Would Oasis without Liam or Noel really work?

Rock history has shown that reunions without crucial band members are just a limp-armed facsimile of the original magic

A spurious tabloid rumour about an Oasis reunion often treads a similar path: “A source” chirrups of some tentative peace within the Gallagher camp. Sales of parkas and Epiphone Sheratons soar. Then, bang on cue, a quote from Noel – something along the lines of “I’d rather slam my tallywhacker in a rusty letterbox than be in a band again with that whomping great knobber” – swarms the internet like a plague of locusts, deflating the rumour where it stands. Equilibrium restored, the world slips into a dark and dreamless sleep, only to awaken the next day to see the sorry saga begin anew. Repeat ad infinitum. Honestly, it’s almost as if any article with “Gallagher” in the headline gets a huge amount of traffic and these “rumours” are fabricated by the press for this reason alone.

One recent sliver of information has been more intriguing than most of the tittle-tattle, however. “A source” reportedly told the Sun that an Oasis reunion may very well be in the works – only with one crucial caveat: Noel wouldn’t be involved. It probably won’t happen. But it throws open an interesting question: could it?

“Liam, Guigsy, Bonehead and Tony are all interested and keen to see how it can work”, said the Sun’s informant. “They don’t seem to mind Noel not being on board, even though some fans won’t regard it as a proper Oasis reunion.” Noel has made clear in the past that he’d only reform the band if he was “skint”. After two inexplicably successful solo albums, it’s unlikely he’s scrabbling around behind the sofa cushions for errant shrapnel. For good or for ill, Noel seems content to go it alone, whereas every other member of that original lineup, you’d imagine, is chomping at the bit to crank up the old machine again.

Following Beady Eye’s disbanding in October 2014, Liam is free to pursue other projects. A cynical person may suggest that, after six years of mediocre Beady Eye sales and ruinously expensive court non-appearances, any future project his head conceives will involve the making of some pretty green. Bonehead has stated he’d “be there like a shot” – and, quite sweetly, said he’d also do it for free – while Guigsy and Tony, you’d bet your favourite kidney, would also be very much in favour. If it happened, however, it would see the band return to the lineup they had before Noel came along – a lineup that, with the best will and the deepest love of Bonehead’s Bank Holiday in the world, wasn’t very good.

Maybe it would be great for a time; just to hear those famous songs again. Liam wouldn’t attempt Noel’s parts – partly because he couldn’t hit Noel’s notes (he often has only a partial acquaintance with his own), but mainly due to an obstinate, competitive sense of pride. So there’d be no Don’t Look Back In Anger (currently a mainstay of Noel’s solo sets), no Acquiesce, no Masterplan. But the rest of their 1994-1997 oeuvre would be fair game. But then it would all go wrong.

When the Stone Roses spluttered and wheezed their way out of existence at the Reading festival in 1996 without John Squire or Reni among their ranks, there were few fans who were glad they’d soldiered on. The essence was gone. The same goes for whatever Axl Rose-accoutrements are furiously trying to replace Slash in Guns N’ Roses, New Order without Hooky, or Queen’s ever-changing frontman slot. It would be like the Cast-Off Kinks, UB40 without Ali or From the Jam. Yes, the songs are there and they’re played well, but the band that made them, the people present when that magic happened, aren’t. It’s a facsimile. A covers band of above-average quality and authenticity. It’s another band, and should be treated as such.

When Noel left Oasis, they didn’t carry on as Oasis, so presumably Liam knew all of this back in 2009. Noel and Liam were – are – Oasis. That’s why the band carried on for a decade without Bonehead, Guigsy, Tony and eventually Alan White. It was still Oasis, because it had that bickering pair of brothers with three vast eyebrows between them as its profane nucleus. Without Noel it’s Rain – Oasis’s name before Noel came along and took over songwriting duties – and Liam et al calling themselves Oasis would be disingenuous.

Probably, if we’re being truly honest, what they should do is nothing at all. It’s great that everyone’s getting along again, in a limp-armed sort of way. Perhaps Liam isn’t the colossal arse he once was, and the others find the absence of Noel’s domineering presence like a waft of sea air. But Liam, Bonehead, Guigsy and Tony should remember that, skint as they may be, they have a legacy. Even with Noel, an Oasis reunion would jeopardise this. Without him? It’s ruined.

Seeing the lads leering in that domineering row at the front of the stage like they used to sounds tempting. But, in some cases, the worst thing you can do is give the people what they think they want, particularly if the person who wants it most of all happens to be you. It’s better for Oasis to be remembered as a great band than forever endured as a shit one. And that’s what they would be.


Luke Holland

The GuardianTramp

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