Melody Maker - 21 September 1996
This is the most comprehensive, unhyped, balanced and well researched article that I have read on the ‘pseudo-breakup'.
By Carol Clerk.
THEY THOUGHT IT WAS ALL OVER.
Last week, Noel Gallagher sensationally walked out on Oasis' ill-starred American tour, followed by rumours that he'd quit the band after a massive bust-up with Liam. The Maker reports on another traumatic chapter in the careers of the battling Gallaghers.
The announcement came on Friday, 24 hours of nail-biting drama. Oasis, after all, were not going to split.
Never mind that Noel Gallagher had stormed out of their American tour, leaving it in ruins. Never mind that he had made a supersonic dash back to London amid rumours of a furious fist fight with his brother Liam. Never mind the stories about the tears and the tantrums and the wounds that would never heal. Never mind that the whole wide world had boxed them up and buried them.
Oasis were not going to split. The statement from their management company, Ignition, said this: "Oasis have all arrived back in England. Noel and Liam are spending time together and getting over jetlag. Unfortunately, the band will not be touring in the foreseeable future, but in every other aspect, Oasis will continue to exist and function as a band."
They have yet to tell us exactly what this means. As Melody Maker went to press, they were also remaining tight-lipped about whatever it was that happened in America, and how any arising conflicts might hopefully be resolved.
But after three full weeks of chaos, confusion and the most relentless media pressure ever brought to bear upon any British group, they are searching now for a workable future.
Friday the 13th did not bring the bad news many had expected. The first rumblings of the latest crisis reached the Melody Maker office on Thursday, mid-afternoon in a phone call from one of our contacts in Manchester. He told us that there had been a "rumpus" in America and that Oasis's road crew were already on their way home.
There were two more calls in quick succession. They informed us that the band had split and that Noel was on his way back to England. The phones didn't stop ringing for the rest of the afternoon.
Television and radio crews jumped quickly into the fray, breathlessly reporting that the group had broken up.
Oasis' record label, Creation, responded with the following statement: "Oasis have had internal differences on their ninth tour of America which has resulted in the tour being pulled two-thirds of the way through. It's unlikely that immediate touring commitments will be fulfilled."
It didn't look good. By Thursday evening, you couldn't turn on a radio without hearing about Oasis. It was as though there had been a death. Their songs blared out from every station with "Don't Look Back in Anger" the natural favourite, although 'Wonderwall' also notched up a respectable number of plays. GLR declared a period of mourning and promptly launched a competition, offering 10 CDS to the listener with the wittiest new job suggestions for Liam and Noel. The DJ proposed that Liam could become an estate agent 'because he likes looking around houses'. The news for the rest of the night centred on Noel's arrival in London, his Concorde flight touching down at Heathrow just before 5.30pm. Television captured the slight, silent figure striding past a bank of urgent cameras and reporters on his way to the big, blacked-out car which swept him away.
Early the next morning, a dishevelled, unshaven Liam walked through Gatwick Airport with the rest of Oasis. Dwarfed by some very large minders, he also refused to speak.
As we went to press, those had been our last glimpses of the Gallaghers.
THERE'S a strange, unreasonably tidy feeling about the fact that Oasis' ill-fated American tour started without one brother and ended without the other.
However, it was in London that the whole string of controversies began, on Friday, August 23. It was then that Liam blew out a performance with the band for 'MTV Unplugged', forcing Noel to sing both lead and backing vocals himself. At the time, there were claims (and they still persist) that Liam had come to blows with Noel during or just after the rehearsals, even though it was explained that the singer was suffering from laryngitis. He did, however watch the show from a box in the Royal Festival Hall, smoking and drinking, and at one point lurched across the stage.
This triggered a massive press interest in the doings of the band, and since then, the coverage has become increasingly frenzied. Liam and Noel have found themselves under constant scrutiny while their homes, their family their friends and their acquaintances have also been squarely placed in the media viewfinder.
The week after 'Unplugged'- and the subsequent newspaper reports that MTV was unhappy with Liam's non-participation and was unsure if it would even screen the show - the band set off for a three-week American tour. Liam made it to Heathrow with his colleagues, but suddenly rushed out of the airport and headed for home just 15 minutes before the flight.
He had an emergency on his hands. The house that he and girlfriend Patsy Kensit had been sharing, in St John's Wood, London, had been sold - but now they were being told that they had to vacate it by the end of the week.
Liam's throat had not yet recovered to the point where he could sing, we were told. He had planned merely to accompany the tour until he was well enough to reclaim the microphone. In the circumstances, he decided to stay in England to sort out his problems and fly out to join Oasis a few days later. The band, meanwhile, played their first US gig at the Chicago Rosemont Horizon Stadium without Liam. And the papers went wild. So did the TV and the radio. They all believed they were close to that headline - ‘Oasis split.'
