Noel Gallagher Biography
Noel Thomas David Gallagher (born May 29, 1967 in Longsight, Manchester, England) is an English songwriter, guitarist and vocalist with the Manchester rock band Oasis. Gallagher joined Oasis at the behest of his younger brother, lead vocalist Liam Gallagher, and quickly asserted his dominance over the group.
In the 1990s, Gallagher was centre-stage of the Britpop movement, during which the band enjoyed much critical and commercial success. Noel Gallagher has become noted for his public conflicts with his younger brother, which have resulted in a few brief departures from Oasis. His outspoken opinions on other bands and modern culture have, more recently, earned him something of an "elder statesman" reputation, leading NME to dub him "The wisest man in rock"
Gallagher was the second child of Irish parents Peggy and Tommy Gallagher; his older brother, Paul, was born in 1966. Soon after the birth of younger brother Liam in 1972, the Gallaghers moved to Ashburn Avenue in the Manchester suburb of Burnage. Noel had an unhappy childhood. He and his brothers were often beaten by his alcoholic father, and he was often reclusive - Liam described him as "the weirdo in the family". Due to their unease around their father, Noel and Paul both developed stammers. As the oldest child, Paul was given a room to himself, and Noel was forced to share with Liam.
Peggy Gallagher acquired a legal notice of separation from her husband in 1976. Six years later she finally left him, taking the three boys with her. As teenagers the Gallagher brothers - especially Noel - were regular truants. When his mother took a job working in the school cafeteria, Noel ensured that he stopped by to visit her during lunch before skipping the rest of class. At the age of thirteen, Noel received six months' probation for robbing a corner shop. It was during this period of probation, with little else to do, that Gallagher first began to teach himself to play a guitar his father had left him, imitating his favorite songs from the radio. Gallagher was particularly inspired by the debut of The Smiths on Top of the Pops in 1983, performing their single "This Charming Man". Gallagher later reflected, "From that day on ... I wanted to be [Smiths guitarist] Johnny Marr."
During his teenage years, Gallagher and his brothers maintained contact with their father in order to secure jobs in construction. Working with their father was tempestuous; Gallagher said, "Because we were always arguing we'd still be working at nine o'clock every night". Having left his father's building company, he took a job at another building firm sub-contracted to British Gas. There he sustained an injury when a heavy cap from a steel gas pipe landed on his right foot. Following a period of recuperation, Gallagher was offered a less physically demanding role in the company's storehouse, freeing up time in which to practise guitar and write songs. Gallagher now claims to have written at least three of the songs on Definitely Maybe in this storehouse (including "Live Forever" and "Columbia"). Much of the late 1980s found Gallagher unemployed and living in a bedsit, occupying his time with recreational drug use, songwriting and guitar playing. Gallagher's musical interests at the time revolved largely around British rock music, most notably The Beatles, whose influence is heavily reflected in his songwriting. Other influences were T.Rex, The Who, The Rolling Stones, Slade, The Kinks and The Small Faces.
In May 1988 Gallagher met guitarist Graham Lambert of Inspiral Carpets during a Stone Roses show. The two struck up an acquaintanceship and Gallagher became a regular at Inspiral Carpets shows. When Gallagher heard singer Steve Holt was leaving the band, he auditioned to be the new vocalist. Though rejected for the position, he was hired by the band as its sole roadie. Like many Madchester bands, Inspiral Carpets treated their associates as part of their "gang". Replacement singer Clint Boon said, "He was a vital part of us. I can honestly say he was an inspiration to the band. Just in the type of person he was; a total Manchester dude, more than any of us lot." As Inspiral Carpets became more successful, their road crew expanded. Gallagher struck up a friendship with monitor engineer Mark Coyle over their love of the Beatles, and the pair spent soundchecks dissecting the groups' songs.
In 1992, Gallagher returned from an American tour with the Inspiral Carpets to find that his brother Liam had become the lead singer with a local band called Oasis. It transpired that Liam had joined the band with the hope of adding his brother, and his songwriting abilities, to it. Gallagher attended one of their concerts at Manchester's Boardwalk, finding himself unimpressed by the group's act. After persuasion from Liam, he agreed to join the band, on the condition that he take creative control of the group and become its sole songwriter. According to another source, Noel Gallagher told Liam and the rest of the group after having heard them play for the first time: "Let me write your songs and I'll take you to superstardom, or else you'll rot here in Manchester". His control over the band in its early years earned him the nickname "The Chief".
