Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



The biggest British pop group since the Beatles, formed in Manchester in 1991 when Noel Gallagher (guitar/vocals, b 29 May 1967; former roadie for Inspiral Carpets) took over his younger brother's band (vocalist Liam b 21 September 1972) with a cruelly unanswerable show of songwriting talent. They were signed on sight in a Glasgow club without a demo or a manager to Creation Records (home of Primal Scream, Teenage Fanclub and the first single by Jesus and Mary Chain) by label boss Alan McGee: they saved Creation from bankruptcy and became the most successful British band of the 1990s. Liam remained the lead singer and the commanding stage presence, but the Gallaghers updated the sibling soap opera of the Kinks' Davies brothers for the world stage. They had sturdy backing from bass Paul 'Guigs' McGuigan (b 9 May 1971), rhythm guitar Paul 'Bonehead' Arthurs (b 23 June 1965), and Tony McCarroll on drums (replaced in 1995 by Alan White, b 26 May 1972), but the self-confessed magpie melodicism of beetle-browed Noel was the key to global popularity. He also attracted the attentions of copyright lawyers from (among others) New Seekers and Stevie Wonder, but the power of his oeuvre is proof that talent borrows while genius steals.

Definitely Maybe (no. 1 album '94) was the fastest-selling British debut of all time, 'Some Might Say' their first no. 1 single '95. Challenged to simultaneously-released singles duel for Britpop dominance by Blur, Oasis's 'Roll With It' (no. 2 '95) lost the battle, but their second album (What's The Story) Morning Glory? won the war: no. 1 in October '95 it was six times platinum by the end of the year and top five in the USA early '96. By August '96 a riotous USA tour and a triumphant series of UK live shows had confirmed them as renaissance roughnecks with cultural cachet, though Liam sometimes doesn't turn up if he has something on his mind. He was arrested November '96 in London for possession of cocaine; legend has it that he spinkles it on his breakfast cereal. Be Here Now '97 was another big hit: while the Gallaghers sounded as if they were copying the Beatles (except for the up-to-date production), and loaded their music with references for old folks, they were yet without irony, inside pop rather than standing outside pointing at it; nevertheless the UK music press finally began asking itself if retro deserved that much success.

Andy Bell and Colin 'Gem' Archer replaced McGuigan and Arthurs in 1999; Zak Starker replaced White in 2004 and Chris Sharrock replaced Starker in 2008. Further studio albums were The Masterplan '98, Standing on the Shoulder of Giants 2000, Heathen Chemistry 2002, Don't Believe the Truth 2005 and Dig Out Your Soul 2008. Stop The Clocks 2006 was a 2-CD best-of and Oasis: Lord Don't Slow Me Down 2007 was a DVD. On tour in the USA in December 2008 they were as surly as ever, just going through the motions. The Wall Street Journal's Jim Fusilli wrote, 'Oasis avoids the kind of spontaneity that brings something new to the familiar [...] At a rock show, somebody ought to have some fun, but fans rarely do if the band doesn't.'