"So I think I wanna write something about Oasis."
"Really!" he exclaimed in his best Charles Nelson Reilly. This was followed by a full 10-second pause. "I mean...what are you going to say?"
"That they've got a new CD out, and it's pretty good."
He sighed. "Actually, I'm glad you brought up the subject. I've always been strangely attracted to that band, but I never had anyone to talk about it with."
Allow me to offer four damn near indisputable reasons why you should like Oasis:
1. They are true rock stars. I've often wondered if Oasis would be more popular, or rather would have retained some of the fame they won in the States with What's the Story Morning Glory, if they got more coverage here. Sure, they fronted several U.S. magazines in the mid-90s, but I'm talking about the more day-to-day, "Page 6" variety of press, the kind that lets you really get to know someone. Fortunately for musicians, in England Marc Almond and Boy George are still gossip columnist staples, and a George Michael party is considered the social event of the season (The Sun's headline the day after Michael was caught in the park was "Zip Me Up Before You Go Go"). The size of the place plus the fact that the English, no matter what class or occupation, love to read newspapers, means that Oasis make the press more often than Keith Richards gets his blood changed.
When I was living in the repression/ embarrassment/tacit homosexuality/keep-your-voice-down-for-God's-sake-or-someone-might-hear-you capital of the universe, I started listening to Oasis right after the death of "princess" Diana. "Tense" doesn't begin to describe the scene in London then, as the entire population collectively decided to unleash every emotion they'd ever not experienced and project them onto this woman's untimely and admittedly sad passing. Noel Gallagher had a different take on the situation.
"I really couldn't give a shit at the end of the day," he told the crowd before a gig. "So she died in a car crash. Big fucking deal. Half the people there [the memorial downtown] probably wouldn't visit their grandmothers' graves, and they go throwing flowers at the coffin of a bird they'd never met because she'd done some work for charity. What was she supposed to do? Sit around all day and eat cream cakes? We're paying for her kids to go to school. Lazy cow!"
Now I personally don't want my rock stars trying to save the world. People like Boner and Sting are simply arrogant and ignorant if they believe their efforts will end in anything besides misappropriation of funds and a general loss of interest, while the Biafra/Fugazi contingent remains almost as odious?not for their activism precisely, but because the activism is just a rickety platform for their self-righteous rants.
What I do expect of my rock stars is that they say (and occasionally wear) things so controversial they will probably end up assassinated.
2. They fuck models, not marry them. Unlike most musicians, Oasis seem to understand that vacant eye-candy bitches were put on this Earth for one reason and one reason only, while real women were meant to be loved and worshipped for a lifetime. UK libel laws being incredibly strict, I'm not going to be the one to say there was something going on between Liam and Kate Moss, but I do know that when I take my top off and walk around the deck of a friend's yacht, by the time we dock that person will have been promoted from "friend" to "special friend." Then again, I obviously hail from more puritanical stock than Moss?though trust me, there's nothing continental about the suburban Croyden where Moss grew up. Say "Croyden" out loud. They might as well have named the place Diarrhea Shitsville or Big Stinky Craptown.
Oasis wives, on the other hand?Patsy Kensit, Meg Gallagher?are what the Brits would call "geezer birds." A geezer is like "The Man," and since most British men have this misguided notion that a woman actually being cool is rare, whenever they run into a cool one they qualify the term "geezer" by slapping the word "bird" on the end of it. At any rate, Patsy and Megs are it. With Meg it's easier to spot. She fell for her man when he was just another Bert-from-Sesame-Street-Manchester-lookalike. And while she's no great beauty, I bet she's higher on most people's shag list than Kensit, simply because her presence absolutely screams no bullshit. When I was an intern at British Vogue in '98, she called the office one day. She and her husband were going to Europe, and they needed the name of a good bar. The intern who answered the phone asked her if there was a certain city she was inquiring after. "Doesn't matter," she answered. "We just want to go to a good bar."
