“That’s what it’s all about. That’s why we’ll be the best band in the world, because I fuckin’ hate that twat there. I fuckin’ hate him. And I hope one day there’s a release where I can smash fuck out of him, with a fuckin’ Rickenbacker, right on his nose, and then he does the same to me, ‘cos I think we’re stepping right up to it now. There’s a fuckin’ line there and we’re right on the edge of it” – Liam on Noel, Wibbling Rivalry, 1994
“I don’t think I’ve ever said anything that’s nasty” – Liam, 2008.
You know, I think I would care more about Noel Gallagher quitting Oasis if he were actually leaving a half decent band. No, really. I mean it. It’s not like they’re even anything special these days – they started out as a halfway fun and definitely second-rate bunch of Beatles copyists, and have ended up as a fourth-rate, washed-up parody of themselves, as postmodern as that sounds.
Admittedly, I remain rather fond of their first two albums, Definitely Maybe and (What’s The Story) Morning Glory, mainly because they remind me of a long ago and far away period of my life when I was young and naive and British pop music ruled the world (again). These days, however, I would argue that ‘Britpop’ is a distinctly lazy descriptive; the only commonalities shared by the bands lumped together in that scene were that they were all guitar bands of some sort and that they were all… er… British. Unlike most bona fide music scenes, none of the first generation of Britpop bands actually sounded anything much like each other, or even really came from a common set of influences. In fact, most of them didn’t even sound like the swingin’ sixties pop scene the media supposed they were emulating.
But Oasis had clearly grown up on a steady diet of The Beatles and punk, and this showed in the swagger and arrogance of their unfeasibly tuneful early releases. They may have been spectacularly ripping off Lennon and McCartney via the Pistols, but they had the balls and vicious charisma enough for that not to matter. And the regular and very public punch-ups between Noel and Liam made the band all the more attractive to the media right from the very start.
It is common knowledge that feuds and tensions between fellow band members can produce some remarkable results. Faith No More spent most of their career hating each other, and are, in fact, widely acknowledged to have produced some of their greatest material during the period when they had both a gay man and a somewhat homophobic redneck among their line-up, with all the unpleasant tensions that naturally entailed. Brothers Ray and Dave Davies of the quintessentially English and truly god-like British Invasion band The Kinks spent much of the sixties and seventies utterly despising each other (to the point of physical violence) – yet this was the period that produced some of the band’s most enduringly classic and influential songs. Mark E. Smith of Peel favourites The Fall has fallen out with an almost countless number of different musicians over the band’s thirty-three year history (most fans have given up counting, anyway), but The Fall remain a vital and visceral presence on the British music scene. And that’s just three examples from an industry that seems to thrive on antagonism and antipathy.
It was always different with the Gallaghers, though. The chaotic lifestyles of the brothers (and the rest of Oasis) alongside the notoriety spawned by the constant brotherly bickering actually distracted from the music, which rapidly deteriorated and soon took second place to the scandal and bad behaviour in the eyes of the band as a coherent entity, as well as in both the tabloid and the music media. And there was always a slightly cynical element of class about it all. Now as then, the music media in this country, in particular, is predominantly southern, very middle class and almost entirely male, and the countless articles recounting the antagonistic fraternal squabbles between these two working class Mancunian siblings were always shot through with a patronising amusement. Watching the Gallaghers slug it out was, it seems, inherently funny in a way that the equally stupid bullshit spouted by the likes of Damon Albarn wasn’t – which probably accounts for Fierce Panda’s release on vinyl of Wibbling Rivalry; a recording of a 1994 interview by the journalist John Harris with the Gallaghers, which almost immediately deteriorates into a huge, fiery and very, very sweary argument between the brothers (see the quote above).
All this leaves me thoroughly unsurprised that Noel has jumped ship – after all, he’s threatened to quit on numerous occasions in the past. And his reasons for leaving are even less surprising. In a statement released on Friday, Noel describes how things had finally come to a head, and that “the level of verbal and violent intimidation towards me, my family, friends and comrades has become intolerable.” This comes as no shock when one realises that rather unpleasant stories of Liam publicly questioning the legitimacy of his niece Anais (Noel and ex-wife Meg Matthews’ young daughter), and very deliberately not inviting his older brother to his wedding, have been circulating for a number of years now. This long dysfunctional relationship between the two brothers seems to have finally broken down, which is certainly sad for them on a personal level – but it may yet mean the end of Oasis, something which should have happened years ago. The band should have retired gracefully when they had the chance, leaving behind an at least partially valuable musical legacy instead of finally imploding like the last great Britpop joke.