In 1994, in the midst of their fast and furious rise, Simon Williams joined a raucous Oasis on tour to stagger from hotel bar to gig venue and back again with the Gallagher brothers…
Liam: “My head’s in ruins – so’s my shirt.”
Noel: “You’re a mad cunt, you are..”
Liam: “No, you’re the mad cunt!” (Repeat to fade)
It all started off normally enough. A quiet Monday evening in Portsmouth, a sold-out gig for Oasis, followed by adrug pilgrimage and a ‘crap’ student party on the outskirts of town. Then back to the hotel for a few swift nightcaps. Simple, eh? In the bar, Oasis bumped into East 17, fresh from their own gig at the Guildhall.
“Are you Blur?” demanded East 17.
“No, why? Are you Take That?” came the stroppy reply. While the Walthamstow terriers wisely retired to their various rumpus rooms, Oasis settled down in the bar with a gin and tonic orten. Then a bottle of champagne or two appeared on the table. Then the barman made the terrible mistake of abandoning his post.
Before you could say, “Bugger me, free booze!”, two of the entourage were scrambling over the bar, emptying the fridges and passing the bounty over the counter. One minute later, 50 bottles of beer were being stuffed under chairs and into innocent bags.
Then things got really strange. Guitarist, Paul ‘Bonehead’ Arthurs, decided to go for a dip in the horriblyconvenient pool next to the bar. The Gallagher brothers, Noel and Liam, decided to have a scrap about an ex-girlfriend. Allegedly. Expletives started flying. Then punches started flying. Then bottles of beer started flying. Then furniturestarted flying.
Bassist, Paul ‘Guigsy’ McGuigan, valiantly tried to separate the Gallaghers, receiving two knuckle sandwiches for his endeavours. Someone started throwing chairs at Bonehead in the pool. Then tables. Liam had Noel on the floor. Noel tore Liam’s shirt off. Other residents, tiring of the mass brawl downstairs, started coming out onto their balconies and shouting abuse. One particularly aggrieved sort was accompanied by his girlfriend. While her lover’s attention was focused on the mayhem below, she would calmly open her towel. At this juncture, the pissed-up band wouldroar their encouragement, causing the baffled boyfriend to turn and find his demure-looking companion safely covered by the towel. Then he’d shout more abuse and she’d flash again.
And so it went, with a few more punches thrown here and a few more items of furniture thrown there (ie, in the pool). Eventually, at around six o’bleeding clock in the morning, the night porter appeared to tell the fuzzy thrill-seekers that, actually, if it was all right with them he was going to knock off because, um, someone had called the police.
It is common knowledge that hotels are utterly brilliant places. Let’s face it, if you get smashed off your nuts in the confines of your own home and gleefully decide to trash your living room prior to catching a bit of shut-eye, are the cleaning pixies likely to rearrange the furniture into some kind of social order while your hangover works itself into a midday frenzy?
But, hotels being hotels, when Oasisshamble into the bar the following lunchtime – apart from the occasional dark stare from the receptionists – life is back to normal. Stunningly overpriced pots of tea are being drained. Liam and Noel are comparing wounds and laughing about their fight. The swimming pool has been cleared of chairs and Boneheads. And everyone decides it was the hotel’s fault, anyway.
“It’s a stupid place to put a pool, innit?” frowns Liam. “It was asking for trouble putting us in this hotel.”
“It’s true.” nods Noel wisely. “Those plate glass windows are just saying, ‘THROW A CHAIR THROUGH ME!”
This is life on the road, Oasis style. You may not think it’s big, or indeed clever. But it is rock’n’roll bastard bonkers.
Our task is to follow Oasis around the country for three nights, from Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms to Derby Wherehouse via Newport TJ’s and points in between.
FACT: Oasis talk a lot of bullshit. After the Portsmouth gig, Liam insists that he’s going to ‘sort out’ East 17 because, he alleges, “They’ve ripped off ‘Imagine’.” Half an hour later, the singer is insisting that all he wants to do is sit down with East 17, neck a few beers and sort out how they can “topple Take That”.
The same applies for Noel when he’s told that Manic Street Preachers are coming down to the Newport gig: ‘Do they wanna fight?’ asks the guitarist. Nah, the Manics don’t fight, comes the answer. “Right!” beams Noel, “we’ll kick their heads in, then!”
Simplicity is the key: Newport, muchlike any other set on the tour, is utterly straightforward and unnervingly familiar. There’s the Coca-Cola song! The one-that-sounds-a-bit-like-Blur-song! The Wham! song! A cover of “I Am The Walrus”! And no bleeding encores! It’s the history of rock splattered over the past 30 years from The Beatles to the Mondays, played by five blokes who scarcely move a muscle onstage, who barely communicate between songs, and who are hardly likely torival Bad Boys lnc in the “Woof woof! Down boy!” stakes.
A few more things you may or may notneed to know about Oasis on the road. Already a seasoned autograph campaigner, Liam has sussed that signing fans’ chests is a daft idea because cleavage perspiration prevents your pen from working properly. Whenever two or three of Oasis are gathered around the piano they will bang out a cheery version (to the tune of The Small Faces ‘Lazy Sunday’) of, “Wouldn’t it be nice to be a fucking cock-er-nee/ Wouldn’t it be nice to be in fucking Blur – SLAG!” And Newport witnesses some serious psychological collapse.
