Noel Gallagher‘s first-known recordings, in the form of a 30-minute demo cassette of eight songs recorded at home in 1988, is to be auctioned at Christies in London on April 30. The tape, entered for auction by a former friend of Noel’s, is expected to reach between 4,000 – 6,000 pounds. Noel’s handwritten lyrics for two of the tracks are also for sale and could reach 500 – 1,500 pounds.
NME heard a copy of the tape at Christies London offices last week (a track by track review appears on this page). The overall impression is of a songwriter heavily influenced by Teardrop Explodes, The Smiths and The Beatles. There are a number of musical references to The Beatles’ ‘White Album’ and a savage lyricism reminiscent of John Lennon at his most biting, suggesting that the younger Noel was a more sensitive and politicised songwriter than today’s Oasis fans might recognise.
The sound quality is good and the songs are characterised by what sounds like a 12-string acoustic guitar, over which an electric guitar picks out melodies. An organ provides simple basslines. On a number of occasions Noel can be heard laughing with a friend who may be Paul Bardsley. At this time, Noel was playing with him in a band, Fantasy Chicken And The Amateurs, though the group never appeared in public. At the end of a song called ‘Have Fun!!’ Noel can be heard laughing and exclaiming “awesome” and “phenomenal”.
TRACK BY TRACK – THAT 1988 NOEL TAPE IN FULL
‘WOMB TO TOMB’ Reminiscent of the verses from ‘D’You Know What I Mean?’. It starts triumphant – “Stand proud, your head held in the rain” – then darkens to, “You have to sacrifice pleasure to buy yourself a house”.
‘BAJ’ Reminiscent of Lennon’s ‘I’m So Tired’ from the ‘White Album’. Lyrically, very personal and seemingly written from the viewpoint of a successful rock star being asked to put his name to various good causes – “You can’t explain to your friends your feelings of guilt” – as well as highlighting the futility of terrorism: “Here’s a million dollars go plant a bomb/ Here’s a million dollars take another mother’s son… Did it ever change anything?/Show me how”.
‘I AM THE MAN’ Musically, it brings to mind Julian Cope’s ‘Kolly Kibber’s Birthday’ from the ‘World Shut Your Mouth’ album. Lyrically, Noel is in self-mocking mood: “I am the man all alone who can’t take the pressure/I am the man who gets sick in clubs and pubs/I am the man and I’ll probably miss the last bus!”.
‘ENGLAND’ A bitter indictment of Tory policies and the most politicised Noel has ever been in a song. The track opens in the busking manner of The Jam’s ‘That’s Entertainment’, then builds into a seething tale of disgust and resentment: “Morning breaks over a land where the power is held in the rich man’s hand/Where the money lies to the South of me where real freedom will never be…”. The song continues with the organ that underpins it becoming more prominent until an electric guitar picks out a melody over the top. The song ends: “I hope there is an atomic war and a great big bomb bounces through my door/’Cos I won’t live to see another day in England”.
‘I DIDN’T THINK SO’ Noel recounting what’s being going on in his life since he split with a girl. It breezes along at a fair old pace with an acoustic Spanish guitar solo reminiscent of The Beatles ‘And I Love Her’ from the A Hard Day’s Night soundtrack album.
‘WHAT’S IT GOT TO DO WITH YOU?’ The shortest track on the tape running at about two minutes, again featuring a Spanish style solo, though this time played on an electric guitar. Could be about religion with lyrics such as: “There is another world/There has to be”.
‘NO CAUSE FOR ALARM!’ Lots of laughing at the start accompanies a brief snatch of what sounds like Boston’s ‘More Than A Feeling’ before a fast, screeching guitar riff crashes in, similar to Travis’ ‘Happy’. Then everything stops and Noel sings, “Hey you, out there in the cold”. The song progresses with a multi-layered guitar barrage.
‘HAVE FUN’ Starts off acoustically and sounds a bit like The Beatles’ ‘Bungalow Bill’. There are also echoes of ‘All Around The World’ as Noel sings, “Do you ever see the light/Did you feel last night/Did you see the time of day ticking away did you say there would be a better day”. Of all the tracks on the cassette this is the closest to the songs on ‘Be Here Now’.
Christies’ Jill Potterton told NME the tape was offered to them for sale by a female vendor who wishes to remain anonymous. “Noel had been working on a building site with some friends of hers and he used to eat his lunch in her nearby flat. He was always talking about songs he was writing and stuff like that and so she asked him to make a tape. It’s all completely unknown material.”
The tape is being offered for sale without copyright, broadcast rights, performer consents and other reproduction rights. Whoever buys the tape will have to negotiate ownership of the copyright on it if they plan to release it commercially or wish to broadcast it. Creation records have already refused to grant Big Breakfast and GMTV permission to play a sample of the tape on news reports.
Christies would not comment on whether Oasis’ lawyers had tried to stop the auction going ahead. “Noel Gallagher is aware that this sale is going ahead,” explained Potterton, “but I can’t comment on whether he or his legal people have been in contact with Christies and I can’t comment on whether he is pro or anti the sale.” The owner of the tape says she wrote to Noel informing him she intended to offer the tape for sale but he never wrote back. “Eventually I felt it was too valuable an item to keep around the house, so I decided it would be safer to sell it. Plus, needs must…”