BOOK REVIEW FOR: Oasis: The Truth: My Life As Oasis’s Drummer
Author: Tony McCarroll
What’s the Story, Morning Glory: from the mean streets of Manchester to the heights of Supersonic success
Who Are You: original drummer setting the record straight
Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About: sibling rivalry, the agony & the ecstasy, the real Noel
Do Ya Think I’m Sexy: LG, I think I love you
Paperback Writer: a genuinely funny author with a knack for spinning a tale
Add It Up: a Spartan of a book
What’s the Story, Morning Glory?
Well, this is a LTRV first! The headline for this category is the title of one of the songs of the band being profiled. It was bound to happen at some point or another — we just haven’t gotten around to reviewing any books on The Who, Bonnie Raitt, Rod Stewart, the Beatles or the Violent Femmes yet. Anyway, Oasis: The Truth is the early story of the band as written by their original drummer, Tony McCarroll. McCarroll was with Oasis from the very beginning through to right after Definitely Maybe was released, at which point he was unceremoniously canned by Noel Gallagher, who had the power to fire people at will thanks to some rather shady contract-related shenanigans that went down.
I was in my first year of university when Oasis exploded onto the scene, and like many people I absolutely loved their first two albums, Definitely Maybe and (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? There was a point in time in the mid 1990s when Oasis was the biggest band in the world, and a lot of that is thanks to Noel Gallagher’s songwriting. The guy just had a knack for writing a catchy tune, even if many of his songs did sound rather…familiar. I’ve been listening to their music for the past couple of weeks while reading this book, and the songs definitely stand up to the test of of time. ‘Supersonic’ is still an amazing track, as are others like ‘Live Forever’, ‘Rock ‘N Roll Star’, ‘Wonderwall’, ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’, ‘Champagne Supernova’…and the list goes on. I also found myself rediscovering and loving songs such as ‘Acquiesce’ and ‘Half the World Away’.
As familiar as I was with the Oasis catalogue, I knew next to nothing about the band’s origins. Much of Oasis’ history in the mainstream media has concentrated on the myth of the brothers Gallagher, particularly Noel, and I actually thought that it was Noel who started the band. Wrong. He was the last one to join. The group was formed under the name The Rain by McCarroll, Paul Arthurs (aka “Bonehead”), Paul McGuigan (aka “Guigs”), and singer Chris Hutton. Hutton was eventually let go and Liam Gallagher was hired as the band’s front man, but it wasn’t until Noel joined the group and started writing songs that everything gelled and fortune came knocking.
The thing I absolutely love about this book is that it chronicles McCarroll’s (and the band’s) early years in Manchester, England — a city that’s almost a character in and of itself. McCarroll paints a vivid, engaging, and oftentimes hilarious picture of the group’s early exploits on the tough streets of Manchester, one that gives the reader a real sense of their shared history (they all knew one another long before the band was formed) and makes McCarroll’s subsequent betrayal that much more poignant.
Who Are You
There’s no shortage of fascinating and hilarious characters in this book. I don’t know whether it’s because Manchester has a knack for producing over-the-top personalities, or whether McCarroll is particularly good at representing people on page, but I was drawn in from the get-go by the colorful characters who popped up throughout the course of the story. There’s a real sense of camaraderie amongst the key players and you see that the supporting cast — Jimmy the Butt, BigUn, The Policeman, The Realies, to name a few — are just as much a part of the Oasis success story as the five band members. I also LOVED The Man Who Can:
“The first man Alan McGee [of Creation Records] introduced us to was The Man Who Can. The Man Who Can was under instruction to turn us into the most reckless and wild rock ‘n’ roll act n town. His name derived from the fact that he was the man who could provide everything we might need. The first ingredient he introduced to the mix was pure, undiluted cocaine. Not available on the streets of Manchester, but available to us on demand. He would cater to our every whim and actively encourage us to party. He was an extremely likeable chap, which I suppose was a pre for his role…He would divide his treats equally between the band and would always be on the lookout for you.
‘D’you want a taxi? What about her? Do you like her? Do you wanna key? Do you wanna drink?’ At aftershows he would circle around us on constant loop, just to ensure we were sufficiently provided with an endless supply of vice and debauchery. Any subsequent fallout from all this drink and drug consumption would be leaked immediately to the papers”.
I also must give a shout out to Trampy Spike, surely the most eloquent hobo ever to grace the pages of a memoir. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.
Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About
As mentioned, there has been a fair amount of revisionism and myth-making over the years by the surviving Oasis members (mainly Noel), so it was interesting to read about the true beginnings of the band, and how often the truth was at odds with how Noel strove to depict their image. In particular, McCarroll debunks the myth that the Gallagher brothers were always at each others’ throats, saying that he never saw them physically come to blows. They argued, but the sibling rivalry angle was definitely exaggerated for the press.
McCarroll is very straightforward about his clashes with Noel and takes responsibility for the role that he played in the band dynamics, both good and bad. It’s a dishy read, but not mean-spirited. He calls out the behaviour that he sees as uncool but also owns up to his own mistakes. I also really like how he doesn’t shy away from calling out the music industry on it’s sycophantic, yes-man bullshit, while at the same time demonstrating how willing Noel was to put up with it (definitely at odds with the image Noel has cultivated):
“That evening, we played the Metro on Clarke Street. Afterwards, we were sat at yet another meet-and-greet. A suit from the record company stood at the head of the table. His round face was positively glowing with a mixture of red wine and enjoyment…’Well, it’s a pleasure to have our English friends with us here this evening. A potential superband that we will endeavour to support and drive throughout the American continent. I’m sure when you have a moment in their time later you will find, like me, they are a truly determined and dedicated group and it’s a pleasure to have them as my friends’.
