Before Noel Gallagher joined Oasis in 1991, they had the looks of a rock band but there was no natural substance behind the swagger. It was a series of fortunate events that would lead to Noel’s arrival into the fold, and it would immediately see the band’s fortunes change in the blink of an eye.
Originally, Oasis were born out of an earlier group named The Rain, an outfit that featured their future bassist Paul McGuigan, guitarist Paul ‘Bonehead’ Arthurs and drummer Tony McCarroll. However, Chris Hutton was on vocals rather than Liam Gallagher. After a while, it became clear to Bonehead that Hutton wasn’t quite up to the standard required. After reaching that conclusion, he decided to invite acquaintance Liam Gallagher down to audition with the group — a decision that would end up being a life-changing one.
Liam, of course, sailed through the audition, and suddenly, the atmosphere around the group changed. Even in their formative years, the singer exuded confidence, and his first act in the band was to change the name. The Rain represented an old era, but Oasis was very much the future. Interestingly, the name indirectly came from Noel, who, before he was in the band, worked as a roadie for Inspiral Carpets. Noel had their tour poster in his bedroom, which included a date at the Oasis Leisure Centre in Swindon.
However, it didn’t click straight away for Oasis. According to Liam, their first gig was a nightmare that forced them to re-access what they were doing and search for a new identity. Noel was in attendance at their first show at Manchester’s The Boardwalk in August 1991, and they later came crawling to him for help.
“It was horrible because the only people there were your mates,” Liam recalled to Radio X about the show. “It was a bit daunting trying to act like Mick Jagger in front of your mates. They were just like, ‘Come on what the fuck are you doing, let’s go to the pub, stop all this guitar music, let’s go and watch the match.”
He added, “They were just like, ‘Come on what the fuck are you doing, let’s go to the pub, stop all this guitar music, let’s go and watch the match. We said, if you’re gonna be here, skin up a lot more, clap loudly and stop tutting! But once you’ve done the hardest gig ever, the rest of them are plain sailing.”
“They initially asked me to manage them,” Noel later remembered how he came to join the group. “So I went down to their rehearsals, and they said, ‘Do you want to join or what?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, alright’, and it kind of went from there. Even then, I was still a roadie at the time. It was just a laugh and something to do.
“It wasn’t really until I wrote, ‘Live Forever’, that I thought, ‘Hang on a minute, there’s something in this. This is a great song’. It was only then, I started to take a step back and realised there might be a shot of me getting a big telly and massive house,” he laughed.
He took over the songwriting duties, and their first show on October 19th at The Boardwalk even included an early version of ‘Columbia’, one of the group’s most revered tracks. “He had loads of stuff written,” Bonehead later recalled about the impact Noel had upon joining. “When he walked in, we were a band making a racket with four tunes. All of a sudden, there were loads of ideas”.
That show at The Boardwalk might only have seen them play four songs, but it was the first brick in the road of their journey. They’d only play a handful of shows in 1992 before releasing the breaks the year after and securing a deal with Creation Records by May.
If it weren’t for Bonehead deciding to remove Hutton on vocals, Noel would never have joined the group, and Oasis would never have existed. However, Noel was under no pressure to join the band as he already had a comfortable life as a roadie. That said, while he won’t admit it himself, secretly, he’d built up a canon of songs, and this opportunity presented a perfected way for him to test whether they had legs. Little did he know that these songs he wrote on an acoustic guitar while working with the Inspiral Carpets would soundtrack a generation.