It was August 1991 when Noel Gallagher, back in Manchester after a stint working as a roadie for the Inspiral Carpets went to see his younger brother's new band for the first time. As he would recall years later, "fucking cheers mate" was his thoughts as he saw his brother fronting a band and looking to forge his own way into the music world. Noel's status as world-touring roadie was in danger of being over-shadowed by his brother. The spotlight which Noel desired was now being sought by Liam as well. It was the start of the rivalry which would come to define Oasis when Noel joined.
It was apparent from the start that Liam Gallagher was well aware of the talents and virtues of Noel. The very act of asking his brother to join, no matter how much he has tried to downplay it in the past, shows he knew immediately that Noel on board was an opportunity he couldn't resist. But it meant giving up control of the band to his brother, another action which went along way to starting the inter-band conflict between the two. Also, Noel's acceptance and insistence on becoming the band's leader was an obvious sign that he desired to be seen as superior to his brother right from the start. The awkward, unofficial positions of the two brothers in the band had already sown the seeds of a rivalry which would last for the best part of twenty years.
To begin with, all was well. The brothers were united in a desire to escape from the city they had grown up in, and in doing so create a new life for themselves. The brothers, along with Paul Arthurs, Paul McGuigan and Tony McCarroll, would rehearse religiously and play any gig they could. Hugely committed to the band, their passion would materialise on stage, where they impressed all who saw them at the time with their power and intensity - the amount of people they were playing to was irrelevant. It was immediately clear that the fire that was burning inside Liam and Noel was powering the band on to inevitable success in the future. It had already become an integral part of Oasis.
When the band landed a record deal two years later, the clashes of personality and ideology between the two brothers began to become more apparent, as Noel Gallagher combined his own desire to live the rock n roll lifestyle with a determination to drive the band on, while his brother embraced all that a band on the road offers and began to lose sight of the underlying importance of the music and the gigs.
The first real display of strife came when Liam and Guigsy were detained on an overnight ferry heading to Amsterdam. With Noel tucked up in bed, his fellow band members got into a scrap with other passengers. Noel learned of the fight the next morning, and found his own plans being interrupted by his brother's antics. It was a story which would be played out many times in the intervening years.
Not long after, Noel abandoned the group for the first time. After a disastrous gig in LA in September 1994, Noel walked away from the band. Heading off to San Francisco in the middle of the night, Noel apparently had the full intention of leaving the band not long after they had begun to breakthrough in the UK. However, he was persuaded to rejoin after being tracked down by Creation man Tim Abbott, and after a short stay in Las Vegas, Noel returned and the band he was leading once again began to scale unprecedented heights.
By 1996, Noel's songwriting and fierce commitment to the band, coupled with Liam's emergence as the most dynamic, passionate frontman since Johnny Rotten, had propelled the group to super-stardom in Europe. Once more though, Noel was left to pick up the pieces after Liam pulled out of a planned MTV Unplugged appearance just moments before he was due to go on stage. Noel completed the gig, but his patience was being stretched to breaking point.
As their second album '(What's The Story) Morning Glory?' began to make waves in the US on the back of the worldwide hit 'Wonderwall', the band were booked for a tour of the US in August 1996. However, Liam had other plans, and moments before they were due to board the plane, Liam turned away, saying he needed to "sort his house out" with his new bride Patsy Kensit. Once again, these were actions Noel interpreted as selfishness and against the good of the band, and the ever increasing bitterness between the brothers began to be played out more and more in the press as interest in the group hit fever pitch. It was a tension which undoubtedly helped give the band it's power, and helped to generate an interest in the group that was beginning to reach unprecedented levels.
After Liam's about-turn at the airport, Noel decided to continue without him, but when Liam rejoined the group a few weeks later, it wasn't long before Noel's patience had been snapped once more and he walked away from the band for the second time in two years. Not long after their generation-defining gigs at Knebworth, Noel had walked out of the band with the clear intention of not returning. Return he did though, and not only did the band continue the tour, they found themselves back in the studio shortly after.
