Image courtesy of Rolling Stone
Previously in this column, I have explored the beautiful side of the bond between musical siblings, the sisters behind Skating Polly and the Breeders are examples of how collaboration with those who we are closest to as can lead to some of the best tunes around, but there’s also an uglier side of sibling bands. Siblings are the people who seem to understand each other the best, but they also can be each other’s bullies and rivals. I think we all knew this was coming, but it’s time to dissect the Gallagher Brothers of Oasis.
Unbeknownst to some, there are actually three boys in the Gallagher Family: Paul was the oldest and therefore had his own room; Noel and the baby of the family, Liam, were forced to share. With a tumultuous home life, the brothers were born into chaos and conflict, which would follow them throughout their relationship. Their father beat Paul and Noel regularly until Noel was about 15. Liam was spared because he was five years younger than Noel, which led to a severe difference in perspective between the two very early on. They spent their lives as hooligans, they were truant at school, committed petty theft, and both were unemployed on and off through the 1980s.
The Gallaghers (courtsey of the Gallagher Family)
Around 1991, Liam had been picked up as the singer for a local Manchester band, the Rain, and Noel had just returned from an American tour with the band, Inspiral Carpets, for whom he was a roadie. Noel went with some friends to hear his brother’s band play one night in Manchester and was hardly impressed with the performance. However, he recognized the band as something that he could make into an outlet for a collection of songs he had been working on for a few years. His proposal to the band was something along the lines of, “you guys kind of suck, but if you make me your leader and main songwriter, I will lead us to superstardom”. I mean, what did the guys have to lose? They’d either stay in Manchester and rot or take over the world. Thus, Oasis was born.
Definitely Maybe was released in August of 1994 and was the fastest selling debut album of all time in UK up until then. It also gained Oasis some traction in the U.S. and is by far one of the best rock albums ever. It wouldn’t be too big of a stretch to compare them to the Beatles, but they were edgier due to their influences, such as the Stone Roses, the Rolling Stones, the Sex Pistols, and countless other British and American rock bands. From the first track on Definitely Maybe, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star”, Oasis cemented themselves as a rock band and the Gallagher Brothers seemed to be the next Lennon and McCartney.
Oasis at Knebworth (courtesy of the Daily Mirror)
In every great musical partnership, there can be trouble; Lennon and McCartney fought and Liam and Noel were no exception to that rule, especially when their unruly personalities were mixed with their own favorite duo: cocaine and alcohol. In their early days as a band, the boys participated in the same kind of mischief they participated in before as they began their quest for fame, like when Liam was removed from a ferry in Amsterdam for being intoxicated. But real, career-threatening trouble arose a few months later in LA during a U.S. tour for Definitely Maybe, when the band mistook crystal meth for cocaine and abused it before a show at the Whiskey, leading to one of the worst performances ever and Liam hitting Noel over the head with a tambourine. Consequently, this was not the first disaster the band had been part of at the time, but Noel thought it would be the last, and quit the band the next day. He eventually returned and wrote “Talk Tonight” about the woman he stayed with during his brief break from the band who he claimed talked him off the ledge.
Content Warning—this video features very vulgar language. Wibbling Rivalry was an interview bootleg that describes the Amsterdam boat incident and illustrates what two Gallaghers sound like when bickering.
In 1995, Oasis’s sophomore album, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, was released to huge commercial success. It was once again almost entirely written and produced by Noel but was a departure from the rawness of their debut album. Morning Glory features a shift to huge choruses, which can be found in the smash hits, “Wonderwall” and “Champagne Supernova”. The album was written to be performed in front of arenas of people who would know all the words by heart and sing them back to the band. This was what happened at Knebworth House in August 1996, where Oasis played two concerts to 125,000 Britpop fans. This event marked the peak of Oasis, because there wasn’t much else the band would conquer after that.
The grounds at Knebworth for Oasis’s two-night performance (Getty Images)
Despite delivering a total of eight albums, Oasis could never recreate the magic that was found on their first two masterpieces. What unraveled since then has been a significant disaster that has left the brothers estranged, but with plenty of history between the two. Noel quit the band in 2000 when his younger brother questioned the legitimacy of his daughter. He later rejoined the band but has said that Liam never apologized for his words and therefore, he has never forgiven him. A couple years, an album, and several tours later, Noel hollered uncle once again in 2009 after getting into yet another argument with his brother, in which Liam smashed one of Noel’s guitars. It was with “some sadness and great relief” Liam said he quit Oasis. He claimed he could not go on working with his brother another day and it seems that the pair have not spoken since.
There are countless stories of the brothers being total jerks to each other and the people around them, but the folklore and mythology that surround Oasis and their music makes them endlessly fascinating. As I did my research for this article, I felt some sorrow for Liam and Noel’s wrecked relationship. How could your average sibling rivalry grow so sever? I think the age difference between the two made a large impact, especially growing up. It’s harder to relate to one another with that much of a developmental gap between the two. Liam, being the younger brother, tends to push Noel’s buttons just right and gets him to stoop to Liam’s level of maturity. Anyone with a sibling knows exactly what it’s like to not want to give into an argument but then find themselves shouting “nu-uh!!!! No!!!” like they’re six years old. Most of the time people grow out of that and find really tight relationships with their siblings, but the narcissism and power-hunger that possessed the brothers seemed to obstruct any of their logic, compassion, and maturity. The Gallagher Brothers whole musical experience seemed to be them at each other’s throats, rather than enjoying the trip of a lifetime and treasuring it after it was over. Since the end of Oasis, they have been known to use the media as a medium for their ageless bickering. They mainly jab at each other’s solo projects and essentially roast each other in the headlines. It became a big joke when Liam joined twitter and started tweeting pictures of his brother with the caption, “potato” (I can imagine that potato has to be one of the least offensive things that Liam has called Noel over the past 40ish years). The potato incident has led to potatoes being piled onstage and with the recent announcement of Liam Gallagher headlining Parklife, the festival has outlawed fans from bringing potato peelers with them.
My wish is that they can someday reconcile, if not as musical partners but, just as brother. They have claimed to just plain dislike each other, but there had to be some good times shared by the two and they should be able to tell those stories together. Oasis made fantastic music at just the right time. Perhaps if they had been a little less reckless and let the music speak for itself, they would’ve been a decent band for a little longer, rather than a media spectacle who were responsible for “Wonderwall”. The fame went to their heads and destroyed something brilliant and pure, but fans will always have a long discography and an even longer list of antics to remember the band by.
By Jeremy Williams
HALEY PARSONS | don’t look back in anger, or do | KXSU Music Reporter