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Don’t look back in anger: happy 10th anniversary of Oasis split, Noel and Liam


Back in 1996, when I was sorting out a book deal with Paul Gallagher, older brother of Noel and Liam, with various suits from Penguin publishers, one bland round faced young man in an ill-fitting brown suit said, “Will Oasis even be relevant in another two years?”

Trying to hide the scorn in my voice and in my tone, I sighed and explained that the band had released two classic albums in the space of six months. That, even if they split up the following week, people would still be talking about them in ten – even twenty – years time, because one great album is one more than 99% of artists, including very good ones, ever produce.

There and then the decision was made that we’d be writing this book for Virgin, which is a pity as Penguin offered more money and a better reach worldwide.

The point was that for people like me, records had always meant a lot. I grew up in rented accommodation with crumbling walls and an outside loo, then moved to a council house.

My world was narrow and, despite going to grammar school, cut off from expectation and aspiration.

When I listened to music, it had to mean something, whether it was The Beatles, The Stones, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Bob Marley, The Sex Pistols, or The Clash. It had to rouse the spirit.

When punk came along, it spoke to the fire inside. When Madchester happened it felt like the music scene had shone a spotlight on a decade of youthful aspiration in a gloomy Thatcherite UK.

The traditional textile jobs and heavy engineering jobs had gone. Two world wars and a technological revolution hadn’t succeeded in breaking down Britain’s archaic class system.

But in that era from 1988 through to 1991, a few bands from Manchester out for a party had celebrated the kind of character referred at that time as a scally. Someone who lived on the edge, ducking and diving. The ultimate outsider who, though downtrodden, refuses to be beaten and just keeps waiting for the next opportunity.

Inexorably, Madchester became Gunchester. Clubs closed down, the music press launched a huge backlash against all things Mancunian, and too many drugs and guns on the streets destroyed what was our scene.

Young Mancunians would try to get by, more often than not doing some low paid part-time job for cash in hand and signing on if they could get away with it at the same time.

It was pre-Jeremy Kyle, it was pre-Benefit Street and the Daily Mail war on the underclass. Nobody seemed to be ashamed of their lack of employment or of signing on. It was survival and it was socially significant. Good times were here and now, not around the next corner. That was the working class way.

It was into this arena that Oasis stepped boldly. The Stone Roses were embroiled in court cases with their record company and manager, The Happy Mondays were getting strung out and destroying in the West Indies . Factory Records went belly up and Manchester went into one of its bleaker periods.

But those pop kids in Manchester who loved guitars and liked to see their mates in bands still hankered for the heady delights of 88,89 and 1990. It would take just one band to set Manchester buzzing again, one group of snotty kids of immigrant Irish parents who could be both scorned and championed at the same time.

That band was Oasis and history now tells us, whether you like it or not, that they made a bigger impact than any band that has ever emerged from Manchester.

It’s now just over 25 years since I argued for 6 weeks to get them on The Word, the Channel 4 TV show I presented in the 1990s.

That night they performed Supersonic to an excited live studio audience of 350 and special guest Bob Geldof and with Hollywood actress Winona Ryder watching in the Green Room (her current squeeze at the time was the lead singer of one of the other featured bands that night, Soul Asylum).

Oasis just exploded from then on. It still amazes me that they managed to keep it together for as long as they did.

Noel versus Liam, Liam versus Noel. A band that Liam joined and named with his mates , usurped by Noel, a musical coup d’etat that turned into a decade long teenage spat.

It became a sideshow that kept the band from going as big as they could have in the USA , but somehow has managed to fuel a legend that has 15 and 16 year olds still more than aware of the band and their songs.

Noel still plays Oasis songs (well, he did write them) as part of his set, as does Liam. Fans of Oasis go to see both. The back catalogue and legacy are still intact, drunken lads still sing Don’t Look Back In Anger as they have since 1996, and now, in the wake of the Manchester bomb, it has an eternal poignancy commemorating the victims. And every kid picking up a guitar learns the chords to Wonderwall.

So the question, ten years to the week after they finally split in 2009, isn’t whether they will ever get together again, but whether they have to.

Oasis have seen it, done it and sold those t-shirts by the bucket load. Happy tenth anniversary of your divorce.

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