Last week it was perhaps unsurprising, but still depressing, to hear Noel Gallagher remark that reading fiction was “a waste of fucking time”. I suppose one could draw comfort (you can read extracts of his GQ interview in the Grauniad here) from his comment that he does read non-fiction, and that it could take his breath away, so at least it wasn’t a complete broadside against books.
I was struck by his statement that “people who write and read and review books are fucking putting themselves a tiny little bit above the rest of us who fucking make records and write pathetic little songs for a living.” Perhaps I’m placing myself above him from the opening line of this blog. But I do find it depressing, because of the huge amount of pleasure that I get from reading. One of my biggest frustrations in life is a shortage of people with whom to to talk about the book I’m currently reading.
I do, though, have the utmost respect for people who make music and it’s an occasional source of great regret that I don’t have the voice for singing or the dexterity to play a musical instrument. I find music just as uplifting, and as capable of making me sad, as fiction. To me, both are incredibly life-affirming.
But I think Gallagher has missed the point that music does often tell a story, either completely made-up or taking inspiration from the world around us, and this can be as emotionally or thought-provoking as fiction. You can even find stories in some of the music by bands that Gallagher himself loves, such as The Beatles and The Smiths.
Out of the three key Britpop songwriters – Gallagher, Albarn and Cocker (sorry Louise Wener), the assorted hits of Oasis probably feature less stories and characters than the others. By far the best at telling stories though was Jarvis Cocker. He wrote about many subjects, ranging from poverty-tourism (Common People) meeting up with an unrequited-love (Disco 2000), or, my favourite, hiding in a wardrobe to watch your best-friend’s sister having sex (Babies). Gallagher’s just isn’t as good, or as interested, in telling these kinds of stories through music and for me that makes him a much-less engaging song-writer.
And finally, do you know what? At least Gallagher was honest when talking about his own preferences and not telling people what he thought they wanted to hear.