CW50 - The Bands Edition - No. 3
3rd Place: 0
2nd Place: 0
1st Place: 2
In 1991, Noel Gallagher watched his younger brother Liam performing with his mates in a freshly christened Oasis. Noel did not rate their performance, but told them that if he joined and they did it his way, they would become the biggest band in the world. And while there is no doubt there was a little bit of powdered confidence behind Noel’s words, five years later his statement was proven to be a prophetic one.
Oasis’s formula was simple, songs that wore their influence on their sleeves ; a little bit of Beatles & Stones, a dosage of punk, some glam rock influence, topped off by the madchester movement. This melting pot of influences did not result in a retro tribute act like revisionists might have you believe though; their sound was fresh and grabbed people’s attention – above all else Oasis always sounded like themselves. Especially early on, the songs were penned by Noel Gallagher but blasted out by a trademark voice that was instantly recognisable; some might say that Liam Gallagher sounds two parts Lennon, one part Lydon, but the truth his he bears a vocal that is unique in the truest sense of the world. Noel’s early lyrics, the ones in the songs that defined a generation, were sometimes self-confessed gibberish but Liam made them the most important words in the world, and he made a nation, possibly even a world, believe them. Present company well and truly included.
Their debut album Definitely Maybe went straight to number one in the UK, beating off the favourites for that week’s top slot, The Three Tenors. The younger Gallagher had no doubts that they would secure the coveted bestseller title though, saying a few days before the chart release, “Of course we’ll be number one. We’re well better than three fat blokes shouting.” It is an album which was appreciated critically and commercially at the time of its release but has deservedly grown in stature since. Noel took passive resentment at the state of England and converted it into optimism, best displayed in the seminal Live Forever, which delivered a message of hope and optimism. Their confidence of what they would become opened the album with the loud call to arms of Rock N’ Roll Star, the fact that they opened their debut album with such a daring statement of intent tells you a lot of what you need to know about Oasis – it was their belief that took them to the top, but boy did they back it up. It is a debut album filled with classics, Columbia is a grooving drug-haze of wonder, Slide Away showcases the tender sides of both Gallaghers through their lyrical and vocal contributions and Cigarettes & Alcohol ripped off T-Rex’s Get It On in such an outrageous manner that it is a better song for it, the lyrics providing a far superior socio-economic analysis of Northern England in the 90s than any Oasis-hating Guardian writer could dream of mustering up.
However, it was 1995’s follow up (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, combined with the Gallaghers’ sibling rivalry and raucous behaviour that made them international superstars. When Liam and Noel spoke, nobody was spared. But more importantly to their explosion were tracks like Wonderwall, Some Might Say, Champagne Supernova and Don’t Look Back in Anger. These are the tracks that are played at weddings, funerals, birthday parties and any time people want to have a good time. Nothing says, “I love you mate” quite like an Oasis singalong and you won’t find many Brits aged between 25 and 40 who haven’t at some point in their life flung their arm around their best mate whilst tunelessly yelling “Where were you while were getting high?”
Even Oasis’s b-sides are legendary; they opened their highest profile shows up to that point, at Maine Road in April 1996, with Acquiesce and it was a mainstay live throughout their career, while The Masterplan is undoubtedly one of the greatest songs ever, nevermind b-side, and it was that track which would lend itself to the title of Oasis’s b-sides compilation in 1998, an album accepted as a classic part of their canon nowadays.
The summer of 1996 saw Oasis at their biggest, playing to 250,000 in two nights at Knebworth in August that year and the shows received so many ticket applications that they could have sold it out 25 times over. These are classic gigs which deserve their place in rock and roll folklore, and they were Oasis at their most typical; Liam greeted guest guitarist and Manchester United fan John Squire onstage to a chorus of “Who the **** are Man United?” which the entire crowd promptly sang along to. As a twelve year old, I had experienced the greatest moment of my short life earlier that day when a waiter had responded to my wannabe floppy hair by saying, “And what would you like, Liam?” and I listened along on the radio that night as an intoxicated Liam Gallagher sang like he was king of the world. I swear, when some nerdy scientist finally creates time travel, I’m heading to Knebworth, first class. Until then, give us a Blu-ray please guys.
In terms of popularity, Oasis would never scale the same heights as Knebworth again; despite selling 696,000 in its first week, a cocaine-fuelled Be Here Now was rejected en masse, although the diehards still adore it. It is full of potential brilliance but nobody dared to tell Noel that, well maybe 37 guitar tracks on My Big Mouth was a bit, you know, excessive. But listen to D’You Know What I Mean, even if you turn the album off after that it would be eight minutes well spent.
