Michael Halpin Journalism


Album Review: Louder Than War – Blue & Lonesome by The Rolling Stones



Blue and Lonesome: The Rolling Stones

(Polydor Records)


Released 2nd December 2016

Fifty-two years after the release of their debut, the Rolling Stones career appears have come full circle. Michael Halpin gives his opinion.


Just as their eponymous debut was in 1964, ‘Blue and Lonesome’ in 2016 is an album of blues covers. Recorded in just under two weeks, the only genuine difference between their eponymous debut and ‘Blue and Lonesome’ is that 52 years ago they sounded like young pretenders whereas today they sound like the mythical blues men that they always set out to emulate.

What strikes about ‘Blue and Lonesome’ initially is just how well Mick Jagger plays harmonica. Set aside the showbiz pomp and years of questionable stage attire and marvel at the fact that behind the facade stands a musician who really does know how to play, what is often forgotten to be, his chosen instrument. Each solo, of which there are several, is mesmerising and while it may be glaringly obvious to point out, what is also striking about ‘Blue and Lonesome’ is the fact that the Rolling Stones really know how to play the blues.

Produced by long time cohort Don Was, the album is worth its salt for the simple fact that it captures the essence of the Rolling Stones masterfully. Charlie’s snare cuts through wonderfully throughout, particularly on ‘Ride ‘Em On Down’, while Keith and Ronnie’s infinite love of playing the blues finds them on fine form as their celebrated art of weaving continues. Eric Clapton joins Keith and Ronnie on ‘Everybody Knows About My Good Thing’ and ‘I Can’t Quit You Baby’ but it really is Jagger who elevates the album towards something occasionally touching magic. Almost 55-years after he first tried, he now sounds something like an original blues troubadour.

For an individual who notoriously avoids looking back over his career, Jagger appears to be the member of the band enjoying ‘Blue and Lonesome’ the most and one would suspect that this is the reason why the album works as well as it does.

As Jagger hollers “Alright!” before the solo of ‘Just Like I Treat You’ he echoes his “Alright Keith, come on man!” calls from 1964’s ‘Little By Little’, bringing a smile to the face and suggesting that, although no doubt briefly, Mick Jagger really is back at home and while he is, everyone else appears to be right onboard.

Electric Chicago Blues is the crux of ‘Blue and Lonesome’ and the albums title track along with opener ‘Just a fool’, the strutting and sinister ‘All Of Your Love’ and album highlight ‘Hate To See You Go’ all manage to encapsulate the essence of everything the Stones do best.

Their version of Willie Dixon’s ‘I Can’t Quit You Baby’, although fairing less well, does see Jagger hitting the higher register of his vocals in a manner not heard in years, while their cover of Jimmy Reed’s ‘Little Rain’ is slightly workmanlike.

All criticism of ‘Blue and Lonesome’ is relatively minor however as the Stones have recorded an album that is invigorating, exciting, sinister, dark, morose and uplifting all in the same breath, and although it is wise to not lose sight of the fact that this is a covers album, within ‘Blue and Lonesome’ there is evidence of everything that is captivating about the Rolling Stones.

For over forty years, rumours of the Stones calling it a day have circulated but if indeed ‘Blue and Lonesome’ does turns out to be their final recording, it is almost the perfect bookend to where it all began.


Words by Michael Halpin. You can find more of Michael’s writing on Louder Than War at his author’s archive



Louder Than War: The Rolling Stones In Mono Box Set and How To Buy Their 60s Albums


The Rolling Stones In Mono Box Set and How To Buy Their 60s Albums



Buying the Rolling Stones 1960s back-catalogue can be a tricky and frustrating business. For years record buyers have been irritated by a lack of respect afforded to Stones 1960s material by both the company owning the rights to the songs (ABKCO) and the Rolling Stones themselves. Unfortunately it appears that in 2016, as the band release their ‘Rolling Stones In Mono’ box set, very little has changed.

Many Stones fans have bemoaned the fact that The Rolling Stones 1960s material has never been represented correctly. In 1986, when the Stones 60s material was released on CD for the first time, the strange decision to release the material in stereo, rather than the original mono, was made. As a result, the ‘art of weaving’ as Keith Richards has often called the Stones guitar interplay, was lost as the bands sound was spread across a stereo spectrum with very little care or attention to detail and thus omitted an intrinsic part of what made the Stones sound so unique. Thankfully the ‘Rolling Stones In Mono’ has rectified the problem by referring back to the original 1960s mixes and a generation of fans will now be able to hear the Stones 60s material as it was originally intended.

First generation fans by contrast no longer have to be puzzled as to why ‘Paint It, Black’ or ‘Get Off Of My Cloud’ do not sound quite as exhilarating as they once did.

One ghost of the 1986 CD releases still remains however. When ABKCO released the Stones back-catalogue on CD, many of the U.S. versions of the Stones albums took precedence over the UK versions and for the best part of thirty years, the US albums have appeared on the shelves of record shops (and more recently on download sites), posing as original Rolling Stones album releases. The fact is, they never were.

