The mangled guitar that broke Oasis and Noel's unseen note up for auction

Master instrument maker Philippe Dubreuille, who repaired Noel Gallagher's smashed Gibson 355, watches on as it goes under the hammer

Noel Gallagher plays the Gibson ES-355 in Milan in January 2009, a few months before it fell into the vengeful hands of his brother Liam. Photo: Getty Images / Philippe Dubreuille
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The barbative back and forths between the Gallagher brothers in the years after Oasis split are the stuff of rock-lore, but the fortune of the broken guitar that broke the band has received fewer column inches.

Now, 13 years on, an impending auction in Paris and a hand-scrawled note by Noel Gallagher has changed this narrative, bringing the singer-songwriter's beloved red Gibson back into the limelight.

Taking place at the Artpeges gallery next Tuesday, the fully restored ES-355 will go on sale with a starting price of €150,000 ($160,000), although auctioneers suggest the bidding could rise to a string-pinging €500,000.

In an accompanying informal certificate of authenticity — a piece of pop memorabilia in its own right hitherto not seen in public — Noel affirms the instrument's place in his affections and its elemental role in the break-up of Oasis before signing off with customary irreverence, writing "Peace, love + bananas!!"

"This 1960 Gibson 355 serial #A34884 was the guitar that was smashed up in Paris in 2009 the night Oasis split up," he wrote. "It was also my #1 favourite guitar that I used for both writing and recording."

That the mangled guitar that was once in two pieces is being sold in pristine condition is down to master French luthier Philippe Dubreuille.

A note written by Noel Gallagher about the guitar. Photo: Philippe Dubreuille

It was through his working relationship with Oasis band members Gem Archer and Andy Bell that Dubreuille heard about the disbandment.

Set to headline the French capital's Rock en Seine festival in 2009, the fractious Gallagher brothers became embroiled in a Gibson guitar-bashing ding-dong that reverberated around the world.

The spat led to Oasis's immediate withdrawal from the festival — where their Friday night headline slot was taken by ska band Madness — and proved to be their final act as an ensemble.

Two or three days after the fateful night in Paris, Gem Archer and his wife went to Dubreuille's Denmark Street workshop in London and told him that Oasis was "finished".

"I said 'oh come on'," Dubreuille, an Oasis fan, now recalls, "but he said 'That’s it, that’s it.'"

A tale of two guitars

In truth, the split hadn't required a Nostradamus prediction.

"The two brothers could not stand each other and that was very tense," said Dubreuille.

Philippe Dubreuille works on a guitar in his studio in a basement on Denmark Street where he repaired the ES-355. Getty

"When they played in Paris, apparently they had done more than two years of touring around the world. Good cuisine everywhere. Nice to be in Paris and maybe two more days in England and then the tour was over."

Such an amicable end was not to be. The precise details of the apocalyptic argument remain nebulous but, according to Dubreuille, it was Noel, infuriated by his brother's antics, who smashed Liam's Gibson J-100 first.

Dubreuille said the guitar had been signed by the younger Gallagher's son and held sentimental value, perhaps explaining the righteous fury which Liam was said to have then vented upon Noel's ES-355.

Hell hath no fury like a brother scorned, as the neck of Noel's ES-355 will attest. Photo: Philippe Dubreuille

When he discovered the sad fate of the instrument, Dubreuille had a premonition.

"I said 'One day, I am going to repair that guitar.' It took two years to come to me," he said.

"Noel kept it in a vault. He didn’t want to be reminded of the story. And one day somebody came. His name was Jason Rhodes and he was Noel’s guitar tech.

"Jason came with the guitar and said ‘OK, Phillipe look, what do you think of that, can you repair it?’

"He said he had taken it to some other guy who said it was [irreparable], and he said 'do you think you can do something?'

"The neck was off, a piece of the wood was broken, a piece on the front was missing, there was an ugly hole, a part of the piping was gone, and one of the pickups was hanging off."

A close-up of the 'ugly hole'. Photo: Philippe Dubreuille

Yet Dubreuille hadn't garnered his stellar reputation for nothing. He is to guitar making and repairing what Jimi Hendrix was to playing.

His list of clients reads like a musical firmament: Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, Chrissie Hynde, Iggy Pop, Mark Ronson, Dave Stewart and William Orbit were all among those to have called upon his luthier services.

"It took me a month to do it," he says of the Gibson restoration. "Recolour everything. Revarnish the parts that were missing, and put the guitar in the incredible condition it’s in today."

"I really did a fantastic job. Like a wizard job," he said.

Back together! A Dubreuille miracle as the ES-355 is made whole again. Photo: Artpeges gallery

Noel Gallagher, who now fronts his own High Flying Birds, no doubt agreed with the assessment.

"During the year I was in London, Noel gave me some jobs to do for him, like resprays," Dubreuille said.

"At one point I was doing a guitar and he wanted to call me to ask some questions about how I was going to do it to make sure we were of the same understanding.

"He was really impressed by my work."

Noel Gallagher with the restored guitar. Photo: Philippe Dubreuille

Gibson too painful to keep

Noel's avowed esteem for the Gibson didn't stop him from selling it, however, and a few transactions later it landed at Artpeges gallery.

Dubreuille, currently based in Brittany, France, noted he had charged only a standard amount for the guitar's repair but will not receive any of the proceeds from the potentially astronomical sale.

Yet he is a craftsperson and music lover to the core, so the lack of financial recompense means little.

"I didn’t care about the money and the time it was going to take for me," he said. "It was the prestige."

Thanks to Dubreuille's prodigious skills, Noel Gallagher's Gibson ES-355 now has a chance to live forever.

And while he once sang "please don't put your life in the hands of a rock and roll band", perhaps the moral of the story is not to trust them with your cherished Gibsons.

Updated: May 12, 2022, 4:30 AM