Oasis - Biography
By Marcus Kagler
Sibling rivalry is nothing new within the rock & roll cannon. Everyone from the Beach Boys to the Everly Brothers had their fair share of well publicized familial dysfunctions throughout their careers. But in the 1990’s the Gallagher brothers brought the concept of sibling rivalry to a whole new level. As front men and poster children of the Britpop movement, Noel and Liam Gallagher are as well known for their verbal and physical public brawls as they are for their groundbreaking rock music that took the world by storm. The band’s legendary appetite for drugs and alcohol only fueled the brothers' virulent behavior and it seemed the press was always there to capture the Gallagher’s madness at work. Despite their bad boy reputation, Oasis was arguably the biggest rock band in the world at the dawn of a post-Nirvana era. The band was a conglomeration of 60’s psychedelic rock, punk attitude, and glam swagger with a lifestyle so publicly debaucherous they were almost constantly in the public eye. Although they band hit a creative rough patch after the death of Britpop they bounced back bigger than ever in what appeared to be the twilight of their career with a come back album that put them back on top almost ten years after their heyday. Love them or hate them, Oasis remains one of the best rock & roll bands out there.
Contrary to popular belief, Oasis didn’t begin as the brainchild of Noel Gallagher but rather with his younger brother Liam. While Noel was busy working as a guitar tech for the Madchester band Inspiral Carpets, Liam formed Oasis in 1991 with fellow Manchester school mates Paul “Bonehead” Arthurs (guitars), Tony McCarroll (drums), and Paul McGuigan (bass). Although Noel was the band’s biggest critic he was officially invited to join a few months later, however he came with stipulations. Intent on making the band commercially successful, Noel demanded he be the sole songwriter and overall leader of the band. Rather than emulating the Madchester trend of the Stone Roses, Noel took the group into a stripped down, traditional rock direction of fuzzed out highly melodic guitar parts supported by a simplistic rhythm section with Liam’s brazen vocals taking center stage. The band spent the better part of a year honing their sound and playing out while slowly garnering a steady following around the Manchester area. Oasis big break came when Creation Records label head, Alan McGee, appeared at one of their gigs and signed the band on the spot.
Oasis released their debut single, “Supersonic” in the spring of 1994 to moderate chart success. A month before the release of their debut album, Definitely Maybe (1994-Epic) the band released their breakthrough single, “Live Forever”, which became an overnight hit in the UK. When Definitely Maybe was released in September it debuted at #1 on the UK charts and became the fastest selling album in the country’s history. Although Noel was often criticized for pilfering melodies and even lyrics from classic rock songs (the guitar solo on “Supersonic” is remarkably similar to George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord”) that didn’t stop Oasis mania from taking over Europe. Around this time a throng of guitar based, quintessentially English, bands were sweeping the U.K. and Oasis (along with their arch nemesis Blur) were instant kings of the enormously popular “Britpop” movement of the mid-1990’s.
Aside from being known as the face Britpop, the Gallagher brothers in particular are known for their history of hedonism and violent sibling rivalry. The first inclination of their lifestyle came during their worldwide supporting tour for Definitely Maybe. Liam took the stage at a 1994 show in Los Angeles, California under the influence of crystal meth and proceeded to berate the American audience before hitting Noel with a tambourine. The incident spurned Noel to temporarily quit the band but he soon rejoined the ranks. Around this time the Gallagher brothers refused to give interviews together due to their constant (and sometimes violent) infighting. Aside from the brothers problems the band also began it’s first of many line up changes during the spring of 1995, when drummer Tony McCarroll was suddenly sacked and replaced by former Starclub drummer Alan Whyte.
