By far, the biggest story in the British music press has been the battle between Blur and Oasis. Although it has so far been mostly a war of words -- mostly a parade of band members making fun of the other guys -- the music weeklies have taken the struggle seriously indeed, acting as if its outcome would somehow determine the future of English rock.
Here in America, of course, no one cares about such things, and that's just fine with Oasis' Noel Gallagher. Speaking over the phone from Britain, where the band is touring in support of its just-released album "(What's the Story) Morning Glory?," the guitarist and songwriter shrugs off the inter-band rivalry, dismissing it as over-hyped and irrelevant.
"It's about music, man," he says, as a soundcheck blares in the background. "It's not about these incidental media wars. Bands like Blur, who are best friends with all the British press, try to instigate these little media wars to further their careers. It means nothing to us; we're just purely driven by the music. All we want to do is write good songs and get on with it; all they want to do is sling mud in the press. Well, fair enough. We'll have done with it."
It's nothing new for bands to play the music press as well as they play their guitars, admits Gallagher, who's pretty good at giving quote himself. Still, he says the cozy relationship between ambitious bands and access-hungry journalists is especially bad London. "There's a certain park, near where I live, and if you go there on Sunday morning, you'll see most of the bands that are hyped up by the British press playing football with most of the journalists that hype them up," he says. "It's very pally-pally and all that, and they're all best mates. We don't subscribe to any of that, which is why we're the bad boys. We're the outsiders, which is where we like to be."
Well, not quite. According to Caitlin Moran, who covers popular music for the Times of London, Gallagher is being somewhat disingenuous here. "First of all, my boyfriend is one of those people who play football with Blur, and he's certainly never been given preferential treatment about it, mainly because he fouls members of Blur so appallingly," she says.
"But Oasis hang out with journalists as much as Blur do. The difference with Oasis is, they sit around drinking with them, whereas Blur will go out and fight them on the field."
Gallagher may not be totally upfront about his relationship with the music press, but he's pure candor when the conversation turns to his habit of writing songs that sound a good bit like other people's songs. It isn't just that Oasis sounds a bit like old David Bowie or Mott the Hoople; their songs openly echo those bands. Parts of "Don't Look Back in Anger," for instance, are built around the same chord progression as Mott the Hoople's hit, "All the Young Dudes." Is this something Gallagher actually thinks about while writing?
"Yeah," he says. "If it gets really, really obvious, then I " He pauses, considering the thought, then laughs. "I'd probably go for it more, actually."
"The way I look at it is, all the great songs have been written, right?" he responds. "So all you've got to do is just rewrite them. That's my theory on it all. But, see, the thing about my songs is, you listen to the first verse, and you know what the chorus is going to sound like before you get there. Because you've almost heard the song before you've heard it. It's dead familiar, like you've heard it a thousand times. Which must be good."
So Gallagher has no problem owning up to the debt "Don't Look Back in Anger" owes "All the Young Dudes." As he sees it, "It's a game of chess, innit? I take that bit, put my bit there, put my bit there, and at the end of it, you've got a song. Simple. And nobody can say it's not valid. 'Cause that's my song, and I wrote it. But the influence started from 'All the Young Dudes.' 'Course it did."
Besides, what matters isn't where a song comes from, but where it goes. "If your music actually gets to somebody, and they get a sense of that, then you're winning the battle," he says. "It's connecting with the one kid in his bedroom, when he hears the lyrics to 'Live Forever,' or to 'Don't Look Back in Anger.' That's all that matters."
When: Tonight 8 p.m.
PD Call: (410) 481-7328 for tickets, (410) 659-7625 for information