As years went by, their albums continued to shift units in a way that many bands considered reasonably popular could only dream of. Standing on the Shoulder of Giants has been virtually disowned by Noel these days, suffering from the complete opposite of its predecessor as a man who had came off drugs struggled for confidence, but the chill of Gas Panic! is a genuine career highlight and a big Liamesque V-sign to the ‘all the songs sound the same’ brigade. It was followed by a return to the more familiar ‘Oasis sound’ with 2002’s Heathen Chemistry, the difference this time though being that Noel wrote only six of the eleven songs, the rest being contributed by Liam and newcomers Gem and Andy, who had replaced cult heroes Bonehead and Guigsy to signal the beginning of Oasis Mk II. This formula would be maintained on 2005’s critically acclaimed Don’t Believe The Truth and the final cut, 2008’s Dig Out Your Soul. Whilst the songwriting sharing would largely highlight that Noel was a class above his bandmates, some real highlights came from the other three, most notably Liam’s Songbird, a love song that was one of only two non-Noel penned Oasis singles. It is one of the most popular tracks of latter-era Oasis, and Liam demonstrated that while he might not quite have his brother’s talent, he had the same knack for putting words out there that made complete sense to you. Indeed, as he himself said, “Everyone’s got a songbird inside of them and if you haven’t then you’re a ****ing pussy.” Yeah he contradicts himself, but still.
When it came to putting arses on seats, there was no competition; Oasis could sell out anywhere, anytime, especially in their homeland where national stadia in London, Edinburgh or Cardiff could have been filled several times over even if their latest release had been the Gallagher brothers farting for forty five minutes. Despite the popular idea that they were nobodies in America, they filled venues like Madison Square Garden with ease.
It all came to an end in 2009 when Liam threw one plum too many at his older brother Noel but the legacy they leave behind is of a cultural impact that may be hard for any band to match in the digital age; both Gallaghers made the front page upon getting haircuts in 1998, and Greater Manchester Police at one point reopened all unsolved burglary cases from the early 90s when Noel claimed he used to ‘nick car stereos’ when he was strapped for cash.
For me, Oasis are more than just a band. As a pre-teen I introduced my dad to these scruffbags from Manchester and many an evening was spent bonding over albums, b-sides and live videos throughout my teens. Oasis turned music into more than just background noise to me, for all the definitive moments in my life I can find you an Oasis-related anecdote or memory and when the time comes for friends and family to bid me farewell, I want them hearing Liam Gallagher sing as they do it. Or perhaps I’ll just go with what Liam himself once said, “When I die I don’t want a gravestone. I want two fingers, 25 foot high and a big ****ing sign saying ‘Don’t come here with your ****ing bunch of flowers.’” Indeed.
It is difficult to pinpoint a guitar band that has emerged in the 21st century that hasn’t cited Oasis as an influence on some level or another, or as Noel himself put it upon collecting NME’s Godlike Genius Award earlier in the year, “To everyone in this room who was influenced by me: you are ****ing welcome.”
Oasis- Acquiesce Maine rd (1996) - YouTube
Liam Gallagher: Vocals (1991-2009)
Noel Gallagher: Lead & Rhythm Guitar (1991-2009)
Paul ‘Bonehead’ Arthurs: Rhythm Guitar (1991-1999)
Paul ‘Guigsy’ McGuigan: Bass Guitar (1991-1999)
Tony McCarroll: Drums (1991-1995)
Alan White: Drums (1995-2003)
Colin ‘Gem’ Archer: Rhythm & Lead Guitars (1999-2009)
Andy Bell: Bass Guitar, Guitars (1999-2009)
Zak Starkey & Chris Sharrock also played drums following the departure of Alan White but were never officially part of the Oasis line-up
Definitely Maybe (1994)
(What’s the Story) Morning Glory? (1995)
Be Here Now (1997)
Standing on the Shoulder of Giants (2000)
Heathen Chemistry (2002)
Don’t Believe The Truth (2005)
Dig Out Your Soul (2008)
The Masterplan (1998) Collection of b-sides from the first twelve singles
Familiar to Millions (2000) Live album from Wembley Stadium, 2000
Stop the Clocks (2006) Compilation comprising what Noel considered their best 18 tracks
Time Flies 1994-2009 (2010) Compilation containing all of their singles
Download these songs:
Live Forever; Cigarettes & Alcohol; Morning Glory; Acquiesce; Gas Panic!; Stop Crying Your Heart Out; Columbia; Slide Away; Falling Down; Songbird