Oasis didn't split, though. Liam resumed his duties with the band in Detroit, and as the tour progressed through Toronto & Philadelphia, it seemed that everything was levelling out.
But then came the group's guest appearance at the MTV awards on September 4, with a live rendition of ‘Champagne Supernova'. Onstage at the New York Radio City Music Hall, Liam said ‘shit', he spat twice. He changed the words to ‘champagne supernova up yer bum!' He knocked over his microphone stand and he threw a beer can in the air.
The media had been circling, waiting, and they predictably screamed of their shock and disgust. Oasis were top news again.
They responded with gigs in New York, Boston, Washington and Baltimore and on Wednesday, September 11, they were expected to play in Charlotte, North Carolina, at the Hornets Training Centre a-gym for the local NBA basketball team.
Several newspaper reports have stated that Oasis had originally been booked into a bigger, 9,000-capacity venue called Independence Arena, but had had the gig switched at the last minute due to disappointing ticket sales. The papers insisted that this had led to a violent row between an outraged Noel, who wanted to cancel the show, and Liam, who didn't. The story has since been denied by the band's press spokesman, Johnny Hopkins, who says the itinerary had included the Hornets Training Centre all along.
One thing is certain: Oasis did not appear in Charlotte that night, calling off their performance only hours before they were due on stage.
Venue manager Jon Percival has been quoted as saying: 'We received a statement saying,'Due to unforeseen circumstances, the concert has been cancelled and will not be rescheduled."'
According to MTV news, fans turning up for the gig were confronted with flyers saying it was off.
The next day, Noel was on his way back to England alone. There were unconfirmed reports that the rest of the band had moved on to Atlanta, scene of their next scheduled gig at the Omni on Friday (September 13). The Atlanta promoters told the press on Thursday morning (local time) that they still expected the show to go ahead.
But there was never any chance of Oasis appearing without Noel. Besides, the five had already agreed that the tour was over. Wallis Barr of Landmark Entertainment, promoting the Atlanta show, subsequently told The Maker: 'The promoter of the Charlotte, North Carolina, date called me at six o'clock on Wednesday afternoon to tell me the problems that he was having, and from that, I got prepared for what potentially would happen to me. The show was officially cancelled at four o'clock on Thursday.
'The Omni is 16,000 seats, but we were set up in a 7,500-seat, half-house configuration. The band is going to reimburse us all our out-of-pocket expenses. That's probably around $20,000. We've started giving refunds via Ticketmaster. I'm sure all the other promoters are as disappointed as us, but if they get their money back, they can't be too upset.
'I really don't think this will hurt them [Oasis in America]. You know,the quality of their music will stand for itself and I'm sure the fans are disappointed but I think it's just a bump on the road that they can certainly overcome. I think they have the potential to be as big here as they are in the UK.
'I would absolutely work with them again. I'd promote their whole tour here.'
The band cancelled all of their remaining gigs at the West Palm Beach Auditorium (September 14), Orlando UCF Centre (16) and Tampa USF Special Events Centre (18). And then they came home.
THESE facts, coupled with varying reports of what had actually happened in Charlotte, were enough to convince the press that Oasis' spectacular capacity for feuds and fights, particularly between the brothers, had exceeded its own limits. This time, there could be no recovery.
They backed up this theory by pointing out that it was Noel the 'sensible' one-who had walked out.
Noel, however, has done this very thing before. He walked out of Oasis during an American tour in September 1994 and went missing for a week, leaving the band to cancel a string of dates. The official explanation was 'band fatigue'.
Rumours spread like wildfire that Noel had left Oasis. In fact, he had, briefly. He disappeared after a disastrous gig in LA, accusing the rest of the group of shoddy performances, and ended up in Las Vegas and San Francisco. Determined that the band should split, Noel set off for the airport to fly back to England, but opened a Melody Maker on the way. What caught his eye was a series of 'sold out" ads for Oasis' forthcoming UK gigs. This prompted a sudden change of mind, and Noel returned to the fold.
On a lighter note, Noel stopped an outdoor show at an American ski resort after two songs, complaining that it was too cold to play! The event, held at Nernon Valley Gorge, New Jersey, in March this year, had been billed as 'SnOasis'. A year earlier, another of Oasis' American jaunts had been disrupted by gigs which were either cut short or cancelled. One show in lndianapolis came to an end after only a few songs when a member of the audience hurled a pair of metal-framed glasses at the stage, striking Liam on the head. The band had only managed a couple of numbers in Grand Rapids when Liam's voice gave out and Noel stood in on vocals for the rest of the set. The next gig, in St Louis, was called off.
