Oasis, the biggest selling and most argumentative band in the brief history of Britpop may be no more. If so, it was a short, highly lucrative and pleasingly melodic (if derivative) flirtation with global fame.
Just five years and two albums from washing cars in Manchester, the Gallagher brothers, Noel, 29, and Liam, 23, are today in different continents, and not even on swearing terms.
Certainties are few in the disintegration of a rock group: an argument between its two frontmen caused Noel to fly back to London midway through their American tour. They had just completed their show in North Carolina when the latest feud erupted. A five- hour summit meeting took place between the brothers There were said to have been fisticuffs. Band insiders said Liam was tearful and questioning whether he could carry on. Noel's storming out early gave the tour a sort of symmetry as brother Liam had previously stormed in late.
Their record company, Creation Records, last night acknowledged in an unusually frank statement for a record company that "Oasis have hit internal differences on their tour of America which has resulted in the tour being pulled two thirds of the way through".
The rest is deduction. One can deduce, for example, that the Americans are unlikely to invite them back in a hurry (the tour started without Liam who was house-hunting and sulking): and that having brothers in a rock band can be bad for the health (internecine struggles have hit The Kinks, Dire Straits and The Beach Boys).
If the Manchester band have played their last gig then they leave an impressive array of statistics and impressions behind them. They have only released two albums, but the second, (What's The Story) Morning Glory?, with 9.5m sales worldwide is one of the biggest sellers of all time. Noel's song writing won an Ivor Novello award, their concerts broke attendance records indoors and out, with the 250,000 who saw them at Knebworth last month the biggest British paying audience for a single music act ever; their live show was frenetic and exciting, and frequent bouts of boorish behaviour almost fulfilled every pop group's wish to alienate an older generation.
But only almost. The older generation also warmed to Oasis because at times they sounded like The Beatles, though not in their wit which was definitely sub-Lennon, as Liam's spitting and beer-throwing at a recording for MTV in New York last week demonstrated.
The Oasis story may be a romantic tale of working-class lads achieving fame, riches and glamorous middle-class actresses beyond their wildest dreams. But as Beatles fans will remember, at a time of suspected break- up, romantic memories are overshadowed by hard business realities.
Oasis are all millionaires, even the non-Gallaghers with names no one can remember. Their album remains in the charts in Britain and America, and their record company is unlikely to countenance the end of such a money-making machine without a fight.
But it's an ill wind ... if the demise of Oasis is genuine, then welcome back Blur, Britpop's other crown princes who have been rather quiet of late.
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