In May 1993, the band heard that a record executive from Creation Records would be scouting for talent at King Tut's, a club in Glasgow. Together, they found the money to hire a van and make the six-hour journey. When they arrived, they were refused entry to the club because no one notified the venue that Oasis had been added to the bill. The band eventually secured the opening slot and played a four-song set that impressed Creation founder Alan McGee. McGee then took the Live Demonstration tape to Sony America and invited Oasis to meet with him a week later in London, at which point they were signed to a six-album contract. Gallagher has since claimed that he only had six songs written at the time, and has put his success in the interview down to "bullshitting". However, McGee believes that when they met, Gallagher had fifty or so songs written, and merely lied about how prolific he had been following the contract.
Oasis' first single, "Supersonic", was released on April 11, 1994 and peaked at #31 on the official UK charts, despite Gallagher's claims that he wrote it in "the time it takes to play the song." "Supersonic" preceded Definitely Maybe, Oasis' debut album, which was released in 1994 and was a critical and commercial success. It became the fastest-selling debut album in British history at the time, and entered the UK Charts at #1. Despite their rapidly growing popularity, Gallagher briefly left Oasis in 1994 during their first American tour. The conditions were poor, he felt the American audience - still preoccupied with grunge and metal - did not understand the band. (Liam summed up his view of the problem saying, "Americans want grungy people, stabbing themselves in the head on stage. They get a bright bunch like us, with deodorant on, they don't get it.") Tensions mounted between him and Liam, culminating in a fight after a disastrous L.A. gig. Having effectively decided to quit the music industry, he flew to San Francisco without telling the band, management or the crew. It was during this time that Noel wrote "Talk Tonight" as a "thank you" for the girl he stayed with, who "talked him from off the ledge". He was tracked down by Creation's Tim Abbot and during a trip by the pair to Las Vegas Gallagher decided to continue with the band. Gallagher reconciled with his brother and the tour resumed in Minneapolis.
Britpop, the Height of Fame and the Blur Rivalry
Gallagher followed up the debut in 1995 with Oasis' first UK #1 single in "Some Might Say". This preceded their second album, (What's the Story) Morning Glory?. Though it suffered initial critical apathy, the album became the second fastest-selling album in the UK, entering the UK album charts at #1 and peaking at #4 on the Billboard Top 200 chart. Morning Glory became the springboard to mainstream commercial success for Gallagher and the band. Noel and Liam became household names, and as the momentum of the album built, Oasis went on to become one of the most popular and successful British acts of the 1990s. The album even propelled the band to success in the United States, albeit temporarily. The track "Cast No Shadow" dedicated to Richard Ashcroft, the lead singer of The Verve. Around the same time, Ashcroft wrote the title track of the album A Northern Soul for Gallagher.
Gallagher became so influential that a June 1996 NME article argued that "If Noel Gallagher, the most successful songwriter of his generation, champions a group, then said group are guaranteed more mainstream kudos and, quite possibly, more sales. And since Noel has taken to championing only five or six groups, then it's a powerful cabal he's promoting." The NME article grouped the bands Gallagher praised, including The Boo Radleys, Ocean Colour Scene, and Cast, under the banner of "Noelrock". John Harris typified these bands, and Gallagher, of sharing "a dewy-eyed love of the 1960s, a spurning of much beyond rock's most basic ingredients, and a belief in the supremacy of 'real music'". For Harris, the rise of Noelrock was the beginning of the end of Britpop. He wrote "In the eyes of the more crass sections of the British media, they seemed to be prolonging the fun of Britpop, but since the halcyon days of 1994, the prevailing agenda had been comprehensively rerouted . In place of the artful, multi-faceted approach that had been embodied in [Blur's 1994 breakthrough album] Parklife, music seemed hacked down to its most predictable essence".
