Oasis dominated the 1990s music scene, growing from a local Manchester indie band to a chart-topping powerhouse that defined the Britpop era. Their concerts at Knebworth, England, in 1995 were the culmination of a rocketing — and rocky — rise to fame. By then, everyone knew brothers Noel and Liam Gallagher, the band’s songwriter and frontman respectively. Around half a million fans attended the two concerts held over one weekend in August. The band eventually broke up acrimoniously in 2009.
Over the years, Oasis have sold seventy-eight million albums worldwide, with 1995’s (What’s the Story) Morning Glory becoming one of the best-selling albums of all time. On the 20th anniversary of Knebworth, Noel Gallagher asked Simon Halfon, a British graphic designer, movie producer and friend, to do a documentary. It was meant to be a retrospective of a single event, but it eventually became a full-blown biopic of the Oasis phenomenon.
Oasis: Supersonic was released in 2016 to great acclaim and now, seven years on, Halfon has published a companion piece to the film. Supersonic: The Complete, Authorised and Uncut Interviews features interviews with the brothers and other band members, colleagues, friends and, endearingly, their mum Peggy. Advertised as “the first-ever authorised book from Oasis, one of the biggest bands on the planet”, Halfon told Speak Up how the project came about.
Simon Halfon (English accent): The book was actually kind of a lockdown project. When we made the film, because we had spent so much time interviewing both Noel and Liam and everyone else — I think we did sixteen hours with Noel, twelve with Liam — and they were both so candid about everything, and the film is only two hours long. And that included having music in there. And I always felt there was an opportunity to do a book, because we left so much out, not because it wasn’t good enough to go in the film; it’s because we just didn’t have room for it. And both Noel and Liam are such great storytellers that there were big anecdotes, big moments in their stories that we couldn’t actually fit in the film.
HERO AND VILLAIN
Halfon approached the brothers to see how they felt about publishing such a book. In the introduction, he recounts Liam asking a key question, before giving his blessing.
Simon Halfon: Very first thing he said, “Who’s going to be the hero, who’s going to be the villain?” There’s a little bit of hero and villain in both of them. No one comes out as one or the other in this book, I think. It feels very honest and they both have their chinks in their armour or whatever you want to call it. And neither of them are perfect, but they’re brothers, and it’s kind of what made them successful but, ultimately, it’s what drove them into the ground.So it cuts both ways, that knife.
SMART AND FUNNY
Noel is often portrayed as the brooding genius and Liam as the loud brawler. Having spent a lot of time in their company, Halfon feels that the brothers’ real personalities are not quite so polarised.
Simon Halfon: They crossed over in both those worlds. Both of them. And they’re both really smart. They’re both really funny., I spent ten years kind of around them, working with them and doing a bit of travelling with them, as well, and they were very welcoming. They welcomed you into their inner circle. ’Cause I designed their record sleeves for a while. I did about four album covers for them. And they’d always say, “Oh, come up and take some photos, come up,” and they used to have this little studio up at Wheeler End where they would rehearse and it was just like a little gentlemen’s club.
The book tells the story of Oasis chronologically, from different viewpoints. We asked Halfon how he managed to piece the story together, as he interviewed Noel and Liam at a time when they were not on speaking terms.
Simon Halfon: We didn’t do more than two hours with them any given time so they would come in, once a week, every other week, and we had to the luxury of being able to say, “Oh, Liam came in and said this on Tuesday,” to Noel. “And what do you make of that?” And so Noel could answer. He said, “Well, I don’t remember it like that,” or other words, a bit more colourful words and vice versa. So it was a good way of getting the dialogue going between two brothers that weren’t speaking to each other.
On publication of the book, Noel Gallagher said he’d never laughed so much as when he read it. Between the book and the documentary, Oasis has remained in the public eye, retaining and gaining fans along the way.
Simon Halfon: They both have been really supportive, ’cause it turned out great. The film really exceeded expectations. People still reference it and talk about it and get excited about it. And the good thing about these things – and I think that was sort of the goal in some respects, but it certainly was the result – is that it opens up Oasis to a whole new generation of fans. Kids are watching it and they’re seeing these guys as kids. They’re not seeing them as forty-, fifty-year-old men talking about the good old days.