- 22 Jul 20
“It might seem that we’re a bunch of ramshackle pissed-up drug addicts but we’re actually pretty organised and when things get done, they get done well," he told Hot Press twenty-five years ago to the day...
The Glory Game
As one of Britpop’s most staunch loyalists, you’d expect that he’d be getting his kit on for Blighty but in a shock confession that’ll ruin his chances of making the New Year’s Honours List, Noel Gallagher admits that he’s really a b-it of a boy in green. And with Oasis’ (What's The Story) Morning Glory album ready to send cash-registers into overdrive, Stuart Clark also gets the inside poop on the two Pauls, McCartney and Weller, and the, er, joys of executive portaloos. Pix: Cathal Dawson.
It’s a room with one of those floors that you could quite happily eat your dinner off. That’s if it wasn’t a toilet. Not just any toilet, you understand, but a state-of-the-art executive portaloo with brass fittings and an instant flush action that would put Niagara Falls to shame.
A legitimate question at this point would be what am I doing hanging round the Gents backstage at Slane? Firstly, as a member of the ticket-buying public, I think it’s your right to know that while you were directing your absolutions into the lavatorial equivalent of the Black Hole of Calcutta, Stipey and C. were pointing Percy at pristine porcelain and breathing in the sweet perfume of potpourri. And then, perhaps more tellingly, there’s the fact that I’ve 15 minutes to nail down the mother of all cover stories and have been warned by no fewer than three record employees that a wrong word could result in Noel Gallagher embracing me with one of his celebrated Burnage kisses.
Still, as the wise man in casualty once said, attack is often the best form of defence. So, Mister-high-and-mighty-Oasis-guitarist, what’s this I hear about you turning turncoat and offering to pen the Irish footie athem for Euro ‘96?
“Well, there was thing in the NME about us and Blur supposedly doing the English one and it was like ‘over my fucking dead body!’” responds Gallagher in a manner that’s bladder-reassuringly jocular.
“Ay, well, I’m in chill-out mode,” he admits with a strangely dilated look in his eyes. “Sir Bert Millichip probably asked the office junior at the F.A. who the happening bands were at the moment and thought, ‘right, that’s another few quid in the coffers’. Manchester City wanted me to write their new theme tune but even though I’m a fan, I’m not going to sweat blood over a song unless it’s for myself. I’m a selfish bugger and, anyway, what I am going to get to rhyme with City?”
There is a word that double-somersaults to mind but I think we’ve had quite enough latrine-based humour for one article. This doesn’t explain, though, why Britpop’s most fervent loyalist is willing to sell his soul to the devil – well, Jack Charlton – and offer up a rallying cry to the Boys In Green. And before you ask, yes, an accident of birth means I’m a member of Terry Venables’ Red, White & Blue Barmy Army.
“It’s pretty complicated this,” he continues with a smile that’s best described as pharmaceutical. “I was born in England and part of me is definitely English – but my parents are Irish and as a kid I went to Catholic primary and secondary schools with all the influences and pressures on me that that suggests. I wasn’t college material, so I went straight onto the building-sites and half the people alongside me were middle-aged fellows from Cork and Dublin. And because I wasn’t spoon-fed this ‘we had an Empire and won two World Wars’ bullshit, I was able to see the part of the British character that’s ugly and domineering. Getting back to football, Ireland could have gone 6-0 down at Wembley and their fans’ reaction would’ve been, ‘ah, fuck it, we’ll have a drink’, but our lot had to riot because they have this ludicrously misplaced sense of patriotism.
“There’s also the small matter of the England team being shite at the moment. They only beat Japan 2-1 and afterwards you had Jimmy Hill saying, ‘you have to realise they’re not the soft touch they used to be.’ Bollocks. We were crap and the thing that pisses me off is that we won’t, as a nation, admit our faults.”
