Why didn't Liam Gallagher perform on the Oasis MTV Unplugged show?

22 June 2020, 19:10

Oasis in concert at Loch Lomond, 3 August 1996
Oasis in concert at Loch Lomond, 3 August 1996. Picture: Ilpo Musto/Shutterstock

As the younger Gallagher releases his own Unplugged album, here's the story of why Noel fronted the Oasis entry in 1996.

This weekend, Liam Gallagher released his MTV Unplugged album. Recorded at Hull's City Hall last year, the show sees Liam joined by a trio of backing singers and some extravagant string arrangements performed by the 24-piece Urban Soul Orchestra. His old Oasis bandmate Bonehead features on performances of Some Might Say, Stand By Me and Cast No Shadow.

The day the album was released, Liam joined The Charlatans' Tim Burgess for one of his regular Twitter Listening Parties and the younger Gallagher dedicated the song One Of Us to his brother Noel.

The performance was the first time Liam Gallagher had performed at an MTV Unplugged show.... despite Oasis having appeared on the series back in 1996. What happened?

By '96, MTV Unplugged was established as an essential gig for the biggest bands in music. The most famous show was the Nirvana edition; recorded in 1993, it became a tribute to Kurt Cobain after his death the following year.

So for Oasis to appear on Unplugged was a landmark moment in their career. The location for their show was to be the Royal Festival Hall on London's South Bank, which housed 2,700 people. Impressive.

Oasis before their Knebworth shows in August 1996
Oasis before their Knebworth shows in August 1996. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Archive/PA Images

However, Oasis were already in the middle of their enormous tour supporting (What's The Story) Morning Glory? The shows had kicked off over a year before, and the band were now on their sixth stretch of dates in Europe.

Only a week earlier, Oasis had played two incredible shows at Knebworth Park, to a quarter of a million people over just one weekend. They were at the top of their game. However, the tabloids were having a field day with the image of 'bad boy' Liam and the producers of the special began to worry about the singer.

Liam Gallagher at the rehearsals for MTV Unplugged, August 1996
Liam Gallagher at the rehearsals for MTV Unplugged, August 1996. Picture: Steve Fenton/Shutterstock

"Even before we got to the day of the show, there was a 'concern'..." Jac Benson, the associate producer of the show recalled. Noel Gallagher remembered that there were two weeks of rehearsals for the show, but that Liam only showed up for a couple of days. Was the gig heading for disaster?

One member of the production team recalled that at some point during a song, Liam would point to his throat and indicate 'I can't go on any more'. So Noel would start singing and Liam would walk off. The reasons given were that Liam wanted to save his voice for the actual performance.

Liam appeared later on the second day, and "sang a little less". When the singer appeared on the third day wearing the same clothes he'd worn on the previous two days, alarm bells began to ring. The frontman left after performing just three songs.

Noel remembered: "The day of the performance, he hadn't turned up and there were rumours that he'd been out drinking for a couple of days... and nobody knew where he was.

"About an hour before we were due to go on, he turned up, absolutely sh*tfaced. We said, well look, let's see if you can sing a couple of songs, and it was f**king dreadful."

The producer of the show decided that the recording should go ahead and a decision to air the tape would be taken later. However, Liam had another surprise up his sleeve.

"As they said, 'Ladies and gentlemen, Oasis', we walked out and he wasn't there," Noel remembered. "He said, 'I'm not doing it'. I thought, thanks a lot!"

So Oasis - minus Liam - performed the MTV Unplugged show, with Noel singing his own lyrics. Noel opened the show by saying: "Liam ain't gonna be with us 'cause he's got a sore throat, so you're stuck with the ugly four."

Oasis - MTV Unplugged 23 August 1996 setlist

Hello
Some Might Say
Live Forever
Listen Up
The Masterplan
Don't Look Back In Anger
Talk Tonight
Morning Glory
Round Are Way
Cast No Shadow
Whatever
Wonderwall

However, as the 12-song set went on, members of the crew noticed that Liam had appeared in one of the boxes high up in the Royal Festival Hall. He was drinking and smoking... and started to heckle his brother down on the stage. A miffed Noel thought: "The least you could do is show a bit of support!"

Noel went on: "Afterwards the director said, 'We just wanna do the first song again'. Of course then Liam comes on and he wants to sing. After we'd played for an hour and a half or something! So we just told him to f**k off. And he went off, sulking."

Oasis take to the stage at Knebworth, August 1996
Oasis take to the stage at Knebworth, August 1996. Picture: Brian Rasic/Getty Images

For Oasis, this was something of a turning point. Noel had proved that he could be a frontman, performing his own songs. Liam's erratic behaviour only became worse, however. The band were due to head out to the US on 27 August as the final leg of the Morning Glory tour.

At the very last minute, Liam pulled out of a US tour, leaving Noel to front the band. A statement from Creation Records said: “Liam was called away at the last minute to sort out a personal matter” Turns out, Liam had sold his house but had nowhere for his wife to live. He joined the tour three days later, but the tour was cancelled after two weeks.

The full story of Liam and Noel Gallagher's feud