3. The lineup is classic. Like the Who, Led Zeppelin, the Stones, et al., the singer here is pretty enough and thick enough that the guitarist is able to execute his complex, overarching agenda. This formula is, however, in no way limited to males. (Anyone who believes it was Ann Wilson who gave the world "Barracuda" is simply being naive.)
The fact that Liam and Noel are brothers follows in the mighty footsteps of rock icons like the Stooges. It also allows writers like me to ignore the rest of the band, making the broad generalizations we trade in so much easier to pass off.
4. They get rock 'n' roll. The raw, distorted guitar work Oasis hits you with on the first track of Shoulder, "Fuckin' in the Bushes," proves it. Whether rock is about to go through a revival or the many who never left it have finally started speaking up, there's some fucking white light/white heat shit out right now. Interviewing Rocket from the Crypt frontman John Reis earlier this year, I asked him if he was forced to lip-synch during Rocket's "live" performance on the BBC's Top of the Pops, and told him that my favorite Oasis moment ever was when Liam purposely lip-synched two seconds off through an entire song. "My favorite Oasis moment was when I threw their CD out of our van," he replied.
I can sympathize with a middle-market band like Reis' new project, the Hot Snakes, getting pissed about hugely successful bands like Oasis who are, at best, putting out a watered-down version of rock. But let's look at Oasis' music. Much as with the Stones, most Oasis albums contain only a few gems. The rest should be automatically chucked out the window of the van. There will always be those Sticky Fingers/What's the Story Morning Glory exceptions. But on the whole, rock bands can only get it together a couple of times on each release. The good news is, when they do it's a song that people will probably be getting drunk and fucking to for a good 30 years.
I was at a party in Williamsburg the other night and the DJ put on "Miss You." It was the only time during the entire affair that everyone, excluding this French-looking kid who was wearing a band-aid over the bridge of his nose, got up and danced. And I mean shook the shimmy, did the butt, sweated and mauled each other in the most loaded and lascivious of manners. Will our kids scream and raise their drunken fists in the air when "Stand by Me," the only decent song off Oasis' pitiful Be Here Now, comes on the jukebox? The lyrics are bad, even by rock standards. Robert Plant once told a reporter, whom he was expecting to flabbergast, that he wrote the lyrics for "Stairway to Heaven" in less than an hour. And never revised them. No shit.
But the message they're conveying in "Stand By Me," that's amazing. Again, perhaps you had to be in England when the single was released, the cover art of which was a couple who are best described as the British version of white trash. They are wearing outdated 70s clothes, but not ironically. She has a bad dye job, and he's still got the tough-guy pompadour from high school. In their late 40s/early 50s, they're smoking and drinking lager on the couch. Once you got over how rough they looked, though, you realized that he's smiling. Beaming. She's looking up at him and giggling. He has his arm wrapped around her. Not only can these crazy kids still laugh together, they're gonna fuck tonight, just like they've been doing for decades. And it's gonna be good, too.
These posters were all over London for a few months, and I tried to steal one several times. In a banner over the couple's head, a caption read "Stand By Me," because "Nobody knows/The way it's gonna be." You have to understand that in England, those are the kinds of people who listen to Oasis. Shortly after arriving in London I met a friend's boyfriend who was a bigtime Oasis fan. This guy wasn't just tough, he was a straight-up dick. He'd worked in a pub his whole life and spent most of that time coked to the gills. He never showed much love to his girlfriend, but oh my sweet lord was he openly passionate about Oasis.
He was the type, like many Oasis fans, who probably laughed their asses off about the Diana quote. No other band in the UK could have gotten away with that kind of comment, because no other band has a fan base who would applaud it, nay demand it.
My roommate and I threw a shindig not too long ago, at which a dear friend got trashed and fell through my screen door. We picked him up and he asked for another drink. I took him aside and told him it was time for me to call him a taxi home.
"I don't know what you think you're doing here, Tanya," he said calmly. "But I'll tell you one thing. It ain't rock 'n' roll."
He was right. I think Oasis would understand why.