Time for a confession — despite my regular attempts to position myself at the very crest of the zeitgeist wave at all times, I am a member of that exclusive and not very lauded group who has loved Oasis for 14 years without once wavering or admitting that they aren’t as good as they used to be.
I say ‘admit’, but that suggests I secretly believe they’ve lost it, so I should say ‘concur’, because I still can’t utter out loud, or commit to print the notion that Liam and Noel ever went off the boil.
I’m aware that there are many who will assume I’m both mutton-headed and out of touch for my loyalty to the brothers Gallagher, but there may be a few who will understand my heartfelt commitment to the cause. For me, betraying Oasis would feel like giving up on a much loved family member who changed my life when I was young by injecting it with such excitement, hope, passion and romance that I saw the world differently for evermore. Something far deeper than infatuation occurred when I fell in love with Oasis, and for those beautiful, heady times, I will always be grateful.
I first saw Oasis in March 1994 in the Tramway Theatre in Glasgow. I would have missed them— they were second or third on the bill — but my boyfriend at the time happened to have met them when he was a member of the long-forgotten Scottish indie band 18 Wheeler and briefly signed to the same label, Creation Records. Despite their rather unnerving reputation as troublemakers, my ex said that Oasis were “brilliant guys”, that Noel was “an undiscovered genius” and that the lead singer was “completely your type”.
When Oasis appeared that evening, there were about 30 people in the room, most of them sitting down. I’ll never forget the way Liam Gallagher sauntered on stage as if he was coming on to the applause of 100,000 screaming fans whom he had eventually, grudgingly, decided to placate. He nodded approvingly at himself, ignoring the audience, his bottom jaw jutting out with steely determination. He had already perfected that intimidating 1,000 yard stare which, it was later suggested, may be the result of impaired eyesight, but which gave him an immediate aura of entitlement.
My boyfriend was right, he was my type; dark and Irish with a Neanderthal sexiness and a great mod haircut. And then he sang! This was the mid 1990s, remember — British guitar pop was adrift in a sea of weedy, winsome voices like Damon Albarn’s, Jarvis Cocker’s and Brett Anderson’s. This rough-edged Lennon-esque rasp, full of raunch and self-belief, was a shocking, thrilling revelation.
Not many people saw Oasis that night, but NME journalist John Harris did, and he went back to the band’s hotel to record an interview with Liam and Noel that was so hilarious that he released it as a single under the name Wibbling Rivalry a year later (it reached No 52 in the charts). By then Oasis were the biggest band in Britain and the feuding Gallaghers — tough, smart, focused Noel and self-destructive, vulnerable, daft Liam — as well-known to the public as the prime minister.
In the meantime I’d seen them many more memorable times, and spent one delicious half-hour flirting my way (fruitlessly) through a chat with a passionate, funny, warm-hearted Liam. Their first T in the Park appearance, in a small tent, remains my favourite gig of all time. The atmosphere that day was terrifyingly intense, a kind of uncontrolled hysteria as close to Beatlemania as I’m ever likely to witness. As the Knebworth and Loch Lomond shows in the summer of 1996 proved, Oasis could unite hundred of thousands of disparate souls like no one else — they could provoke such violent feelings of love and ecstatic bliss that you were happy to throw your arms around people you would normally have changed trains to avoid.
They also kept surprising people — Liam could be as playful as a puppy or as monosyllabic and sulky as a chastised child. He developed an occasional habit of walking off-stage halfway through a show, or off planes taking him to the first stop on a world tour. In an increasingly stage-managed industry, he kept wafting in like a breath of fresh air.
After their second album in 1995, What’s the Story Morning Glory, Oasis were everyone’s favourite band, but I felt I had a
special connection with them which couldn’t be contested by the Johnny come latelys. Even when, working as a producer at Radio 1, I saw their 1997 single D’You Know What I Mean being delivered by a grim-faced SWAT team to ensure its safe arrival, I refuted accusations that the band’s egos were out of control (Noel unfortunately later confessed that they were).
I had one of the most unforgettable nights of my life in October 1997, when a drunken Noel and Liam came into the Radio 1 studios to be interviewed live by a nervous Steve Lamacq. I sat in the adjoining studio, gazing through the glass, as Liam launched into the most outrageous and funny rants ever committed to tape.
After threatening “old farts out of the day centre like Keith F**king Smitchards” to a duel on Primrose Hill and having a go at Noel for selecting a “sh*t” dance record, he walked out. The papers next day were full of outrage about his disgraceful language but I felt secretly very proud that he had been grinning at me through the glass while he’d been talking, and that I, by clearly enjoying every word, had only encouraged him (the interview can still be heard in all its glory on YouTube).
It may be true that Oasis have never quite repeated the creative highs of their first two albums, but there is always something wonderful on an Oasis record, apart from Liam’s soaring vocal. Be Here Now, which Noel now says was a reflection of their bloated egos and cocaine habits, houses the truly beautiful Don’t Go Away. Heathen Chemistry has the show-stopping singalong Stop Crying Your Heart Out.
Seeing Oasis live never stopped being a hugely exciting and utterly unpredictable prospect – only this week Noel admitted that the craziest show I ever saw, at Wembley Stadium in 2000, during which Liam seemed to be entirely unaware of his surroundings and Noel looked perpetually ready to kill him, was the result of Liam “being out all night with a Spice Girl”.
And perhaps least predictable of all is Oasis’ current resurgence. Their new album, Dig Out Your Soul, sold 90,000 copies on its first day of release, making it the fastest-selling album of the year after Coldplay’s Viva la Vida. In America it gave them their highest chart position (No 5) since the hugely hyped Be Here Now more than ten years ago. Reviews have been remarkably positive, with most people declaring the album a true return to form, and ex-Creation boss Alan McGee saying it is the true follow-up to What’s the Story. Is it really that good? Don’t ask me, I really don’t know. Enduring love like mine is both blind and deaf.
Oasis play the Odyssey Arena on October 29 and 30. Both shows have sold out. Tickets for Slane (June 2009) went on sale today and are limited to 8 tickets per person. See ticketmaster.ie or Ticketmaster outlets for details.