Blah Blah Blah - October 1996
He's electric, he's got a family full of eccentrics & he needs more time. To move his furniture.
The story of the day Liam stuck two fingers in the Unplugged socket and the strangest week in Oasis's history.
It is Friday 23rd August, around 9.20pm, on London's South Bank. A hunched, heavily-bearded figure slopes across the stage of the Royal Festival Hall's cavernous, formal, 400-seat auditorium. A dark Kangol hat is pulled halfway down his face and his slouched shoulders are wrapped in a grey raincoat, but there's no mistaking Liam Gallagher's wide-legged walk.
The crowd begin to chant his name. Liam turns, raises his arms, and taunts them into a frenzy. The noise is in total contrast to the you-could-hear-a-plectrum-drop silence that greeted Noel 's announcement at the start of the show that only "the four ugly ones" in Oasis would be playing. A vacuum which was only half-filled by Noel's disgruntled, "Well, someone say something, then..."
Having just spent nearly an hour watching the rest of Oasis play without him, their hunger was palpable - watching them bay for Liam was akin to being among the starving survivors of a plane crash when someone discovers an unclaimed vegetarian dinner. Or an edible corpse.
Liam throws the audience a scrap, banging a few random keys on the vacated piano before disappearing stage-left, where the other members of Oasis are waiting to find out whether or not any of the MTV Unplugged session they've just finished needs to be re-recorded because of technical glitches. It's a futile exercise, really, as everyone in the building knows there has been a unpluggable gap in this particular performance that no amount of re-recording will ever fill.
Well, nearly, everyone. In the front row of the audience sit executives from the band's US record label. "Oh, my God!" exclaims one on seeing Liam. "Who on earth is that?" "That's Liam," his companion tells him. "He's the lead singer." The man looks confused. "That bearded guy is the singer?" he asks incredulously. "So who the hell just sang all the songs?"
In the course of the next week, Liam's face graces the News At Ten three nights in a row, as well as the cover of virtually every national newspaper in the country - from The Sun to The Times - for sensationally refusing to board a plane just 15 minutes before Oasis were due to depart for another American tour.
"I'm fuckin' sick of it." he is reported to have said at the airport. "I don't care about the tour. I don't want to spend my life living in hotels. I need to be happy. That's why I'm not going."
Just hours later, having returned to Patsy Kensit's home in St. John's Wood, north London, Liam stands on the doorstep, talking to the press.
"I'm having problems," he explains to the phalanx of waiting reporters. "We have got to be out of here by the weekend. I'm not going touring the US when I've got nowhere to live. The bloody Yanks can wait. I'm staying here tonight, watching Coronation Street with my feet up. You've got to realise that I'm only 23. I've got to get my life sorted out. I am Oasis. We may have little arguments among us but they are never serious. I was sorry about not being able to sing at the MTV Unplugged concert on Friday, but I had a sore throat because I had been drinking all through the night before."
Creation, Oasis's record company, were claiming that Liam's sore throat was in fact acute laryngitis, and that he had experienced throat pains during rehearsals and had been taken to a hospital in King's Cross. Meanwhile, legal bods hastily double checked the small print to ensure that should any action be taken by US promoters, Oasis would be covered by their insurance policy. Had Liam's refusal to sing really been a protest?
By the Bank Holiday Monday, three days later, Liam seemed to be trying to regain some control within the band [as a non-songwriting partner in the group, it seems unlikely that he has had much say in Oasis affairs since the success of Definitely Maybe].
On the Tuesday he told some tabloids that he would be flying out to America as soon as he had finished moving house. He told others he would return to the tour only if the band couldn't manage without him. As it was, within 48 hours Liam would be booked on a flight to Chicago to rejoin the rest of the band.
But in the meantime The Sun had concluded that all the troubles were down to a disagreement between the brothers Gallagher, after tracking down a British Airways official who revealed that the siblings had originally booked seats for the Chicago flight at opposite ends of the first class cabin. The Star decided it was all down to Patsy, saying she had ordered her fiancé to stay home and sort their lives out. Most worryingly, north London-based psychotherapist Adam Dukes, best known for writing a controversial medical book called Why Men Hate Women, sold a story to gossip monthly Here! magazine, in which he claimed that Liam had consulted him several months ago over drink and drugs problems.
Incredibly, even Jeremy Paxman sent a Newsnight reporter to doorstep Liam and Patsy. On air, over the flat's intercom, a man wh pretended to be Liam but sounded nothing like him, informed the programme that there was no more news on the state of Oasis and that no, he wasn't coming out to talk to the media, as it was "fookin' rainin"' . As the band's three-week tour of the States began without Liam, only offer of help at hand came from The Smurfs. A Smurf spokesman contacted the press to say that Papa Smurf, or any other member of the small blue gang, would be delighted to stand in for Liam. Of course the big question was, would any of Oasis's US record company executives actually spot the difference?
