THE MASTERPLAN
THE MASTERPLAN
Part 2

"Drugs, mate." For the umpteenth time in the past two hours, Noel Gallagher spreads his hands pleadingly and offers the same two-word explanation. We've just concluded our dissection of his flipside, as detailed in "The Masterplan", the album that confirms what everyone already suspected: now and again those crazy Oasis guys stuck some of their best songs as extra tracks on singles. During Side One, Noel confessed that the version of The Beatles' "I Am The Walrus" supposedly recorded at the Glasgow Cathouse in front of a beered-up mob was actually recorded at a soundcheck for the Sony seminar in Gleneagles in front of absolutely no-one; the crowd noises featured were actually nicked from a Faces bootleg album. Then he struggled to explain the wanton rock star hubris which not only led him to call the house in which we are sat Supernova Heights, but very nearly resulted in an Oazsis flag being hoisted from the roof and lowered to half-mast whenever Noel and Meg weren't in. Only the advice of his seriously canny (and sober) manager prevented this burglar's beacon appearing above Primrose Hill. And now we're at the end of the album, but still Noel has cause to smile a faintly rueful smile. It concerns the sleeve to "The Masterplan", which, following in the long and dishonourable line of hamfistedly pretentious Oasis artwork, features a small boy ("who sort of looks like me," says Noel) at the head of a classroom full of teachers. The boy is pointing to a blackboard, on which we see the musical notation for the song "The Masterplan". Teaching the teachers the masterplan. Mmmmm. "All down to drugs, I'm afraid," says the man who is ultimately responsible, before adding, "and I apologise profusely for it." Apology accepted, young man. Provided, of course, you now put the needle on the record and return us to the beginning of Side Two. For we have a further seven songs upon which to ruminate. We demand another anecdotal avalanche of tales from yesteryear about Our Kid, getting steaming drunk, the incomparable virtuosity of Bonehead, going mad and, err, brackets. Most of all, we need to know: which one's Benson and which one's Hedges...?

Listen Up
(B-side of "Cigarettes & Alcohol", released October 10, 1994. A great song, but then seeing as it essentially comprises the intro to "Live Forever" followed by the chords for "Supersonic", it was bound to be.)

"That's one of my favourites. I remember writing the lyrics in the kitchen at Maison Rouge [recording studio on Fulham]. I was living in Chiswick at the time, while the rest of them were at the Columbia Hotel. So I went home early, about 8pm to write some lyrics. So everyone said, 'Right, midday tomorrow'. I got there at 11.30am, started messing around with these lyrics. An hour goes past, then another, and another, and another. They trun up at 8pm looking like they've still been up. It was the night they got barred from the Columbia for f*****g decimating the gaff. So I spent eight hours in the kitchen at Maison Rouge writing lyrics, and I've never forgiven them for that. Although I suppose it worked out well in a way 'cos the ones I had at 11.45am were f****g dreadful. But I like the line, "I don't believe in magic 'cos life is automatic". I think it means something but I'm not quite sure what." "I remember Liam going, 'That f*****g guitar break's too long, 'cos nothing happens and it's the same riff going round and round and round.' And 'cos I'm a stubborn c**t I was going, 'No, it's right.' And then when I was mastering it the other day, four years after the fact, I decided he was right in the first place, so I edited four bars out! He was round our house the other day so I played it to him and he went, 'D'you know, that sounds better than the original.' I went, '(Cough). Yeah I edited it...' He went, 'You f*****g what?' 'I edited four bars out'. He went, 'WHAT?AFTER ALL THESE F*****G YEARS NOW YOU'RE ADMITTING YOU WERE WRONG??!!' I said, 'I never said I was wrong. I'm just saying I wasn't right at that particular time.' Heheh! So, he thinks I'm a c**t now." "It was one of the ones people voted for a lot. When I was listening to it, before I edited the bit out that makes it a good 40 seconds to a minute shorter, I can see now that was the start of the prog rock phase where I was gonna just chuck guitar solos over everything, because I'd a brand new guitar that day, and by golly I'm gonna use it. So that's the start of my axe-wielding days, I think." So presumably the fact that you've edited it now means your prog rock days are over? "Yeah, well I've written five songs lately. And I've done no backing vocals because I'm sick of singing backing vocals live. I've been listening back to some of the live stuff and I don't know what it is but my backing vocals are shit. I've actually realised I can't sing! After four years I've gone, 'I'm not very good at that, really, am I?' So I'm not doing any harmonies on the demos I've done. And obviously, if I don't do any harmonies it means Liam's got to turn up for the gigs, because I won't have a microphone! But I've never considered myself to be a good guitarist. I mean, I can blag it. And there's some good stuff on "Live Forever" and "Slide Away" that I like, and the stuff that I do live on "Champagne Supernova" I like, but I'm sorta getting a bit pissed of with playing the guitar. Especially being a lead guitarist. I look at Bonehead sometimes and think, 'You f*****g jammy c**t. Standing there going like that [does cruelly accurate mime of Bonehead's inimitable why-play-two-chords-when-one-will- do guitar style], while I have to concentrate." "I always end up playing the same guitar solo over different songs and hoping no-one will notice, but one guy on the American tour said, 'Hey man, I just love the way there's a whole thread to everything that you do.' And I'm going, 'How's that then?' He says, 'It's the same solo in every song, isn't it? Is that some sort of subliminal message?' I'm going, 'No, it's not, I think if you listen closely, man, it's not exactly the same'...And he's going, 'I think it is...' Bastard! Rumbled!"

