For all those post-internet millennials who can’t remember because they weren’t there, Oasis were bigger than any band then, any band since and, with a fewfamous exceptions, any band before.
It was the Britpop era of the 90s, music had attitude, the country was cool and one band ruled the waves.
While lurching from triumph to disaster and back again, Oasis released seven studio albums, sold 70m records and played to countless sell-out stadiums that reached a peak in August 1996 with two concerts at Knebworth in front of a total of 250,000-plus people.
The rowdy Gallaghers were throwbacks almost before they began. Oasis was a British band on a mission to conquer the world: brash, cocky and confrontational. They wanted to “have it all” and have it they did.
During his time in Oasis, Noel partied hard. He married and divorced Meg Mathews, with whom he has a daughter, Anaïs, now 15; moved into and out of the house in North London he named Supernova Heights and found a new wife, Sara MacDonald, with whom he has two boys, Donovan, eight, and Sonny, five.
He epitomised the Britpop decade, took a lot of cocaine and then stopped; hurled insults; caused punch-ups; made a
considerable fortune and won the admiration of a generation, before going on to enjoy a successful solo career.
The end of Oasis came in August 2009 in Paris, when Noel quit the band, apparently for good, after yet another backstage bust-up with his brother Liam. Two years later, he launched a successful solo career with Noel Gallagher’s
High Flying Birds. Last year, his second album, Chasing Yesterday, was released, and in April he plays Leeds Direct Arena.
In a recent interview with Esquire magazine he talked about his chaotic childhood; the ramshackle early years; the break-ups and make-ups; the drugs and the women; the final implosion of Oasis; his re-emergence as a solo artist and why rock n roll really is dead.
I was born in Longsight in Manchester, which is a really rough-arse part of town. They knocked our street down to build this new-fangled thing called an Asda superstore in the Seventies and we got housed in this place called Burnage, which at the time was quite a leafy suburb.
But as the Seventies turned to the Eighties it became a bit more desolate. Someone got shot in the face outside my mum’s house last year
but she’s oblivious to the violence. She loves it there. From my dad I got my love of Man City, thank f***ing God, although I resented him for
that up until about eight years ago.
I laugh when I hear people moaning about their childhoods. Mine was wrapped up in violence and drunkenness and there was no
money but still we didn’t go around robbing people. We stole things but we didn’t rob people.
Do I feel working class? In my soul, I guess I do.
There is this magical moment at the start of your trip, and it only lasts for about six months until you become wealthy. It’s when you’re
wearing the same clothes as your audience and you’re in the same circumstances. And there’s probably people in the crowd that are better off than you are, got a better job than you have. So it’s a moment of truth. You’re not a rock star.
You’re in a rock band but you’ve not yet got the supermodel and the drug habit and all that.
You’re just a guy with a guitar. The first album is a bona fide f***ing moment in culture. Nobody is ever going to tell me any different. That was when we were just a gang of guys. We had f***-all and we made this music but that was our time and I think when we were
good, we were f***ing great, and I think when we were bad we were still pretty f***ing good.
I’ve never seen Oasis live but there couldn’t have been that many better than us. I’ve been to Wembley to see many bands but I’ve never seen the entire stadium pogoing, ever, at anybody else’s gig. You’d be on stage thinking,
‘It’s going to fall over. The stadium’s going to f***ing fall over!’
In the Nineties, all of us were high on cocaine, all the time. Having it. I haven’t got a ‘My Drug Hell’ story because it was f***ing brilliant. But
what happened was I started getting massive panic attacks. You think you’re going to die.
So I stopped. I haven’t done it since ’98. I did one line maybe, a couple of years after I gave up, because I was p***ed and I had to sober up
quickly. And I haven’t touched it since. It is a s**t drug. Now I smoke a bit. And drink a bit.
Too much, really. But nothing else. Even now I’ll be at a party and I can sense the night takes a turn when people are off to the toilets in pairs and suddenly it’s not fun anymore. Everyone gets very serious.
I tell you what I think about Liam and this is just an opinion. He would aggressively disagree. He was rightly put up there as this f***ing huge rock star but he didn’t write a note, not a word. From my perspective I don’t know how comfortable I’d feel about the mania surrounding us, and you knowing in your soul that you were responsible for really wearing the clothes. And that’s not a dig. But when you’re doing interviews about an album you’ve not written… I know it did his head in a little bit that he was just the singer. Liam was a great singer and a great frontman in a great band.
