“You Can’t Have A Bird If You Want To Be The Biggest Band In The World”
By David South
Watch Magazine (Toronto, Canada), October 12, 1994
Preparing to invade Lee’s Palace October 19, supersonically hyped English pop fivesome Oasis have a lot to live up to. The Manchester-based band have experienced a tsunami of media hype reminiscent of The Sex Pistols or The Beatles.
A triple slam of three hit singles in three months – Supersonic, Shakermaker, Live Forevever – and four sold out UK tours preceded their first album, Definitely Maybe. But this clever English pop formula faces its biggest challenge: North America.
The band has developed in less than a year, a reputation for being a ferry-disturbing, hotel-trashing, media-slagging, earth-shattering, shit-disturbing, ego-boosting, self-absorbed, tune-churning, attention-grabbing machine.
And what does an Oasis album sound like?
After you’ve heard all the hype and b.s., approaching 11-track Definitely Maybe should be a disappointing experience. It’s not. The album is craftily tight, with every song great. These guys left the crap at home – a lesson for other bands.
Singer Liam Gallagher’s voice isn’t polished, posh or slick. He drags words out, lets his voice crack, he whines. But this is the charm. Brother Noel Gallagher’s lyrics are cheeky, deliberately oblique at times, pragmatic and just simply entertaining. Gone are the 12-point manifestos of other bands, into the trash goes the primary-school poetry.
Noel writes songs that deliberately pay homage to their influences: The Stone Roses, The Jam, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Sex Pistols. But listen closely. Each one is manipulative – you can’t help feeling the rhythm flow. There’s straight chord-bashing, multi-layered jangle guitar, and a lager-laden freight train ripping through the entire album.
Though it is worth mentioning there are five in Oasis – 22-year-old Liam, 27-year-old songwriter and guitarist Noel, guitarist Paul Arthurs, bassist Paul McGuigan, drummer Tony McCarroll – the band has deliberately served up brothers Liam and Noel as willing fodder for the press.
Hailing from the much-maligned north of England – Burnage, South Manchester to be exact – has meant the band has taken buckets of regional bigotry over their Mancunian accents. It seems the London style gestapo will still let good old fashioned English class and regional prejudices get in the way of a solid analysis of Oasis.
Calling up from Austin, Texas, lead singer Liam’s thick Mancunian accent rips through the telephone line in a firestorm of profanity – it’s refreshing.
The band is on a mission to devour all the “crap bands.” And through a little of Liam and Noel’s own version of the power of positive thinking, or to some, bold-faced arrogance, Oasis are going to give the music business an enema like they’ve never seen before.
“Crap bands. That motivates us to be big,” says Liam confidently. “We were pissed off listening to all the daft bands – blagging the kids that this is what it is all about when it’s not. We are there to prove them all wrong. No bullshit, no strings attached – just simple rock n’ roll.”
Are they the vanguard of a new English invasion, or just another crew of hyped-up, trainer traipsing tossers? North America represents a walled fortress that has buffeted repeated attempts to resurrect the Brit-pack musical and cultural invasion of the 60s. The times have changed in the land where hip-hop, country music and heavy metal rule.
The classic British art-school pop formula of acquiring a very cool one-word name, a pile of trendy clothes, some mega-cool posters – and these days a video – falls flat amongst a population more comfortable in sweatpants and a baseball cap.
But Liam disagrees, and points to their appearance at the New Music Conference in New York.
“Packed-out – the crowd was havin’ it. The gigs have been like at home. Because we’re from England they don’t know much about us – they just come and listen to the music, go home and have a good night.
“We are fucking slick, a big machine! But we’ve not been trained. We know our songs are fucking good. We know we’ve got the best songs on the fucking planet. It ain’t just England – we know our kid (Noel) write the best songs in a long, long time. Since the days of Lennon and McCartney. And he’s doing it on his own.”
Liam’s antics, much to the disappointment of Noel, have gotten some major print in England’s tabloid music press, and has lead to a sleazy prose slug-fest between rivals the New Musicial Express and Melody Maker.
There was the ferry fracas, with Liam san Noel being tossed off for fighting and public drunkenness. Or how about being arrested for some serious hotel trashing with Primal Scream and the Verve while on tour in Sweden.
With the media hyping the scrapper reputation, an ugly element has been attracted to their concerts. During an August 9 concert, a fan punched Noel in the eye during Bring it Down, resulting in a mob of 300 stoning the tour bus.
But the band has never been sedate. They got their first record contract by storming a concert and demanding to be allowed to play or they will tear the place down.
“We’re not hype – I laugh at the English press. They’re stupid. They don’t even understand our music. They like it, that’s about it. Then they’ve got to write about me and our kid fighting, bits about trashing the hotel.”
Talking to Oasis, forget about the nice-boys-next-door routine. In fact, forget about every false face pop musicians had to put on in the puritanical 80s, and the politically correct 90s. Oasis not only admit to using drugs, shock of shock, they like it.
“Our mums know about it. I was doing drugs since I was 13. Sniffing gas, sniffing glue, drinking cider, getting off my face.”
They don’t labour themselves with the soul-consuming indie band angst of worry that if they get big they have somehow sold out.