A journalist of this parish once reflected that Oasis are the greatest Irish band ever, after The Smiths. I’m sure that won’t go down too well with the folks at Comhaltas Ceolteorí Eireann but considering that drummer Alan White is the only member of Manchester’s finest who doesn’t qualify under the grandparent rule, the assertion isn’t quite as ludicrous as it first appears.
“We were just saying on the way down in the helicopter – oops, a bit of rock star parlance creeping in there –t hat Slane is as much a ‘home’ gig for us as playing London or Birmingham. Guigsy and Bonehead’s folks both come from the North, so you ought to ask them how they feel.”
This is indeed what we do when we rub into the twosome later on at, surprise surprise, the bar. Despite a reputation for being more volatile than Eric Cantona, Hurricane Higgins and Mount Etna combined, Oasis at Lord Henry’s gaff are the personification of measured reason – even stopping three songs in to engage in a spot of impromptu crowd-stewarding.
“I was petrified it was going to deteriorate into another Hillsborough,” Noel admits. “This massive hole in the crowd just appeared with people falling in and getting trampled on as it filled up. I saw four or five bodies pulled out that didn’t appear to be breathing but from what security tell me, most of them came to on the other side of the barrier demanding to be let back for the rest of the set!
“As for being nervous, the only gig I flapped at was Glastonbury and that lasted about 15 seconds. My main concern before going on stage is, ‘what frame of mind is Our Kid going to be in?’ Will he get pissed off and walk which, believe me, he’s perfectly capable of doing. He was annoyed today when some cunt threw a rock at him but after threatening to kick their heads in, he got on with it. The fucker responsible was lucky because if we hadn’t been having such a good time, we’d have jumped in and put him in intensive care. We’re not the psychopaths we’re made out to be but you don’t take shit, do you?”
Not unless you’re the person who’s employed to carry away the portaloos. Having dismissed the notion of Oasis as Jeffrey Dahmer-with-guitars, what about the Amazonian rain forest of paper that’s been devoted to accusations of excessive ego?
“It might seem that we’re a bunch of ramshackle pissed-up drug addicts but we’re actually pretty organised and when things get done, they get done well. Definitely Maybe was a classic and the next on is even better played, better recorded and better produced. Some people are going to read that and go, ‘egotistical bastard’, but I reckon it demonstrates a confidence in our ability that’s 100% healthy.
“Bands have no right releasing records unless they, hand on heart, believe that they’re better than anything in the charts. or come to think of it, anything that’s come before. I felt passionate about the Pistols and The Jam and The Smiths but I realise they weren’t Gods, they were normal blokes who happened to be highly talented musicians. The Beatles are the same. If by some miracle I met John Lennon, I’m sure he’d be no different to me. SOoe chancer on the piss who managed to string a few chords together and sell a lot of records.”
So, there you are kids, untold riches and a limitless supply of showbiz sherbet awaits anyone prepared to invest twenty quid in guitar lessons. Whilst sharing a pint of Boddington’s with John Lennon seems just a little bit more unlikely than Ian Paisley performing Turandot at La Scala, Noel has managed to breathe the same air as another of his Fab Four heroes, Paul McCartney.
“It’s bizarre how I got to meet him but to cut a long story short, his daughter Stella is a fashion designer and her personal assistant knows my girlfriend. Through this, we got an invite to one of her end-of-show parties which just happened to be in the St. John’s Wood house where Macca did most of his writing with John. We get there, manage to somehow avoid being savaged by the McCartney’s 20 stone Rottweiler and who should answer the door only the man himself.
“I told him my name and after pausing a few seconds, he goes, ‘are you that band Oasis’ Linda gave me a bit of stick for having a suede jacket on but otherwise they were dead cool. He told me he likes ‘Slide Away’ and our version of ‘I Am A Walrus’ and when we played it at Glastonbury, Stella phoned him from the stage on her mobile and said, ‘listen Dad, they’re playing your song.’”
