Is this the luckiest man in rock?

Paul `Bonehead' Arthurs may not have been overly talented - but, boy, his timing was good

An Oasis spokes-man is keen to emphasise that Paul "Bonehead" Arthurs was not just the group's rhythm guitarist. Lest we forget, Arthurs was lead vocalist on "Bonehead's Bank Holiday", an uproarious drinking song available on the vinyl edition of (What's the Story) Morning Glory? Besides, he played keyboards on several Oasis tracks and accordion on an early B-side. He was, says the spokesman, "a flexible musician". So anyone who thinks he was a chancer who just strummed along while the Gallagher brothers did all the work and attracted all the attention couldn't be more wrong.

Arthurs, 34, announced on Monday that it was time to "call it a day". Having been in the band for eight years, and following weeks of rumours, he has made an "amicable" exit after "a lot of consideration". "I've had a fantastic eight years in one of the best bands ever to come out of Britain," he said in yesterday's statement, "and now I feel I have come to the stage where I'd like to concentrate on other things in my life, outside of the demands of being in a successful rock'n'roll band. I've made some great friends along the way and wish everyone in the band every success for the next album, and intend to enjoy watching the band go on to further success in the coming years."

You could say that watching the band go on to further success is what he's done for years. At Oasis concerts he and Paul McGuigan, the bassist, would stand at the back of the stage looking like two weather figurines on a town hall clock. They would barely move until the end of each song, when they would turn their backs on the audience, in unison, and tune their guitars. In one review I wrote of an Oasis gig, I made a remark about McGuigan and Bonehead being "not overly talented" and "the luckiest men in pop". Hunter Davies then quoted this when he was interviewing McGuigan. McGuigan replied that it was a fair appraisal.

But to concentrate on the music is to miss half the point of Oasis. Their blistering fusion of The Beatles and the Sex Pistols is all very well, but much of their appeal comes from the personalities of the group's members. From a tabloid point of view, Noel Gallagher handled the jet-setting with film stars, and his brother Liam's cocaine-fuelled violence made him perfect for the Wild Man of Rock role. Bonehead was the light relief - the Ringo. If none of the non-Gallagher members of Oasis seemed essential to the group's fortunes, Bonehead at least had a memorable nickname, and his bald pate made him easy to spot in photographs. Like Bez in the Happy Mondays, he was the mascot. When the band sent out Christmas cards to fans in 1994, the image on the front was Bonehead in a Santa Claus cap.

The legends of Bonehead are as entertaining in their way as those about the Gallaghers. Best of all is the one about the night a fan tried to steal the knocker from his front door. Arthurs flung on the first thing that came to hand before chasing the thief down the street. The first piece of clothing to hand happened to be one of his wife's dresses. That was his story, anyway.

In retrospect, though, you have to wonder if Bonehead is as boneheaded as his public image suggests. Maybe - definitely maybe - Arthurs is the smart one. It was he who formed The Band Who Would Be Oasis, called Rain, in Burnage in 1991. He taught his friend Paul McGuigan to play bass (not very well). He appointed Tony McCarroll as drummer and Criss Hutton as singer. Hutton was replaced by another local boy, Liam Gallagher, who changed their name to Oasis, and Bonehead and Liam wrote songs together until the latter's big brother muscled in and said that he'd be in charge from then on.

For a would-be songwriter to step back when a superior one comes along shows a lack of egotism rare among musicians. And Arthurs, says Oasis's spokesman, has often been the "peacemaker" between the two Gallagher brothers, another sign that he knew which side his bread was buttered. He was the multi-instrumentalist who recorded his parts for Definitely Maybe easily, while the rest of the band struggled over theirs. But he didn't boast. "I tell [the fans] it takes years of practice to get this good," Arthurs said in 1994. "I've got a chair in my house that I practise throwing out of the window."

Arthurs is a true pop hero; he may not have much ability, but he knows how to make it pay. There have been numerous newspaper reports of his paying pounds 600,000 for a mansion in Cheshire and pounds 750,000 for a second mansion near Manchester, with 12 acres of gardens and a gold-plated Jacuzzi. He has bought a Rolls-Royce and an Aston Martin DB7, we are told, and paid pounds 31,000 for a personalised number plate: OAS15. He's done well for a barely average rhythm guitarist.

But his greatest achievement has been to quit while he's ahead, something few rock musicians know how to do. He's eight years older than Liam Gallagher, and his taste for a rock'n'roll lifestyle may not be what it was. It was reported last October that he was attacked by four men outside a pub in Manchester. And in February he was arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct outside the launch party of a Tommy Hilfiger store in Bond Street.

You can only applaud his timing. He has finished his work on the fourth Oasis album, so he can watch the royalties mount up without resorting to the legal battles that Tony McCarroll fought when he was pushed off the group's drum stool in 1995. While Arthurs' former colleagues pack their bags for a nine-month world tour, Arthurs can stay in one of his mansions with his wife, Kate, and their two children. He can retire with an estimated pounds 10m in the bank, rather than being shuttled round the world to stand at the back of the stage and strum half a dozen chords for two hours a night. There's nothing boneheaded about that.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
    How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

    How to make your own Easter egg

    Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

    Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

    Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

    Cricket World Cup 2015

    Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
    The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing