and not be famous, you can't be the Beatles and not be famous. You can't be Liam Gallagher and not be famous.
“Listen, Radiohead are a pretty big band but I'm sure they don't live it. We're Mancunians and we're Irish as well so we're never going to be Radiohead, we're going to enjoy what we do. It's not about stroking your fucking chin and wondering where's music going, it's about time's running out man. We're all dying, we're all going to die soon and I intend living for you and me and all the people on the streets to go, 'look there is one band doing it'."
Was there a time when you weren't enjoying it?
"Absolutely. We've been through some shit, man. And one of the lowest times we've had was the last time we were in Australia. We were all on drugs, we were all drinking heavily, we were on the end of a nine-month tour, we looked like shit, we played like shit. Your tabloid press handled us and we weren't old enough, I suppose, to deal with that in the correct way and we were 'right, let's have you'.
“They were low points because people who came to the concerts thought 'is that what all the fuss is about?'"
I was one of those people. But we didn't think you'd cop to it.
"I'm probably the only guy in one of the biggest bands in the world who'll say, look, we were fucking shit, we were rubbish. We didn't do ourselves justice last time but we'll rip your heads off this time."
You're playing on the same bill as Morrissey at Livid. Have you met him?
"I can't wait to meet him. He's an absolute idol of mine. I may be starstruck. Don't laugh, I'm being serious. I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing if it wasn't for the Smiths. I've only been starstruck once. I've met McCartney, George Harrison, Neil Young, fucking David Bowie but I've been starstruck once.
“I was in Harrods, the famous people's shop, and Billy Connolly came up to me. He came up to me with his hand outstretched and said 'It's good to meet you brother'. When I was trying to kick drugs I thought 'Right, I'm not going to rehab, I'm not doing any of that shit that famous people do', I sat on my couch with a duvet around me, drinking soup and watching Billy Connolly videos because I thought, 'I'm going to have to laugh my way through it'.
“And when I met him I was like, fucking hell, you are my god and I couldn't think of anything to say to him. It's the only time I've been speechless."
It's good to see that someone like you can still be starstruck.
"Well, I have to say not by musicians. There's no such thing as genius. I've met them all and they're all like me and you but none of them are as funny as Billy Connolly."
There may not be such a thing as genius but there is such a thing as talent.
"Paul Weller is one of my best friends in the world. He has written some of the greatest songs, as has Paul McCartney and Neil Young - but at the end of the day I'm as good as they are. Paul McCartney might have wrote Hey Jude but he didn't write Live Forever. Paul Weller might have wrote Eton Rifles but he didn't fucking write Wonderwall."
[Just then he loses his thread and starts muttering "oh no, no, no, oh".]
"I'm watching the television now and they're showing film from the club I was at last night. Oh my god, stay on the line, OK, let me turn this up. Ooh, 'the stars turned out' - am I one of them? Hey, Bob Geldof was there, I don't remember seeing him. And Bryan fucking Adams. I wouldn't have gone if I had known he was there. [There's a pause as he listens.]
“No, not there, I got away with it. Fantastic. Actually, I'm quite disappointed."
If you die tomorrow do you think you've left a decent legacy?
"If the one thing I'm remembered for is Live Forever then that will do me. Wonderwall is fine, a lovely pop song but I wrote Live Forever when I was 21 and that song, the lyrics to that song will stand up 500 years from now. And I've got a daughter and I'll be a grandad and that shit. I'll be the best f-- -ing grandad there is."
"Because I'll probably still be able to go out with my grandkids."
Take them out drinking?
"Yeah. I'll be in a wheelchair and that, but I'll be good fun."