When Noel Gallagher quit Oasis mid tour in May 2000, Mother Earth’s Matt Deighton spent three months as guitarist in one of the world’s biggest bands.
When tendonitis ruled drummer Alan White out of the Oasis gig at the Palacio de la Comunidad in Barcelona on 20 May 2000, it just seemed like an unfortunate but unavoidable setback for an often-troubled band. Hours later, after the majority of their rider had been polished off, Liam and Noel Gallagher started an argument that turned into a brawl, the ferocity of which shocked even seasoned Oasis insiders. Noel stormed out of the dressing room and out of Oasis without even the time to look back in anger.
For the only time in the band’s career, Liam found himself in charge – alone with a clutch of professional musicians, not just a bunch of Manc rock’n’rollers that he’d known since school. For Gem Archer, Andy Bell and Alan White, the solution was simple: if Liam wanted to carry on, that’s exactly what they’d do. All they needed was a stand-in guitarist – like now!
And that is exactly how Mother Earth guitarist Matt Deighton ended up in one of the biggest rock bands in the world. “You just don’t expect to get a call like that,” he recalls. “Usually you hear a little murmuring or you get tipped off, but it obviously wasn’t that kind of situation.”
The long-standing Oasis tradition of recruiting on personal recommendation put Deighton high on a very short list of candidates. Having played with Alan’s brother Steve White in Paul Weller’s band, he was a passing acquaintance deemed suitable for the job. But for Oasis there was just one small problem – Matt didn’t immediately jump at the opportunity. With a long-standing solo booking in Dublin scheduled a couple of days later, Matt stood firm and insisted on honouring the engagement. “I told them I could do it after Wednesday,” he explains. “They were giving it large: ‘It’s quite a substantial band – are you sitting down?’. I just said, ‘is it Oasis?’. Well, it was Ignition wasn’t it – I mean, who else have you got on your fucking management books, surprise me? So, they had to wait until Wednesday.”
Joining the band on the road, Matt was taught the songs by Gem Archer – who was himself in the middle of learning all of Noel’s lead parts. “The songs were pretty simple to learn, apart from the last album where Noel must have got into open tuning,” says Deighton. “Without Gem though, the first four days would have been all a bit of a blur!”
“If it had continued, I suppose I wouldn’t be living in a rented shithole and selling my guitars,”
Matt found himself on a tour bus with a band that was endeavouring to pull together and confront the problem in hand. There were no traces of the old Oasis, just a new, tighter, more professional unit. There were also the obvious signs of confusion. No one had heard from Noel for a couple of weeks and there was genuine uncertainty as to whether he would ever return. But at least some sensitivity was called into play – Matt might have been stepping in to dead men’s shoes, but he wasn’t asked to plug into Noel’s amp too. “I had his bunk-bed and nicked his fags, but it was all of Gem’s amps that I had to go through,” he laughs. “That was a nightmare. They were worse than Mother Earth’s. I don’t like to be moaning but we had a big stage, so I thought it would be nice to have some big amps, but no, I just got a load of old toot.”
Ten days after Noel had walked out on the band, Oasis resumed their long European tour at the Filaforum in Milan. The gig went well as the band poured all their efforts and concentration into the performance, but as the tour progressed though Germany, Poland, Sweden, Holland, France, Denmark, Finland and back to Spain, reactions varied as fans coped in different ways with the continued absence of the Oasis songwriter. For their own part, the band remained in the dark about Noel’s future plans, but even at the height of this uncertainty Deighton was not under any illusions about a long-term career. “I’d be on stage and I’d think, ‘Hang about, this is a bit silly, who’s actually in it as far as Oasis goes – it was just one of the brothers and Alan at that point. It was a funny situation and I think that’s why we got pelted so much. That was great though – I enjoyed that!”
Although Matt felt that he was probably unlikely to ever become a permanent member of Oasis, he does remember that the uncertainties of the time led to discussions by the other members about their future. “There was talk of this other band, as I remember. I was told occasionally that I was possibly in something and I just thought, ‘yeah right’. Something involving members of Oasis? Yeah, I think so. Things were a bit up in the air. I got the impression that they didn’t know what was happening with Noel and whether he was coming back.”
Matt’s spell in the band lasted three months, but it was punctuated by the occasional return of Noel. The older Gallagher brother had made it clear that while he was prepared to play UK gigs, any time spent on a tour bus with his brother was out of the question. Unfortunately it meant that in exchange for carrying the heavy end of the tour across Europe, it was Matt Deighton who missed out on a rare opportunity to headline Wembley Stadium. He could have turned up with his guitar on the day, waiting to be called on for a couple of songs from the wings, but he didn’t feel that it would be particularly appropriate.
“I was actually asked to do that,” he recalls, “but I think it was just the management playing safe, because at that point I don’t think Noel and Liam had been in touch with each other. It would have been nice to play at Wembley as it was going to be knocked down, but I didn’t for one minute think that it would happen, especially in Noel’s own place. And to be perfectly honest, I was glad I wasn’t there – I’d have felt strangely in the middle of something that was not my business.”
At the end of the tour Matt Deighton waved goodbye to Oasis at Victoria Station, but was there any desire to have carried on with the band? “If it had continued, I suppose I wouldn’t be living in a rented shithole and selling my guitars,” he jokes, “so yeah, it would have been nice.”
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