Johnny Marr reveals why giving Oasis' Noel Gallagher a guitar 30 years ago inspired him to quit drinking alcohol

Noel Gallagher and Johnny Marr
(Image credit: Ollie Millington/WireImage/Getty Images)

Johnny Marr has revealed how a decision to give Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher an expensive guitar served as a catalyst for him swearing off alcohol for the past 30 years.

Marr and Gallagher, both from Manchester-Irish families, first met when Oasis were still a relatively unknown band beyond their hometown. The former Smiths man clearly liked the younger musician's attitude, personality and confidence, which led to him gifting Gallagher a 1960 Gibson Les Paul guitar previously owned by The Who's Pete Townshend, which Marr had used on The Smiths' classic third album, The Queen Is Dead. Unfortunately, Gallagher broke said guitar while trying to hit an unruly stage invader during an August 1994 Oasis show at The Riverside in Newcastle. With a frankly staggering amount of cheek, Gallagher then asked his generous benefactor for a replacement for the hugely expensive guitar, and was duly given another one, a black 1978 Gibson Les Paul Custom.

“It’s just to be nice,” Marr tells The Guardian. “Me giving Noel those guitars has become such a big story over the years, but people don’t realise that at the time he wasn’t who he is now. He was just a kid from Burnage. I had no idea Oasis were going to go on to such big things. I did it because he was in need, because I was lucky and had lots of guitars, and because I wished someone had done it for me.”

When Guardian writer Andy Welch expresses his incredulity that Marr would be so generous as to hand over a second treasured guitar to the mouthy young musician, Marr drops a killer punchline to his anecdote.  

“I must confess it’s why I quit drinking,” he says, perhaps half-joking. “I wasn’t drunk, but the chances are I was very hungover when I agreed to that.”

As a footnote to this story, legend has it that Noel Gallagher was punched in the face by an audience member at that notorious Newcastle gig, and required stitches for the injury, after ending the gig prematurely. However, a former security guard at the legendary North-East venue has claimed that the 'fan' never touched Gallagher, that, in fact, his injury was self-inflicted when he smacked himself in the face with the headstock of Marr's guitar, and that Oasis actually pulled the gig not because their audience was getting too lairy, but because Noel Gallagher freaked out so badly after realising he'd broken the iconic guitar he'd been gifted, that he couldn't focus on anything else.

Maybe don't mention that part of the story to Johnny Marr, should you ever see him.

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.