Morning Glory's success was followed by a well-documented feud with fellow Britpop band Blur. The differing styles of the bands, coupled with their prominence within the Britpop movement, led the British media to seize upon the rivalry between the bands. Both factions played along, with the Gallaghers taunting Blur at the 1996 BRIT Awards by singing a rendition of "Parklife" when they collected their "Best British Band" award (with Liam changing the lyrics to "Shite-life"). However, it was Noel who proved the most aggressive, telling The Observer that he hoped Damon Albarn and Alex James of Blur would "catch AIDS and die". He subsequently apologised for this in a formal letter to Melody Maker magazine. Much banter was exchanged between the bands (including Albarn threatening to "twat" Noel), but in a 1997 interview Gallagher maintained "I've got nothing against him... I just think his 'bird' (Justine Frischmann) is ugly." Gallagher maintains that the rivalry was conceived by the magazine NME and members of Blur's entourage as a ploy to raise their respective profiles, and that since this point he has had no respect for either party. However, Albarn has suggested the roots of the feud were much more personal.
The success of Oasis and his newfound fame and fortune were not lost on Gallagher, and both he and his brother became famous for their "rock and roll lifestyle". They drank heavily, abused drugs, fought fans, critics, peers, and each other, and made celebrity friends such as Ian Brown, Paul Weller, Mani and Richard Ashcroft. Noel Gallagher spent extravagantly, buying various cars and a swimming pool, despite the fact he can neither drive, nor swim. He named his house in Belsize Park in London "Supernova Heights" (after the song "Champagne Supernova"), and his two cats "Benson" and "Hedges" after his favourite brand of cigarettes.
Oasis went on to have greater success than Blur with their next two singles, "Wonderwall" and "Don't Look Back in Anger" charting at number 2 and 1, respectively. Originally, Noel had wanted to take lead vocals on "Wonderwall", but Liam insisted on singing it. As compensation, Noel decided he would sing lead vocals on "Don't Look Back in Anger". 1995 also saw Gallagher join his idols Paul Weller, Paul McCartney and close friend and Oasis fan Johnny Depp to form the Smokin' Mojo Filters. The supergroup, assembled by Weller, covered The Beatles' 1969 hit "Come Together" (the song's lyrics "He no Mojo filter" inspiring the name for the makeshift band) for the charity album Help!. Noel has also collaborated with the Chemical Brothers, Ian Brown, The Stands, The Prodigy and Weller, amongst others.
In March 1996, Noel and Liam Gallagher met their father again when a British newspaper paid him to go to their hotel during a tour. Noel left for his room, later commenting "as far as I'm concerned, I haven't got a father. He's not a father to me, y'know? I don't respect him in any way whatsoever". Liam took the opportunity to confront his father and threaten him.
Also in 1996, Oasis sold out two nights at Knebworth, playing to over 250,000 fans. Both nights included acoustic sets featuring a full brass band for the rendition of "The Masterplan". These shows represented the largest crowds ever to see a single act in British history, a feat only topped by Robbie Williams' three night gig at the same venue some years later. Gallagher then provided lead vocals at Oasis' MTV Unplugged set when Liam backed out minutes before the set was due to start. Liam claimed to have been struck down with a "sore throat"; the band later found out that Liam does not like performing acoustically. Noel was further angered when Liam proceeded to heckle him from the balcony while the band performed. Noel was again forced to fill in for Liam on a short North American tour when the lead singer walked out on the tour on August 21, supposedly to buy a house with his girlfriend. Liam returned a week later, but tension between Noel and the rest of Oasis mounted, and on September 11 Noel left the tour, causing many to question the future of the band. Gallagher claims he had intended to finish work on Oasis' next album and then retire to the English countryside, but this never came to pass.
Following the worldwide success of Morning Glory, Be Here Now became Oasis' most eagerly anticipated album to date. As with the previous two albums, all the tracks were written by Gallagher. After an initial blaze of publicity, positive critical reviews, and commercial success, the album failed to live up to long-term expectations, and public goodwill towards Be Here Now was short-lived. The album was ultimately regarded by many as a bloated, over-indulgent version of Oasis, which Gallagher has since blamed on the drug-addicted state and indifference of the band at the time. He was critical of the album even before its release. When asked by an American interviewer what was "new and different" about Be Here Now, he simply replied "It's got a different cover."