It may be something to do with the manner in which Oasis valiantly attempt to get a goodly proportion of the TJ’s crowd into the hotel after the gig. Dispensing with the trite formalities traditionally deployed to convince suspicious hotel staff of their guests’ worth, Liam simply harangues and abuses the night porter until the poor bloke’s left with the choice of opening the front doors or being chased around by drunk Mancunians. It may then be something to do with the six-hour drinking session that ensues in – spookily enough – the hotel’s Oasis bar. Whatever, the following morning is a sad sight for bloody sore eyes.
Bonehead has trashed his room. You can tell this by the way the morning staff patiently file in from the street carrying paraphernalia (telephones, cushions, pillow cases scarred with tyre marks). Bonehead would have thrown the bed out as well but it was too big. Now he is sitting in the lounge with a transparent shower cap on his face, muttering, “I can’t do it any more.”
“There’s no such word as ‘can’t,” a worryingly wise Guigsy informs his colleague.
“But I CAAAN’T!” howls Bonehead. “I’m giving up this rock’n’roll business, I’m gonna be a Tory MP. GIVE ME A SATSUMA! GIVE ME A SATSUMA!”
Over on the other side of the bar, an irate Liam is throwing this morning’s music papers around and ranting aboutOasis being exploited or some such like. Noel watches his brother, adjusts his shades and sighs. Obviously, confronted with all this evidence, any sane sort without direct responsibility for this Oasis tour would pack their bags, slink off to the nearest mainline station and get the first train back home to Normality, pronto.
Sadly, the NME crew simply sits in the midst of the chaos and twitches.
Eventually, after losing the band transport for half an hour, Oasis apologise to the staff, pile into the van and head off to Derby armed with half a local McDonald’s. It’s one of those afternoon-after-the-few-nights-before journeys, where a sense of communal numbness prevails, Bonehead wants to vomit and the tape deck blasts out TheBeatles, The Who and the Sex Pistols. Then we hit the traffic jam from helloutside Birmingham.
When a sleek business type refuses to let the van sneak in front of his saloon in the outside lane, the previously dozy band suddenly erupt, banging on the windows and hurling abuse at the unfortunate driver. Then, as we crawl through the roadworks, Bonehead spots a clutch of archetypal British workmen doing bugger all and yells, “START DIGGING!” Five minutes later, and now fully warming to the task, Bonehead decides to stagedive. Clambering on to his seat, he throws himself headlonginto the back of the van. Nothing wrong with that, you might say. Except Bonehead is driving.
It could be said that if in hedonistic terms Primal Scream are The Muppets, Oasis are more like The Muppet Babies: a danger only unto themselves, they’re the sort of trainee rock’n’roll gits who may be sussed enough to go backwards for their musical inspiration, but they’ve mercifully left behind the nastier elements of the trad RAWK lifestyle. So their bag is speed rather than smack, and their attitude is based upon bewilderment rather than insufferable belligerence.
Noel’s the one with the permanent half-smile who appears to get most of his kicks from watching the rest of the band’s antics. Tony barely utters a single word in the entire three days. Guigsy, general consensus has it, is coming out of his shell and becoming more and more unhinged the longer the tour progresses. Bonehead is simply bonkers. And Liam… Liam is the loose cannon, the one who spends 10 minutes abusingreceptionists and the next half-hour trying to chat them up. Lippier than the rest, he’s always up for something. And when he recounts the Portsmouth saga to an enraptured mini-audience in the Derby dressing room, you can see how much he gets off on the attention.
“Beer is the best drug ever!” he bellows at one point. “I do fucking care, me.”
“I feel sorry for our kid sometimes,” Noel had mused back in Newport.
“I get all this shit going inside my head and I can write it all down and get off on that. But he can’t, so his release is to get off his head.”
Noel admits that he worries about some of the, uh, less PC things Liam is inclined to blurt out. “There’s no need to say them, really. He just sets himself up.” He talks about his brother’s responsibility towards the band, pointing out that he’s representing five people, including himself. And sighs heavily again. “Our Kid thinks that I want him sitting in a room reading a book. I don’t want that at all,man, but he fucking winds me up. He’s the one person I argue with. He goes on about this and that and I’ll say, ‘Shut up, you fucking dick – I used to change your fucking nappies!’ Basically, if he’s asking for a smack in the mouth, he’ll get one. And the same applies to me – if I’m asking for a smack in the mouth, I’ll get one.”
So Oasis do another cracking gig, and some more substances and more socialising. It all ends at 3am in the Britannia Hotel, where the Buzzcocks are retiring to bed AND These Animal Men cower in shady corners. Noel Gallagher partakes of one last G&T and contemplates the next step in the Oasis plan for global domination: Glastonbury. “This is another dream: I always wanted to go to Glastonbury but I could never afford a ticket, and now, all of a sudden, someone’s paying me to play to a load of people and give me loads of beer and drugs. It’s gonna be brilliant, because once you’re in that field, anything goes. When you’re at home in your local pub and announce, ‘I’m gonna get my face painted like a panda,’ everyone goes, ‘What the fuck does he mean? Let’s bottle the cunt!’ But at Glastonbury you can take all your clothes off and run around naked – that’s what it’s there for! Same with this band: let your hair down, man, have a good time, that’s whatit’s there for. Then you wake up the morning after and do it again.”
And again. And again. And again…