Noel Gallagher turned up twice on TV over the weekend. The first time was an old clip in a rock documentary from when his band Oasis were on top of the world. Cocky as hell, he smirked: “If my old music teacher is watching… do you want to borrow a tenner?” The second time was the football highlights when the cameras cut to the posh seats and there he was: older, rounder in the face, less hungry in every sense and, as his brother Liam would suggest, “smug”.
Did I say Oasis were Noel’s band? Liam always claimed they were his. Noel was the songwriter but Liam reckoned he trumped this by being the singer, the frontman, better looking and even cockier. Right after these sightings of the older Gallagher, Liam was the subject of a magazine interview and there he was: older, but in every other respect just the same. Still believing that Anorak Wearer of the Year is a title worth retaining. Still ranting at the world and in particular Noel.
The full quote was: “You just don’t want to turn into a lot of these other people who are out there, i.e. our kid, who just seem very smug in their f***ing little lives.” I scoured the interview in vain for evidence of a softening of attitude, the possibility of détente. This is the way it has been between these two since 2009 when Oasis split up.
Taken at face value all the jibes and slaggings would seem to indicate there will never be a reunion. But there’s bound to be, don’t you think? All successful groups, and even unsuccessful ones, get back together eventually. In the the case of Oasis it won’t be Definitely Maybe but Definitely Definitely.
Oasis were monsters. They flogged more than 70 million albums and were the key players in a musical movement (Britpop), a cultural movement (Cool Britannia) and an intellectual-philosophical one (Laddism). Men, and not just northern working class toerags, wanted to talk like them (lots of swearing) and walk like them (the way carpet-fitters do, as if lugging heavy rolls under each arm). With their cigarette-lighter anthems Wonderwall and Don’t Look Back in Anger, they encouraged blokes to show their emotions, or at least to indulge in beery hugging-wrestling at the end of yet another Binge Britain night. Tony Blair invited Noel to No 10 and got so tipsy on the hand-of-history significance of the encounter that he slurred into Gordon Brown’s ear: “You’re my besht mate, you are.” (Well, almost).
Nothing either Gallagher has done since has come close to matching that, and Liam admits that his upcoming first solo album will be “the last throw of the dice” for him. But should they re-form? They wouldn’t want to simply play the hits, for risk of becoming a tribute-act pastiche of themselves. But there must also be a risk, if choonsmith Noel is as content with his life as Liam spittingly claims, that he won’t have anything relevant to say, that any new Oasis songs would be watered-down versions of old Oasis songs, which were themselves watered-down versions of classic Beatles songs. To paraphrase Johnny Rotten, Oasis have enjoyed lots of cheap holidays in other people’s melodies. “Do some old!” is the fond cry from the audience on the rock reunion circuit, and nothing has fans streaming towards the bar, if not pouring right out into the car park, quite like the dread words: “And now we’d like to play a song from our new album … ”
You can probably tell I wasn’t a devotee, first-time-round, although to be fair, over-exposure quickly became an issue. The newspaper where I worked at the time was obsessed with Oasis, their antics, the rivalry with Blur and especially the sibling power-struggle which must have began when Ma Gallagher asked: “Right, who wants the top bunk?”
On this excitable journal’s showbiz desk I was part of a special Oasis unit, semi-official but relentless in its pursuit of week-long follow-ups to the latest Liam walk-out. These would involve ringing round rent-an-exposition psychologists and other musical brothers (“Hello, is that Pat Kane from Hue & Cry? Sorry to bother you again … ”). When Oasis came to town, all leave was cancelled. I wasn’t at Glasgow’s King Tut’s the night they were discovered – don’t believe those who claim to have been – but after a mega-gig at Loch Lomond, myself and three colleagues had to stay up all night monitoring the band’s hotel for possible orgy-type behaviour.
But while I don’t much care for the music, I have a huge soft spot for the brothers. The rivalry may not quite reach Shakespearean or Steinbeckian heights but they’re great at being grumpy with each other. Even though I reckon I know how this soap opera is going to end, I continue to be entertained by the sometimes stunning insults, viz: “He’s the angriest man you’ll ever meet – like a man with a fork in a world of soup.” That was Noel on Liam and I’m not sure the man has penned a lyric as smart as that these past eight Oasis-less years. If the brothers were to get back together, Liam would just go all flabby and Noel flabbier still.
Five years ago, insisting Oasis wouldn’t be reforming before the Smiths or the Kinks, Noel told me why he turned down Simon Cowell’s offer of a job on The X Factor: “I love the show but imagine what ‘judges’ houses week’ would have been like: all them checkout girls from Rochdale trampling on me daffs and scaring the cat. I wasn’t having that.” Yet more evidence of the wit he doesn’t put in his songs – he should become a comedian. And Liam should just stay angry, waving his fork furiously.