Maybe you're the same as me

Rock 'n' roll is for dreamers: we fantasise about our idols, our idols live out our fantasies. Once, the rock dream was a simple anthropological thing, involving boys in tight trousers and girls who screamed. It was about liberation and unrestrained hormonal activity. Now it's a little more complicated than that. Below, Emma Forrest analyses Oasis's penetration of the national psyche and, right, Noel Gallagher reveals his inner being
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In anticipation of its inevitable big win at the Brits next week, Oasis's What's the Story... Morning Glory has spent the past few weeks sitting lairily at the top of the album chart, picking fights with Robson and Jerome and spilling Pulp's pint. Its creator, Noel Gallagher, was recently hailed by Q magazine as the composer of the decade. He has his own puppet on Spitting Image. His last single, "Wonderwall", was deemed significant enough to be covered and turned into a novelty song, barely weeks after its release. What's the Story... Morning Glory topped nearly all end-of-year polls and is now top five in the USA. When your Dad hears the Noel-sung "Don't Look Back In Anger" over the car stereo, he smiles and says "John Lennon, singing from heaven". Noel is now such a folkloric hero that some people have even renamed Christmas after him. And Liam gets crucified at Easter.

A few years back, at the height of Madonna's fame, a book was released in her honour, called I Dream of Madonna. In the late Eighties, Ciccone's star was so pervasive that she began to invade the public's sub-conscious. But now she's far too busy trying to persuade Argentina that she's qualified to play a power-hungry manipulator to creep into your sleep. It was only going to be a matter of time before the far lovelier Noel took her place. Now Gallagher is a frequent, shadowy figure in the dreams of Britain's pop fans.

He first came to me in a vision a few months back. I dreamt that I was late for a job interview and he kept giving me the wrong directions on the underground. "Please don't put your life in the hands of a rock 'n' roll band - they'll throw it all away", indeed. When I repeated this to a room full of people, I discovered that I was not the only one with delusions of Gallagher.

"I was at a Blur concert," mused my little sister, on her way to school, "and I was taken to a special section for latecomers. Noel was there playing keyboards. Everyone was pointing at him, screaming and fainting, but he just seemed really surprised that anyone had noticed him".

Ed Simons, of dance crossover darlings the Chemical Brothers, recalls a dream about "being at a Prodigy gig and Noel came back-stage. Everyone was being really matey. Everyone was shaking him by the hand and saying 'Yeah, that thing you said about Damon and Alex dying of Aids was great.'"

He may have a way with a tune, but some Noel manifestations are decidedly sinister. At Oasis's recent Earls Court reign, Dafyd Turner, a shy but ardent 16-year-old, admitted: "I had a nightmare where he came into my bedroom when I had no clothes on and laughed at my body." His classmate, Tom Williams, remembers a dream set in school, with Noel as a substitute history teacher: "We were throwing paper planes and being really rowdy, even when Noel walked into the room. So he slammed shut the text book on his desk and started shouting 'Do you know what you are? Do you know what you are?' And we didn't know. Then it was time for maths."

Last week, the man himself was spotted enjoying Northern Uproar's gig at an indie hellhole called the Garage. I felt it my duty to get his opinion on the matter. Since I was only, ooh, the nine millionth person to approach him that night, he very politely told me that, no, he had never dreamt about himself and that the only dreams he has are about falling through space. He did seem quite pleased with his pride of place in the nation's psyche.

Incomprehensible night-time escapades chez the Gallaghers are not just the domain of adolescent fans. Oasis REM, if that's not too confusing, is also a favourite of music industry insiders. Chloe Walsh worked at Creation records when they first signed Oasis. "I remember we went for a curry in Camden to celebrate and we all laughed at Liam because he was 21 years old and had never had a curry before. He kept saying: 'I don't like foreign food, me.' Recently, I dreamt that I met him in the street in Camden and he said he was off to get a curry. I said 'but Liam, you don't like curry' and he said 'I do now. I've been all over the world, me'."

Walsh's dream is unusual in that it is harder to find people who dream about Liam than it is to find people who dream about Noel. It's curious that we should opt to have nocturnal conversations with the hard-working engine-room boy, not with the sex-symbol frontman. Loaded columnist Barbara Ellen is one of the few whose sleep is haunted by Liam: "I dreamt that I was on a press junket interviewing Oasis in this weird Apocalypse Now- style marshland. I felt very drawn to Liam. It was non-sexual, but we were starting to bond. Just when we were getting along brilliantly, he pushed me into the marsh, jumped on to the tour van and sped off, leaving me stranded."