When nothing further reportable passed from Liam's' lips, other t the tabs he was smoking at Unplugged [the butts of which fans at the show were reputedly later selling for £50 each], the papers start looking to America to keep the story hot. They dig up a few disgruntled-from-Tunbridge-Wells-types - infuriated ticket-holders Oasis's debut show on 27th August at the Rosemont Horizon, near Chicago, who were demanding refunds. One whinges that he had travel 1,400 miles from Idaho for the gig, "to see a total Oasis, not jus half of them." Others moan predictably about British bands having learn how to treat their fans properly.
Most others, though, probably thank their lucky stars and strip it is Liam and not Noel. When Gallagher Senior went AWOL during on of Oasis's first slogs around the States, some scheduled shows did happen at all.
Luckily, Liam has not declared himself to have a sorer throat than Jesus after a day on the cross, so no one starts burning pyres of Oasis merchandising.
While this "drama" drags on, presidential bods at MTV America are deciding when, if ever, they will broadcast the Unplugged recording. Having flown several executives and staff over from the States, hired the Royal Festival Hall and paid for the production, they are looking at a deficit of several hundred thousand dollars if they don't.
Back on the South Bank, Liam's decision not to take to the unplugged stage had been as much of a shock to MTV as it was to the ns who won tickets to the performance in newspaper and magazine competitions.
All of the band had arrived at the venue hours before stage-time, and MTV production staff were still unaware of his condition as the VIPs were ushered in through the back entrance just 30 minutes before the show. Even after Liam Gallagher made his brief appearance near the end of the recording, technicians set a microphone stand in his empty place, in the hope that he might at least sing during the encore.
Yet only the rest of the band and accompanying musicians returned to re-record 'Hello'. the first song of the set. Noel's attempt to overcome the audience's second major disappointment of the evening by taking the piss out of Bonehead for [a] having a crib-sheet with the chords to all the songs written on it, and [b] for being a Manchester United fan, were only partially successful.
Over the course of the set, Noel had punctured the solemnity of the occasion with a couple of other mildly amusing asides, including joking about £11 burgers on sale outside. He also made a competent, although scarcely exhilarating, job of covering for his brother. 'Some might Say' and 'Live Forever' - the latter the sole track of the 12-song set from Definitely Maybe - both suffered badly from the absence of Liam's stretched vowels and Lyndon-esque drawl, but singalongs such as 'Wonderwall ' and 'Round Are Way' sounded not unlike their original recordings.
Crammed together in Box 28. friends of the band, including Kate Moss, were busying outswaying and outwaving everyone in the venue. Noel responded with a superb 'Cast No Shadow', which was on a par with his rendition of erstwhile B-side 'The Masterplan'. The only new song tackled was 'Listen Up', a track written and demoed more than two years ago, at the same time as 'Some Might Say'. 'Whatever' - suffixed with the chorus of 'All The Young Dudes', amended to 'all the young blues...' - and the closing number, 'Wonderwall', proved perfect Unplugged material, their basic structures filled out by the pianists, brass and string sections dotted behind the band on stage. Between the two songs, Noel's nostrils flared. "There's somebody here Noel's nostrils flared. "There's somebody here smoking pot Cut that hippy shit out."
If it is aired, no doubt the comment will be cut too. Maybe they'll also be able to fix the harmonica player in the mix. He grossly overplayed his part, turning several song intros and endings into horrid, Bruce Springsteen-style Americana. It was almost a relief when he and the rest of the group left Noel on stage to perform solo versions of 'Talk Tonight' and 'Morning Glory'.
From the very start of the show, audience members seated near the stage could see Liam with Patsy Kensit standing at the back of the box with their friends. Midway through the show, however, they left to sit together in an empty one nearby. Despite Noel's efforts, it was hard not to be transfixed by Liam's occasional jigs and air-guitar parts.
He wasn't Unplugged but Liam was definitely switched on. If ever anyone needed reminding that, while Noel may be the cable-guy, Liam is the live-wire, then this was the night. For one strange Oasis performance the starlight was emanating from the balcony, not the stage and, like moths, everyone in the audience was drawn to it.
Well, nearly everyone. After the performance, a Scandinavian girl was in a heated discussion with a friend by the exit door.
"Before I go, I need to be sure," she fretted. "Was that guy with the beard really the singer?"
Blah Blah Blah - October 1996
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