Clearly, America and Oasis have never got on like the best of buddies. Oasis and Oasis have never got on like the best of buddies. The difference now is that the mainstream media want to know about it.
Johnny Hopkins summed it up when we asked him if the latest crisis was the most serious that the band had ever had to face.
" It's been the most publicised, he replied.
He added: 'This so-called crisis has been blown out of all proportion. The band are still very much a band. lt was funny to watch the media writing the band's obituary one day and having to back track frantically the next. Oasis never did split up, and by implication, they haven't been saved by any newspapers.' This was a reference to the coverage in The Sun, which had claimed an exclusive for its front-page revelations on Friday the 13th that Oasis had .sensationally split up'. In fact, The Sun had been the source of many of the original bust-up reports the previous day.
On Saturday, it trumpeted 'The Sun saves Oasis', claiming that .our scoop triggered a massive, worldwide wave of support for Britain's No 1 group' which, apparently, had persuaded them to reform.
SO what did happen in Charlotte? There have been any number of theories, many presented as fact in various newspapers on and after September 13.
Hopkins has declined to offer any explanation for the collapse of the tour, preferring that Noel and Liam eventually make their own statements. But he has issued denials of certain allegations, notably that the brothers had a punch-up and that Liam was reduced to tears after either fighting or arguing with Noel. 'That's not true," he said. "Liam wasn't in tears and there was certainly no fight.' There was, however, something. And Whatever it was, there was a reason for it.
'That's not true at all,' said Hopkins. 'Most of the shows were sold out, and all were extremely well-received by the audiences and the media. I'd say that the band in New York were the best I've ever seen them. Other people who have seen them before were saying the same thing about Boston and Washington.
'I'd say the remaining gigs [the ones they called off] were all close to selling out, and they probably would have on the day.
'They were playing to audiences of around 12,000, bar the last few dates which were slightly smaller because, essentially, they were in virgin territory. That's why this mad story has arisen, that the tour had been scaled down. It hadn't been at all."
On the Thursday that the story broke, excited radio news bulletins announced that the band had held a five-hour summit meeting in their Charlotte hotel, with Patsy present, and that Noel had consequently marched out of the group. And not only that! Patsy had stopped talking to everyone in Oasis and had moved out of Liam's hotel room.
On Friday morning, while commuters were picking up copies of The Sun to learn that Patsy 'irritates' Noel and has driven 'a wedge' between the brothers, Patsy herself was on TV, talking from LA where she'd been all that week. Looking pale and upset, she told reporters: 'I don't know anything. I haven't spoken to Liam. As far as I know, he's on a plane back to London. I'm bewildered by the whole thing.'
IT looks likely that Oasis decided to cal I the whole thing off before the proposed gig in Charlotte. There have been conflicting accounts of the alleged events, some claiming that the Gallaghers had a showdown, erupting into violence, before show time on Wednesday, September 11. Others vowed that the same confrontation occurred during the 'summit meeting", said to have been held afterwards in the band's. hotel. There is still no official confirmation that such a meeting actually took place. And the fight has been emphatically denied.
But the media was on safe ground for a convincing story: the idea of a set-to would come as no surprise to any Oasis observer, given the brother's long standing reputation for squaring up to each other and anybody else on their wrong side.
They were making news from the very beginning of their career, and not just on account of the standard rock'n'roll atrocities they perpetrated with gusto in hotels, on ferries and in clubs.
In May 1993, they wanted to play at Glasgow King Tut's Wah Wah Hut, and achieved their ambition by making an offer that could not be refused. As legend would have it, Creation boss Alan McGee was there that night, and the band went home with a record deal in their back pocket.
By the end of that year, they were appearing in gossip columns, with Noel and bassist Guigsy accused of beating up Liam, Tony McCarroll, [former drummer] and guitarist Bonehead for jamming with Whiteout at the Camden Falcon without them.
Things really started to gather pace in l994. Early recording sessions had to be abandoned because of inter-group tension, and stories of fraternal hostilities came winging their way out of Oasis' tour with Whiteout.
In April, a music paper interview degenerated into an alarming quarrel between Noel and Liam. the tape of it was released last year by Fierce Panda as a 14-minute single under the banner of Wibbling Rivalry, and by September, it had reached Number 52 in the chart.
(The Gallaghers would later make another, quieter but sulkier, public display of their differences, on Gary Crowley's TV show 'The Beat', but this time there was no hit record.)
In August, Noel was punched in the face by an audience member while onstage at Newcastle Riverside, an occasion which was immortalised by the Daily Mirror's cry of 'An orgy of violence!'