Rockin' Chair
(B-side of "Roll With It", released August 14, 1995. The lonesome organ and dainty guitar-picking betray Noel's love of Johnny Marr. One of Liam's greatest vocal performances)

"I think that was an early one as well. Like a lot of the early ones it's about wanting to leave home. "This town holds no mor for me..." I must have wrote it in Manchester. The song's about wanting to be somewhere else. Again, it mentions the telephone as a lot of my early songs do. And the rain. The rain and telephones. I think we played that one live once, the first date of the British tour when Guigs couldn't be bothered getting out of bed 'cos he had his nervous exhaustion, and we had Scott in the group, briefly. I think we played it on the first night and then sacked it after that 'cos the chorus was too high for Liam." "It was gonna be on the album, and then I wrote something else. I think it was "Wonderwall". So it was "Rockin' Chair" or "Wonderwall". Imagine if "Wonderwall" had been a B-side! We wouldn't be sat here now, I tell you that. We'd be in the f*****g Falcon in Camden, going, 'have you got any money for a beer, Keith, and then I'll tell about my new record?' I think I made the right choice. Rod Stewart's done a cover of "Rockin' Chair". I'd like to hear it." What did you make of his version of "Cigarettes & Alcohol"? "It's alright. At one point they wanted us to go and play on it. And they wanted us to do that 'Audience With Rod Stewart' [TV programme]. The producer said, 'They're gonna reform The Faces, him, Kenny Jones and Ronnie Wood, and they want you to go and do "Cigarettes & Alcohol" with The Faces.' Of course, I was f*****g well up for it, until I found out that f****g wotsit, f*****g Baby Spice was gonna be on it. F*****g no way! No, no, no! So I decided to watch it on telly. Me mam likes it. Liam f*****g hates it. But he would do, wouldn't he?" And the other covers of your songs? "Well, the other day, I was in one of those little record shops behind Virgin on Oxford Street, and there was this bloke behind me, 6ft 2ins, bald head, and I can feel him looking at me. He comes up with his wife and goes, 'Sorry to bother you, you don't know me, but I covered one of your songs once.' I thought he was a busker, or summat, and I was going, 'Oh, right mate.' And it's Mike Flowers! He's going, 'I'd just like to say thanks for letting us put it out.' I was going, 'Phhfftt! Don't you worry about it mate, just f*****g thanks for the cheque!' That's the only time I've ever met him. And he's bald, I'll have you know! Bald as a coot!" "But the funniest story about the "Wonderwall" thing was, we were in America, and the fella who played it [ie. Mike Flowers' version] for the first time, I think it was Dave Pearce on Radio 1, he was doing a spoof saying that was the original of "Wonderwall". So I get a phone call off the wife. And it's another one at 7am, and I'm like, 'What do you want at this time?' She's going, 'You know that song you wrote for me?' 'Yeah...' 'Well it's not even one of your songs, is it?' I was going, 'What are you f*****g going on about?' She says, 'Listen to this' - and she's taped it off the rdaio! She's going, 'That's the original.' I said, 'Play that again!' Then she sent the tape over and eventually we found out what it was. But for a minute I was going, 'Did I? Maybe I did!' She was well pissed off for about an hour-and-a-half. 'No, honestly, I did write about you...!"

Half The World Away
(B-side of "Whatever", released December 19, 1994. Bacharach-styled acoustic melancholia featuring Bonehead on Wurlitzer. Covered live by Paul Weller.)

"Another one about leaving cities. Doesn't mention telephones or rain, though, does it? It could do. We done that the same day as we did "Talk Tonight" in Texas. The drumming bit that comes in on the brushes, our ex-drummer had these two brushes which he was looking at and going, 'What do they do?' 'Well you do that with that one and you play it like that...' And after about two hours I got annoyed with him and threw him out of the studio. So I played the drums on that track, and the bass. I like some of the lyrics: "Scratching around in the same old hole/My body feels young but my mind is very old..."" "It's Weller's favourite Oasis song. I don't know why. He likes all the B-sides. He's well looking forward to this album coming out, actually. I said, 'Well I hope you go out and buy it, Paul.'"

