To the tabloids he's "The Wildman of Pop'. Or 'Boozy Liam'. Or 'Lout Liam'. He's the one who drinks and swears and hits journalists. But who's the real man behind the tabloid monster? No journalist is better qualified to answer the question than Paul Mathur, who has known Liam Gallagher since the very early days of Oasis and is the author of the band's official biography. On the following pages he puts the case for the defense...
The BRITS Awards, Earls Court, London, 19 February 1996. "Who's the dick with the beard?" asked the record company executive's wife sitting next to me. I think I said something about him being all our past bundled up into The Big Now and barrelling into the future. "What, that guy who just won an award and, in front of several thousand people, is now distractedly demonstrating how to insert it into his own rectum?" You'd better believe it, kiddo. "Is it supposed to be funny?" Shhh. Listen to what he's got to say. And then he spoke: "I've only got one thing to say, 'Sausages.'"
LIAM GALLAGHER, THE DICK WITH THE BEARD, HAS HAD A WEIRD
KIND OF YEAR. Christ, it unravelled all over the place. At the BRITS,
Oasis won the awards for Best Band, Best Album(Morning Glory) and Best
Video ("Wonderwall"). Tony Blair and John Prescott
came up to say hello, both grateful for the messages of support that
the band, lifelong socialists, had given to the Labour Party. And
success was all the sweeter considering that a year before, when
Oasis had refused to play at the ceremony, they had been gravely
warned by the event's organisers that they would never be allowed
"They're pissed off that we won this time," Noel Gallagher told me.
"That's twice now. So we won't be invited back. The sad thing is, they think we care. Fuck 'em."
Liam was, as ever, caught up in the obliterative importance of the moment.
Why did you just do that on stage?
"I'm mad for it."
It's a catch-all phrase that he really does use all the time. But, more importantly, it's an essential marker for any sort of under- standing of just what Liam Gallagher is all about. If you don't get it this very second, you never will.
The Oasis high jinks at the BRITS were overshadowed by Pulp's
Jarvis Cocker. For attempting to interrupt Michael Jackson's creepy
mediocrity, Cocker got thrown in jail for a few hours and took up the
tabloid column inches the next day. On his release from
custody in the early hours of the morning, he came back to Oasis's
party at the Landmark Hotel on London's Marylebone Road.
"I'd have punched the fucker," said Noel.
"Are you all right?" asked Liam.
Yeah, The Dick With The Beard. That one.
I LOVE LIAM GALLAGHER. AND I HARDLY KNOW HIM AT ALL.
This despite the fact that I'm closer to him than any other journalist on earth. Not, maybe, that much of a boast, since most journalist have- quite rightly-been kept out of any intimate relationship with the band. I can't pretend to be closer than many of the old friends, like Paul Bardsley or Dave Coates or Youngy, or any of the others that he grew up with and spiralled away from as a result of the sublime cocktail of luck, fate and determination that yanks One Of Us into One Of Them. But over the last three years, I've known him bet- ter than a whole heap of others. I saw Oasis rehearse in July 1993, watched them go from small-time chancers to the biggest rock band on the planet in the space of three years. Hey, I wrote the book. And, while I've been lucky enough to achieve the ambition of any music writer-to "discover" a band who change the world-I've got even more satisfaction from the personal, private inspiration that Oasis, particularly Liam and Noel, have given me ove the past three years. They're friends. And catalysts for a personal redis- covery of faith that I'm not about to reveal, even to them. Importantly, the relationship between the band and those around them will never spill into public self-analysis. Secrets are there to be kept. Still, there's a few cracks of light worth investigating.
THOSE OF US WHO'VE SEEN IT HAPPENING STILL WAKE IN THE MIDDLE
OF THE NIGHT WHISPERING "what the fuck is this?"
The band themselves discreetly admit that they do just the same.
So who is The Dick With The Beard?
What are you all about, Liam?
"I don't know. And I don't want to know. If I'm, like, 90, I'll know a lot more. Right now, I'm young, I'm doing what I'm doing and I love doing it."
That was in March 1995. Oasis were recording "Some Might Say", the song that was about to be their first ever number one single. Loco Studios, in the middle of the resty, corrugated-iron farmland country half an hour's drive from Newport, was way away from the urban buzz that always seemed to feel Oasis's sound, but offered an opportunity to share in the self-contained fireworks of the band's creativity.