Gallagher began to suffer drug-induced panic attacks during this period. His lonely, paranoid state inspired the song "Gas Panic!", subsequently included on the 2000 album Standing on the Shoulder of Giants. Gallagher claims to have quit drugs on June 5, 1998. He stated in 2001, "I liked drugs, I was good at them. But I'd had panic attacks for about a year and I stopped because I wanted to. After you make the decision, it is quite easy." Between 1993 and 1998, he claims, "I can hardly remember a thing."
After the near-hysterical hyperbole surrounding the release of Be Here Now had started to wane, critical response to the band became calmer and more considered, leading to a media backlash. In 1997, Noel was criticised for attending a high-profile and well-publicised media party at 10 Downing Street, hosted by the newly-elected Prime Minister, Tony Blair, along with other celebrities and industry figures who had supported New Labour in the run-up to the general election. Both brother Liam and Blur's Damon Albarn declined their invitations, with Albarn commenting "Enjoy the schmooze, comrade." The perception of Gallagher as someone now mixing with politicians - and, in particular, a famous photograph of him sipping champagne with Blair - conflicted with the "working class hero" status championed through songs such as "Up in the Sky".
In 1999, Bonehead quit the band after a row with Noel, with Guigsy following soon afterwards. As a result, the fourth studio album, Standing on the Shoulder of Giants, was recorded by just the Gallaghers and White, with Noel playing all guitar parts. Gallagher commented on Bonehead's departure, "It's hardly Paul McCartney leaving the Beatles, is it?". After the recording sessions were completed, Gallagher selected Gem Archer to join in place of Bonehead.
1999 also saw the end of Creation Records as Mcgee decided to quit Creation and sell the rest of the 51% of shares to Sony. Gallagher took this opportunity to set up Big Brother, which now handles Oasis' distribution in the UK (Sony/Epic Records continues to handle the band's international distribution as of 2005). The first Big Brother release was the single "Go Let It Out" on February 7, 2000, the lead single from Standing on the Shoulder of Giants. The single peaked at number one in the UK chart. The album also reached number one. Around the time of the album's release, Andy Bell, formerly of Ride, joined the band as bassist.
Gallagher has formed his own label, Sour Mash Records, which releases records by the likes of Shack and Proud Mary. Gem Archer, who worked with him on the Proud Mary album, observed "I saw a different side of him. He really loves getting the best out of people. He likes having someone to go through the fine points of the recording process with."
In 2006, it was claimed that Gallagher had been instrumental in Italy winning the 2006 Football World Cup. According to Italian striker Alessandro Del Piero, Gallagher was the Italian football team's lucky mascot for the 2006 World Cup. Gallagher struck a friendship with the Italian star after he appeared at some of their Italian gigs. He was invited to the World Cup by Del Piero. Gallagher was asked to be in Berlin for the final, and Del Piero as the striker scored one of the penalties in the shootout to win the World Cup.
In November 2006, Gallagher won a Spanish court case against fellow musician Mike Oldfield. Gallagher had bought the Ibiza villa for £2.5 million from Oldfield in 1999, but discovered that part of the cliff-top property was falling into the sea. He was also annoyed by the huge "eyesore" of a yacht moored in his view - but it turned out it was his with the house. Gallagher and girlfriend Sara MacDonald spent mid-2006 at the villa, and the resulting court case paid Gallagher a six-figure sum in compensation.
In late 2006, Gallagher toured the UK, Europe, Japan, America and Australia in a series of acclaimed intimate semi-acoustic gigs accompanied by Gem Archer and Terry Kirkbride on percussion. The show proved successful and a further series of sets took place in 2007. March 2007 saw Gallagher perform in Moscow - the first time an Oasis member has performed in Russia. The set list included acoustic Oasis songs such as "Married With Children", "Half the World Away" and "Talk Tonight" as well as acoustic versions of Oasis favourites such as "Don't Look Back in Anger", "Slide Away" and "Fade Away" as well as a version of "Wonderwall" similar to the Ryan Adams cover of the song. A version of The Beatles' "Strawberry Fields Forever" was also included. However, Gallagher dismissed claims that he was planning to embark on a solo career, saying "I could do it easily but if I was a solo artist I would be the biggest solo artist in the country easy, no messing, within a year...seriously... but I prefer being in a band. But don't ever think that I couldn't do it. I could. I'd be bigger than Elvis. I would." Gallagher's solo shows proved so popular that in April 2007, Michael Eavis announced his desire to convince him to do a set at Glastonbury 2007, with Gallagher showing a desire to appear in the acoustic tent as "second on the bill on the [secondary] stage" is "the best slot". Gallagher has also admitted considering working a solo album using songs which he has written, but which would not suit Oasis.