(It's Good) To Be Free
(B-side of "Whatever". Features the ever-versatile Bonehead in jolly jack tar accordion incident towards the end. Note gratuitous use of brackets in title.)

"Done that one In Texas as well. I'd been in Las Vegas, strung out for four or five days. I wrote that there. That's one of my favourites. "Just the little things make me so happy/All I want to do is live by the sea". I suppose I was thinking mentally I'd freed myself, me off my f*****g tits on drugs, by the way. It was shit at that time on that American tour, I remember it being f*****g horrible. 'Cos we were in the position of blowing it big time. We were only playing little clubs at the time, 1500 people. The gig at The Whiskey was shit. Everyone was just going mad, me included. Somebody put out a setlist for me from the previous British tour. So I was going into these songs and everyone else was going into a different one. The gigs were f*****g buzzing and sold out, 'cos we were this new, y'know, [adopts Artie Fufkin whine] 'These dudes are like a cross between The Beatles and the Sex Pistols...' And we were like The f*****g Troggs, man." "The bit at the end is off 'Captain Pugwash'. 'Cos Bonehead can play the accordion, he used to play it in some Irish band he was in, and we recorded it on a little Walkman. God knows why we put that on at the end, but it still makes me laugh when I hear it." Why do people put brackets in song titles? "I've often wondered that, and that's why I do it - 'cos I don't know. See like on "(What's The Story) Morning Glory?" there [poimts to a jewel-encrusted disc on wall]? I thought, 'Well everyone's gonna call it 'Morning Glory' anyway', so I started doing it just because I didn't know why people do it. I've done it loads of times now. If you take the brackets away it's called "To Be Free", which makes absolutely no f*****g sense whatsoever. It's like, they think I'm some f*****g thicko from up north, well I'll show them. Heheheh! I don't know why I do it, but there'll be plenty more. I'm thinking of the album title to be all in brackets and nothing outside them. Just call it 'The Bracket Album'!"

Stay Young
(B-side of "D'You Know What I Mean?", released July 7, 1997. The first song recorded at the "Be Here Now" sessions. Controversially 'flipped' by Radio 1, who deemed its breezy good vibes preferable to the A-side's length and alleged 'weirdness'. Hence, perhaps, not regarded too fondly by its author.)

"That was actually going to be on "Be Here Now" but it got ditched in favour of...I don't f*****g know. But anyway, I got a phone call off Liam. And I never get a phone call from Liam unless it's a problem. Meg's going, 'Liam's on the phone.' And you have to go, '[Muttering under breath] C**t.' Then, ' [Extravagantly friendly] ALRIGHT MATE!' '[Theratening Liam voice] Why's f*****g 'Stay Young' not on that album?' 'Um, I was gonna put it on.' 'Right, that's alright them...' So he wanted it on, 'cos he likes it. But I don't. I suppose people like it because it says, "Hey, stay young and invincible". And, "Come what may my faith's unshakeable'. I like that line. But it's a bit happy, it's a bit of a jolly pop song. And I don't really like the way it sounds, either. But if other people like it, and if Liam likes it, then it must go on. And on it went. But that'll be the one I'll be skipping past. Just after "D'You Know What I Mean?" came out they played it loads on Radio 1, for some reason which I could never fathom out." Probably because it was shorter and uptempo. "Yeah. I've only just realised that now about the last LP. The songs I've done now I've limited meself to four minutes. Just 'cos some of them are too f****g long. It's the arrangements as well. You'd have your feet up on the mixing desk and everyone's telling you you're the greatest thing since the invention of the wheel, and you're half pissed and off your head, going, 'F*****g too right I am!' And then it's like, 'D'you think that song's a bit long?' 'No! Too long for what?!' I remember having this argument with the radio pluggers when we played them "D'You Know What I Mean?". This plugger's got a stopwatch! It gets to the end, and I could tell that nobody, but f*****g no-one, had a clue about what was going on. I stopped the tape and said, 'So what do you think?' 'Yeah, it's f*****g long, isn't it?' 'Yeah'. 'I don't think they're gonna play it on the radio.' 'Of course they're gonna play it on the radio, it's f*****g Oasis!'"

Headshrinker
(B-side of "Some Might Say", released April 24, 1995. The closest Oasis have come to speed metal. Intro bears more than a passing resemblance to The Faces' "Stay With Me". The last song Tony McCarroll recorded with the band.)