In 1999, the future of Oasis was once again in doubt. Paul 'Bonehead' Arthurs had announced his departure not long into the sessions for a new album, and was soon followed by bassist Paul 'Guigsy' McGuigan. With the troubles that the brothers had suffered over the past few years, it was unclear whether the pair would be able to pull together and guide Oasis through this transitional period. However, the brothers showed their mutual passion for the band and vowed to continue, recruiting new members Andy Bell and Gem Archer to fulfill the world tour that had been booked to support 'Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants'.
Once on the road, it wasn't long before trouble had flared once again between the Gallaghers. After the band were forced to cancel a gig in Barcelona in 2000 due to an injury to drummer Alan White, the members spent the night drinking in their dressing room. Insults were traded between Liam and Noel and after another punch up, Noel walked once more. The reported events of the fight were the first public sign that the tension had moved on from the petty squabbling and differences of two young brothers, to the more personal attacks which would begin drive them apart. After the now infamous fight in Barcelona, Liam soldiered on without Noel, and the band fulfilled the remaining European dates with stand-in guitarist Matt Deighton.
Yet again, Noel returned, saying he felt a duty to new members Archer and Bell to record a new album, and the band completed their 2000 summer UK stadium shows with Noel back on board, and returned to the studio a year later.
2005 was perhaps the strongest year for the brothers since 1996. With a new album under their belts that had spawned two UK no.1 singles, they hit the road for their biggest world tour to date which included huge US shows at venues such as Madison Square Garden and Hollywood Bowl. The tour passed off without incident, and relations between the two seemed to be well.
However, when the band reconvened in the studio to begin a follow up in 2007, it wasn't long before Liam was again putting personal wishes ahead of the group in Noel's eyes. Leaving the studio to marry his long-time girlfriend Nicole Appleton, Liam interrupted plans to record a couple of tracks for the album, one of which Noel said had been eyed up as a potential future single. The remaining members were forced to change their plans and record different tracks without Liam, and being forced change his schedule to suit Liam yet again seems to have finally pushed Noel close to the edge
The resulting tour was disappointing. The stories of separate hotels, dressing rooms and tour buses indicates a whole new level of antagonism between the brothers, one that was only working against the band and now holding it back. The only communication between the brothers came via Noel's tour blog 'Tales From The Middle Of Nowhere' and Liam's Twitter account. Frankly, it was all rather embarrassing and the feeling that all the animonisty, which now seemed to be bordering on hatred, was becoming too much, was hard to resist. Eventually, all the pent-up emotion exploded on Saturday night in Paris with another dressing room brawl between the pair, resulting in Noel announcing his departure from the band for the fourth time. But was it the right decision?
One thing is clear, Oasis wouldn't have functioned, or at least to the heights they once did, without the two brothers on board. However, the past 18 months has revealed that the rivalry between Liam and Noel Gallagher was no longer working for the band, and was in fact acting detrimentally. It's one thing not communicating on tour, but once in the studio, and if Oasis were to continue as a viable entity they would have had to record eventually, all members need to be speaking and on the same page. Warring in the studio is only going to stifle creativity, and the last thing Oasis as a band needed was to carry on simply as a money-making touring machine. It would have been excruciating for the antics that have been played out on the 'Dig Out Your Soul Tour' to be repeated again and again on subsequent tours.
So if the tension and rivaly, which was once the driving force behind the band is now only damaging it, then Noel is right to walk away. Certainly the online squabbling between the two since Oasis went back on the road in 2008 is a million miles away from the impassioned tension of the twenty-somethings that managed to captivate the public so much so that a recording of their argument, 'Wibling Rivaly', managed to make the charts.
Will Oasis carry on without Noel? Can they? It's by no means unprecendented to see a band carry on after the departure of a major member, and even go on to new heights. Pink Floyd managed it, as did The Rolling Stones. However, rarely has one man been so integral to the success and direction of a band and carrying on Noel-less would surely only further weaken Liam's position in what has already been a fairly one-sided argument.
Team Noel or Team Liam? Let us know which side you're on by leaving your thoughts below.
1 September 2009
Tuesday, September 01, 2009 stopcryingyourheartout.com 3 comments