On the surface, there is your answer - people dream about Noel because to dream about Liam would simply be too threatening. Noel is a decent, ordinary working-class lad, and despite him shooting his mouth off, you can't help but feel pleased for him. When the British record-buying public heard that Oasis had gone top five in America, our pride for Noel felt like one of those "come together" moments when a baby is rescued from a well or when Emma Thompson wins an Oscar. Dreaming about the elder Gallagher is hardly different from those moments when an affable uncle invades your sleep, except Noel is a lot richer. But dreaming about Liam is like dreaming of James Dean. You wake up slightly worried, knowing that those brows, that sloping walk and stubborn jaw might symbolise something sinister, something beyond your control.

But that doesn't hold true when you consider one of Freud's fundamental propositions - that you dream to process material you find too awkward or frightening to think about when you are awake. In that case, it should be Liam we dream about rather than Noel, unless there is more to Noel than meets the eye. Is it that he represents what, in the back of our minds, we believe we all could be? Start off as an Inspiral Carpets roadie and end up the most respected musician of the decade? Or the equivalent of that procedure as it occurs in our own lives. Liam was born an icon. Noel was born a funny little kid with massive eyebrows. He could have been one of us. And as we read Q, listen to "Wonderwall" or watch the master collect his Brits, we have to push those thoughts aside. Otherwise, we wouldn't be able to cope with the monotony of school/ work/ roadying.

And behind this vague sense of inferiority, the dread that we will never live the dream, lurks the real nightmare, in which Noel is indeed the more awkward, frightening half of the Gallagher duo. Here, Liam is an under-evolved, shambling victim of his own innocence, insufficiently equipped to deal with complex tasks, while his bushy-browed elder brother is a power-hungry manipulator, hammering the competition in a world where rules are made to be broken. When we dream of Noel, we touch the limits of what we aspire to and what we also balk at becoming. Gallagher is a dream-creature to be both worshipped and worried about.

The dreams of Noel Gallagher

On being given a Rolls Royce by a grateful record company boss: "I can't walk straight, let alone drive a car." (Oasis - What's the Story, Radio 1, February 1996)

On the respective attractions of himself and his brother: "He gets all these sex-starved girls with big breasts. I get all the psychopaths." (The Observer, September 1995)

On class: "I hate the way anyone from the working class who makes money, the working class turns on them. The people in my band, we'll be working class till we die. We were brought up socialists and we'll die socialists." (Q, January 1996)

On fame: "I just think I'm always up for being myself. I think people expect artists to be aloof and sullen, but I think when people meet me they are quite surprised because I'm not like that. I'm up for a chat and I'd much rather talk about Coronation Street or EastEnders than Oasis and our music."

On the creative act: "When I'm writing a song, that's it. I'll sit up in this chair 48 hours, smoking, drinking, playing the same line over again... When I'm going through all that, them chaps are in their cosy beds, with their cosy lives - it's all cosy for them. And when it's time to make a new album, they wake up in the morning and go 'Where's the songs?' It's me who has to come up with them. It does come naturally to me, but you've got to work your fucking bollocks off, man, and I do. I live this band 24 hours a day." (Q, January 1996)

On the future: "I hope I'll be extremely well off. I'll have learned to drive. I hope I'll have a yacht, an aeroplane, a helicopter, a little island somewhere in the Caribbean. My house will be big, it'll be somewhere in the country, and in the back garden it'll have a go-karting track. I love go-karting. It'll have loads of animals, a football pitch, and it'll be dead good." (Oasis - What's the Story, Radio 1, February 1996)

On the key to success: "All I ever wanted to do was make a record. Here's what you do: you pick up your guitar, you rip a few people's tunes off, you swap them round a bit, get your brother in the band, punch his head in every now and again and it sells. I'm a lucky bastard." (The Observer, September 1995)

On moving south to London: "Manchester bored me because it's too small. You can't fart without everyone knowing about it. At least in London you've got other famous people like the Queen and that." (Daily Mirror, August 1995)

On the rock 'n' roll life: "I suppose I should slow down but I usually go mad for 40 days and then I'm sensible for the next 40 days. The chest pains and stuff don't bother me. Medical science has come a long way. It's amazing what you can put yourself through and get away with." (Daily Mirror, August 1995)

Research by Scott Hughes