In the 1960s themselves, the Rolling Stones U.S. record label (ironically called ‘London’) crassly chopped up and slimmed down the Stones original UK album releases in order to squeeze every last cent out of the U.S. record buyer. Through chopping up every single Rolling Stones album recorded between 1964 and 1967, tracks that remained unreleased in America, along with stand alone singles, b-sides and EP numbers, found themselves cobbled together in order to create ‘new’ Rolling Stones albums. Releases such as ‘12×5’, ‘The Rolling Stones, Now!’, ‘Decembers Children (and Everybody’s)’ and ‘Flowers’ never appeared as UK releases and are, in truth, little more than compilation albums. Further to this, albums such as ‘Out Of Our Heads’, ‘Aftermath’ and ‘Between The Buttons’, upon their original release, were presented with different running orders in the U.S. as well as being presented with several key tracks omitted.

In 2016, as the Stones finally show the 21st century how their 60s material was meant to be heard, surely a great historian such as Keith Richards would want his own history to be represented correctly? Sadly not it would seem.

Granted, the ‘Rolling Stones In Mono’ does contain the original UK albums within but bizarrely also contains the U.S. versions in the same box. It appears that those with a disposable income will have no option but to be saddled with the U.S. versions of albums that will rarely ever reach their CD player.

It would appear that the best option for fans keen to hear the Stones as originally intended, is to hang fire and wait until the albums are released individually in 2017.

Those new to the Rolling Stones, or those wanting to simply delve further than the greatest hits compilations, may not know where to begin purchasing the Stones back catalogue but Louder Than War’s Michael Halpin is on hand to guide you, ranking the Stones UK released albums and taking us through the key tracks of each.

1) Let It Bleed – Released 5th December 1969



Not only the Stones best album from the 60s but arguably the best album the Rolling Stones have ever produced. ‘Let It Bleed’ was the first Rolling Stones album to feature Brian Jones’ replacement Mick Taylor.


‘Gimme Shelter’ – Suspected to have been written by Keith Richards when he assumed that his then girlfriend Anti Pallenberg was having an affair with Mick Jagger as they filmed their roles for the 1969 movie ‘Performance’.

Stand back and admire the pregnant session singer Merry Clayton share the majority of the lead-vocal with Mick Jagger and subsequently leave him in the shade. Pay particular attention at 3:50 when Clayton’s voice cracks wonderfully and Jagger can be heard in the background giving an approving ‘woo!’

Martin Scorsese is clearly a fan of the song using ‘Gimme Shelter’ on three separate occasions in his movies; ‘Goodfellas (1990)’, ‘Casino (1995)’ and ‘The Departed (2006)’.

‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ – Used as the b-side of ‘Honky Tonk Women’ in July 1969 before appearing on the ‘Let It Bleed’ album five months later. ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ features Northern Soul heroes Madeline Bell and Doris Troy as part of the vocal choir. Debuted live in December 1968 on ‘The Rolling Stones Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus’ the film shows the bands last live performance with an extremely fragile looking Brian Jones.

‘Midnight Rambler’ – Deemed to be written about the Boston Strangler, Albert DeSalvo.


‘Love In Vain’ – A country fuelled cover of the legendary bluesman, Robert Johnson.

‘Let It Bleed’ – Featuring Ry Cooder on slide guitar, was this a nod to the then recorded but unreleased Beatles track ‘Let It Be’?

‘Country Honk’ – A country version of ‘Honky Tonk Women’ released as a single five months previously.

‘Monkey Man’ – Used wonderfully by Martin Scorsese in ‘Goodfellas (1990)’.

2) Beggars Banquet – Released 6th December 1968


The album where the Rolling Stones ‘sound’ was born. Keith Richards discovered open-tuning and finally got chance to delve even deeper into his growing collection of blues records. With the Stones scaling back their tour commitments by 1968 (Brian Jones being too much of a liability), Keith had time to sit back and listen. It showed.


‘Sympathy For The Devil’ – Simply one of the greatest, most iconic rock songs ever written. The celebrated backing vocals and Keith’s piercing guitar solo have cemented this song into rock history. The performance during the Maysles brothers 1970 movie ‘Gimme Shelter’ is one of the darkest musical moments to ever to be captured on film.

‘Street Fighting Man’ – Inspired by both the Paris student riots of spring 1968 and an anti-Vietnam war protest march which Jagger himself attended, ‘Street Fighting Man’ was released as a U.S. only single four months prior to being included on the ‘Beggars Banquet’ album.

One of the last significant contributions Brian Jones made to a Stones track is the songs slightly off-kilter sitar drone. Charlie Watts meanwhile took the decision to play a child’s drum kit on the track.


‘No Expectations’ – Beautiful slide guitar from Brian Jones. Again, one of his final significant contributions. Once more, the footage of Jones playing the song live on ‘The Rolling Stones Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus’ is painful to watch.

‘Dear Doctor’ – A genuinely funny blues-county pastiche.

‘Stray Cat Blues’ – The riff, the vocals, the piano and Charlie’s drum fills are all astonishing. Just be wary of the lyrics

‘Salt Of The Earth’ – Lead vocals are shared by Keith Richards and Mick Jagger. Keith doing something of a passable Bob Dylan impression while the wonderful Watts Street Gospel Choir make this the seed of an idea which would later develop into ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want.’

