If Liam Gallagher wasn’t the parka-wearing, simian-swaggering rock’n’roll star we know today, who knows what he would have ended up doing? Someone with this much gravitational pull doesn’t make sense outside the context of stage, screen or celebrity. He’s an energy more than a man and one of the most compelling performers the UK has ever produced – even though he barely moves on stage. He bowled into our hearts when Oasis emerged in 1994 and has lived there ever since, sinking pints and pointing at things, declaring that he will either “be having” or “not having” them. That’s just one big, overarching reason to love Liam Gallagher. As he turns 50 on Wednesday, here are 50 more.
He once got in trouble for “throwing stones at [Jamie Oliver’s] windows pissed-up, asking him to chuck down some bacon rolls.”
His love affair with guitar music began at the age of 15, when some boys from a rival school “bopped” him on the head with a hammer while he was having a fag.
Oasis’ debut on Top of the Pops in 1994 with Shakermaker showcased Liam at his most raw. He’s wearing a corduroy jacket and hanging off the mic by one hand, standing at the back and to the left in a formation that mirrored the Jam’s final performance in 1982. Even in this embryonic state, he stepped forward into history with an effortless cool and immortal pronunciation of the phrase “driving in my KAAAAA”.
Tim Burgess “I first saw Liam after getting a tip-off to go and see a new band called Oasis at The Boardwalk in Manchester, way back in 1992. From that moment on, I knew he was a superstar. And he continues to be. The Charlatans have supported him at a few shows recently and the atmosphere is unique and amazing. May you be biblical for many years to come, Liam!”
Despite his legendary status, a big part of Liam’s appeal comes from how little he has strayed from his roots. In his own words: “I’m an average lad who was born in Burnage who played conkers. Conkers, mate. Conkers. The lot. And now I’m in a band and nothing’s changed.”
He believes that “shit music comes from boring lives” and good music comes from having an “interesting, varied” or “wonky” life.
He rates other artists for the same reason. He once said of Charlotte Church: “She could be the next Liam. She’s got a great voice and she fucking has it. She knows how to get fucking hammered and she freaks people out.”
Laura Snapes, Guardian acting music editor “Parts of Liam still cling to his tough-guy persona: you know he’d make verbal mincemeat of you, and his stage presence hinges on being pugnacious. But in his personal life, as a great Q magazine cover revealed a few years ago, he’s attained a very idiosyncratic sort of zen mastery: on a typical day off, he’ll run on Hampstead Heath, then climb a tree (because why not?) and finish up getting pissed in the back of his local butchers. An unlikely lifestyle guru.”
Chardine Taylor-Stone, Big Joanie “If I learnt anything from Liam it’s not being ashamed of being a working class voice in an industry often full of people who aren’t. Plus the man has a dedicated Instagram account for every outfit he’s ever worn. A great Northern wit, and the last great character of rock’n’roll.”
As a singer, Liam communicates through soul rather than technicality. A clip from the 2016 documentary Supersonic shows him laying down vocals for Champagne Supernova, a seven-and-a-half minute epic and one of the most moving ballads in British history, and its purity almost makes it better than the album version.
His delivery in general is unparalleled. There is no other vocalist on earth who could make the word “maybe” feel like it was etched into the stone tablets.
Dave Simpson, writer “Aside from the voice, the attitude, the songs, the impact on a generation and so on, it’s hard not to admire a now 50-year old man who can dress like he’s on a fishing expedition, stand virtually immobile at a microphone and yet radiate more presence and charisma than any other rock star of the last 30 years. A special talent.”
J Mascis “Great look, great vibe, great voice. Our A&R man dropped my band Dinosaur Jr one day, but not before saying, ‘Maybe if you had Liam as a singer the band would’ve gone somewhere and had some hits.’”
Nathan Stephens-Griffin, Martha “Oasis was the first punk band I ever loved – in attitude, if not in sound. If I were to pick one track I’d probably say Cast No Shadow. Compared to some of the more classic Britpoppy ones, it has a really cool melancholy, dark, epic vibe. Liam’s vocal performance is amazing and the blood-harmonies between the brothers in the choruses are just so good. Even their deep cuts there are big big tunes.”
He opens pretty much every show with the same song. On one news show, he explained: “You’ve got to start a gig with Rock’n’Roll Star, let everyone know what’s going on.”
