Today's Top Stories
Monday, February 20, 2012
Noel Gallagher: Oasis Not Reforming Before The Smiths Or The Kinks
Noel Gallagher’s new band is doing well, though not quite as well as his old one. He explains why Oasis won’t be getting back together before The Smiths, or The Kinks
It's early evening in Adelaide and “bloody boiling”, according to Noel Gallagher, who’s taking advantage of the air-conditioning in his hotel room before an appearance at the city’s Big Day Out festival. You could say he’s in hog heaven, but Boss Hog heaven would be more accurate. “How about this for an afternoon of telly: The Dukes of Hazzard – Boss is a legend – Magnum, Nightrider, The A-Team. I’ve been texting all my mates back home because that’s bloody fantastic.”
I was mildly surprised to discover that Gallagher had checked in under his own name. Not for him a silly rock-star alias like Harry Bollocks (Ozzy Osbourne), Sir Humphrey Handbag (Elton John), Bobo Latrine (Elt again) or Brian Bigbun (you-know-who). But then I remembered how often I’d seen him with Sara MacDonald, then his girlfriend and now his wife, walking round her home city of Edinburgh, hand-in-hand, maybe a Harvey Nicks bag or two, just being normal.
Gallagher, when he was in Oasis with his kid brother Liam, used to rule the world. Well, apart from America, which they never quite cracked. The What’s the Story (Morning Glory)? album shifted 22 million copies and the band helped found a music movement (Britpop), a cultural one (Cool Britannia) and an ideological one (Laddism). Everyone, not just northern working-class tykes, wanted to talk like them (lots of swearing) and walk like them (the way carpetfitters do, as if lugging heavy rolls under each arm). With the cigarette-lighter anthems Wonderwall and Don’t Look Back in Anger, they encouraged men to show their emotions, or at least to indulge in beery hugging-wrestling at the end of yet another Binge Britain night. Even Tony Blair, after receiving Noel at Number 10 and reflecting on the historical significance of the cheese-and-wine, slurred into Gordon Brown’s ear, “You’re my best mate, you are.” (Well, almost).
The man who wrote the songs, Gallagher was a big, big star and always acted like it, but at 44 this is how normal his life is now: “I do the supermarket shop. In fact, I do it so often that when my trolley is full of Guinness and crisps the whole store knows Sara must be back in Edinburgh with our kids. Ask me what are the best-value nappies and I could tell you.
“People seeing me there for the first time are always surprised. They’re like, ‘Mate, what the f*** are you doing here?’ They watch me with my Pampers and six-packs of yoghurt, and their faces are a mixture of sympathy for me and their own personal disappointment. They want me in a top hat and a cape with a syringe hanging out one eye. It’s what’s expected, even on a Tuesday afternoon.”
He tells his stories well. A born comedian with his own catchphrase, the incredulous response, “I’m not having that.” There’s just the right amount of pause and local colour in the yarns and the throwaways that are actually crucial to the build-up of the drama. For instance, this is Gallagher on how he and Sara finally decided to get married after 11 years together. “I was watching TV one Sunday night … Coast, I think, with that Scottish bloke with the hair [Neil Oliver]. I remember there was this interesting item about a silted-up bit of the Humber, and Sara came and stood in front of the screen and said, ‘Just so you know, I’m not getting married when I’m 40.’ I had to ask how old she was – 39. Then I said, ‘So are you asking me to ask you to marry me?’ We’d talked about it before but no one wanted to organise it. She’d say, ‘But I’ve got the kids to look after’ and I was like, ‘But I’ve got the band to look after’.”
Who had the tougher job, the one involving the most wailing? It would be a close-run thing. The sibling relationship at the heart of Oasis was never less than highly flammable, fascinating psychologists and tabloid editors alike. When I worked for a more excitable journal, one Liam walk-out triggered the setting up of a special investigative unit. Each morning we would be asked, “What’s the Oasis follow-up today?” Anyone with a point of view was interviewed, including Hue & Cry’s equally combustible Pat and Greg Kane. We lasted a week before the subject was exhausted. In the new century, the band became much less vital, but in 2009 the Gallaghers squared up for one last ding-dong involving smashed guitars and a flying prune. Oasis were no more. Well, until that big reunion tour, obviously.
This seems the right moment to ask: how are things with Liam? “I’d better not talk about him,” says big brother. Last year there were assorted spats played out across the front pages of the NME, culminating in threats of legal action. Are they speaking? “Well he has been round the world [with new band Beady Eye] and now I’m doing it. Through the wonders of modern technology, it’s possible to speak without actually speaking. Other than that, we communicate through our mum.”
Gallagher is Down Under with his High Flying Birds, less a group than a bunch of musicianly mates. Last year’s self-titled album, while not a giant leap for him, was well received and is still selling well. And yet he says he only made it because Sara was fed up of him hanging around the house. “That’s not a joke, by the way. I’ve never wanted my music to be like a real job; if you put out too much stuff, people get bored. After Oasis, I think they were definitely fed up with us, and I was very happy doing nothing for a year, no interviews for two years, because I’ve got a young family and as much as possible I want to see them grow up. But after a while I was like, ‘This shit ain’t going to pay for itself.’”