Depending on the day of the week and who you talk to, the brothers either enjoy a healthy creative conflict, or bloody well hate each other. Certainly, the evidence points to the latter, while Liam says otherwise.
There was the time at a South England gig where Noel punched Liam in the face and chased him off stage. But there is the Noel who returned from being a roadie for the Inspiral Carpets and approached the band in 1992 telling them their songs are “shite” and they should let him write the songs and take over.
“Our kid, he’s a bit of a singer, but he knows he can’t sing. He says I can’t write a song. We are both kind of jealous of each other. That’s how I see it anyway. I don’t know. He thinks he’s the only one who really loves music, and his own brother don’t understand it. And I ant to prove to him I mean it a little more than he does – and it freaks him out. He sings totally different – then I get a grip of it and I bite the head off of it.”
It has been Noel’s discipline and raw talent, Liam admits, that pulled Oasis together.
They believe in total commitment to the cause of being the best band in the world.
“There’s a day when you turn around and say, right “Do you want this to be every Tuesday, Thursday night, like a fucking scout club meeting, or do you want it to be real?” If you want it to be real, you’ve got to be here every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday – you can’t go out drinkingwith your mates or doing this with your bird. You can’t have a bird if you want to be the biggest band in the world – this is what it’s about. If you don’t like it, piss off, tell us now.”
They gotten a reputation for being a juicy interview for jaded journalists tired of earnest musicians telling of their next charity album, or wanking on about how their music is deep.
The British press have gorged themselves on a love-hate feast of large portions of Oasis.
For Oasis watchers, the landmark article was the April 23 issue this year of NME. Titled The Bruise Brothers, this was the true beginning of the hype machine. The article immediately focuses in on the duelling brothers, barely touching the fact they are a band.
The stage was set for a punch and judy comedy involving the nasty yet lovable Gallagher brothers. Shakespeare couldn’t have written a better play for the press gang to report.
While Liam denies it, there has been talk of a full-blown conspiracy involving Oasis record label Creation and their buddies within the press – an Oasis hype mafia some have called it.
“If someone likes you and your on their label, they are going to talk about you. We’ve done all the shit gigs man. The reason why we are bigis because we are fucking crafty. We’ve done four sell-out tours within the space of four months. What other band does that? – none. We’ve had a single out every month. People are just tripping. There’s no big mafia working us up. If there is, I don’t fucking know it. No one’s told me.
“They just want to build us up as hype and then see if they can knock us down. But they won’t be able to – ’cause we are writing the best songs – we can rip their papers up and wipe our bums with it and throw it in the fucking bin, they can’t do it with us. They can do it with Suede, ’cause Suede let em. If someone stitches me in the paper and I meet them in London or wherever, they get it, I tell them.
“A couple weeks ago we were on the front cover of the NME, Melody Maker – we didn’t even do an interview with the NME. They just sneaked over and got a picture, the picture that was on the cover of the NME was going to be for VOX.
“They got (freelance photographer) Keving Cummings to sell the VOX picture to the NME. Now Kevin Cummings don’t come near us, if he does I’ll slap him, and I’ve told him. He says this is for VOX, and the next fucking day it’s on the front cover of the NME without even an interview with us.
“They can try and have a backlash – we will release Whatever at xmas with proper Beatles styling, which will sell thousands and thousands of fucking copies and put us in the charts.”
When former Jam powerhouse and English pop icon Paul Weller dropped by an Oasis gig, the meeting was blown into the clash of titan egos by the press.
“He comes to the gig because he likes the music. We chilled out with him. You know how the press works, they just build it up. They made out as if Paul Weller walked in our dressing room and our kid fucking snaps at him. He loves Paul Weller. This is bullshit, I’m not having the NME or the Melody Maker deciding what we are. No way, I’m not having it.”
In fact Liam sees Weller on holy ground. “The other two guys in the band were dicks, I don’t care for them at all. Paul Weller was a diamond. He wrote some mega songs. They are bloody selling groceries, trying to get it together.
“Everyone is going they should form the Jam again – no way man. They look like 50-year-old men, them two now. Paul Weller looks like a young lad now. He’s kept it together, why should he go back, go jamming with them again. He’s still young.”
It took just one tour with Primal Scream for Oasis to determine who is the greatest rock n’ roll band alive. Lead singer Bobby Gillespie’s degenerate 70s roadshow follies didn’t impress Liam.
“They ain’t the rock n’ roll band everybody makes them out to be. There’s only three in Primal Scream – the rest are all hiding. A rock n’ roll band to me is about five people who know each other very well, they are all friends. They ain’t the last rock n’ roll band, we are! Fucking idiots, we are! Well we aren’t the last, but we are the rock n’ roll band to date if there is one about – not Primal Scream.
“Plus he (Gillespie) smells and they don’t wash their clothes. They are too rock n’ roll cliche, you know what I mean. I know for a fact lot of these rock n’ roll types look at us and say we aren’t rock n’ roll because we have trainers. So fucking what! It’s not all about winkle pickers, skin-tight pants and long greasy hair. That’s Guns n’ Roses material!”
Note: This was the first article about Oasis in North America. In October, 2007 Liam Gallagher was named one of the ten wittiest Englishmen in history.
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