3) The Rolling Stones – Released 16th April 1964 (UK Version)


The Rolling Stones debut album. More than any other album, ‘The Rolling Stones’ introduced both the beauty and thrill of rhythm and blues to a mass audience on both sides of the Atlantic.


‘(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66’ – Written by Bobby Troup in 1946 and originally recorded by Nat King Cole’s The King Cole Trio, the Rolling Stones picked up the song via Chuck Berry’s Rock ‘n’ Roll version in 1961. This was the beginning of the Stones and the Beatles showing white America that it already had a goldmine of popular music worth exploring.

‘I Just Want To Make Love To You’ – Written by Willie Dixon and first recorded by the Rolling Stones blues hero Muddy Waters. The Stones give it an amphetamine fuelled British R’n’B treatment and footage of the band playing the track live at the NME poll winners party in 1964 is still exhilarating 52 years later.


‘Little By Little’ – The b-side of the Stones first top ten hit, ‘Not Fade Away’.

Song writing credits go to Nanker- Phelge & Spector, Nanker-Phelge being the pseudonym used by the Stones when all five members of the band contributed to the writing of a track. Phil Spector also received a credit for simply being in the studio it seems. The interplay of guitar and harmonica solos between Mick and Keith holds a genuine raw charm.

‘Tell Me’ – One of Jagger and Richards first song writing attempts. Surprisingly Mersey beat sounding rather than rhythm and blues. The track appeared in Martin Scorsese’s ‘Mean Streets’ in 1973 – one of the first instances in which a pop song was used in the background of a scene rather than being used as a focal point.

4) Aftermath – Released 15th April 1966 (UK Version)

The Rolling Stones answer to the Beatles ‘Rubber Soul’ and the first Stones album to consist entirely of Jagger & Richards material.


‘Mothers Little Helper’ – Reflecting the darker side of the swinging sixties, ‘Mothers Little Helper’ laments the increased use of valium as a prescription drug in the UK. The sitar-sounding intro is actually Keith Richards playing slide on a 12-string guitar.

‘Under My Thumb’ – Influenced by the Four Tops ‘It’s The Same Old Song’, ‘Under My Thumb’ features both an intriguing fuzz-bass from Bill Wyman and an exotic sounding marimba from Brian Jones.

One of the Stones most popular songs from the period, classic footage of the Stones performing the song on the ‘Rolling Stones Special’ for the highly influential ‘Ready, Steady, Go!’ from 1966 is available to be viewed on www.youtube.com

The Who recorded and rush-released both ‘Under My Thumb’ and ‘The Last Time’ as a good-will gesture when Mick Jagger and Keith Richards appeared to be facing prison sentences for drug possession. Pete Townshend stated that the gesture was as a way of keeping the Rolling Stones material in the public eye.


‘Lady Jane’ – Written by Mick Jagger after reading the then controversial ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’, the intrinsically English-sounding composition features a beautifully played dulcimer courtesy of Brian Jones who, although losing his grip as the bands leader (it was Jones who formed the band in 1962) took on the mantle of the bands multi-instrumentalist, finding unusual instrumentation and musical textures designed to develop the Stones sound.

‘Out Of Time’ – British R’n’B singer Chris Farlowe’s cover of ‘Out Of Time’ was number 1 in the UK charts during the week in which England won the World Cup in 1966.

Like the majority of the material on ‘Aftermath’, ‘Out Of Time’ benefits from the unusual instrumentation afforded to it by Brian Jones. In this particular case, Jones adding a marimba to the recording.

Stinker: Stupid Girl

5) Out Of Our Heads – Released 24th September 1965 (UK Version)


Although not filled with classic Stones material, The Stones third album interestingly see’s the band moving away from blues covers and over to more soul based material. If anything, the album almost presents itself as ‘The Rolling Stones Sing Soul’.

This was the last Rolling Stones album to be predominantly cover version based.


‘I’m Free’ – Best known as the original version of the Soup Dragons 1990 top 5 hit, the track is worth the time of day for that alone.

‘Good Times’ – A faithful cover of the Sam Cooke classic, again, at the time the Rolling Stones were managing to turn young people onto both rhythm and blues and soul on both sides of the Atlantic.

‘Hitch Hike’ – A cover of Marvin Gaye’s 1962 hit, the Stones version was cited by Lou Reed as the inspiration for the Velvet Underground’s ‘There She Goes Again’.

‘That’s How Strong My Love Is’ – A tender cover of the O.V. Wright classic. The Stones version leans more towards the Otis Redding rendition and again classic footage is available of the Stones performing the number on ‘Ready, Steady, Go!’ in 1965.

‘Heart of Stone’ – An early Jagger & Richards composition. Mick and Keith appear to be finding their feet in writing songs in the style of their rhythm and blues heroes.

6) Their Satanic Majesties Request…The Rolling Stones – Released 8th December 1967


The Stones infamously go psychedelic. Not as bad an album as its reputation in rock history suggests.

The album suffered from being recorded during Mick Jagger and Keith Richards high profile ‘Redlands’ court case and you can almost hear the fact that their minds are on other things.


