September 4, 2009

Well, I want Oasis to party like it's 1995

Like a Cassandra to his own Trojan war, it might just be that last year Liam Gallagher saw the events of the past few weeks advancing over the horizon and felt unmoved to avert them. If, as sources close to the band suggest, the rest of Oasis plan to continue beyond Noel Gallagher’s departure, then the Liam-penned final tune on last year’s Dig Out Your Soul will assume some prescience. “Who’s to say/You were right/And I was wrong?/Soldier on.” Would they dare to, though? What kind of an ego would it take to continue Oasis without their songwriter Noel Gallagher, the man who gave them Live Forever, Wonderwall and Supersonic?

There’s no shortage of anecdotal mater-ial to suggest that Liam has succumbed to many of the clichés that surround the pampered rock frontman. Own dressing room? Check. Boutique clothing range? Check. Personal security guard? Check. From here, it would be natural to infer a gulf that has Noel and the rest of Oasis on one side and Liam — who has long since relinquished even the need to be present at soundchecks — on the other. And yet it’s worth noting that — in the wake of the fight that nixed their appearance at Friday’s Paris en Seine festival — Liam and his wife Nicole Appleton high-tailed it to Lake Como in Italy with the Oasis bassist Andy Bell and his girlfriend in tow. According to one insider: “People are scared of Liam. And if he wants to carry on the band, Andy and [guitarist] Gem Archer will probably go along with it.” In the statement released hours after the Paris altercation, Noel pronounced himself disappointed with the “lack of support and understanding from my management and bandmates that left me with no other option than to seek pastures new”.

The history of brothers in bands — from the Bee Gees to the Kinks — is dotted with recriminations and subsequent reconciliations. Oasis have had their fair share, most seriously in Barcelona nine years ago, when Liam goaded his brother by casting doubt on the legitimacy of Noel’s daughter Anaïs. Wasn’t there every reason, then, to assume that these latest wounds would also heal? Their mother Peggy seems to think so. “They love each other,” she says. “They’ve had fights before and got over it.”

Mothers often know best, but mothers are also rarely able to view their children’s spats as, well, anything more than children’s spats. In the wake of Oasis’s no-show at the V Festival — attributed to Liam’s laryngitis — the singer had seemed similarly keen to play down rumours that the band’s future was in jeopardy. Bypassing the spellchecking software on his phone, he issued a reassuring tweet to his fans: “The voice may of disappeared, but I’m still here ... I’m gutted your gutted what can I say f*** all at the moment.”

Friends of the guitarist, however, were left with an altogether graver picture. Noel told friends that Oasis would never play a British show again, the implication being that if they could just see out their remaining European festival shows, he could walk away quietly. If Oasis had fulfilled the Paris obligation, they would have had just one more show left to play.

So what happened at Rock en Seine to tip Noel over the edge? Despite occupying the neighbouring dressing room, the New York band Vampire Weekend have kept their counsel, merely hinting at the weirdness of coming off stage following a triumphant set to encounter ugly scenes. The Scottish singer-songwriter Amy McDonald was less discreet: “Oasis cancelled again, with one minute to stage time! Liam smashed Noel’s guitar, huuuge fight!”

Speaking to The Times, a source close to Noel said: “The problems began even before Liam arrived in Paris. He travelled separately from the band, as he does these days, on Eurostar. By the time he got to the venue he was his usual confrontational self. He said things about Noel’s family and made pointed personal insinuations about Sara [MacDonald, Noel’s partner].” What we now also know is that the guitar smashing involved an acoustic guitar given to Liam by Appleton, to which Noel laid waste before walking away.

In any band of Oasis’s stature there are usually systems in place to stop the build-up of tensions. If pre-gig drinking has the potential to become an issue, management and the security staff employed by them can ensure that group members make it onstage in a state of relative sobriety. In the days when Liam Gallagher was merely the frontman with Oasis, such matters would have been dealt with by the group’s management company, Ignition. In 2009, however, things have ceased to be as simple. Accompanying Gallagher on Eurostar was Stevie Allen, Liam’s personal security guard and the business partner with whom the singer set up his clothing line Pretty Green. As anyone who has kept up with Liam’s Twitter updates this year will know, the singer’s enthusiasm for Pretty Green seems, at times, to have eclipsed his enthusiasm for his band.

