Why Noel Gallagher Is Right to Ignore Brother Liam's Attempts to Re-Form Oasis (For Now)
He’s made no secret of his desire to re-form Oasis, so when the band's former frontman Liam Gallagher sent a tweet in his co-founder brother’s direction last week (July 19) suggesting they “get the BIG O back together and stop fucking about,” it was merely the latest in a long line of spurned invitations to reunite the group.
The fact that Noel didn’t respond -- leading Liam to tweet “I’ll take that as a NO then” the following day -- may have disappointed millions of fans, but is entirely understandable, even commendable, given the bad blood that exists between them. Of course, that same sibling rivalry was a large part of what made Oasis special in the first place, with the brothers’ endless fallouts, fights and verbal sparring during their mid-to-late 1990s reign just adding to the band’s growing tabloid infamy.
But when Liam unleashed a furious tirade of abuse at Noel’s wife, Sara MacDonald, earlier this year -- calling her a witch, and likening her and Noel to serial killers “Fred and Rose West” -- he went way beyond acceptable rock‘n’roll banter and crossed over into hateful trolling. After that it was always going to take more than a few reconciliatory tweets to get Noel back on board.
And, honestly, who can blame him? Last year’s Who Built The Moon? album was the songwriter’s third consecutive solo set to top the charts in the U.K., has sold well internationally and ranks as his finest, most artistically adventurous and critically acclaimed work in decades. The accompanying tour has been similarly successful, packing out arenas and headlining festivals around the world with Noel clearly relishing his role as lone frontman, free from the confrontational baggage that comes with having his younger brother at his side.
Liam, for his part, has also forged a highly successful solo career, after the false start that was his first post-Oasis group Beady Eye. As You Were, the singer’s hit debut, surprised many critics with a more-than-respectable collection of Lennon-inspired rock songs, including several (“For What It’s Worth,” “Greedy Soul”) that came close to equalling Noel’s finest efforts. Meanwhile, Liam’s solo gigs have seen him back to his sneering, arrogant best, belting out classic tracks from Oasis’ first three albums with a fresh hunger, and even resurrecting a few overlooked gems (1997 title track “Be Here Now,” 1994 B-side “Listen Up”) that sound better now than they did first time around. His shows may be heavy on nostalgia, but they give the fans what they want and are a damn side more entertaining than Oasis were on their final few tours as a result.
Re-forming the band at this juncture would be a backwards step for both Noel and Liam and would only serve to diminish Oasis’ legacy, which grows with each year that passes since they split.
There’s also the question of what line-up would take to the stage if Oasis were ever to return: Original drummer Tony McCarroll was unceremoniously booted out of the band in 1995 because Noel judged his playing not up scratch and would almost certainly not be invited back, at least not by the man who sacked him. Paul ‘Bonehead’ Arthurs’ has been a regular guest at Liam’s solo shows, so would probably be involved in some capacity, but founding bassist Paul ‘Guigsy’ McGuigan and long serving drummer Alan White (1995 to 2004) retired from the music business a long time ago, and show no signs of wanting to return to the spotlight.
That leaves Andy Bell (currently on tour with Ride), Gem Archer (now playing in Noel’s live band) and Oasis’ final drummer Chris Sharrock (also playing with Noel) among the most likely contenders. All three musicians can lay claim to have been important parts of Oasis’ colorful history, but they don’t represent the band during its key Britpop era. The seeming impossibility of the re-formation of a definitive band line-up takes some of the shine off any future comeback.
It’s also only been nine years since Oasis split up -- four more than LCD Soundsystem lasted on the sidelines before reuniting, true, but still hardly eons in rock ‘n’ roll terms. The Eagles waited 14 years before kissing and making up for the first time on their “Hell Freezes Over” tour; The Stone Roses took 15 years; Guns N’ Roses over two decades. Meanwhile, fellow epochal UK bands The Smiths and The Jam (starring Noel’s close friends Johnny Marr and Paul Weller, respectively) have famously never got back together, no matter how much money has been thrown at them.
Admittedly, the overwhelming majority of Oasis fans would just like to see Noel and Liam back onstage together, and wouldn’t care when it happened, or if it was three session musicians and an anesthetized kazoo player backing them. The fantasy can’t match the reality, however, and while a reunion would be a gigantic cash-spinning spectacle for all concerned, Noel’s right to leave the band as a memory from the past -- where, for a short four-year period, they ruled supreme.
At their peak, Oasis were an electrifying whirlwind of anger, ambition, attitude, in-fighting and fantastic, life-affirming tunes, where part of the thrill was knowing that it could all implode at any moment. Watching a middle-aged version of that group going through the motions in return for a huge payday that neither Liam or Noel need -- and one which at least one of them has made clear he has absolutely no interest in taking -- would be a disservice to the band's millions of fans, and turn them into just another past-their-best group trudging it out on an already-packed reunion circuit.
All that said, a reunion probably still happen one day, only because few acts manage to hold out forever. But that won’t stop it from being a predictable and pedestrian coda for a group that always stood out from the crowd and defiantly played by its own rules. As Liam’s hero John Lennon said in 1980 when quizzed about the possibility of The Beatles re-forming: “Why should I go back ten years to provide an illusion for you that I know does not exist? It cannot exist.”