‘She’s A Rainbow’ – The playful, almost childlike ‘She’s A Rainbow’ is arguably the most beautiful song the Rolling Stones have ever recorded and session musician Nicky Hopkins contributes a mesmeric piano line which gives ‘She’s A Rainbow’ its main area of intrigue. Future Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones, a seasoned session musician at the time, composed the string arrangement for the track while Brian Jones’s mellotron adds further psychedelic weight.

‘2000 Light Years From Home’ – Legend has it that Mick Jagger wrote the lyrics for ‘2000 Light Years From Home’ whilst in Brixton Prison following his conviction for drug possession in June 1967.

A wonderful version of the Stones performing the track “live” can be viewed on Tony Palmer’s excellent pop music documentary, ‘All My Loving’ from 1968.


‘Citadel’ – The most typically Stones-like song on ‘Their Satanic Majesties…’ the songs chorus refers to Candy Darling, the transgender muse of both the Velvet Underground and Andy Warhol who met the Rolling Stones in a New York City hotel during the months leading up to the recording of ‘Their Satanic Majesties…’

‘In Another Land’ – The Bill Wyman penned number is worth a listen for the simple fact that it features the Small Faces Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane on backing vocals, with Steve Marriott effortlessly out-singing Mick Jagger on the chorus.

Stinkers: ‘Sing This All Together (See What Happens)’ and ‘Gomper’

7) Between The Buttons – Released 20th January 1967 (UK version)


Like ‘Out Of Our Heads’, ‘Between The Buttons’ is not an album filled with Rolling Stones classics and much of the best material recorded during the album sessions did not make it onto the UK release. Songs like ‘Let’s Spend The Night Together’, ‘Ruby Tuesday’ and ‘Have You Seen Your Mother Baby, Standing In The Shadow?’ were all released as stand-alone singles when in truth, ‘Between The Buttons’ could and would have benefitted from the addition of these tracks.


‘Yesterday’s Papers’ – The first song Mick Jagger wrote completely on his own. It has been suggested that the song was directed at Jagger’s ex-girlfriend Chrissy Shrimpton (sister of iconic 60s model Jean Shrimpton).

‘Back Street Girl’ – Revisiting the English-folk theme of ‘Lady Jane’, Brian Jones plays an enchanting vibraphone while Phil Spector collaborator, Jack Nitzsche, contributes a wonderful harpsichord.

‘All Sold Out’ – The rockiest song on the album, a wonderful fuzz-bass from Bill Wyman and some equally wonderful distorted guitar from Keith reflects, as well as anything else of the era, the point where pop music was just about to become psychedelic rock.

Stinker – ‘Something Happened To Me Yesterday’

8) Rolling Stones No. 2 – Released 15th January 1965


Like their debut from the year previous, ‘Rolling Stones No.2’ is, aside from three Jagger and Richards originals, an album filled with blues covers. The return is slightly diminished however in comparison to their 1964 debut release.


‘Time Is On My Side’ – A cover of the beloved rhythm and blues favourite by Irma Thomas.


‘I Can’t Be Satisfied’ – A faithful version of the Muddy Waters hit, sixteen years after the release of the original.

All words Michael Halpin. More writing by Michael on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive.


Louder Than War – 20th Anniversary of ‘Some Might Say’ reaching number 1


This week sees the 20th anniversary of Oasis achieving their first number one single ‘Some Might Say’. Not only was it the bands first number one, it was also the first number one under the banner known as Britpop.

Here Louder Than War take an in depth look at what was going on around the band at the time. Sacked drummers, Brit Awards, drink and drug fuelled arguments in the studio, writing classic pop songs, playing arena gigs and the beginnings of their rivalry with Blur.

February 1995. Oasis have just picked the Brit Award for Best Newcomer. Noel Gallagher doesn’t give the typical acceptance speech thanking the band’s manager, record label, stylist and life guru. Instead, he thanks the band’s mothers, the award presenter Ray Davies for influencing him and George Martin for producing The Beatles. This may not seem like a big deal in the first instance but considering the youth had, for years, been exposed to saccharin, lifeless speeches from artists they were unable to relate to, it seemed like a breath of fresh air.

Although Oasis were on amicable terms with Blur at this point, as the Brit Awards drew on during that February evening, members of the Oasis party began heckling Blur every time they returned to their table with yet another award (four awards in total over the course of the evening comprising of Best Album, Best Single, Best Band and Best Video). Liam Gallagher’s challenge would be thus, “Look me in the eye and tell me you deserve that award” according to Paolo Hewitt’s 1997 publication, ‘Getting High: The Story of Oasis’.

Former Oasis Press Officer at Creation Records Johnny Hopkins told Louder Than War recently, “There was banter both ways. With bands there’s always some rivalry. Neither band really had that much to do with each other. It wasn’t like they were good mates and all of a sudden they weren’t. They weren’t particularly in each others orbit.”

Liam’s challenge however need not have been so quarrelsome as elder brother Noel already had a plan put together that would gain Oasis their first number one single. A feat which, despite the accolades, Blur were yet to achieve. Indeed, before the Brit Awards had even taken place, Loco Studios in South Wales was booked for Oasis to record their next single. A single that Noel Gallagher was certain would reach the top spot in the UK charts.