Sources close to Noel say that he is furious at what he sees as Liam’s willingness to use the goodwill earned by Oasis’s music to sell clothes. The confusion between Liam’s band and brand was further heightened by the singer’s recent interview with NME, arranged through the PR he uses for Pretty Green. Parading various garments on his label, Liam confirmed that the pair were no longer on speaking terms, alleging: “It takes more than blood to be my brother.”

Others have questioned the wisdom of a band with Oasis’s fractious history committing to a ten-month world tour — not least because of issues around the recording of Dig Out Your Soul that were still not resolved before its release. After eight weeks of sessions at Abbey Road studios, Liam had yet to record a single vocal. Speaking to Q magazine, Noel revealed that Liam waited until mixing for the album commenced in LA before recording his vocals. Even then, halfway though the fortnight-long stay in LA, Liam fled to London, saying he had “some business to attend to”. This, it turns out, was his wedding to Appleton, to which none of his bandmates had been invited. As a result, Noel told Q, the band were forced to shelve two album tracks, including “an epic, Champagne Supernova song with backwards Are You Experienced-type rhythms” and a 50-piece choir. Anything but contrite, Liam tweeted: “A 50-piece choir on it ... more like 50 shit guitar solos on it.”

And that’s the way it’s been with the Gallaghers this year. “He’s constantly going on about how much soul he’s got,” Noel said. “I assume Bob Marley had soul ... I don’t see Bob Marley at the Rainbow [the scene of the famous Wailers concert in 1977] wailing about the colour of the napkins in his dressing room.”

Paul Rees, the editor of Q, remembers being struck by the way that, throughtout their interview, Noel kept bringing the subject around to his brother. “He seemed so tired,” Rees says. “People who have seen them on tour this year have noticed that he seems to be going through the motions.”

Beneath the weariness, however, is hurt. “He’s never seen my little lad [one year-old Donovan]. Just pictures,” Noel confided (a claim strenuously refuted by Liam). “If you were in the circle of people that we are in, you wouldn’t have him in the house if he spoke to you the way he speaks to me and my family.”

One bone of contention appears to be MacDonald herself, who Liam is said to have consistently sought to antagonise. “At the Brits in 2007 Liam snatched her glass of wine and allowed it to smash at her feet,” one insider alleges. And the source of the acrimony? “They move in different circles. Sara knows journalists and people in the media. He sees her as sleeping with the enemy. Liam seems to prefer celebrities. He’s friends with Gok Wan and Holly Willoughby. Noel, meanwhile, prefers the company of musicians.”

Rees echoes the sentiments: “Noel has always been keen to broaden his musical horizons — perhaps more than Oasis would allow at times.” The man who discoverer Oasis, Alan McGee, reckons it’ll be less than five years before the brothers end up on the same stage together. Friends of Noel suggest that ten years is a more realistic assessment. But If Liam’s ego has spiralled out of control, Noel may want to stop and consider whether he inadvertently had a hand in the process. Seven years ago, when his younger brother brought his maiden songwriting effort Little James to the table, Noel encouraged him to write more. Now, with three creditable efforts on Dig Out Your Soul, it’s conceivable that Liam — who, lest we forget, started Oasis without his brother — feels bold enough to carry the burden of their reputation.

In a funny way, he may even have a point. In this divorce, Liam may come off surprisingly well — at least in monetary terms. It may not excite the critics, but an Oasis that functions as a travelling jukebox — Britpop’s first heritage act — may play in Liam’s favour. Hard to imagine? Go and see Oasis live and the beery mass you see bellowing the words to Wonderwall bear far greater resemblance to Liam than Noel. Will they mind if Oasis never record another note? Or do they just want to party like it’s 1995?

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