For those unacquainted with the West Coast psychedelic-folk scene in the ’90s, director Ondi Timoner’s 2004 documentary Dig! was the perfect entrée into the dysfunctional world of The Brian Jonestown Massacre. Here, the band’s tambourine-wielding troublemaker, Joel Gion, fondly recalls the time that he almost broke up Oasis with his “super speed.”
Back in the early days, I was constantly on speed. In 1994, two years before filming started on the Dig! documentary, I was working at Reckless Records on Haight Street. Oasis’s Definitely Maybe record had just come out, and I was really into it. I saw Oasis was coming to San Francisco, so I phoned our manager and said, “You’ve got to get us on this bill!” This was before “Wonderwall,” and they hadn’t had a huge hit yet. It was this cool underground thing at the time. They were playing this small 200-capacity club called Bottom of the Hill. We all knew the club owner, so she got us on the bill. Definitely Maybe was released two weeks before the gig, and suddenly, that venue was way too small. It was their first time in America, and people were going bat shit.
Like I said, I was on speed all the time, and I had been up for three days before the gig. I was super excited to meet them because I kept reading about how they were really into drugs, especially coke. I thought, “If they’re into that shitty English coke, I’ll blow their minds with this crazy crystal meth I’ve got!” We pulled up to the venue for soundcheck, and their huge bus was parked outside. I knocked, and Noel Gallagher opened the bus door. I said, “Hey man, I’m in the opening band, and I have the most righteous speed you’ll ever do!” I was all stoked to walk right in, but he said, “No, we only do coke.” I stood there stunned, and he shut the door in my face.
Our guitar player at the time, Jeff Davies, was a heroin lifer. He’d been doing it since his early twenties. While I was trying to meet Oasis, he went out to score. He missed soundcheck, and it was getting pretty late. Meanwhile, a female friend I used to do speed with all the time had met Liam Gallagher outside. She had gotten on Oasis’s bus and had given them a bunch of lines of this crazy speed. Jeff still hadn’t gotten back from scoring, and the show was oversold and completely packed. Coincidentally, Pulp and Blur were on tour together and had played a show across town the night before. Both bands showed up for the show. Damon Albarn was going out with Justine Frischmann from Elastica, so it was this whole scene. It suddenly had turned into Brit-pop central for one night.
With no Jeff in sight, we had to go on. We’re playing without our guitarist, and suddenly Anton yells out, “Jeff! I see you motherfucker! If you’re not up here in ten seconds you’re out of the band!” Anton had been watching the door the whole time, waiting for Jeff. He started counting down on the mic, “Ten, nine, eight….” The crowd joined in on the countdown, like it was some kind of fucking rocket launch. Jeff is this little guy, and he had this huge rockabilly bouffant at the time. I could see his hair trying to get to the stage in this insanely packed house. He was climbing up on his hands and knees to get on stage. He grabbed his guitar cord and stabbed the jack into his guitar right as everyone yelled, “One!” This deafening wail of feedback filled the venue. Jeff had barely made it. He completely nailed his solo on “Straight Up and Down.” It was one of the moments that reminded us why we put up with him.
Everything was cool again. We did our last song, “Hyperventilation,” which is really drone-y and long. Anton had started doing this thing where he’d take off his shirt and prowl the stage. He started doing this phallic stuff with the mic and eventually put it down his pants. When Oasis got on stage, Liam gets right up on the mic, almost putting his upper lip on it. We started cracking up because that was the same mic that had just been in Anton’s pants. They had no idea what they had gotten into. They had cut up these huge, English coke lines with the super speed. The guitarist Paul “Bonehead” Arthur’s jaw was grinding away like some kind of crankshaft.
If you watch the Oasis documentary Supersonic, they talk about the gig. Liam didn’t go to sleep for three days. The next night they played Sacramento, and two nights later the Whisky A Go-Go, and they just blew the whole show. The band broke up after that show because Liam was so cranked out. Noel quit and disappeared. He holed up in San Francisco with some chick he met. Eventually they found him, put the band back together, and finished the tour. As they say in the documentary, “After that, it was never the same.” Noel never treated them the same after that. It was all because my friend got on that tour bus. If they had let me on, I could have warned them, “Don’t do too much. This is crazy stuff!”
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If you enjoyed this excerpt–and we can’t imagine you not–we SERIOUSLY recommend you become a patron of Joel Gion. He’s currently working on his memoirs, and if you’re a patron, you get an exclusive stories every week or so that are as hilarious as this one.
Drew Fortune’s book No Encore!: Musicians Reveal Their Weirdest, Wildest, Most Embarrassing Gigs will be released July 16th via Post Hill Press.