A brother's love's a blessing

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POOR old Paul Gallagher. The older brother of Liam and Noel Gallagher, the most famous siblings in rock, is generally regarded as the underachiever of the family still lives at home in Burnage, Manchester, with his mum, never developed his musical talent, never really had a steady job.

In the grand drama of Oasis, still showing at a tabloid near you, Paul Gallagher has been cast as a minor player, holding the nominal title of "creative consultant" at the band's record label, Creation, and holding a bit of a grudge against a world which dealt him the joker while hitting Liam and Noel with every ace in the pack.

But however incidental Paul Gallagher is to the story of Oasis, he's still Noel's and Liam's older brother, so you could say he was there right from the beginning, and with Oasis having dropped out of the public eye following their recently abandoned US tour, you could also say his timing is spot on. This book should keep an Oasis hungry public sated for the time being.

Unlike other Oasis biogs, this one is written from a fiercely subjective point of view. Gallagher relating tales of childhood misbehaviour and backstage bust ups with a sibling's lack of detachment or perspective.

Indeed, no one seems to feel more strongly about Oasis than Paul himself, and he not only admits to being awestruck by his younger brothers' tame and success, he also confesses that it has exacerbated his already strong feelings of inadequacy.

Well, it can't have been easy being on the dole while your brothers were out conquering the world, and while Liam and Noel appear to have spectacularly escaped the constricting circumstances of their own childhood, there's a sense that Paul still hasn't shrugged off the weight of his family's fraught history.

"This is my personal catharsis, for what it's worth," he offers in the introduction. "So to all the people who see this book and think, Oh, look, Mr Paul Anthony Gallagher is cashing in on his brothers' fame, yes, you are right, and I'm spending every penny to buy myself some self esteem and understanding of how all our lives have changed."

Though this is ostensibly a book about Oasis, the first half is dominated by one central character, Tommy Gallagher, the brothers' alcoholic, abusive father. As the eldest child, Paul got plenty of stick from his Irish father, and he's a reliable enough witness to the beatings, neglect and deprivation which the family suffered at the elder Gallagher's hands.

In the opening chapter, their mother, Peggy, gets to give her side of the saga, so by the time Paul begins his memoirs, we are in no doubt who is to blame for the Gallaghers' growing pains.

So, does Paul Gallagher tell us anything about Oasis that we don't already know? Well, we learn that the young Liam used to tell tales on his brothers ("He shouldn't be in a band called Oasis, he should be in Supergrass!" quips the author), that he was known as The Weetabix Kid ("He was a psychotic, pre adolescent cereal killer"), and that Noel's bushy eyebrows earned him the nickname "Brezhnev" in school. We also learn that some of the more lurid tales of the brothers' teenage years were either exaggerated or untrue.

When he's not giving a blow by blow account of a dysfunctional relationship with their father, Paul chronicles a childhood of dodging school, playing football, listening to pop music, and visiting their grandparents in Mayo during the summer holidays, and throws in the odd irrelevant anecdote while all the time referring to his brothers as "our Liam" and "our Noel", just to reinforce the family link.

There's a lot of rather Trainspotterish stuff about Manchester City, the Gallaghers' favoured football team, some accounts of early Oasis gigs, plus a couple of completely spurious song lists which are meant to match Liam's and Noel's personalities (guess which one I Wanna Be Adored is for).

In the end, however, the Oasis story is just not particularly gripping, and we know most of the gory details already. Just because Paul Gallagher lived through some of it doesn't make it any more riveting. Same old story which ends in rock'n'roll glory.

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