(this is from the Mirror, July 9, 1997)
OASIS: WE ARE BIGGER THAN GOD; Noel's amazing claim stuns Church.
Oasis star Noel Gallagher said yesterday the hit band was more important than God.
Asked if youth cared more for Oasis than religion, he said: "Without a shadow of a doubt, that's true. Football is more important to me than religion. Some of the pop stars I like are more important to me than God, so yeah.
"I'd hope we mean more to people than putting money in a church basket and saying ten Hail Marys on a Sunday. Has God played Knebworth recently?" Gallagher's astonishing boast - which echoed John Lennon's 1966 claim that The Beatles were "more important than Christ" - was immediately condemned by outraged churchgoers and MPs.
Churchman and former Beirut hostage Terry Waite said: "He probably sells a lot of records - but he hasn't been selling them for 2,000 years."
But the 30-year-old guitarist was backed by fans. And last night aides said he stood by his comments.
One said: "He was answering a direct
question and being his usual honest self. He isn't trying to be provocative. You ask Noel a straight question and he'll give you a straight answer."
Gallagher spoke out in an interview with New Musical Express. He admitted that being asked if the group was more important than God was a "loaded question."
The star was also asked if the line 'I met my maker, and I made him cry' - which appears in Oasis's new single D'You Know What I Mean? - referred to God.
Gallagher replied: "God, yeah. On Judgement Day, if there ever is one, I'll have a few things to say to Him.
"It's not a song about religion, it's not a song about sh***ing birds, it's not a song about taking drugs. It's about all them things."
It was the second time this year Gallagher has sparked controversy. In January he said that for many people taking drugs was "like getting up and having a cup of tea."
A spokesman for the Roman Catholic Church said last night: "About a billion members of our church don't think Noel Gallagher is bigger than God. God has been around longer than Oasis...and He made Knebworth."
But Oasis fan James Worrall, 16, of Walsall, West Midlands, said: "I think Oasis probably are more important than God.
"A lot of people my age don't go to church any more and religion just seems outdated. Oasis make a lot of sense and people can relate to their songs."
Fellow fan TV researcher Graham Hill, 20, of Cranhurst, Kent, disagreed. He said: "You can hardly say Oasis take the place of religion which has been around for thousands of years."
Lib Dem MP Alan Beith said: "One day Gallagher will discover God is a bit bigger than he is. He may well have need of him."
Labour MP Derek Foster, a Salvation Army member, said: "The comments are hilarious. Christ doesn't need to compete with people like this."
Councillor Gordon Dumelow, who has been involved with setting up of every pop festival at Knebworth since 1974, said: "As far as I'm concerned no one is bigger than God. Groups say things they don't always mean. It might be that Oasis feel they have been left out of the limelight because of the Spice Girls."
Oasis ARE staggeringly popular - and the Church IS in decline.
D'You Know What I Mean, the band's first single in more than a year, is set to crash into the charts at No 1 on Sunday. More than 400,000 copies are expected to be sold making it one of the fastest-selling songs of all time.
The band's first album, Definitely Maybe, has sold eight million copies worldwide.
Nearly ten million people have bought the (What's The Story) Morning Glory album. It is predicted the band's new album, Be Here Now, will sell 15 million.
Meanwhile, a recent survey showed that 89 per cent of the population no longer attends church. The total attending Anglican services each Sunday is estimated at just over 1million in England.
But clergy say those taking communion could be as few as 500,000 a week. About 1.1million attend Catholic mass in England and Wales. An estimated 700,000 Muslims attend mosques.
Voice of The Mirror - Page 6