Bathe end of 1994, Oasis were up for every award imaginable, and when they turned up for the Brats after the turn of the New Year, Liam celebrated the band's rising fortunes by threatening to decapitate all and sundry.
Noel was back in the news in May 1995 when he stropped out of recording sessions with Oasis in Wales after a fight with Liam, and returned to London. Insiders at the studio whispered that the trouble was the culmination of 'something that's been simmering for a bit'.
A new face arrived in the band the same month. Drummer Alan White replaced Tony McCarroll who was reported to have had a bloody punch-up with Liam in a topless bar in Paris. He has since gone to court for his share of royalties and reached an interim settlement with the band.
Earlier in May, there were unconfirmed rumours that Liam had had a physical altercation .with Johnny from Menswear, and the stories carried on in the same vein: Liam had done this, Liam had done that, in a bar somewhere or other.
In March of this year, he was reported to have fought with his estranged father, Tommy, after a Sunday tabloid tried to set up a reunion in a Dublin hotel. The allegations were hotly denied by Liam's spokes people who said that he had kept cool, uncharacteristically, in the face of provocation.
CREATION Records heard in the early hours of Thursday last week, not long before the rest of us, that Noel was on his way home and the tour was over. With Liam, Guigsy, Bonehead and Alan White due back in the country the next day, the company sat tight. Contrary to reports, they did not demand a meeting with the golden geese to urge them to keep their collective feathers on for everybody's financial benefit. Creation issued only sporadic and non-committal comments, when pressed and when their switchboard could be penetrated, about the continuing state of play.
By Friday morning, the papers were going front-page mad. There were spreads and cartoons and leader column comments, and still there was no real information from the label. Had Oasis split?
The TV and radio coverage was equally frantic, with 'experts' of every description-journalists, DJs, celebrities, industry characters - cheerfully allowing themselves to be dragged out of bed to make predictions for the nation. Had Oasis split? What would become of Liam, do you think? Of Noel?
Later that afternoon, the statement from Ignition reassured us that what would become of Liam and Noel was that they would be staying in Oasis.
Peggy Gallagher, their mum, had a comment read from her front door, having 24 hours earlier refused to utter a single word about the situation. It said she was ‘Pleased they're not splitting up. She didn't think they would for one moment split up and she just wishes that they're left alone to let them sort it out.'
Astonishingly, they have been left alone. No one could find out where they went, after disembarking from their separate flights, Noel and Liam left London for a secret location where they met up and were still together as we went to press. Guigsy, Bonehead and Alan travelled to different destinations.
Johnny Hopkins said: 'Noel and Liam got together to hang out. They're on good terms-yeah, totally. They're mad for it. Of course they're friends. They're staying together and getting over the jetlag, just chatting away.' For the time being, Oasis will not be going back on the road. They have cancelled the rest of this year's touring plans, which involve dates in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and the west coast of America.
Asked about the prospect of Oasis ever playing live again, Johnny said: 'It's too early to say. For the foreseeable future, there will be no touring.' Do you think there is any accuracy in the rumours that they might decide to become a studio act only? 'It's happened before with bands,' he answered. 'It's too early to say if that will be the case. I think they all love playing live, they all love the response of the crowd, but the experience of touring is the bit that they don't enjoy.' It remained to ask about the Daily Star's assertions on Friday that Liam had 'told friends' he was writing material for a solo album. 'It's not a sudden thing,' said Hopkins. 'Liam's always written songs. Liam and Bonehead wrote ‘Take Me', which has been talked about in the past. They all write songs. But there are no plans for a solo album because Oasis are very much a happening thing, and they certainly will be for a good long time to come." The happening thing will now have to go into discussions with accountants to discuss the financial repercussions of their cancelled touring commitments For the remainder of the year. Their spokesman cannot even think about, never mind comment on, the money they might have to pay out, given the wildly varying sums quoted by more of those television experts.
Even Robertson Taylor, the band's own insurance agents, say "We're in the dark like everybody else,", while revealing that the company paid out recently because of Liam's laryngitis and his production of a doctor's letter confirming that he wasn't well enough to sing at the beginning of the American tour.
In the meantime, Oasis can look forward to seeing themselves, Liam-less, on "Unplugged", after all the uncertainty of the past weeks and the possibility that the film may have been fated to live out its days in some exclusive bootleg club. MTV Europe chose Friday the 13th to announce that it will broadcast the concert on November 4 at 8.30pm UK time. MTV America will claim the exclusive with an earlier screening.
And in the end, as their troubles finally seem to be subsiding, Oasis are promising to hold a press conference this week. Watch this space...
Melody Maker - 21 September 1996
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