An essential part of the skill of being rock’s greatest living loudmouth is being able to turn on a sixpence and retract or contradict whatever acerbic bullet of impetuous vitriol you’ve fired off the top of your head in your 378th interview that week. At this Noel Gallagher is a master. When he’s slurred an artist or genre off-the-cuff, he reserves the right to change his mind later. When he’s backed the wrong political horse, he’ll eventually admit the error of his ways. When he’s made a shit album, he’ll own up the second enough people have bought it. Unlike, say, Morrissey, it’s to Noel’s eternal credit that he’s capable of admitting he was wrong.
Just this week he was onstage with Damon Albarn playing Gorillaz songs, despite once describing the cartoon band’s output as music for 12-year-olds. Here are ten more Noel G u-turns pulled off so skilfully even George Osbourne would weep with envy.
Last year Noel was almost put on 24-hour suicide watch after declaring “I can’t live in a world where Ed Sheeran is headlining Wembley”. But he undertook a dramatic volte-face this year, accepting tickets to his show on behalf of his daughter and stating “I won’t hear a word said against him”. The reason? Sheeran, Noel explained, was the first person in Noel’s entire tenure of organising gigs for the Teenage Cancer Trust to be upfront with him.
“People say they can do it and then get their publicist to call up later and say, ‘Oh we can’t do it now, he thinks his cat’s gonna have a stroke that particular afternoon’,” he told NME. “You’re there, cajoling, with some cunt who plays a banjo about whether they’re gonna turn up… The only one fucking person that has ever ever ever said ‘I can’t do it, I just got back from Australia I can’t be fucking arsed man, I’m fucked, but I will definitely do it next year’ – and I crossed his name off the list – was Ed Sheeran! He actually called me back, you know what I mean, he said, ‘Right I’m ready now, I wanna do it’, and I thought, ‘You know what, what a fucking dude’.”
Of course Noel was excited when Tony Blair’s New Labour swept to power in 1997 – we all were. The Conservatives were finally out (out out) and the (supposed) Party Of The People were in. So of course he went round for a piss-up, only to regret it years later when Blair turned out to be a warmongering, student-punishing closet Tory.
“I don’t have a crystal ball,” Noel told Spin in 2008. “I didn’t see he was going to turn into a cunt. I was 30, off me head on drugs, and everyone telling me we were the greatest band since who knows. Then the Prime Minister invites you round for a glass of wine. It all becomes part of the high. Why not? I thought it would give me mum a laugh. I didn’t go thinking, ‘I endorse this government’s policies in every respect.’ I went to have a look at the curtains.”
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Noel’s biggest backlash came in the wake of his deathless 2008 quote “I’m not having hip-hop at Glastonbury. It’s wrong.” Obviously Jay-Z absolutely stormed the festival and Noel was swift to backtrack. “I wasn’t saying I was better than Jay-Z as a person or rock was greater than hip-hop,” he conceded. “I said what I said, and it was wrong, or it was taken wrong.” And that rock stars, is how you conduct your u-turn with honour – none of this “it was taken out of context” bullshit.
‘BE HERE NOW’
At the time Noel’s brain, then approximately 97 per cent cocaine, thought the overblown, overlong indulgences of Oasis’ follow-up to ‘(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?’ were brilliant. “Why edit it down to four minutes when you can listen to eight minutes?” he said of lead single ‘D’You Know What I Mean’. “I was so adamant in the studio. We had someone go ‘it’s too long’ and I was like ‘it’s not long enough!’” Almost twenty years on, though, Noel can’t even listen to the record. “[It’s] the sound of a bunch of guys, on coke, in the studio, not giving a fuck,” he told NME in 2012. “All the songs are really long and all the lyrics are shit and for every millisecond Liam is not saying a word, there’s a fucking guitar riff in there in a Wayne’s World stylie.”
While he’s never professed to being anything close to a fan of their records, Noel has flip-flopped on his opinion of Radiohead’s live show. Back in 2011 he told Rolling Stone “I don’t own any of their records, but every time I’ve seen them live, they’ve fucking blown me away. It was like, “Wow, fucking listen to that! How do you fucking make that shit come out of those speakers?” It’s fucking amazing”. But seeing them at Coachella in 2012 killed the buzz. “Beautiful, sunny night. We walked out through the crowd as they came on, and they were playing this post-techno: ‘de-de de de’,” he said. “We were a bit pissed. Fucking great. And then he started singing. No. Not for us. We’re party people.” Let he who has never gone off a band after a rubbish gig cast the first stone.
THE OASIS REUNION
Noel’s swung from ‘definitely not’ to ‘maybe’ on this one. In 2012 he was adamant that the band would only reunite if “all the starving children in the world depended on it”, but years more interrogation on the topic has softened his resolve. In July he told the Mirror “If someone offered me 10 million quid for one gig, I’d do that. For one night. After tax, that’s £5million. That’s alright. But I’m getting 10 million, everyone else has got to negotiate their own fee. I’d do it. You know we’ve never had one serious offer. If there’s any promoters want to put 10 million quid on the table, I’m there. I’d play anywhere.” He also claimed elsewhere that “as long as everybody is still alive and still has their hair, it’s always a possibility. But only for the money.”
Probably Noel’s biggest backtrack to date is over his one-time arch nemesis Damon Albarn. Not only were they chart rivals and chiefs-of-staff in the opposing forces in the Britpop wars, but Noel regrettably wished that Damon would “catch AIDS and die”. He withdrew the comment fairly quickly but it was almost 20 years before the pair hugged and made up, much to Liam’s chagrin…