"Another mad punk rock one. It's about a chick Our Kid was going out with once who was a f*****g pain in the arse. Mentioning no names. This is years ago. We played it one of the first tours, I think, it's like the Stones meets the Pistols on speed. I hadn't heard it for ages until we were recording the last album at Ridge Farm, and Owen was playing loads of old stuff. He put it on through the big speakers and it sounded f*****g ace. It still sounds good to this day, I love that track. And, it's really short. I think that was the choice of the band as opposed to the people." "It was a mad time at Loco [recording studio in South Wales countryside], that. There were lots of people there. When we used to go to a recording studio, no matter where in the country it was, everyone would find a way there after about two days." "Do you ever get nostalgic for those heady times? "Sometimes, because we could just go to the local pub and have a beer. We'd been on 'Top Of The Pops' and we'd had a number one album, but we hadn't had a number one record, it wasn't like it is now. We could go out shopping without causing too much fuss. And as well, we didn't really know what we were doing. Now, every time you write a song you're conscious millions of people are going to hear it, so you deliberate over every single f*****g thing, whereas then it was go in, bash it down and we've got a gig next week. I suppose I miss the anonymity of it all. Just being able to really do what you want. You could come out of a pub drunk, have a piss in a car park and nobody would be arsed. Whereas if you come out of a pub drunk now, and have a piss in a car park, the bricklayer who laid the bricks'll sue you. I don't get nostalgic for having no money, though." "But yeah, they were good days because every gig that we done was better than the last one and every tour that we done was bigger than the last one, and the records were coming out every three months and there was a buzz about the group. Then you get to a point and it levels off and then it just depends how far you want to go with it after that. But when we were in the ascendancy, well, I'll never forget them days. It all got as bit professional after that." But you can't go back, can you? "No, no. I mean, I suppose you could do little gigs unannounced but it's not really fair on the peopl who can't go and see them. I've got good memories. I've got bad memories as well, 'cos we were surrounded by absolute f*****g chaos. A good laugh, though. A good laugh living up to the image we had!"

The Masterplan
(B-side of "Wonderwall", released October 30, 1995. Epic production number of which Noel remains inordinately chuffed.)

"I wrote that in a hotel room in Japan. And looking back on it, it's the only song where I think I got it right. I got the sound of it right in the studio, I got the words right...When I was writing the lyrics down and I read them back, I thought, 'F*****g hell, this is it! I've come of age as a lyricist! I'm gonna be really good from now on!' And then I wrote "Bonehead's Bank Holiday" or something ridiculous like that. I was really f*****g proud of it and I still am. It's everybody's favourite B-side. I think it's the best song I've ever written. But I was gutted because Our Kid - who loves it, it's one of his favourites - but he was just walking around going, 'You f*****g knobhead! Why did you write that now? Why couldn't you have waited for a year so it could go on the next album? Or why didn't you write it for the last album, you f*****g dick!' And he works himself up into a frenzy where he hates me for writing this great song at that particular point. And I'm going, 'So basically what you're syaing is you love me and it's a great song?' 'Yeah! You f*****g knobhead!'" Were you always going to sing it? "Yeah. I always wanted to sing "Wonderwall", but I'm glad he sang it 'cos he sings it better than I do. Liam can only sing one way. You put the mic there, you put the beers there, the fags there, and you just wind him up and wind him up until he gets that irate that he f*****g screams his bollocks off, and he'll do it in just one go and that's it. And sweats like a f*****g madman, he looks like he's just done a gig when he comes back, and it's f*****g genius what he does. But when you try and get him to build something up from really quiet, forget about it, man." "But that's why we called the album "The Masterplan". It's the best one I ever wrote. That and "Live Forever" are my favourites. And "Wonderwall"..." Ah yes, got to mention "Wonderwall", the song unquestionably written by Noel Gallagher for his then girlfriend and now wife Meg. The song that had it been a B-side, like he says, we wouldn't (ahem) be here now. Here being Supernova Heights, the modest pile of which we must now take our leave. Noel's got to go into town to meet the wife. "Promised I'd take her to lunch," he grunts, his slightly pained expression suggesting lunch might well be followed by a quick flexing of the Gallagher plastic around some of Mayfair's more exclusive boutiques. Noel's attitude to money is admirable - he hasn't a clue how much he's got, only that it's "shitloads" and he hasn't a problem spending it. The ultimate irony is that there hasn't really been a masterplan for Oasis: amidts the black eyes, bust-ups, breakdowns and cancelled tours, they've survived, prospered and made some great music. Truly, a case of cash from chaos. Album number three was a flabby letdown, though, and not even Noel seems to regard it with much affection. Which is why "The Masterplan" comes as something of a relief: brimful of tunes, attitude and mental yarns, it serves to remind us why Oasis mattered in the first place. It also suggests there's more to come, if they really want to look for it. All in all, not bad for a bunch of B-sides. "Too f*****g right, mate." Noel Gallagher stares out of his top-floor window at the London skyline and wonders where the next song is coming from. "Not bad at all."