Noel Gallagher told Q magazine in 2011 that ‘Some Might Say’ was planned as the follow up to their ‘Whatever’ single as early as June 1994. The idea for the song coming just as Noel made the move from Manchester to London. Noel leaving his long-term girlfriend Louise Jones behind after she had decided that she would prefer to stay in Manchester working for successful PR company, Red Alert, rather than moving southwards with Noel.

It was in a Chiswick bedsit, occupied by the MTV Europe VJ Rebecca Du Ruvo, that Noel began writing the song.

“The verses are quite deep” Noel continued to tell Q. “Some of them are about homeless people, and people who can’t always get what they want that’s why it’s, ‘Tell it to the man who lives in hell.’ So then I wanted something as deep and meaningful for the chorus but in the end I just gave up and thought, ‘F–it, I might as well just go with stupid stuff about fishes and dishes and dogs itching….As soon as I’d written ‘Some Might Say’ I was certain it would be a number one and I was right. I never had even the slightest doubt.”

Johnny Hopkins told Louder Than War about the first time he heard the song, “I’m pretty sure Noel played me a demo of it on cassette in a car somewhere. It sounded wicked and certainly stood out. It’s one of their greatest songs – the guitars, Liam’s vocals, the tune, the energy to it. It’s a great exciting rock ‘n’ roll tune.

“The quality of his song writing was unbelievable. Noel was incredibly prolific. Not only was there 'Definitely Maybe' but there was stuff like 'Acquiesce', 'Talk Tonight' and 'Half The World Away'. Those kind of quality tunes. Perhaps some of Noel’s finest song writing. It was extraordinary.”

Following Noel’s completion of the song, a demo was recorded at Maison Rouge studios in Fulham with the bands producer Owen Morris. Morris picks up the story on his website www.owenmorris.net, “We’d demoed ‘Some Might Say’ in Maison Rouge…the version from there was slow and heavy and dark…really quite cool in a Rolling Stones way.”

Then, in late February 1995, the band convened in Loco Studios, South Wales to record the master.

One would expect all to be well in the Oasis camp at this point yet issues regarding drummer Tony McCarroll’s playing abilities were a hot topic of conversation, mainly behind the scenes although occasionally also in public.

As far back August 1994, Liam was quoted as saying at a press conference leading up to Creation: Undrugged, an evening of acoustic performances played by those signed to Creation Records., “Our sets going to be great cos’ our drummers not doing it.”

Conversations had taken place over the following months between Owen Morris and Oasis manager Marcus Russell regarding the drumming issue. “The answer to the problem was uncomplicated. Tony needed some drumming lessons.”

In Paolo Hewitt’s ‘Getting High’ Owen Morris states, “Tony’s biggest problem was that he only had two beats. He’d shuffle on some songs or stomp on others and it wound the band up chronically because they couldn’t do anything other than that.”

Tony McCarroll’s drum tutor, Dave Larken told Paolo Hewitt that Tony McCarroll had ‘the ability to be a great drummer’ but on the eve of the ‘Some Might Say’ recording session, when Morris asked Tony McCarroll how the lessons were going, Tony’s response was, “I haven’t done any of them. I haven’t had time.” Morris recalls thinking, “Oh fuck, here we go.”

Morris continues, “The band set up, we spend the day doing lots of really good, slightly faster than the demo versions of the track. Noel is all hyped up. I edit the best bits together and we are happy. Then the rest of the band go to bed, but me and Noel stay up, have a few drinks.

“At some stage in the early hours we listen to the demo and decide that the new version we’d spent the whole day on is too fast. Noel wakes the band up, insists they get out of bed and come and re-record ‘Some Might Say’, but everyone better be fucking careful not to play it too fast.”

“We do ONE take and decide we’re all fucking geniuses and that we’ve definitely nailed the backing track. Next day, I wake up, hungover and hazy. Liam wants to sing. So Liam sings his lead vocal in two takes. Fucking on fire singing.”

Again Morris had reservations over the drumming, “The drums were all over the place, proper tragic bit of drumming on that track because it just loses it on the first chorus. So on the mix we had to try and hide the drums which, for a rocking track is very unfortunate.”

Noel, with Morris’s assistance, worked on the tracks overdubs and once they believed they were finished, played what they thought was the final mix to the rest of the band and a selection of hangers-on.

“On the demo we had this weird backwards guitar bit that we thought was a bit naff.” Morris told Paolo Hewitt, “Later on, when the track was played Liam completely exploded with rage, “You fuckin dickhead, you don’t know what you’re doing! Where’s the guitar bit?!”

“Get him out of here or I’ll fuckin’ kill him. I know what I’m doing!” Noel replied.

The younger Gallagher stormed off and the hangers on quickly followed. Noel then let off a bit of steam, threatened to sack Owen Morris if he sided with Liam and then a few hours later, decided that Liam may actually have had a point.

Noel then sat down to record a slightly different guitar part and both brothers had their honour restored. Liam thought that Noel had listened to his point of view, while Noel records something that he believed was even better that what Liam wanted in the first place. With that, the song was finally ready for release.

