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Monday, August 24, 2009
Oasis: is it really over?Oasis are finished, says the rumourmill after they suddenly cancel a concert. But it's just business as usual between Liam and Noel Gallagher as the two fall out (again)
For thousands crowded into a field near Chelmsford, Sunday's news must have been deflating, to say the least. Having fulfilled their commitment to play the Staffordshire leg of this year's V festival, Oasis suddenly pulled out of its southern counterpart, thanks to Liam Gallagher coming down with viral laryngitis – to be replaced at the top of the bill by the eternally lukewarm Snow Patrol. The cancellation is likely to have been expensive for Oasis, and doctor's advice notwithstanding, they will soon be back on manoeuvres: an array of European concerts is scheduled to finish at a festival near Milan next weekend.
Meanwhile, months of whispers about the group's supposed imminent demise have been newly ramped up. This much we know: communication between Noel and Liam Gallagher is currently so poor that they apparently keep up with each other's thoughts via posts on the Oasis website (Noel), and curt pronouncements issued via Twitter (Liam). In an interview published in last week's NME, Liam traced the poor state of brotherly relations to "a fucking ding-dong in the airport", and issued such hopeful words of rapprochement as, "He doesn't like me and I don't like him", and "It takes a lot more than blood to be my brother."
Now the Sun has assumed its traditional role in Oasis bust-ups – more of which later – and forecast their final split. In yesterday's Bizarre column, a splash by the dependably excitable Gordon Smart was headlined, "No more Oasis gigs after band pull out of fest". Slightly lightening the air of doom, he conceded that the Chelmsford show had been pulled "because Liam's throat genuinely wasn't up to the job", but none of that got in the way of the denouement: "Like so many brilliant bands before them, Oasis are bowing out on bad terms . . . Separate flights, different hotels and very little else in common – friends, interests or personalities. Now Milan at the end of the month looks like it could be the last ever Oasis gig."
We have, needless to say, been here before – at least four times, and usually in slightly more dramatic circumstances. Right from the start, Oasis's public face was based on fratricidal nastiness, the Gallagher brothers' amazingly different temperaments, and their habit of indulging in what slightly more bourgeois people call "no-speakies".
For all their shared love of standard-issue rock excess, Noel – who is six years his brother's senior – has always tended to be worldly, witty, admirably polite, and keen to emphasise that his group's reputation rests on its music. Liam, by contrast, runs on instinct, can easily turn belligerent, and seems to take a good deal of pride in his famed habit of breaking things – including his relationship with big brother. The truly painful part of all this was nailed, albeit unintentionally, in Oasis's brilliant 1995 song Acquiesce, whose chorus, bellowed back at the Gallaghers by vast crowds ever since, ran thus: "Because we need each other/We believe in one another".
In other words, the younger needs the elder for his songs, the reverse also applies on account of Liam's unrivalled charisma and flash, and they both know it. So how to manage the resulting tensions? When I first interviewed them in the spring of 1994 – an occasion on which they got close to chucking one another from the windows of their Glasgow hotel – Liam seemed to have little doubt where all of this was headed: "I hate that twat there," he said of his brother, "and I hope one day there's a release where I can smash fuck out of him, with a fuckin' Rickenbacker [guitar], right on his nose, and then he does the same to me, 'cos I think that we're stepping right up to it now. There's a line there and we're right on the edge of it."
For better or worse, the Gallaghers have been balanced in that delicate place ever since. In the autumn of 1994, when they were in the midst of their first burst of British success and on their inaugural American tour, they arrived in Los Angeles to be met with what one observer recalled as "a binbag full" of that well-known relationship-aid, crystal meth. Inevitably, things did not go as planned: in front of a sold-out audience, Liam served notice of his feelings by coshing Noel with his tambourine, and repeatedly making the British hand gesture for "wanker". His brother then took $800 from the tour manager and disappeared – to San Francisco, and then Las Vegas. "The band's over," Noel told one of Oasis's aides. As it turned out, the Gallaghers were soon reunited in Texas, and the tour resumed.
Some months later, while recording their second album, Noel's decision to take the lead vocal on Don't Look Back In Anger sparked another famous scrimmage, during which he reportedly attacked his brother with a cricket bat, and once again vowed that Oasis were kaput. They weren't, but in September 1996, there came yet another bust-up – when, having already watched his brother miss the first few dates of a much-hyped "breakthrough" American tour (Liam was house-hunting with then-girlfriend Patsy Kensit), Noel seemingly called time on Oasis after a huge row in Charlotte, North Carolina, and flew home on Concorde. Having just played to 250,000 fans over two nights at Knebworth Park in Hertfordshire, Oasis were then at the peak of their imperial phase, and the media treated their apparent break-up as some kind of national bereavement. All major TV news bulletins kept up with the fall-out from the ruckus, and camera crews and photographers anxiously awaited the Gallaghers' separate returns.
Under the careful supervision of Oasis's management, the two soon met up in an undisclosed rural location, and patched things up, allowing their friends at the Sun to claim credit for their reunion. "The Sun saves Oasis," was the headline on the resulting splash, claiming that in its panicked coverage of the spat, Britain's favourite red-top had reminded the Gallaghers of their place in the nation's affections and thereby made everything all right. Of course it had.
After that, give or take the departure of two of Oasis's original members, things went rather quiet – until May 2000, when on a night off in Barcelona, Liam apparently made an off-colour comment about Noel's then-wife Meg Mathews, and Noel once again packed his bags. This time, to massed gasps of incredulity, the show went on: the singer-songwriter Matt Deighton was flown out, hot-housed in Noel's guitar parts, and introduced to Oasis's Italian public in Milan (strange, perhaps, how the regional capital of Lombardy has been given two cameos in this story).
I saw that performance, and the next night's show in Zurich: they were both a real thrill, boosted by the sense of a group flying without their usual radar. If the Gallaghers' relationship really is all over, this may just be the way ahead: Liam starting a career pitched somewhere between Wembley stadium and the end of the pier, based on a simple enough realisation – that you don't need Noel to do Noel's songs.
Still, that is mere speculation and mischief. When it comes to the latest rumours, the most likely conclusion is that Noel and Liam are passing through another relatively inconsequential bit of frostiness, and Oasis – if not the world-beaters of yore, still a very, very big group – will gamely carry on.
It's a thought that puts me in mind of an interview I once did with their former guitarist Paul "Bonehead" Arthurs, who has long since stopped watching Gallagher fur fly, and these days has a much quieter life in one of the more verdant corners of Cheshire. When I asked him for his memories of one of the Gallaghers' previous scraps, he recalled steadying the nerves of one of their associates when Noel had once again called it quits.
"We said to him, 'Noel's gone home'. He was going, 'Do you think that's it?' I said, 'It'll be all right. Give him a week at home.' By then it was just, 'Oh – another fight.'"
via L4e / Guardian.co.uk
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