Life on the Other Side of Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll
If you could make your way through Oasis’ Manchester accents and sort out what they were saying, you’d sort out that at least 50% of the time what they were saying was “fucking hell.” Sometimes it meant “I’m surprised to see you, but I’m pleased about it,” and sometimes it meant “you appear to be suffering from a grave mental illness.” Frequently it meant “behold, an attractive woman!” and occasionally it actually meant fucking hell.
Only once did it mean “why are you sobbing hysterically at the British Airways terminal?” It was after I’d chased the band and their crew to the Atlanta airport, determined to extract some kind of revenge for the five-star hotel room they’d destroyed at a party I’d thrown for them the night before. Unfortunately, instead of giving them the you’re-paying-for-it -assholes speech that I’d rehearsed en route to the airport, I just cried.
“Fucking hell,” Noel said, backing away from me in confusion. “Fucking hell,” Liam repeated. “Fucking hell,” everyone else said under their collective breath.
I was tired and I was pissed, but if I was surprised it was only because I thought I was magically immune to Oasis’ lodging-related depravity. By the time they trashed my room, they’d already been banned from four hotel chains in the UK and they weren’t particularly welcome in Sweden. They were unapologetically and magnificently debauched.
Oasis drank too much, smoked too much, and did way too much blow; if they bothered to show up for morning bus calls, they showed up hungover, accompanied by disheveled women they referred to only as “darling.” Oasis were escorted from airplanes and thrown off of ferries, and when Liam claimed laryngitis and sat out a show at Royal Albert Hall, he sat in the balcony and loudly heckled his brother. After years of working with Pearl Jam, who never did much for me musically and were tortured by their success, I was ecstatic about working with Oasis. Definitely Maybe was a masterpiece, and Oasis loved being rock stars. They were mad for it.
Oasis was the only rock and roll band that mattered to me during a time in my life when rock and roll was the only thing that mattered, and while I was constantly inventing reasons to see them, my trip to Atlanta was uncharacteristically legitimate. I was bringing a writer, my friend Mark Blackwell, and he was doing an interview with Oasis for their first US cover story. Unfortunately — and as was frequently the case with the Brothers Gallagher — things didn’t go as planned, and the sit-down I’d scheduled hadn’t happened. Worse, everyone was holed up in their rooms, recovering from a thousand excesses, and Mark had missed out on the full-on Oasis experience. That’s why I decided to throw a party. I wanted Mark to get the color he needed for the story.
It was a triple header of an occasion: it was the last night of a US tour, the sound guy’s birthday and a roadie’s unofficial retirement. I talked the sensibly reluctant hotel manager into renting us a suite — “It’s for an interview,” I said — threw down my corporate Amex, and it was on.
Everything that happened that night was predictable, although I took some precautions: I unplugged the phones and hid them in a credenza and I removed all the glassware. Smartly, I emptied the alcohol in the mini bar to avoid racking up charges for vodka and whiskey consumed in half-ounce increments; stupidly, I replaced it with dozens of value-sized bottles from a nearby liquor store.
It wasn’t the alcohol that turned everything bad. It was the cheerful chocolate cake I’d ordered from room service. (“Happy Birthday Marc!!! Good Luck Phil!!!”) It started when Oasis’ road manager, Robbo, hurled the cake at the ivory silk curtains, and it went downhill from there. (He was aiming for Liam, who was doing a spirited Mick Jagger impersonation on top of a mahogany table in the sitting area.) Bonehead doused the white couch with red wine, an underage guest vomited on the settee, and a tapestry caught fire. Everyone ground their cigarettes out on the Berber carpet and someone punched a hole in a bedroom wall. At some point, Mark did his interview. There was an abundance of color.
I was momentarily relieved when I checked out of the hotel next morning; there was no reflection of the mayhem on the final bill. “It wasn’t too bad, was it?” I asked the manager who’d agreed to let me rent the room the night before. He looked at me, unamused, and said “We’ll fax you a thorough accounting of the charges after we’ve had a chance to assess the damages.”
I think about it now and I can’t imagine why I thought tracking Oasis down before they boarded their flight back to the UK would be productive. I certainly wasn’t capable of kicking anyone’s ass and I must have known that sympathy was a long shot. Maybe I knew that someday my adventure in Atlanta was going to make a good story, and that “so then I checked out and got in big trouble back in LA” wasn’t a great punchline. Which isn’t to say that “then I had a full-blown meltdown at the international terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson” is. (Oasis’ fucking-hell-chorus as they fled was remarkably anti-climatic.)
By the time I made it back to my office, the fax from the hotel had arrived. I cried again. “Room and tax,” read one line. “Damages to Suite 1616” read the next. I don’t remember the exact figure, but it was Zeppelinesque — I wasn’t going to get away with accounting for it under the incidentals column on my expense report. Thankfully, before I got my ass fired, Oasis’ manager intervened and the bill got paid out of the UK.
By the time Mark’s story hit, Oasis was huge in the US. They were a rock and roll band, and they acted like rock stars; against the irritating backdrop of the righteous Seattle bands, it was part of Oasis’ appeal. Having the party was a hugely stupid idea, but it appeared to be strategic. Because who the fuck would throw an aftershow party for Oasis in a booze-filled suite at a five star hotel and set up a 3 AM interview for a cover and not know exactly what would happen? Fucking hell. Not me.
Mark’s cover was brilliant. I had a copy expensively framed along with the key to Suite 1616 and the itemized list of damages, and put the cost of mounting it on my expenses. No one thought to question it.