I bet most of you who have followed the challenge so far will have already guessed which band O would be represented by in this A-Z blog post of my musical memories. Yes, although I was a massive Blur fan, it was also possible to be a fan of their arch nemesis (at least arch nemesis in the eyes of the UK media circa 1995).
Yes, today O is for…
Oasis were a rock band heralding from Manchester who first came to prominence here in the UK music in 1993. They don’t need much else said as way as introduction as their reputation and notoriety is known world-wide.
Now, in all honesty I did prefer Blur to Oasis, and still do. It was Brother number 1 who really got into Oasis first, and so they only really came to my attention from his listening to their debut album Definitely Maybe. Oasis had an entirely different sound to Blur, so it’s always being weird that they were pitted against each other in the summer of 1995 in a battle for chart number one. And although Oasis are a large part of my musical history especially in 1994/1995, they never really captured my imagination quite as much as Blur did.
Unlike with many of the other bands I have written about in this challenge, I really cannot recall one single moment I first heard Oasis. I believe it was the single Shakermaker which first grabbed my attention, more than likely for the similarity in the verses of the track to I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony). Oasis were sued for unlicensed use by The New Seekers and lost their case. Nevertheless, I always liked the track a lot especially for its reference to Mr Soft from the Trebor Softmints advertisements of my childhood. :)
In fact, it was difficult to dislike any of their first album. It really does contain some stand out, simply good, honest, solid rock and roll tracks right through from the opener Rock and Roll Star, (oh and weren’t they just that with the Gallaghers’ brotherly bust-ups, Liam’s swagger, the couldn’t give a toss attitude, the lack of smiling and their ability to insult just about anyone who crossed their path?), right through to Slide Away, one of my personal favourites. The guitars were loud and distinctively distorted, the drums thunderous, yet the structure of the songs and the chords so simple and accessible. (Too simple some might say).
I wasn’t sold on their image, but that album sold itself. Live Forever is for me the stand out track, a love song with attitude, but did show the softer side of Noel’s songwriting and gave me that little bit of romance I like in songs. Definitely Maybe is an album for youth. No maybe about it. Cigarettes and Alcohol, Rock and Roll Star and Supersonic (fantastic “I know a girl called Elsa, she’s into Alka Seltzer,) that’ll be from all the alcohol no doubt, (“she sniffs it through a cane on a supersonic train, and she makes me laugh”), Columbia (“I can’t tell you the way I feel, cos the way I feel is all so new to me“), all provide the image and of a free and easy lifestyle synonymous with being young and, well, care free.
The follow up album What’s the Story Morning Glory, was obviously eagerly anticipated across the land, and by myself included. Though it’s a funny story with Oasis. I never felt like I could be open about my liking them. As a self-confessed Blur obsessed fanatic, once the media hype around the two bands’ ‘rivalry’ hit, I almost felt as though I had to justify my allegiance to one rather than the other and start to give reasons as to why Blur were better. The fact the bands were very different should have meant it was a nonsense to feel this way, and whereas now I’d be far more level headed about it, I often found myself sticking up for Blur over Oasis, and probably giving really pretentious reasons for it to. (“Oh so nothing to do with you fancying Damon then Joanne?” I’d often be called out on that one!) I also felt as though Oasis were my brother’s thing. He was the fan and I’d caught on to his tail coats, so to speak so it was just the thing. I like Blur more, he liked Oasis more. But the bigger problem was my boyfriend. He had very little time for Oasis, and being a silly teenager and eager to please, I must confess I probably at times pretended not to like Oasis as much as I did when I was in his presence. It was as though I was cheating on him musically!
This feeling I recall very clearly with the release of the aforementioned second album. I was visiting him up at his university in Leeds. We were in our second year of university and he’d moved out of halls and into a shared house with his mates.
For some reason, he’d managed to get the smallest bedroom in the house. I mean it was cheaper, but honestly, it was like being in that episode of Flight of the Conchords when Jermaine moves out into a broom cupboard and holds a party there. It was titchy. And in this titchy room was an even titchier single bed which when I went to visit we used to share. Don’t even ask me how we fitted us both in it. Okay, I was about three dress sizes smaller than now admittedly, but it wasn’t even a proper sized single bed. It was so narrow, I had to sleep with my nose pressed up against the wall. The things you do for love. Or when 19. Or when drunk (as I think that was the only way we ever slept)!
Anyway, on one such visit, I distinctly remember one morning we woke up to the sounds of the opening track of What’s the Story Morning Glory, Hello (very Slade-esque) seeping through the walls from the next door student house not long after its release. This was followed by the second track Roll With It blaring through, and my boyfriend doing his best Liam Gallagher nasal singing impression for the entire song and having a good old rant about how crap Oasis were.
Fair point on the Roll With It track, though I’m convinced if they’d released Wonderwall instead of that against Blur’s Country House, Oasis would have won the so called ‘Battle of Britpop’ in the summer of ’95. Just my personal opinion. Country House wasn’t Blur’s finest hour either.
Anyway, I had to hide the album whenever he came home for the holidays after that, lest he know my guilty secret that I’d bought it and, God forbid, enjoyed some of it.
However, it really didn’t match up to Definitely Maybe. I think everyone is pretty much in agreement with that, nevertheless it did spawn some good tracks, Don’t Look Back in Anger, Champagne Supernova and of course Wonderwall which were the album’s redeeming features. Oddly the B-sides of the singles mined better Oasis gold in my opinion around that time. Tracks such as Acquiesce, Talk Tonight, Round Are Way, and The Masterplan all in my opinion alot better than some of the stuff on the album, These and other tracks were later released on an album titled The Masterplan, and is the other one I still listen to along with Definitely Maybe.
I kept up a little with Oasis after that. There was some good stuff on subsequent albums, but really I only ever go back to the first album and those B-sides just mentioned now. There are good memories associated with their music around that time in 1994-95, but the Gallagher’s constant bickering and break ups, their shouting and arguments and drama was probably all a bit too much like a mirror for what was happening at home with my parent’s break up in ’96 and escape was needed through music, not more of the same and so I abandoned them pretty much.
When Brother number 3 (the youngest of the tribe) formed his own band, The Flames, around 2003 time, much of his band’s sound was very much influenced by Oasis and they even used to play a cover of Columbia from Definitely Maybe during their sets, so it was good to re-live their sound that way. I think my brother thought he was Liam Gallagher looking back at the photos! (He would openly say he thought he was an arse for copying their sound, but me and my other siblings, for all our piss taking, thought his band’s songs were pretty good!)
These days, I do still follow one of the Gallagher brothers, even if I don’t listen to as much Oasis stuff. Noel Gallagher’s solo project Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds has so far produced two quality albums which I really love. He hasn’t done anything fancy or wildly different to when he was in Oasis, but there is a gentler, far more accomplished feel to the music. It’s as though he took the formula for Wonderwall (still probably my favourite Oasis track -ooh and if you’ve never heard the Ryan Adam’s version – RYAN not Bryan by the way – then do so), or She is Love from Heathen Chemistry and tarted up the sound with a plethora of extra ingredients, including Johnny Marr. It shows that Noel was always the real talent behind the band’s success, despite Liam’s front man swagger and the media hype of 94/95.
But then true talent lives forever.
Thanks for reading. Phew, that was a late one today, but made it!