His remark about needing to earn some money sounds like a joke; surely not even Oasis could have blown the proceeds from, all told, 55 million albums on mansions, cars and cocaine? Nevertheless, is he surprised by the success of High Flying Birds? “Well, part of me is like, ‘Wow, this is incredible’ but there has always been this voice which goes, ‘F*** off, you’re the bollocks.’ Apart from the first two albums, Oasis were never a critics’ band – they loathed us. But the people’s faith never wavered.” Still flaunting his bollocks then, but now with added humility – this seems to be Gallagher in 2012. Yes, he lived the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle to the fullest, and why not? There’s a lock-up in Buckinghamshire that houses, “without guilt”, half a million quid’s worth of art. This isn’t the spoils from some lottery splash – he wrote those songs and played those shows. But then he tells you about the Lifetime Achievement Award bestowed on him by Q magazine. “I found that slightly embarrassing, to be honest – but in a good way.” Suddenly, after all that sneering about being too obviously influenced by the Beatles, he had the respect of his peers. “The guys from U2 and Queen gave me a standing ovation. I’d never had one before, not even at my own wedding.”
Gallagher grew up in Burnage, Manchester, the middle son of Irish immigrants, and his violent and abusive father told him he’d never amount to anything. Of the journey from obscurity to omnipotence, he says, “You start off as a kid in an Adidas top and you end this guy in a fur coat and two pairs of f***in’ sunglasses.”
He insists he was at his happiest before fame, as a roadie for the Inspiral Carpets, earning £300 a week to set up the drums, a “normal lad” in a great city pulsating with the fab new sounds of Madchester. And he also talks wistfully about his decade on the dole. “My mate Paul Kelly did such a noble thing: he was the first of our gang to get his own flat and he set it up to be a drugs den where we could smoke weed, watch the kind of telly that’s been on today and listen to Simon & Garfunkel. I’m forever indebted.”
But it doesn’t take a genius to work out he has never been more content than right now. “I’m glad I lived through the madness – the fur coats and the crocodile-skin shoes and the women.” Here he’s talking about Supernova Heights, the house in London’s Primrose Hill he shared with Meg Matthews, and to which he returned from tour in 1988 to find it full of people who’d transformed his home into a nightclub.
He resolved, “I’m not having that – I need to get a f***in’ life” and never touched cocaine again. “The day I left Oasis I was offered the chance to write my memoirs. but I’ll never do a ‘My drugs hell’,” he adds. “I absolutely loved being famous. It was all great, up until the point when it wasn’t.”
But contrast Supernova Heights with his present abode in Maida Vale. The big attraction for him and Sara moving there was a garden for their sons, Donovan, four, and Sonny, 16 months, although Paul Weller has just bought a flat across the road – “He can see right into our kitchen and he’ll often text: ‘Milk and two, mate’” – and he likes this connection to his old life.
He’s a full-on dad – nappies, bedtime stories, trips to the park. No qualms about private schooling – he wants his boys to have a better education than he had. And this is his parenting philosophy: “You have to make the effort with children. You can’t have them thinking that I reckon I’m special otherwise they’ll start thinking they’re special. I want them to feel normal for as long as possible because God knows they’ll reach an age when they’ll be told they’re not.”
Normal Noel and his normal boys, and he was “playing at pirates” with them – that attention to story detail again – when Simon Cowell phoned up to offer Gallagher a job as a judge on The X Factor. “I love the show but could you have imagined the ‘judges’ houses’ week: all those checkout girls from Rochdale trampling on my daffs and scaring the cat? I wasn’t having that.” At least one girl was devastated that the gig went to Gary Barlow: Anais, his 12-year-old daughter by Matthews. “She was raging when I turned it down and still hasn’t forgiven me.”
He met Sara in a nightclub on Ibiza, not believing in love at first sight – but that was what it was. He loves visiting Edinburgh, her favourite restaurants, can’t remember their names, but is just happy being part of someone else’s world. His all-time favourite night out – “Imagine how many I’ve had” – was in the city on Hogmanay, when he and his friends in Kasabian started a conga outside the Balmoral Hotel. “I turned round and there must have been 300 people tagged on the end.”
And Sara’s parents, did they want to lock up their daughter after finding out who she was dating? “I think they had enough faith in her judgment to realise I wasn’t Pete Doherty. If you meet me, I’m obviously not a dickhead. I mean I was once, and quite proud of it too. But, you know, they were smitten with me right away.”
You’ll have noticed by now that Gallagher has mellowed. Once a firebrand on politics and class, it’s difficult to get him going now. He says he has lost faith in politics since the MPs’ expenses scandal, is mildly dischuffed to find himself governed by a coalition when that wasn’t on the last election’s voting slips, but in any case had put his cross next to “this guy standing as a pirate”.
Meanwhile, about posh rockers and the charts being 60 per cent privately educated, his response is considered rather than angry. “There doesn’t seem to be any working-class heroes now – guys like Ian Brown, Shaun Ryder, Richard Ashcroft, Bobby Gillespie and Liam who were knowledgable, proud, looked good and made something of themselves. Instead of being a way out, music is now a career move. A lot of the stuff I hear is utterly forgettable. You wouldn’t stand in the rain to hear these guys. You don’t want to dress like them and you don’t want to be them – they’re squares.”
He used to say he could never imagine Oasis splitting up because his little brother was the one who could always make him laugh. “My wife can do that now,” he says, “and so can our four-year-old.”
But surely Oasis will get back together one day? “We’re not reforming before The Smiths – or The Kinks. If I thought getting back with our kid would make me happy then I’d do it. But until that day, I don’t even think about it.” He’s just not having it.
Via L4E source: scotsman.com
For Breaking News visit our flagship site Live4ever Media
Make sure to join the world's largest Oasis Community
Pretty Green - mens clothing from Liam Gallagher
Visit our extensive news archives on the left sidebar for more!