Who the fuck was this clown? I looked at Noel and started laughing. Noel frowned back at me…My laugh wasn’t loud enough to be overheard, but still Noel hissed. ‘Shut it, dickhead’.
This fucked me right off. The balloon in the suit at the top of the table claiming to be our mate was typical of the back-slapping, corporate bullshit that we had slagged off earlier. ‘What, so he’s your best fuckin’ mate, is he?’ I fired back, angrily.
‘Well as it happens, yeah, I have met him and he’s fucking sound. Now shut the fuck up.’ The argument was staring to get the attention of the room, so I shut up as Noel sat glowering at me. Here we go again, I thought.
The MD continued. ‘And now it gives me great pleasure to introduce you to the musical genius that is Norton Gallagher’. I nearly choked on my drink as I tried to contain my laughter. I looked at Noel, who was staring at me with enough hatred to melt a holy candle. Liam was sitting next to Noel and his face lit up with laughter. The suit cum stand-up comedian carried on with his shtick. ‘With his trusty sidekick and younger brother, Leland.’ The amusement had vanished from Liam’s face. The man’s gotta be fucking joking, I thought. Even Guigs started to laugh. Noel had now gone crimson and I guessed it was me who was gonna get it again. But fuck it. It was worth it.”
Also, cocaine wasn’t the only thing The Man Who Can procured. The formation of Oasis coincided with ecstasy’s ascent in popularity, and the band indulged in a multitude of other substances as well — par for the course for a rock ‘n roll outfit, of course, but I like how open McCarroll is about it all. They were young, they were famous, and they were doing lots of drugs. Awesome.
Do Ya Think I’m Sexy:
You guys. I don’t know how this happened, but after reading this book I’ve developed a bit of a raging supercrush on Liam Gallagher. I KNOW. What is going on here? Back in the day I always thought Liam was the one who was the biggest asshole in the band, but now that it’s been revealed that’s Noel, it turns out that Liam is just kind of a jerk…but a totally genuine one. What you see is what you get. I LOVE people like that, people who say what’s on their mind and don’t apologize for who they are. Even after his unceremonious firing from the band, McCarroll stayed in touch with Liam and still has fond words for him to this day. Here’s his description of the first time he met Liam:
“One evening, Paul Gallagher brought his younger brother to the park…Immediately, it became apparent that the kid had more front than both his brothers combined. When Paul tried to introduce him to the group, he was told to fuck off by his youngest sibling. After doing so, the young kid went round each person present and introduced himself. ‘My name is Liam. My name is Liam. My name is Liam’…I laughed to myself. I’d never met a kid with so much attitude in all my life. He stood in front of a group of 20 kids, all older than him, most with violent reputations and yet not a flinch. In later years, people would accuse Liam of being a celebrity ‘act’. Surely nobody can be that destructive and belligerent? It must be just an act for the cameras. Well, I first met Liam when he was 13 years old. The boy I met that day was as loud and brash as Liam the man today. His whole ethos is: what you see is what you get. Even people who dislike him must recognise the honesty in that”.
I have a confession to make: I’ve started following Liam Gallagher on Twitter. He signs every tweet “LG” which I find adorable.
McCarroll is a skillful comedic writer, and the book is full of hilarious little vignettes. The story in which he, Liam and BigUn take LSD and stumble through the Welsh countryside in the middle of the night in search of the Stone Roses, and their ensuing conversation with Ian Brown, kind of made my life. As I’ve already mentioned, McCarroll is also fantastic at getting across the nuances of character. He’s a witty and engaging author, and even though Noel Gallagher obviously isn’t his favourite person in the world, he does give him props where props are due. He talks about his time in Oasis in balanced tones, describing both the highs and lows in equal measure. I found his attitude towards success and failure to be refreshing and admirable. After all, it’s not like the guy walked away from the band with a wad of cash. I won’t give away too much, but suffice to say I think you will be shocked by the figure, considering how big the band was and how huge they went on to become.
Add It Up
I keep quoting passages from this book, more so than I normally do when writing my reviews. It’s not because I’m lazy, I swear — it’s because McCarroll does such a good job of describing things that I want to share his words with you. Like these ones:
“I have often used the word ‘Spartan’ during the course of the book. This was a Mancunian term used for someone who would stand next to you against all the odds. Someone who recognised the difference between what you have, or what you say, as opposed to who you are and what you do. Someone who knew that, divided, we fall. Someone you could trust. Throughout my life I have met many such Spartans and many of them have played an integral part in my story, as I have in theirs’.
I don’t know if you can call a book a Spartan — but if so, that’s totally what this one is! It taught me a lot about human nature, what it means to be your own person, and walking away from disappointment with your head held high, knowing that there are more important things than fame and fortune. It taught me that ‘Right is right, even if everyone is against it; and wrong is wrong, even if everyone is for it.’ Not only that, it provided me with lots of good laughs during a period when I really needed them. For that, this book has my admiration and respect. Yup, it’s definitely a Spartan.
This book is solid good times, and I think it’s only appropriate to give it the rating of another awesome drummer.
All quoted passages are from Oasis: The Truth: My Life As Oasis’s Drummer by Tony McCarroll, John Blake Publishing Ltd, London, 2010.
Now please enjoy the vids for these classic Oasis tunes: