I believe that it is the music of our time that will be remembered long after
we are gone, and it is bands like Oasis that led the revolution which took
place recently. Oasis, headed by brothers Liam and Noel Gallagher was
the first band after The Beatles to lash out against what had become the
normal way a band should be, and that is why they will be known for years
to come as the band who changed rock music.
Noel Gallagher was born on May 29, 1967 in Manchester, he was the
second son of Thomas and Margaret Gallagher. Thomas, Tommy to the
boys at the pub, was a construction worker. He and his wife, known to her
pals as Peggy, resided in the working-class Manchester suburb called
Burnage with their first boy, Paul.
"God was playing a joke when He made me," Noel Gallagher once said.
"You know, 'Let's make this guy a writer and a guitar player, but let's make
him write with his left hand but play with his right, and let's have him born
in the middle of May and give him a Christmas name like Noel. Little did
Noel know that when he grew up he was to become the frontman of one of
the most influential rock bands in music history at a time when music was
the most influential form of speech on the planet.
Little Liam arrived in the Gallagher household five years later, on
September 21, 1972. He and Noel were forced to share a bedroom,
something that always bothered Noel to no end, seeing how Paul, just a
year-and-a-half older than him, had his own room. But Liam and Noel
made the best of it, and the bedroom saw the beginnings of the somewhat
loving, often heated relationship between the brothers. The boys kept a
running record of their childhood by scrawling on their wall, later
described by Tommy as their "wonderwall", later to become the title of
one of their biggest selling singles. Bits of songs, poems, favourite bands,
football teams and the like were all immortalised on their bedroom wall. In
addition to their love of football, the lads also became engrossed with
rock'n'roll. Both Noel and Liam were big fans of tubby '70s glamrocker
Alvin Stardust. "When he came on telly they'd mime along and pretend to
be Alvin," their father remembers, "and I'd always catch them singing into
hairbrushes and playing air guitar." Most important to Noel's musical
growth was the North's all-time greatest band, the Beatles. Like many
youngsters, the songsmith first fell in love with the Fab Four via their Red
and Blue hits collections, and they formed the basis of his musical
sensibility for years to come.
"I was about six when I started hearing the Red Album " he recalled in an
interview "They're songs to grow up with, really...The Red Album
documents the Beatles as the greatest pop band ever and The Blue Album
documents them as the greatest rock band ever."
Noel's school life was problematic at best. While he was plainly a bright
young man, he battled with a minor case of dyslexia, which, topped with
the poor quality of Manchester's schools, was a dangerous combination.
"School didn't really hold anything for me," he explained later. "I knew
from a very early age what I wanted to be, I wanted to be a musician."
A chronic childhood kidney infection gave Noel his first taste of standing
apart from the crowd. Because of his ailment, young Noel was not
required to adhere to his primary school's dress code. "I was the only kid
allowed to wear long trousers," he remembered. "The others had these
little grey shorts and I had these dead cool black skin-tight trousers with
little Doc Martens. Everybody hated me." "I was a bit of a rogue when I
was young," Noel once said, "I used to wag school and be into... glue
sniffing and stuff. Then me and this lad robbed our corner shop, which is a
very stupid thing to do, cos everyone knows exactly who you are." Noel
was put on probation and was grounded for six months. He had absolutely
nothing to do so he just sat there playing one string on an acoustic guitar.
"I thought I was really good for about a year, until someone tuned it up.
Then I thought, 'I can't play the thing at all now. I'm gonna have to start all
over again.’" When Noel was around 13, he ordered his first real guitar
from the John England catalogue and from there on in, all else, school,
girls, football, took second place in his life. He practised constantly,
playing along to his favourite records over and over again.
Despite the small problem of being a left-handed guitarist with a
right-handed guitar, Noel was writing songs as soon as he learned his third
chord. Having already developed a love affair with the Beatles, the
teenaged Noel fell for the angry energy of punk rock. He attended his first
concert in 1980, the Damned at the Manchester Apollo. While he was
already musically aware, he was "too young to be a punk, really, I was ten
in 1977 and at that age the last thing you're going to do is listen to music. I
mean, you're too busy playing... football or cowboys and Indians or
something like that."
In April 1986, Peggy took her sons and left Tommy and from all accounts,
the split was highly acrimonious. She supported herself and her three
growing boys by working at the nearby McVittie’s factory, plucking
misshaped Jaffa Cakes off the production line. "She used to come home
with bin-bags full of them," Noel said. With their Mum off working, the
latchkey Gallagher boys were left on their own a great deal. Noel, already
in his teens, took on a series of thankless teenage jobs, including a position
as a sign writer for a real-estate agent and stints in a bed factory and a
bakery. He took a job with a building firm who sub-contracted to British
Gas. There the pivotal moment of Noel's young life occurred. While laying
a huge steel gas pipe, the heavy cap dropped onto his right foot, smashing
it to pieces. After the injury he was given a job in the storehouse,
dispensing nuts and bolts and the like. He soon discovered that the
position meant that he would be alone for days on end and he began
bringing his guitar to work with him. It was there that Noel truly tapped
into his songwriting ability, penning four of the songs that would later
appear on Oasis' debut album.
"People were laughing, yeah," he told MTV, "Going, 'What are you
doing?' 'I want to be a songwriter.' 'A songwriter? Why can't you be a drug
dealer like the rest of us?'" But he knew what he wanted in his life and it
wasn’t in Manchester.
In 1988, Noel was invited to audition with a friend's new band, which they
were calling Inspiral Carpets. "When they asked me to come and have a
go, I thought, 'This is my destiny in life!'" Noel said later. "I sang 'Gimme
Shelter,' shouting me head off like Shaun Ryder, and they turned me
down." Nevertheless, Noel knew his guitars and the members of the band
figured that he'd be a handy guy to have around. The lead singer of the
band thought he didn't have their "groove", so he just said, 'You can be a
roadie if you like.'" Noel finally had a job that he could really relate too,
and he took to the roadie's life like a duck to water. He became so
proficient that he would conduct soundchecks single-handedly while the
band partied back at the hotel. More importantly, he had the chance to
figure out his own music by practising his own tunes using decent
But back in Manchester, Liam was putting together a band of his own,
comprising Paul "Guigsy" McGuigan, on bass, drummer Tony McCarroll,
and on guitar Paul Arthurs, the oldest member, known to all as
"Bonehead." Calling themselves Rain, the quartet rehearsed when they
could, though they clearly lacked direction. Bonehead recalled "We had a
couple of guitars, a couple of amps, Liam could sing, y'know what I
mean?... It was either get yourself together in a band or get drunk every
night. Better than hanging about the streets, y'know what I mean?" After a
few unexciting gigs as Rain, Liam renamed his little band Oasis, after a
local youth centre. The newly-named foursome were booked to play their
first gig at the Boardwalk on August 18, 1991. The crowd basically
consisted of Noel and a handful of his band, all temporarily home from the
road. "Noel said it was the worst gig he had seen," Liam recalled.
They were just another band before I joined," Noel explained. "It was
alright, it just wasn't rock'n'roll. But the bassist looked good, the drummer
didn't look too bad, and our kid looked pretty cool. At that time I was a
roadie, and I thought, 'It's looking me in the face.' So I bowled into the
practice room one day and said, "Right, change that guitar, take them
shoes off, cut your hair, I'm gonna be doing this from now on.' And they
just looked at me and said, 'Oh, alright, then."
"We had something there, obviously, and he could see that, there was
something in it," Bonehead remembered, "but we couldn't write songs.
And he came in, the condition was, he writes the songs, which we were all
happy to go with, because the guy sat down and played us some of the
songs that he'd written years ago, man, and you knew straightaway it was
a classic. You could feel it." Then Noel said, 'You either let me write the
songs and we go for superstardom or else you stay here in Manchester for
the rest of your sad lives...'"
And so Oasis was born, one of the most controversial bands the planet has
ever seen. Rude to the media, destructive to hotel rooms, rebels in every
way. The heated brawls between brothers Liam and Noel were a common
sight in the tabloid newspapers and they loved it. They knew they were
good and they knew everyone else did. Noel once said "We're not
arrogant, we just think we're the best band in the world" and whats more,
it was true. They sparked off the forming of numerous groups and their
style of music gave rise to the term "Britpop"
Their first album "Definitely Maybe" was an instant success and while
Liam was the lead singer and generally the frontman of the band, it was
Noel’s songwriting talents which led them to stardom, with the songs he
wrote becoming like anthems to the youth of Britain. It was their second
album "(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?" which led them into the
charts of other European countries and gave them the attention they
sought. Noel Gallagher’s Mum used to tell them that God loved a tryer,
and Noel used to ask "why? Has he got a car?" and she would tell him"a tryer, not a tyre." Well Noel was certainly one of those and although
their third album "Be Here Now" was regarded by critics as the band
going downhill, it opened the door for them to release their finest pieces,
the B-Sides to their singles. These songs showed their true talent and Noel
believed that they should be heard by all. Hence their fourth album "The
Masterplan", a collection of B-Sides voted for via the Internet by their
fans. "there was no Masterplan," explains Noel "except to write good
songs. Oh yeah, and to be the biggest band in the world" A modest
ambition if there was ever one.
Stephen Murphy, Spring 99.