The danger inherent in encountering your idols is that you tend to blurt out things that even from the mouth of a mentally-subnormal orang-utan would sound positively inane. I speak from personal experience having once greeted Stephen Tyler with the immortal words, “I’ve been a fan of yours since I was a baby, well, since I was 10.”
“There were all these questions I wanted to ask that I knew he’d answered a million times before, so I settled for, ‘Do you watch Brookside?’ You’ll be fascinated to hear that, yes, he does and he’s also a big Coronation Street fan. What I really wanted to know was, ‘what was going through your mind when you wrote ‘Yesterday’?’ but I didn’t have the bottle.”
Bearing in mind that McCartney enlisted Youth’s help last year to produce a very passable ambient album, what would Gallagher’s reaction be if Britain’s most famous thumbs-aloft merchant invited him over for a jam?
“Thank you, God,” he says with his grin reaching dizzying new heights of chemically-inspired silliness. “There’s no way you could pass up on an opportunity like that, though I’d be frightened of what’d happen if it was any good. I mean, if there were two tunes that were worth releasing, can you imagine the fucking battle there’d be between our company and his? Then I’d have to square it with the lads to see if they minded and, well, there are as many potential pitfalls as there are benefits.
“It’ll be interesting to hear what Paul, George and Ringo have done with that demo of John’s because that’s what I’d like to do – take a real ‘60’s Beatley tune and drag it into the ‘90s. If it’s crap and they’ve made a bollocks of it, I’ll be the first to say so but even though some of their solo stuff has been right dodgy, I still reckon they know what’s what.”
Beatles to reform stories are so tired they make Rip Van Winkle seem hyperactive by comparison but according to some pretty heavyweight rumours, there’s a chance that the Terrif Three’s studio reunion may be followed by a smattering of live gigs.
“Two of the ‘replacements’ I’ve heard mentioned are Phil Collins and Elvis Costello and if that’s the case, they can fuck right off. The only person who could conceivably do it is Julian Lennon and, even then, it won’t be the same. It’s like, The Rolling Stones stopped being The Rolling Stones when Brian Jones left. They got away with it because Ronnie Wood has that real Stonesy attitude but this new bass player’s the sort of geezer you expect to see driving round in a poncey Japanese jeep. Having said that, if Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr ever appear together, I’ll make sure to blag a ticket.”
While it took Manc neighbours the Stone Roses a Fleetwood Mac-esque five years to record theirs, Oasis’ second album was cranked out in a fortnight with a good few of the guitar and vocal tracks laid down in one take. Ranging from the nihilistic guitar thrash of ‘Hello’ to the psychedelic bubblegum of ‘She’s Electric’, Morning Glory ram-raids its way through 30 years of Britpop finery with nobody, not even Blur, standing an earthly of pulling them over.
“I look at the Roses and thing, ‘fuck me, how did a top band like that manage to disappear up their own arses?’ Second Coming would’ve been an alright album if it'd come out a year after the first one but the build-up from the press and sense of expectation from the fans was so over the top that it was automatically going to be a disappointment.
“Maybe it does exist,” Noel Proffers, “but I’ve certainly never experienced ‘difficult second album syndrome’. I’m happy that Morning Glory’s the best record we could possibly have made and if people disagree with that, fair enough, they’re entitled to their opinion. Even if it’s wrong. The only time I feel pressured is when someone comes up, recites the lyrics from ‘Live Forever’ and says, ‘that song prevented me from committing suicide’. I mean, I’m delighted it gave you the strength to carry on but it’s a heavy responsibility, particularly when they’re total strangers.”
Hot Press can also exclusively reveal – unless he’s blurted it out since to someone else – that Noel's done a Bruce ‘n’ Tarby and brought in Paul Weller to supply a few extra riffs.
“Yeah, we were strolling along the 17th fairway when I stopped, gave him a big hug and asked whether he’d be a luvvie and come in and play on our album. Nah, what happened is that me and Paul have become really good mates, he heard some of the rough mixes and went, ‘I wouldn’t mind a bit of that’. Naturally, I was happy to oblige.