On 3 March, Oasis set out on a 3-week tour of the US. The cramped bus and overall cabin fever meant that the hostility towards Tony McCarroll intensified.

In Ian Robertson’s 1996 publication ‘Oasis: What’s The Story?’ the former Oasis Road Manager wrote of how the bands live sound engineer, original ‘Definitely Maybe’ producer (and old friend of Noel’s), Mark Coyle, often chatted late into the night about how McCarroll’s drumming was hindering the bands live performance. “The consensus was always the same,” said Robertson, “he had to go.”

McCarroll possibly furthered his unpopular position within the group by distancing himself from the band on tour. According to Robertson he would knock on Tony’s hotel room door ‘time and again’ with an extended invite from band members asking Tony if he wanted to join them in whatever they were doing that evening. Tony however filled the distance between him and the rest of the band by enthusiastically getting himself involved with a highly sexualized groupie called Elle from Florida.

“She did not exactly enjoy the respect of the rest of the gang,” wrote Robertson. “Given that her first meeting with Tony was consummated with great passion and she seemed to be totally crazy about him, you could see their point.”

Ironically, as Robertson tells, “a drum clinic that Tony had attended to try and improve his technical act was of the opinion that his problem stemmed from a lack of fitness!”

Although McCarroll now gained ridicule on the tour bus for his drumming abilities, his groupie-girlfriend, his hair and his clothes, he once confided in Robertson, ““I can hack it because I’m in the band. I am the drummer with this fuckin’ group. The rest of it is incidental’ He genuinely believed that that would always be the case. He never saw the hammer drop.”

Upon the band’s return to the UK a video shoot for ‘Some Might Say’ was arranged to take place in Chatley Heath, Surrey. The budget was set at £40,000 but on the morning of the shoot, Liam failed to show. After numerous calls to his hotel room Liam finally picked up and informed the band’s management, “The idea’s shit. I’m not having it”, Paolo Hewitt tells. Liam then hung up the phone. As a result, footage was cobbled together from the bands previous videos for ‘Cigarettes and Alcohol’, ‘Whatever’, and the American video for ‘Supersonic’.

Two weeks later, on April 14 Oasis recorded an appearance on Channel 4’s ‘The White Room’ hosted by Mark Radcliffe. Strangely, the band did not play the soon to be released ‘Some Might Say’. Rumours of the band not being happy with their performance of the song surfaced at the time and the band opted instead for two of the EP’s other tracks, ‘Acquiesce’ and a wonderful ‘Talk Tonight’ featuring Paul Weller on both electric piano and backing vocals. The third number they played was ‘It’s Good To Be Free’ from the ‘Whatever’ EP.

Johnny Hopkins on the Talk Tonight performance: “That was a surreal beautiful moment and again it showed the quality of Noel’s song writing and the sophistication of it because every one had them down as just a rock ‘n’ roll band, making noise and partying but here was something that was beautiful, sophisticated, intimate, heartbreaking…heartbreakingly beautiful AND…to have Weller on there, Weller’s stamp of approval…It was a brilliant occasion.”

The atmosphere within the band was strained during the filming and according to Tony McCarroll’s, ‘Oasis: The Truth’ the abuse Tony had been receiving in the US carried on; “The shoot didn’t go as planned. The microphone that sat over my cymbal kept falling from its perch and halting the filming. Noel started to berate me as if I worked for Channel 4’s sound department. I told him to ram it.”

On the 22 April, the band were due to play their biggest gig to date, the 12,000 capacity Sheffield Arena. In the lead up to the show, two warm up gigs were planned. On April 17, they were due to play Southend Cliffs Pavilion and on the 20 April Le Bataclan in Paris.

A storming set at the Southend Cliffs Pavilion was filmed for posterity and released as concert video ‘Live By The Sea’ four months later. Paris, however, kicked up a storm of a very different kind.

The evening before the Le Bataclan gig in Paris, the band were out on the town. At one point during the evening, Tony and Elle ended up having a fight with each other in public, causing something of a scene. At a later date Liam told Paolo Hewitt how he spent much of his time dealing with incident in his own inimitable way.

“I was standing at the bar when this mad bird he (Tony) was seeing walked in and started fighting with him. He was down on the ground so I started eating these cherries and spitting the stones on him as he was rolling around.”

While Noel was in his hotel room putting the finishing touches to his latest composition, ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’, Tony and Elle’s argument took itself back to the hotel.

Tony McCarroll picks up the story, “You kept me awake last night. I don’t like you or your bird. Don’t make me sack you.” Is how the ex-drummer recalls a conversation that took place between him and Noel the following day.

“Noel had threatened to sack the entire band at some point over the previous 18 months” McCarroll tells. Sometimes behind closed doors, sometimes publicly via the press. As this was the case, McCarroll said that the threat had ‘lost its potency.’ “This time (though) there was real intent in his voice.”

During the sound check for the evenings gig Noel and Tony clashed again. “As I passed (Noel) he gave me one of his ‘don’t even talk to me’ looks and I thought ‘fuck that’. I moved in front of him before he could start his sound check. He looked at me and said ‘What the fuck do you want?’ The look that came with the question was one of absolute dismissal. I moved within an inch of his face. I had finally lost it. ‘If you ever talk to me like that again, Noel, I’ll snap you in fucking two and throw you away. Do you understand?