At his best he was the best. I think maybe inside himself, after Knebworth, Liam thought, “You’ve done it now.” It didn’t last long.
The fame thing, some people it hits them hard. I flourished. I love it. I’ve never gone out of my way to be famous and I don’t go to the opening of a f***ing envelope but if somebody wants to lend me their super yacht just because I’m famous, “Thanks very much, man.” I do enjoy that side of it and you should enjoy it. Fame was not wasted on anybody in Oasis. It certainly wasn’t wasted on me and Liam. And wealth, notoriety and all that, wasn’t wasted on us.
If Oasis were ever to come back we couldn’t be any bigger than we’d already been. There’s no kudos in us selling out three nights at
Wembley because we’ve already f***ing done seven. The Stone Roses never played gigs of that magnitude. They came back and they were bigger than they’d ever been. So it was justified.
Ten years from now, if I wake up one morning and go, “You know what? I think I’m going to do it,” I can guarantee you, just for spite, Liam
would say, “Oh, no, I’m not keen.” Because that’s the way sh*t works.
I can only tell you I’ve already got the next five years planned out. So it’s not going to happen in the next five years. Who knows what circumstances might be thrown up in the future? But, certainly now, it’s not even on the horizon.
I’VE GOT A CAT THAT’S MORE
ROCK’N’ROLL THAN ALL THE
CURRENT ROCK STARS PUT
Does anybody give a f*** about what any of these current pop stars are up to? Who gives a s**t what One Direction do? They’ll be in rehab
by the time they’re 30. Who gives a s**t what Ellie Goulding is up to? Really? Adele, what.? It blows my f***ing mind. Nobody cares! Fame’s
wasted on them, with their in-ear monitors and their electronic cigarettes. And their fragrances that they’re bringing out for Christmas. I’m
going to bring a fragrance out, oh it’s coming, it’s coming. Toe-Rag it’s going to be called. And the bottle’s going to be a massive toe.
There are no rock’n’roll people anymore. I’ve got a cat that’s more rock’n’roll than all of them put together.
Fame is wasted on these people. The new generation of rock stars, when have they ever said anything that made you laugh? When have
they ever said anything you remember? People say, “They’re interesting.” Interesting! That’s a word that’s crept in to music: “Yeah, man.
Have you heard the new Skrillex record?” “No.” “Yeah, man. It’s really interesting.” I don’t want interesting!
The last six months of Oasis were f***ing awful, it was excruciating. Me and Liam had a massive, fistfight three weeks before the world
tour started, and fights like that in the past would always be easy to rectify but for some reason I wasn’t going to let it go this time. And
there was an atmosphere all the way around the world. If I’d thought there was anything left to achieve I wouldn’t have left Oasis. I made a very snap decision in the car that night in Paris: We sold out all the great gigs in the world: Hollywood Bowl, Madison Square Garden, Wembley Stadium, City of Manchester Stadium, Hampden Park. You name it, we did it all. But Liam’s convinced I’m some kind of puppet-master, and he blames it all on me. And then it just escalated. It blew up. And that was it. I thought: “You know what, I’ve done enough now. F*** it, I’m going to leave.”
The person I prefer to hang out with more than anyone is my missus. She’s my favourite person to go on holiday with, to go to dinner with, 12-hour lunches, go to the party. She just means everything to me. I much prefer hanging out with women. I remember my upbringing being pretty much my mum and her sisters, and even when we went to Ireland the men were never around. I’d much rather hang out with girls. I mean who wouldn’t? If you’ve got the choice of a night out with six birds or six f***ing geezers, thank you very much but I’ll go with the six women. I never go on lads’ nights out. Ever.
I’m never going to sell out Wembley Stadium on my own. Oasis could do 15 nights at the drop of a f***ing hat but that’s not what drives me
now. I’m driven to make what I do now the best that it can be. I won’t say a word to an audience for two hours if I can’t be f***ing bothered. If you don’t like it then don’t come next time.
Playing live will never die because you can’t download it. You can’t download spirit. And, so, for the likes of me who persevered from an
early age to play the f***ing guitar and write songs and practice and practice and practice, I’ll be fine but God help Zayn Malik.
I don’t know what I’d do. It’s quite sad, really. I don’t have anything else that I’m remotely interested in other than music and football and my family. And that’s it. I’m proud of three things, maybe four things. To get to this age and not have dyed my hair is a major achievement.
No earrings. No tattoos. And no motorbike..
words | Mark Bowness