“It was another case of meeting someone who I idolised and realising that he’s just a bloke from Woking who likes his beer and writes damn fine tunes. I’ll sit in the room and say, ‘why are you such a miserable cunt all the time?’, which I know he prefers to endless questions about The Jam and the fucking Style Council. Actually, I did have a word with him about all that crap instrumental stuff he did during his Cappuccino Kid-phase, but when you consider he’s been going 20 years and Stanley Road’s the best album he’s done yet, I think you can forgive him for the occasional dip.”
Personally, I reckon anyone who adopts cycling shorts as a fashion statement deserves to be suspended head-first into a vat of Bernard Manning’s sweat, but at least Weller’s lycra-clad shame came after he’d knocked The Jam on the head.
“That’s the way to do it,” his chum enthuses. “I don’t ever want Oasis to become shit and if I thought that album number three wasn’t going to be as good as album number two, I’d quit the band and tell the others I’ll break their legs if they carry on without me. Paul’d get millions for reforming The Jam but he won’t ever do it because he’s got too much integrity.
“Actually, I’m thinking of getting a contract drawn up which says, ‘If we ever split and get and back together, I hereby give legal permission to anybody who wants to kick my fucking head in’. They should make that standard when you sign a record deal because there’s nobody, absolutely nobody, who’s better the second time around.”
Loathe as we are to trigger off a Fatwah, I feel it’s our journalistic duty to inform fans that at least part of the reason Take That are now Robbie Wllllame-less, is that he spent a goodly part of Glasto consorting with Oasis and their rider.
“Don’t blame us,” he pleads, mindful of the teeny retribution which may await him. “Judging by the amount of champagne that was going down his throat, I don’t think he needs us to teach him any bad habits but he’s a nice bloke who wasn’t happy with his life and decided to change it. There aren’t many 21-year-olds who’d turn their back on a guaranteed fortune, so fair dues to him.
“I happen to think that Take That are actually quite a decent pop band. They’ve started writing their own songs, they’re fucking amazing on stage and they’ve had a damn site more top 10 hits than ourselves and Blur. Rock ‘n’ roll has always been about fans wanting to shag stars - the difference between us and Take That is that the girls who want to do naughties with them haven’t been through puberty yet. The Beatles were the Take That of their generation, so don’t knock ‘em.”
Could we please knock Boyzone instead then, please?
“Yeah, well they’re pretty crap but give ‘em a year or so and, who knows, they might come up with a classic tune.”
Those who at this juncture are considering holding their breath in anticipation are warned that depriving themselves of oxygen for the rest of their lives could be detrimental to their health...
For all the talk of his pugilistic tendencies, an hour in Noel Gallagher’s company is enough to convince me that he’s not quite the hair-trigger pariah of tabloid lore.
“Being a rock star doesn’t give you licence to behave like a cunt, though I’m sure there are people in this industry who think I’m a complete wanker because I speak my mind. Perhaps I am a cunt but at least I’m a positive one. The whinging fuckers who go on about how they’ve had too much or too little success should either shut their faces or get themselves a job in Tesco’s. How can you not be positive about being paid to play music?
“It’s like the Kurt Cobain thing,” he volunteers. “I respected him as a musician but to blow your head off because you don’t want to be in a band no more makes fuck-all sense. If it’s torturing you that much, quit. Personally, I think he was encouraged by certain people around him to act out that ‘live fast die young’ mythology which seems romantic but is actually the ultimate cop-out.”
What about Oasis’ own well documented appetite for destruction?
“Like tonight, I usually have a little something when I come off stage to help me wind down but we’re not tapping veins every five minutes. People who take smack are losers and we’re in this to fucking win.
“Anyway, I’m off to the bog!”
Funny, isn’t it readers, how life always seems to turn full circle?