Over the course of a weekend, they wrote and recorded three songs and let me help out bandclaps. Noel explained to me the difference between himself and Liam.
"Liam's always questioning everything, looking for answers," he said. "With me it's, like, life's just a load of questions. If I don't find the answers, then fuck it, they'll turn up later on. Our kid doesn't want that, he just wants to know all the answers right now, this minute."
THUNDERSTORMS IN SOUTH LONDON NEVER MAKE THINGS ANY
BETTER. This one in late July '96 battered Oasis's surprisingly small
rehearsal studio as they planned for forth
coming gigs at Loch Lomond and Knebworth, the latter shows destined to be
the biggest ourdoor performances in British rock history.
I was distraught at just having beard of
the death the night before of my friend,
Rob Collins from The Charlatans. It was
the first wake-up call for the bands of our
generation, and intimations of mortality
bung heavily over what should have been
an invigorated Oasis. They were all sad,
particularly Noel, but saw death as just
another reminder to celebrate life.
"I had a brilliant holiday the other week," said Liam, "and I realised it's been a long time since I just took time off and chilled out. We've played solidly for, like, three years, and just got caught up in all that. We've never given a fuck about what people say about us in the papers or what records companies say we should do. We just play the gigs and get into the fans coming along to see us. It's the fans that matter."
Four months earlier they'd played Maine Road, their biggest and most ambitious gigs to date and two nights that will always be remembered by those close to them as their finest, purest preformances.
"I watched 'Antiques Roadshow' before the gig," said Liam. "To be honest, that's all I can remember. I know they were top gigs, though."
"Well, what can we do after that? Play the moon or something?"
"Yeah, Im mad for the moon."
When he's mad for it, you can't help but get caught up in the stratosphere-skipping possibilities.
Sitting in the palatial Creation hospitality tent with Liam before the Knebworth show, I asked him again what it was all about.
"This," he said, waving an arm around. "The event. The people. Everything."
Kate Moss, sitting next to us, agreed. "This is the just the best thing ever," she said.
The next day the Daily Mirror begged to differ, citing overpriced burgers and a general lack of passion to preceedings. It was the first real sign of tabloid savagery towards the band, and Liam in particular, that may yet turn out to be as ill-judged as The Sun's vicious cov- erage of the Hillsborough tragedy. For while Oasis have been easy targets for tabloid assaults, their alleged bad-boy cartoon personas aren't so far from the con stituency that defines the papers' readerships. When Oasis started, their strengh came from the way that their indie scally audience empathised with them. The fans, fiven half a chance, would do and say exactly the same. And as Oasis have embraced a wider audience, so they've also tapped into a general acceptance of melodically fuelled "rebellion".
"Right from the beginning, we've admit ted who we are and what we do," says Noel.
"We've said, 'Look we're lads from Manchester. We do drugs. We drink. We swear. And we make fucking great pop records.' The more people that like us the better."
Do you want to scare people, Liam?
"I'm arsed about all that. I want to be in Oasis and make records and be with the peopel I want to be with. That's it. I dont care about nothing else. Everyone else can fuck off."
You sort of know how he feels. Sort of.
The above quote was from Knebworth, just after he'd comman deered a glorified golf buggy and driven it straight over anyone about to get in his way. Without wanting to etch out any precise allegories, it's the way he's always wanted his life to be. It's not just the fact that Noel is older that makes him the far-sighted, considerate one. There's a difference in personalities, a combination that has made Oasis as successful as they are. Noel's the thinker, the genius songwriter with the tunes from the clouds and the (often frustrating)common sense. Liam's the bonkers one, the cross between Tasmanian Devil and long-lashed angel. You could never sum him up in a sentence and you'd be dumb to even attempt to. Writing abut him previously, though, I did sort of mumble: "He's the most complex person I know. And also the most spiritual. While he's undeniably gilty of regularly shitty behaviour, he's also precociously aware of life's thunderously intangible subtleties. He goes for it, vindicated by his youth and an acknowlegement that he's a personification of the classic rock'n'roll star. And when he's wrong you can't expect him to admit it until the speedway inside his head has slowed sufficiently to reveal the world outside as more than just an impressionistic blur."
In his book, Bothers, elder sibling Paul perceptively suggested that Liam's general appeal might stem from something even more intensely experienced within the Gallagher family.
"I think Noel sees restraints in everything," writes Paul. "In life, relationships, places and times. That's what we both secretly admire