Oasis, the most successful British band of the nineties, was thrown into a new crisis last night when another of its members left to spend more time with his family.
Paul McGuigan, the bass guitar player, used a fax to tell the rest of the band that he was leaving.
The blow comes less than a fortnight after the other guitarist, Paul "Bonehead" Arthurs, went his own way - and at a time when the group's reputation is in decline, a fourth album is unfinished and a world tour is looming.
"We've been left holding the shite sandwich," drawled Noel Gallagher, at a hastily called press conference in a dingy back room of the Water Rats public house near King's Cross, where the band played its first London concert.
"We're no good at goodbyes anyway, but it would have been better face-to-face. We spoke to him on the phone. He's been a mate for 15 years. Yeah, we're shocked."
Oasis, he insisted, would go on. "We have to get the album out and tour... But the story and the glory will go on."
Only four years ago, he said that Paul McGuigan "was Oasis". Critics, however, were less generous. They described him and Bonehead, who are both Manchester-based, as "innocent bystanders" and the "luckiest men in pop".
He denied that there were any disagreements and blamed the pull and responsibilities of fatherhood.
"Bonehead and Guigsy have families. They may not have wanted to leave them for nine or 10 months to tour America. I can see that.
"They are also best mates. You can recognise the signs. Both of them didn't seem into it anymore."
With both Gallagher and brother Liam's wives - party organiser Meg Mathews and actress Patsy Kensit - pregnant, he refused to say whether children might finish their rock careers too. "You can't say, can you?"
"No one is bigger than the band," added Liam Gallagher. "Unless one of us was 15 feet tall, then he would be a lot bigger."
Despite the assurances of togetherness, the only non-Gallagher left in the band, drummer Alan "Whitey" White failed to appear for the show of unity. "He couldn't be bothered to get out of bed. Too early in the afternoon," said Liam Gallagher.
The brothers denied that Johnny Marr, the former guitarist with the 1980s band, the Smiths, and a friend of the Gallaghers, was ready to join Oasis. "Johnny is doing his own thing at the moment."
Noel Gallagher was keen to stress that his new band, the Tailgunners, in which he plays the drums, was not the reason for the split. "I'm hardly going to give up this for a band that doesn't exist yet. Our world tour starts in March so we need to get two guitarists quick. There might not be a stampede to join us. We have a bad reputation, you know."
The ideal candidate, said Liam Gallagher, would have to hate Manchester United (the brothers are City fans). He added: "They have to have a good haircut, nice shoes and can't be taller than me...
"But I suppose the big problem will be finding someone who can put up with me and our kid."
26 August: And the band played on
26 August: A brief history of Oasis
Creation records: Oasis
Oasis Net: official site
Oasis press release announcing Paul McGuigan's departure
Oasis info at Epic (US record label)
Ring Oasis: fan sites