14 July 2017

Liam Gallagher On Going Solo, John Lennon, Court Appearances And More

Now that Liam Gallagher is back after three years in the wilderness to reclaim his title of the last great rock ’n’ roll star, it seems only right to ask him which other rock stars have impressed him. As we sit over orange juice and water in a cafe near his home in north London he reels off names such as Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, Ronnie Wood and his fellow Highgate resident Ray Davies, but the only person he has been starstruck by, he says, is Yoko Ono.

In 2009 Gallagher got a call to visit Ono at the Dakota building, the apartment block in New York where she lived with John Lennon from 1973 until he was shot outside the building in 1980.

“It was eight in the morning and I thought, ‘F..k this, man. I don’t know if I can go up there,’ ” says Gallagher, who once claimed to be the reincarnation of Lennon, despite being aged eight when Lennon died.

“But I had a couple of drinks, went down, and the geezer at the door goes, ‘Who are you?’ ‘Liam Gallagher, mate.’ I go to the ninth floor, flat 72, and who’s standing there? F..king Yoko Ono.”

Gallagher, 44, describes declining Ono’s invitation to have a tinkle on Lennon’s piano (“because I can’t f.. king play the thing”) before taking up her offer of a cup of tea and rich tea biscuits, only to drop an entire biscuit into his drink by mistake. Ono expressed concern that Gallagher’s son Lennon might get a hard time from the other kids at school, but Liam reassured her that Lennon Gallagher was a top name and he would be fine. Then he noticed the Japanese writing on the cornices.

“I asked her what it meant and she said, ‘Funny you should mention that. John saw it at my parents’ house and liked it so I put it round our gaff,’ ” he recalls, perhaps not using Ono’s exact words. “It means, ‘While I’ve been hibernating I’ve been gathering my wings.’ So now I’ve put it in a new tune of mine called All I Need. Been trying for years to use that line and then — bingo.”

Gallagher has indeed been gathering his wings. When Oasis came to a messy end in 2009 after Liam launched a plum — then, more painfully, a guitar — at his brother Noel’s head before a gig in Paris, Liam looked like the one who might come off worse. Noel used his songwriting chops to launch a successful solo career while Beady Eye, the band Liam formed with the rest of Oasis, suffered from a distinct lack of killer anthems of the type Noel is famous for.

Then came three years of silence bar the odd gibe on Twitter, most of which involved Liam comparing Noel to a potato. And then Liam returned. There was a triumphant Manchester homecoming gig in May, a surprising duet of the Oasis classic Live Forever with Chris Martin of Coldplay at Ariana Grande’s One Love concert last month, then his appearance at the Glastonbury festival.

Gallagher’s return comes after a difficult time. Beady Eye ended in 2014 after the band was told they could not afford to tour the US; a bitter pill to swallow for a man who fronted it out with Oasis before 250,000 people at Knebworth, England, in 1996.

His marriage to Nicole Appleton ended in 2013 amid accusations of infidelity, with an American writer, Liza Ghorbani, filing for child support for a daughter Gallagher fathered.

“After that I sat around the house and drank, moaned, drank a bit more, moaned, and spent a lot of time in court,” says Gallagher of his dark years of the soul. “I weren’t seeing my kids, which is understandable; I f..ked up. If I came out of the house it was Oasis this and Oasis that, and I felt like a shadow of my former self, so I was going to f..k off to Spain, get a little castle, buy a pair of gold trunks and let it all hang out. But then I got pulled back and started writing songs again. My missus, Debbie (Gwyther, his former assistant —, said they were all right, so we met a geezer from Warners and he signed us on the spot.”

Since returning to the fray, Gallagher has noticed some changes in the world of music. “A lot of bands are claiming to be here to save guitar music, but you have to plug the f..king thing in first, do you know what I mean? It’s like in the 90s when the pop world got on to it that guitar music was cooking, so they would get some pretty boys and whack guitars round their necks. F..k that, man. I can only do one genre and it’s rock ’n’ roll. That’s my shit: the Pistols, the Who, Oasis, the Stones. I can’t be dealing with the rest of it.”

What about the Beatles? “Anyone who doesn’t like the Beatles are dark people,” he says. “Demons. But the Beatles were more like … what’s the word for those orchestra people?” Composers? He nods. “They were composers. Or maybe even wizards.”

Liam was only 19 when Oasis took off, propelling him into a jetset lifestyle that was a world away from the streets where he grew up. He went straight from his mother Peggy’s terraced house in Burnage, Manchester, to living with Patsy Kensit in Primrose Hill, northwest London. “It happened at exactly the right time,” he says. “I spent the first 19 years of my life going: ‘What is this shit? It’s raining all the time, there’s no air in the football, the mushrooms have all been picked.’ I was digging holes in the street, thinking: I’d rather have the shakes from rock ’n’ roll than from a pneumatic drill. And you know what? It turned out great. There’s been no drink or drugs problems. I f..ked up on the personal front, but don’t we all?”

What would he be doing now if it hadn’t happened for him? “I’d be in Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester, smoking spice with the other zombies, pissing my pants and dribbling out of my ears.”

An Oasis reunion feels like more a case of if than when. Both Gallaghers have solo albums out in the autumn, but the lure of having 150,000 people sing Wonderwall or Rock ’n’ Roll Star back at them must surely be too strong to resist forever. I would put it at 2019.

“Mate, it’s not up to me, is it?” says Liam. “It’s in the hands of Noel. He’s got the biggest power and that’s what pisses me off. It will depend on how his solo records go because his ego is out of control and he won’t be able to handle it if it dwindles, but he’s obviously got a massive problem with me. As far as I’m concerned, it was a minor argument that broke up Oasis. We’ve had worse. I heard talk about him doing a solo career five years before, so he used it to jump ship. Right now I can’t give a shit about Oasis, Noel or his shit fans.”

When we head down to Waterlow Park in Highgate for the photo shoot, Gallagher, in an age when boy-next-door types such as Ed Sheeran have taken over the charts and the main stage at Glastonbury, still looks and acts every inch the rock star. Teenagers walking past ask him for his autograph. He boasts about the photographs of cancerous lungs on cigarette packets failing to scare him off his nicotine habit. Never before has a man been able to imbue the wearing of an oversized anorak with such menace.

“It’s a good life, rock ’n’ roll,” he says philosophically. “But you have to commit to it. There’s a lot more to being in a band than writing songs, you know. There’s always something that needs throwing out of the window, someone who needs flicking on the nose, and that line’s not going to snort itself. While Noel took the route of being Macca, I took the route of being Keith Moon and I’m very proud of that. And I did a bit of singing. Do you know what I mean?”

He looks at me, before nodding in agreement with himself. “You know what I mean.”

The Times


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