The wisecrack is revealing. If any British band of the past 15 years intended to follow the Dublin foursome into the glorious pantheon of rock gods it was Oasis, but along the way glitches in the internal wiring left the group stuck in the wings. Everything happened supersonically fast. Within months of releasing 1994's Definitely Maybe, a mix of churning psychedelia and stomping arena-rock riffage, the Gallagher brothers were selling out the same Manchester football stadium whose floodlights had once illuminated their childhood bedroom. The next year brought global domination: (What's the Story) Morning Glory sold 18 million copies around the world and "Wonderwall" became one of the decade's essence-capturing singles. Liam has come to despise it. "Everyone goes, 'You're the "Wonderwall" guy!'" he says. "Well, fuck off. I fuckin' hate it and your taste is shit." Noel has a special place in his heart for the sparkly morning when his accountant called with some good news. "He said, 'You've got a million pounds in the bank,'" Noel says. "And I was on drugs at the time"—Ecstasy and cocaine—"it was 11 o'clock in the morning, there was about 10 people in my room, and we'd been partying all night. I put the phone down and I said, 'I'm a millionaire! Let's fucking re-party!'"

Nobody stopped to notice that the third album, Be Here Now, was a bloated mess. Pausing to take stock was inconceivable for a gang that roared through each day in an impulsive, intoxicated blur. The Gallaghers got married—Liam to starlet Patsy Kensit, Noel to party girl Meg Matthews—but the settling-down phase never quite took hold. "I've got to tell you, being on tour as the biggest band in the world was fuckin' incredible," Noel remembers. "Whatever you needed you got two of. Some ridiculous instrument that you'd fucking seen some guy playin' in a market. I'd phone my manager from Hong Kong at six in the morning. 'What do you want?' 'I want a fucking glockenschplocken.'"

Just as quickly, the days of express-mailed glockenschplockens came to a close. With the release of 2000's weirdly titled Standing on the Shoulder of Giants, it was clear the band had derailed. Two of the founding members, bassist Paul "Guigsy" McGuigan and guitarist Paul "Bonehead" Arthurs, resigned. Divorces drained the band of emotional energy. "That was a rough time," Noel says. "The backlash had started. I was really, really uninspired to write anything. The tour was already sold out—but we haven't got a fucking band. The album wasn't very good. The reviews were appalling." If they were at all sensible, the Gallaghers would've packed up the amps.