His fate as a rock legend was cemented when he had an out of body experience while coming down off mushrooms and bumped into John Lennon on the “cosmic path”. We may never know what message John Lennon delivered to him, but one option floated by Liam is “don’t go to Australia because it’s raining.”
Throughout Oasis’ show at Knebworth in 1996, Liam dedicated the songs to various people. Before Cigarettes and Alcohol, he said – chin out, hands in pockets – “this one’s for me.”
Simon Hattenstone, Guardian features writer “I spent some time on the road interviewing Noel on the last Oasis tour before the split in 2009. I was eating in the canteen by myself. Liam walked up with his tray of food, plonked it down on the table. ‘All right?’ he said. He ate his meal in silence and left. ‘Nice one,’ he said at the end. It made me like him.”
Todd Andrews, These New South Whales “Doesn’t get much better than Supersonic. Makes me feel like a fucking rock star just listening to it.”
Little attention is paid to this but Liam actually has a very striking pair of eyes. Soft, a little sad, blue as the Adriatic. The kind of eyes that always look like they can see too much. No wonder he’s always wearing glasses.
He’s such an ardent supporter of Manchester City that, in a 2016 interview , he said he made the first word his fiancee’s sister’s son ever learned “city”. He was also in the process of prompting her younger child’s first word to be “man” – that way, all their dad would hear was ‘man’ ‘city’ over and over. (“It’s gonna drive him mental. Love it.”)
A dispatch on Winklepickers: “You know them shoes that just come out at you like a fucking snooker cue? It’s like, ‘Leave it out, man! You got a licence for them bastards or what?’”
One of the higher points in his enduring fallout with Noel was the time he posted a couple of photos of his brother to Twitter captioned, simply, with “potato”.
As revealed recently in the Guardian, he has an irrational fear of mice.
There is a moment in a Qinterview from 2016 when he goes off on a tangent and does an espresso Martini-fuelled impression of Sleaford Mods vocalist Jason Williamson – whose energy he likes but also thinks sound like one of the old Cillit Bang adverts: “I left my bag in the tea / And the cunt got fucking stewed / Putting out me fucking bin bags / Puts me in a fucking mood / CILLIT BANG! / CILLIT BANG!”
He once shared a driver in London with Damian Marley, prompting the sentence: “if we get pulled over by the dibble, I get caught with all the ganja. The car smells nice though.”
Joel Golby, writer “My main concern is what would Liam Gallagher be doing if he wasn’t locked in the cage of fame, because he would still be out there, like that. There is a universe where he didn’t channel his sheer Liam Gallagherness into being in a feted rock band, and along that timeline he is causing unheralded trouble.”
When quizzed about the Mancunian walk in Live Forever: The Rise and Fall of Britpop, he explains it thus: “I just think we’ve got longer arms than anyone else. We wear big coats, and I think it drags our arms down a bit, like Shaggy and Scooby Doo. The Patron Saints of Manchester.”
Alexis Petridis, Guardian head rock and pop critic “Oasis’s July 2000 Wembley Stadium gig was either a disaster or a hilarious, utterly gripping psychodrama. A heroically pissed Liam treated singing as merely a distraction from delivering an angry, surreal monologue, changing lyrics – “I’m feeling supersonic … I’m Bruce Forsyth” – and protesting at length about his recent divorce in the middle of songs. Best line, to a breast-baring female fan: “put your shirt back on, Tarzan.”
The following three tweets, posted in succession between 24 and 27 August 2022: “BUMBACLARTS”. “GUINNESS”. “GUINNESS and fucking lots of it ya Bumbaclarts”.
Tess Parks “One of my life’s most important and formative memories was seeing Oasis live for the first time at the age of 11 in Toronto, and I managed to see Oasis about 16 times before they split. When I was 21, I was working at The Old Blue Last in London and Liam came in to watch the La’s play. I really didn’t want to be at work that day and then I came in and Liam was there. He said he actually remembered meeting me as a kid in Toronto and I told him how much I hated this job and wanted to be a singer, like him, and he told me, ‘All the world’s a stage.’ I quit my job the next shift and never worked in a bar again.”
His career advice to children: “If you want to be a rock star, look out the window, stare at the clouds and do loud farts.”
During a round of word association, the host said “Spongebob” and he replied “Legend”.
