“All We Know Is That We Don’t Know…”
In 1991 I was a fairly new cop. My rookie year completed that Spring and I was off into a hyper-intensive focus of everything I could notice, and manage to know about the streets of Hollywood California. It went from a focus on the names and order of every street to the difference between the appearance of a man walking drunk on alcohol from high on heroin. It involved the politics of the division, the department, and the little behaviors of street criminals that might mean the difference between being lulled into my own murder, or getting home safely. Many of the experienced cops I worked with were brilliant in the art of observation. I was immersed in the experience. I watched very little television, and rarely listened to the radio. Life as it was then was overflowing with the need to know.
Right around that time there were two stars rising over Manchester England. A band called Oasis was formed, fronted by a man named Liam Gallagher. Initially it was composed of three other members, about whom I am not even interested in enough now to commit their names to memory. This wont be about them. This is about Liam Gallagher, and his brother Noel, who joined the band a few months later. These are the two stars that I alluded to earlier.
When Americans say ‘brilliant’, they generally mean something closer to highly intelligent. Secondarily it may mean bright, like so many stars lining the streets of Hollywood. The stars in the sidewalk are not brilliant, of course, but they are an allusion to stars in the sky, which have gathered humanity’s attention for millennia. The English generally mean that latter form of brilliant when they say it in general conversation. If one likes you or something about you upon meeting you, they might describe that quality, or you in general as ‘brilliant.’ Americans would not say that, and not because they don’t notice something they like about people they meet suddenly, or that they are not willing to express it. We just don’t tend to express it that way. I have learned that over the years by interacting with English friends who described something about me as brilliant, but not meaning my version of the word. While grateful for it, theirs seems like a lower bar. It certainly would have to me in my late 20s.
Liam and Noel Gallagher became the twin stars of Oasis, like binary stars in space. A binary star is a two star system, in orbit around one another. From a great distance, they can be thought to be one star, but telescopes help to reveal that they are two, locked in orbit, albeit temporarily. In terms of a human life, this time may seem permanent, given that this arrangement can last millions of years, but in the life of stars in space, this is not permanence.
Looking at stars, we can’t witness how they got to where they are, or what becomes of them when they collide. The reality of those events happily exist only in the realm of our imagination. The actual events are cataclysmic. I trust what astronomers and astrophysicists theorize about them…because I am not qualified to counter them. I am dazzled by their brilliance.
I’m not a huge fan of stars in the way that Hollywood refers to them. Stardom always seemed trivial and superficial to me, and far more so when I was younger. Don’t get me wrong, there were “stars” who I thought were worth noting. I never had the occasion to pass one of the Beatles on the street, but if I had between the ages of 15 and 25, I would have taken notice. I probably would not have spoken to them unless it was my role to do so. (Even much older, I once passed Dusty Baker on the street in downtown Cleveland. We were both walking in crowds which were converging on one another, and we met eyes. He was walking with his young son, who was younger than 10. I realized who he was, and realized that the crowd enveloping us did not. I just nodded my head without raising my hand, and he nodded in response, and we passed.). I believe in treating people as peers, not out of a lofty opinion of myself, but out of respect for their privacy, and the notion that notoriety must be a burden. I would not want to be famous. I am surprised that so many people would.
What I would like to do, which seems supernatural, is travel through time. I believe I will never have that in the way that I imagine it, but I feel like I am wading in mild versions of it in ways that will do to spark my curiosity. This sort of experience that I call time travel…in conversations with myself…involve intense experiences over time, or revisited after a long period of time. The two stars rising over Manchester in 1991 are one such experience for me lately.
I was aware of the group Oasis when I was a very new cop. I heard a few of their songs over the next couple of years, and knew a couple of them well enough to hum the tune, or recite a few of the words, but they weren’t;t exactly the Beatles, now were they?
And there’s the rub. Early upon discovering them…for myself…I heard that they were the “next Beatles”. Immediately I assumed that they had said this about themselves. I wasn’t curious about how they might be ‘the next Beatles’. Many of their fans were certainly saying it about them. At that, I realize now that I banished them to insignificance immediately. I had plenty on my plate, and that they were just a couple of out of control egos who did not warrant my attention.
Within 10 or 15 years, I was long gone from the profession of arms, and my hyper-focus on what people were doing on streets, and why they were doing it. That habit of observation gradually melted away. By that time I had bought my first iPod, and started listening to music that way, rather than on vinyl with groups of other people. I got married, bought a house, and dogs. I started walking for the enjoyment of it, and learned to love the silence. I stopped to smell the flowers.
When I catch myself enjoying the quiet, or going to an art museum with my wife, I realize that I am time traveling. I still have a firm memory of a time when I was a very different person. These two different people are so familiar with one another as to be in the same room together all the time. I can remember running into a bank robbery with a shotgun, trying to catch potentially armed criminals, and recoiling at the horror of what it would be like to work indoors. Now I own a 100 pound Labrador retriever, in part because it makes me go outdoors, even when I may not feel like it.
One day, while sailing in my mind, I passed the Isle of Insignificance where I had banished the group Oasis nearly 30 years earlier. The band dissolved about ten years ago. The binary stars, Liam and Noel Gallagher, as it turns out, can’t stand one another. Also, as it turns out, the two are very, very different from one another. The brothers are only 4 years apart, maybe 5, and they are both brilliant. Brilliant! But, they are so profoundly different. They even possess the different types of brilliance as I mentioned earlier. Noel, the older brother, and the last to join the band, became the content generator of the band. Noel is the lead guitarist, and the lyricist. Noel is an impressive lyricist. Noel is brilliant in the way that Americans like to use the term.
The younger brother, Liam, is brilliant in the other sense of he word. Liam is one who you just can;t seem to take your eyes off of. He commands your attention. Liam has a thing that I have had a hard time describing. My wife helped me with it. Liam has attitude. When I watch and listen to Liam, and I 25 and 58 at the same time. I like listening to him, and he’s even more interesting to watch while singing, and at the same time, he makes me want to punch his face flat. It isn’t the 58 year old me who wants to punch his face flat. It is the youngster. This is a bit of an admission, while not seeking absolution. I only say this to express how much he annoys me. When I think of punching him, I imagine having I certain effect with my right hand, and a certain effect with my left hand, and I don’t want to deprive his face of either benefit. It’s a pretty twisted thought, I know. It is genuine. I wont act on it because I am, after all, 58. While I knew better at 25, as well as I do now, at 25 I would have had to convince myself. Now, I have a greater appreciation for the quiet. Liam seems like a real fucker to me, and I acknowledge that he is brilliantly talented.
Noel, has written brilliant lyrics, and even performed excellent songs in their catalogue as the lead singer. His voice is almost indistinguishable from his younger brother’s…until you begin to play close attention. Noel doesn’t have as much affect in his presentation as Liam. Noel delivers it straight.
It fascinates me now to look back on 30 years that I could not be bothered with getting to know these two stars rising over Manchester. They are both far more deeply talented than I thought when I was younger. Another aspect that I have learned is that they are worth experiencing even if I find one of them positively annoying. In fact, that annoying quality can and should be enjoyed. It is part of the savory experience. It is not to be avoided.
There is a video that I hope to be able to include in this post which I think is very well done. It loosely covers the formation of the band visually. When you see them, you may see one character who might make you remark, look at that asshole. “That asshole” is Liam. The last character to join is Noel. His fascinating introversion comes through in this watercolor depiction of the events. Noel then delivers the lead vocal, while playing guitar, while the blazing spectacle of a star sits on a box and plays tambourine off to the side. This binary star fascinates me.
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