On Valentines Day 2007 Gallagher joined the rest of Oasis to collect the "Outstanding Contribution to Music" Award at the Brit Awards 2007. Gallagher collected the award from his friend Russell Brand, saying "We'd like to thank everyone who has bought our records. It's been a fucking pleasure." Following the ceremony he commented on the award saying ""Yeah, we're finally up there with the Eurythmics, Sting and Bob Geldof. I don't think congratulations are in order, to be honest." Gallagher clarified his decision to accept the award stating "We're taking it now because otherwise they're going to ask us every year. It seemed the right time. We'd put out Stop the Clocks and we're all under 40. So we just decided, 'Fuck it, lets do it now'."
Gallagher married Meg Mathews in Las Vegas, Nevada on June 5, 1997. On January 27, 2000, Mathews gave birth to a daughter, Anais. Gallagher and Mathews divorced shortly afterwards, in January 2001, following Liam's own announcement of his separation from Patsy Kensit.
He has since entered a long-term relationship with Scottish girlfriend, Sarah MacDonald, who gave birth to Noel's second child , a 7lb 5oz boy on September 22, 2007. In a text message to family and friends Noel stated 'He shall go by the name of Donovan Rory MacDonald Gallagher and he will be a legend. Give thanks and praise.' He is a supporter of Manchester City F.C. and Glasgow Celtic but has been known to take his daughter Anais to a few Arsenal matches in previous seasons. He is a good friend of Russell Brand, and is regularly featured in phone calls on the comedian's Radio 2 show.
Songwriting and Musicianship
Noel Gallagher is the primary songwriter in Oasis, and on the group's first few albums he was the sole songwriting contributor. Gallagher is often criticized for the praise he gives to his own songs. He points out "If you'd written 'Live Forever', you'd be walking to a different tune the next day too." Gallagher has often been accused by critics of plagiarising the music of his heroes, but he has maintained outright homages in his music are his intention. In a 1996 Guitar World interview, he described himself as "a fan who writes songs" and stated, "I'm not saying, 'I'm the greatest songwriter in the world. Listen to me.' Usually, I'm saying, 'These are the greatest songwriters in the world. And I'm gonna put them all in this song"'. His response to critics about the topic of "blatantly pinching riffs" was, "No, I don't feel guilty. But you feel pissed off because you didn't do it first."
Though naturally left-handed, Gallagher plays guitar right-handed, which he claims is the only thing he can do with his weak hand.
Changing Band Dynamic
Gallagher's role as chief songwriter for Oasis has seen change since the turn of the century as he allowed a greater level of lyrical input from the other band members. Standing on the Shoulder of Giants included Oasis' first ever album track written by Liam. Heathen Chemistry included a further 3 tracks by Liam (including "Songbird", which was released as a single), one by Archer and one by Bell. Don't Believe the Truth featured another three tracks by Liam, one from Archer and two from Bell. The latter two albums have been greeted with increasing critical and commercial success, particularly Don't Believe the Truth.
Heathen Chemistry was the last album to feature drummer Alan White, who left during the early recording sessions for Don't Believe the Truth. He was replaced by Zak Starkey, current drummer for Gallagher's heroes The Who and Johnny Marr, and son of Ringo Starr the former Beatle drummer. The loss of their longtime drummer prompted Gallagher boastfully to comment, in a 2005 interview, that he puts Oasis' trouble with drummers, in part, to the fact that he is himself a talented drummer, saying "I get a lot of stick for it, but I'm the best drummer in the group."
Don't Believe the Truth's second single "The Importance of Being Idle" became the second Noel-sung Oasis track to top the UK charts and was named 2005's finest track by Q magazine, as well as being nominated for the NME's "Best Song of 2005" award. However, on recent Oasis albums, Noel's increasing role as lead singer, apparently to compensate for his diminished role as songwriter, has caused some tension with Liam.