My thoughts on VH-1's Documentary about Oasis

Written: 3 April, 2000

The show was very watchable, but also very shallow. I don't think I learned anything new really, and I'm not particularly knowledgeable about Oasis. VH-1's "Behind the Music" series seems to have a running "rock star story" where the struggling performer achieves fame & success, and then threatens that success by becoming a drug addict or an alcoholic, and then finally the artist learns the error of their ways and has learned that the true meaning of success isn't measured by having a hit song. Well, they did it again, and "The Oasis Story" turns into an unlikely and unconvincing anti-booze & drugs message at the end. Unlikely and unconvincing because these two guys, Liam & Noel Gallagher, come across like the most egomaniacal and rude idiots I've ever seen in a rock documentary.

A few years back, I thought it amusing that the rock stars of the Sixties were treated unseriously by the media, and often acted foolishly for the cameras. (The opening interview sequence in The Who movie "The Kids Are All Right" comes to mind.) And that the performers of the 1980s-90s were taken totally seriously by the press, and took themselves totally seriously, providing their interviewers with articulate philosophical positions on everything from apartheid to the rain forests, whilst churning out bland forgettable pop songs which served primarily as background noise in the car or a beat on the dance floor. Now we have Oasis, who restore things to their proper balance, being performers who appear as mindless as the music they play. (Not that it's not good music, mind you.)

I found it really funny that VH-1 deemed it necessary to put subtitles on the screen whenever members of the band were shown speaking. As if we wouldn't understand what those English accents were saying. (Admittedly they sometimes were incomprehensible, but that's part of the charm, isn't it?) VH-1 would probably decide "A Hard Day's Night" required a translation, too. Anyway, a good portion of what Noel & Liam said in the documentary was bleeped out anyway.

Like so much of today's coverage of celebrity artists, the focus was on their public and private behavior rather than on the reason that they are famous to begin with: the music they make. They noted a few times that Liam's idol was John Lennon but (unless I missed it) they never bothered to explain why a 1990s rock singer would be obsessed with a singer who had peaked over 20 years earlier. Why the interest in Lennon? I would think that question of "What does Lennon mean to Liam?" would have been a fundamental one to answer in a documentary of Oasis, but unfortunately the question is not even asked much less answered.

I think the way in which Liam & Noel's criminal activity (as youths) as well as their constant swearing, rudeness, pettiness, and alcohol & drug abuse, was handled fairly irresponsibly in the documentary. I remember when I was a teenager, a friend of mine and I would watch a documentary called "The Compleat Beatles" over and over in the VCR, and we really wished that we had been The Beatles and done what they had done. These life stories of our musical heroes allow us to live vicariously through them, participate in their successes, make us wish that it was us who had sung that song, or lived their life. Maybe Liam felt that way about Lennon. And now perhaps there will be kids today who will watch "The Oasis Story" over and over and over again, and fantasize about (God help us) being as cool as they are.

It was kinda interesting that it seems Oasis is way bigger in the U.K. than they are in the U.S. The news footage they showed almost looked like something out of a Beatles documentary, and we saw clips from some Oasis videos that you never see over here.