“I stared at him without breaking eye contact. Silence. He looked back at me with his hooded cobra eyes cold. He then finally looked down at his finger tips and started to pick away. In the ensuing silence, I kicked the fire door open and strode out onto a cool Parisian boulevard.”

As Oasis left the stage that night after playing their set, their Parisian audience began chanting ‘Encore! Encore!’

Oasis weren’t ones for going back onstage at this point but as the band gathered backstage, Noel told Tony, ‘We’re doing an encore,’ “Bit fuckin’ odd” McCarroll recalls thinking. “It was a good night, but not worthy of an encore.”

Noel nodded Tony onstage. ‘“Supersonic”,’ he said. “He knew it was my favourite song to drum on. I started the intro and looked to the side stage. Noel stood tapping his foot to the beat. Three minutes is a long time in drumming. But that was the time I had before the band would eventually join me. It was my moment in the sun and would normally be a memory to cherish. For me, it was to prove bitter sweet…by the time the band joined in I realized that Noel was saying goodbye. He led the rest of the band onstage, staring directly at me. He took a long last pull of his cigarette and then flicked it over towards me. I watched as the cigarette landed and its glowing embers scattered and died by my bass drum. His confidence stemmed from the fact that he knew he had the power to eject me from the band.”

On Saturday 22 April, the day came for Oasis to play their first arena gig. Support came from Pulp and Ocean Colour Scene.

Johnny Hopkins described it as ‘a whirlwind week.’ “They started the week in Southend at the Pavillion, playing to about 1000, 2000 tops, whizzed to France, played at the Bataclan which is quite a legendary small venue in Paris, which half of England seemed to turn up to as well as half of Paris.

“They played two small shows and then about 10,000 people in Sheffield. It was a quite a weird week. One of rapid progression. In a way kind of an important period in that bands experience. Shifting gears again from being a big indie band to being an arena band. This was their first big headline show.”

The atmosphere in the Oasis camp should have been upbeat but as Tony McCarroll climbed onto the bands tour bus, he felt a more conspiratory mood in the air, “I walked onto our bus and made for the lounge area. As I arrived, I found Noel sitting there with Guigs and Marcus. They were huddled round the table and looked up, shocked at my sudden arrival. The atmosphere was strange, to say the least. Their muffled hello’s and sheepish looks gave a conspiratorial feel to it all. I took my seat upstairs and warmed myself for the biggest gig we had performed to date.”

The gig was a triumph. Liam, bizarrely, two songs into the set, tried talking to Noel during a guitar solo to ask why there is a massive gap between the stage and the audience. A few songs later Liam and Noel beckon the audience forward, telling fans to jump the barrier than had caused Liam so much confusion. Noel in later interviews likens it to the ‘scene of a revolution’.

Noel debuted ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ during his acoustic solo spot that night. The future was looking more that a little bright for the majority of the bands members.

Johnny Hopkins went on to tell Louder Than War how the move to large arena territory felt like a natural progression for the band rather than a giant leap;

“I think it was inevitable, in a lot off ways it was natural. They had such momentum at that time and their live shows were brilliant and there was so much love out there for the band amongst the public and the media. It was a natural progression but it was weird that in that particular week they did Southend and Paris in much much smaller venues but in the arc of their career, it made total sense.”

The following Monday (24 April) ‘Some Might Say’ was released. The NME named it single of the week. Terry Staunton stating, “OK so it’s no ‘Whatever’ but what is? Anybody would have difficulty following a record like that, but don’t let the recent brilliance of Oasis blind you to the charms of their new stuff. ‘Some Might Say’ is still one of the finest examples of pop music you’ll hear this year.

“What’s strangest about this song is that on the first couple of hearings you convince yourself there’s no hook, nothing go on at all. Then, a few hours later, you find yourself humming a tune that you genuinely can’t remember hearing before. It’s certainly a deceptive little fucker.”

On the Wednesday of that week Tony McCarroll, although he was not to know it yet, recorded his last public appearance with Oasis. It was on Top of The Pops which was due to be broadcast the following day. The show being presented by Chris Evans who was set to take over the Radio 1 breakfast show the follow week.

According to McCarroll, Noel was in a buoyant mood, “We’ve got a No.1 single. Add that to a No.1 album, a Brit Award, all-round critical acclaim and I suppose you could say we are doing all right”.

As the band sat backstage in their Top of The Pops dressing room waiting to record, McCarroll states that Noel was looking directly at him as he made this statement. “I wondered why he was being so friendly and positive. Liam was surprisingly quiet and subdued, as were the rest of the band.”

Following the Top of The Pops recording, Tony and Liam returned to Manchester. Driven by their ever-faithful friend known as ‘Big Un’, Tony tells how Liam, sat in the back seat of the car appeared to feel the need to tell Tony something. “I looked directly over my right shoulder at him as he stared silently out the window. Big Un’ maintained a steady speed. Suddenly, Liam said, ‘Tony.’‘What?’ I replied. He stared at me, his eyes alight, and made to open his mouth. He paused, though, and the light quickly died. ‘Nothing, it doesn’t matter,’ he mumbled and returned to focus on the English countryside flashing by. Something was definitely not right. I had a horrible feeling in my stomach.”