A month before the release of their sophomore full length in August of 1995, Oasis enjoyed some free publicity from the media driven “Battle of Britpop”. Mortal enemies Blur pushed up the release date of their new single, “Country House” to coincide with the release of Oasis latest single, “Roll With It”. The press had a field day over which artist would outsell the other. Both bands traded barbs through the media prior to release date but Noel crossed the line when he told The Observer he hoped Blur’s Damon Albarn and Alex James would “catch AIDS and die”. Blur would ultimately win the battle but it was Oasis who won the war. The band’s second album, (What’s The Story) Morning Glory (1995-Epic) was a massive worldwide commercial and critical success with the single “Wonderwall” becoming the anthem of 1995. Oasis was officially the biggest band in the world. They spent the majority of the following year on a worldwide tour that culminated in August of 1996 when they performed two sold out nights at Knebworth in England to over 375,000 people. At the time the shows set a record for the largest outdoor concert in UK history. A few weeks later it appeared the old Gallagher sibling rivalry was once again in full swing when Oasis performed an MTV Unplugged set at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Citing a sore throat Liam opted to stand in the balcony with the audience drinking beer, smoking cigarettes, and heckling brother Noel’s vocal prowess. The following month’s North American tour was also scrapped when Noel left the group again after only a few days.
Oasis reconvened with Noel in late 1996 to begin work on their third full length album. Where the recording process for their previous albums was relatively quick the band took almost a full year to complete the recording.
Noel later admitted the reason for the lengthy recording process was due to the band’s massive cocaine intake during the sessions. Be Here Now (Epic) was released in the summer of 1997 to lukewarm reviews but that didn’t stop the record from being another commercial success. It would be the last truly successful album Oasis would enjoy for almost ten years. When the band entered the studio again in 1999 they also entered their first transitional phase. Noel Gallagher was now officially clean and the Britpop movement that catapulted the band to international stardom was officially dead. For the first time Oasis was coming into question. Then early into recording Noel abruptly fired guitarist Paul “Bonehead” Arthurs with bassist Paul McGuigan quitting soon after. Oasis completed their fourth album as a three piece with Noel re-recording the Arthurs and McGuigan parts himself. Speculation for replacements ranged from former Smith’s guitarist Johnny Marr to Stone Roses bassist Mani. The lucky replacements turned out to be neither. The band elected to fill the empty slots with guitarist Colin “Gem” Archer of Heavy Stereo with former Ride front man Andy Bell on bass. Standing on the Shoulders of Giants (2000-Epic) expanded Oasis traditional rock & roll aesthetic with a stronger psychedelic sound and featured Liam’s first songwriting contribution with the track “Little James”. But with the Britpop scene eclipsed by a new garage rock driven indie scene the band found themselves out popular favor with the public and the album only sold moderately well compared to their previous releases. Oasis still had a strong fan base in Britain and played two major shows at the famous Wembley Stadium in London, however trouble once again plagued the band when Liam appeared intoxicated on stage and made disparaging remarks about his former wife, Patsy Kensit when not taking verbal swipes at Noel.
Oasis released their fifth full length, Heathen Chemistry (Epic) in 2002, which continued the sonic experimentation of their previous album. In many ways, Heathen Chemistry was a first as it featured songwriting credits from every member of the band (except White) and featured guest guitarist Johnny Marr on several tracks. The album sold well but once again Liam’s erratic behavior would prove problematic during the supporting tour. A large portion of the band’s European tour had to be postponed after Liam and White were involved in a night club brawl in Munich that resulted in the loss of Liam’s two front teeth. After the conclusion of the tour, Oasis kept a low profile as they began working on their next album. Before work began in earnest however, longtime drummer Alan White left the band to focus on his personal life. Zak Starkey (son of Beatles drummer Ringo) came aboard to complete the sessions and even filled in at the band’s headlining slot for the 2004 Glastonbury festival. After almost three years in the making, Oasis finally released their sixth full length, Don’t Believe the Truth (Epic) in 2005. The album was heralded by critics as a return to form and the band received the best reviews since their Britpop heyday. The singles, “Lyla” and “The Importance of Being Idle” were worldwide hits and the band embarked on a massive year long tour in support playing a whopping 110 ten shows. After their final gig of the tour in Mexico City the band announced that Starkey was officially a member. Later that year, Oasis released their first “Best of” compilation titled Stop the Clocks (2006-Epic) and Noel and Gem embarked on a small acoustic tour to support the release. Oasis received a BRIT Award for outstanding contribution to music in 2007 and also released their first ever digital download only single “Lord Don’t Slow Me Down” later that year.
2008 saw the release of their seventh LP Dig Out Your Soul. In 2009, after the gallagher brothers had a fight back stage, Oasis broke up for good. Liam went on to form Beady Eye, and Noel The High Flying Birds.