Louis Dunford “If they show you a ‘best bits’ compilation of your life when you die, mine will include many a drunken night, arm in arm with my mates, screaming along to Oasis like our lives depend on it. Like part of the furniture, Liam’s voice was the one musical constant for us growing up. The narrator of our youth. A true hero.”
Alexis Petridis “Definitely Maybe was packed with songs about escape undercut by uncertainty, their narrators unsure if they actually have the wherewithal to get out. The obvious approach would be to sing them wistfully, but then Live Forever or Slide Away would just sound melancholy: instead, Liam Gallagher sings like he’s furious, roaring and sneering as if consumed by resentment and frustration, electrifying sad songs in the process.”
The first time Oasis played Glastonbury (an experience he describes as “good”), a fan came up to him and thought he had cocaine in his hair. Liam had psoriasis at the time, so he’d been scratching, but the fan took a load of the flakes from his head and started rubbing them on his gums and up his nose.
A story about him attending a wedding with Steve Coogan back in the mid-90s. Someone was heckling him to “get up and sing Wonderwall”, so instead Steve Coogan got up and did a “mega” rendition of It’s Not Unusual by Tom Jones. The next morning Liam woke up in his hotel room, next to a lump. A fully clothed Coogan popped up, said “Aha!!”, and they haven’t seen each other since.
His views of other bands are rarely less than caustic – but often deadly accurate, for instance when he said of Bloc Party: “They’re like a band from University Challenge”.
Shaad D’Souza, Guardian acting deputy music editor “Oasis’s 1996 stint at Knebworth is one of the most iconic moments in rock history. Don’t ask Liam about it, though: in the intervening 25-odd years, he’s claimed to not remember a thing about it. ‘I’m very proud of it, I am. What do I remember? Not a lot, really. Nothing,’ he told NME in 2006. It’s hard to say whether this is the mark of profound hubris or deep humility; either way, it’s exquisitely Liam.”
One clip that has refused to die is Liam’s walk to the stage to collect a Brit award in 1995. He has a dark jacket on, he’s sucking on a cigarette, gunning for the platform to grab the statue before Noel.
In an interview with Cat Deeley, Noel states that he can’t write songs about “being 21 and unemployed, because I’m not”. Liam says, “why don’t you write a song about me being 29 and very good looking?”
Eyelar “Liam Gallagher’s voice is the only sound that can make me run up to a stranger and sing Wonderwall with them at Winter Wonderland like we’ve been friends for ever. He just makes you let your guard down in a way no other vocalist does.”
Does he have moments on stage when his mind drifts on stage? “Totally. All the time. I’m thinking about the price of beans in Yugoslavia.”
Andy Welch, Guardian assistant production editor “Say what you like, Liam is dedicated … whether it’s to an attitude, a parka, a swagger, mangling vowels when singing, signing off a tweet or winding up his big brother at every opportunity, he’s nothing if not consistent. Since I first fell for Oasis as an impressionable 13-year-old, he’s never changed, and I hope he never does.”
In the public eye, he often adopted the role of the villain. The arrogant, antagonistic, pain in the arse rock star who, above all else, hated Blur. This pantomime rivalry played out most memorably at a charity football match in 1996, in which Liam – in a Kangol bucket hat and huge crucifix necklace – squared up to Damon Albarn. Then he got tired and laid down, chuffed a half-time cigarette, and threw a can of lager at a photographer after he lost. As every superstar knows, this has more value than being amenable.
In the three decades since, Liam has not changed. He still acts the same, talks the same, wears the same clothes. It’s like he walked out of the womb, fully formed, ready to front a band so big that a bootleg of him and Noel having an argument once made it into the UK charts.
Despite their rivalry, the Gallagher brothers have said some tear-jerking things about each other. In an early interview with a Swedish broadcaster in 1994, Liam turns to Noel and says, “I’m a fan of him. Of his music. I don’t need no other band, all I need is the Beatles and him.”
This summer, 25 years on from Oasis’ record breaking shows at Knebworth, Liam sold out two shows at Knebworth under his own name. There are very few rock singers who, without the clout of their band to back them up, could say the same.
Liam’s favourite Oasis song is Live Forever, a song about “living forever, innit”.
Alan McGee “Making 50 look sexy … no mean feat.”