On Sunday the 30 April, BBC Radio 1 announced that ‘Some Might Say’ had entered the UK Singles chart at number one, knocking Take That’s ‘Back For Good’ from the top spot. On a week when Supergrass had entered the chart at number nine with ‘Lenny’ and Paul Weller had gone straight in the chart at number seven with ‘The Changingman’, it should have been a celebratory day all round for the country’s Britpop contingent.

It was far from celebratory though for the much maligned McCarroll, “The phone rang in my mother’s hallway. I answered. ‘Hiya, Tony, it’s Marcus,’in a soft Welsh accent. ‘Hiya, Marcus,’I said, as dread started to fill me. He continued. ‘Look, it’s not easy, this, but there is no other way to say it…You’re out of the band.’They were the words I had been waiting for.

“I suppose I managed to contain my immediate reaction. Marcus went on, ‘You know I tried to stop this. I tried to help. I’m sorry.’ Not as fuckin’ sorry as me. It would have been easy to have blown off at Marcus, but he was merely the messenger. And he had tried to help. I suppose I never really expected it to come from Noel anyway. I thanked Marcus for his time and understanding and asked what would happen next. ‘We’ll meet to discuss how the future should work out for all of us,’ he told me. ‘OK. No worries. Take care. Bye. Bye.’ I replied. There you go. It was that simple. Nice and clean, like we had agreed to meet for a pint and a sandwich. It had finally ended.”

In the ensuing weeks the only band members to contact Tony were Liam and Bonehead. “I didn’t know, Tony” said Bonehead during a nervous phone call ‘It’s a shock to me…If there’s anything I can do…”’ he awkwardly told Tony. “I couldn’t dislike him (Bonehead), as he was a good fella. And to be honest, there were occasions when he had tried to guide me about how to handle Noel. I wasn’t surprised to be the first.”

Newspaper reports initially stated that Tony and Liam had been involved in a fight with each other before the Paris gig, although the band did release a statement confirming that Tony McCarroll’s sacking was due to his drumming not being up to standard. As Liam Gallagher had already stated to Paolo Hewitt, the alleged fight had never actually taken place.

Noel Gallagher had first heard Tony McCarroll’s replacement Alan White playing drums whilst Oasis were camped in a London rehearsal room. White was working with a Creation records artist called Idha during this period when Noel over heard White’s playing and was apparently impressed by the clarity of his sound. According to Paolo Hewitt’s ‘Getting High’ Noel asked, “Who’s that drummer?” Noel then made a note of his name, later found out he was the brother of Steve White, Paul Weller’s long-serving percussionist, and kept him in mind for the day when Tony McCarroll was to eventually be sacked.

Following the departure of McCarroll, Noel Gallagher made the phone call to Alan White. Whether or not White was already lined up to replace McCarroll before he was even made aware that his drumming services were no longer required is a moot point mainly due to Alan White’s connections.

With barely any gigs and an album to work on over the next six weeks, it can be argued that there was a now-or-never feeling in the Oasis camp and had Alan White not been drafted in when he was, the quality of ‘(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?’ may have suffered as a consequence.

On the 3 May Oasis recorded another Top of The Pops appearance, this time celebrating ‘Some Might Say’s’ number one status. With Alan White on drums, this was his first public appearance with the band. As the cameras rolled Bonehead stood encouraging White with a Northern Soul style clenched fist as the song was about to kick in. This was evidently a triumphant moment for the band as Noel, guitar held aloft, celebrated at the end of the song like Oasis had just won the FA Cup.

To celebrate the single reaching number one Meg Matthews, Noel’s girlfriend and sometime social event organizer, arranged a party in an establishment called the Mars Bar in London’s Covent Garden. Blur who were coming to the end of recording their ‘Parklife’ follow up, ‘The Great Escape’, went along to congratulate Oasis with their producer Stephen Street. Liam however, shocked both Stephen Street and Damon Albarn by, on several occasions during the evening, pointing his fingers into Albarn’s face and boasting, “Fuckin number one, fuckin number one.”

According to Stephen Street on the BBC’s ‘7 Ages Of Rock’ documentary, Damon Albarn was ‘quite taken aback’ by these gestures from Liam and the ever competitive Albarn told journalist John Harris in ‘The Last Party’ how he recalls thinking, “Ok…we’ll see”

“A few people wound them (Blur) up that night. Tells Johnny Hopkins. “It was inevitable. People were surprised when Damon and Alex walked in. Them and Oasis weren’t exactly mates. It appeared like they were trying to steal a bit of Oasis’ thunder. If you crash another band’s number one party and you’ve been mouthing off a little bit…you gonna get it aren’t you?”

Hopkins concludes, “The fact that Oasis beat Blur to getting a number one was more of a spur to Damon than anything Liam or anyone else said.”

That spur lead to the fuse being lit for the Roll With It Vs. Country House battle. That however, is very much another story.


Thanks to David Huggins www.oasis-recordinginfo.co.uk for invaluable information.

By Michael Halpin.