Sunday, 9 October 2016

Be Here Now

Oasis are re-releasing 1997's Be Here Now album, remastered, b-sides and unreleased demos from Noel Gallagher's Mustique Holiday.

I've written about Oasis a number of times and it is safe to say I fell head over heels in love with the band when they arrived on the scene in April 1994, 3-months after I turned 18. They had sky scraping anthems like Live Forever and Slide Away , they turned out b-sides like Acquiesce and The Masterplan; Some Might Say soared and Wonderwall wooed a nation.

I have to say that the Be Here Now era of Oasis was a disappointment for me. Don't get me started on Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants! I fell out of love and that heady rush of love I had with the band from 1994 all the way through to Knebworth in 1996 was never recaptured. It was only with Heathen Chemistry that I really got back into them, but it was never the same.

Why was Be Here Now a disappointment?

The simple answer for me was that I just didn't get the feeling from the songs that I got from those released before. I'd been spoiled with two cracking albums and loads of b-sides. I wanted more of the same. I didn't get it.

Looking back, the Mustique demos situation offers a clue. Noel wrote the first two albums and all the incredible b-sides while he was dreaming of escape, when he was falling in and out of love. Now he was on holiday with the Stones, Kate Moss and Johnny Depp. Not quite the same vibe regardless of how much cocaine he could get up his nose.

If you were Meg Mathews then you'd be thrilled to have Wonderwall written about you, but I bet she doesn't mention The Girl In The Dirty Shirt when she is reminiscing about the heady days of Britpop.

Reflecting more, Oasis went from wanting to be the best to being the biggest band. It was all 'size matters' when we all know it's what you do with it that counts.....isn't it :-)

Wonderwall and Don't Look Back In Anger sent Oasis stratospheric. Knebworth was insane. It was brilliant, what a ride.

From that point on there was a period of time when you couldn't criticise Oasis. You were shot down in flames if you did. I remember when D'You Know What I Mean came out and I was at a party where it was being played on repeat. I asked for Stay Young (one of the b-sides) to be played and said that it should have been the single as it was a total summer anthem. It was like I had walked into the party from the moon!

Stay Young - live in Manchester

The NME and music publications knew Oasis features and interviews would massively boost sales, so they couldn't criticise. They needed Noel and Liam.

Some people had walked into the Oasis party a little late, they wanted Be Here Now to be as good as the songs and albums it was following. It wasn't anywhere close to it, but they didn't care, they believed the hype, or wanted to believe it. Or, many truly did fall for it; people who had been too young or too out of tune to miss the glory years from Supersonic through to Knebworth wanted a slice of the action, they wanted to be part of the band for a generation....and Oasis were.

In that sense, and I know from speaking to fellow Oasis fans, Be Here Now is an incredibly important album. It would have been the first album that many teenagers bought, the first band they fell in love with and the first shows they went to; in the same way Definitely Maybe had been so important to me - right band, right time.

The hype around the 'comeback' single and the album was outrageous. Radio 1 played the single back to back, occasionally 3 times in a row! The country went daft, everyone was out to buy the album. No-one said a bad word about it.

There was a BBC documentary Right Here, Right Now that showcased the Gallagher's attitude, belief and humour alongside songs from the album; ranging from a studio romp through It's Getting' Better Man, to a poolside Don't Go Away.

The hype worked; 424,000 copies were sold on the first day! 
By 1999 it was the album that was most sold to second hand shops in the UK.

I have rarely listened to the album as a complete work of art. Selective songs - yes, but I have had absolutely no desire to listen to Magic Pie over the last 19-years!

Ahead of a deluxe boxset re-release, I thought I would listen to Be Here Now again, 19-years down the line.


D'You Know What I Mean was a strong comeback single. I just preferred (and still do) the b-side summer sing-along of positivity Stay Young. However I totally understand why they went with the 7-minute and 42 second epic instead.

They looked great; on the sleeve, promo shots and the crazy promo video that must have costs hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Noel's guitars sounded great, Liam (of course) sounded amazing, there were backwards vocals, psychedelic sounds, it was like the band were moving forwards in terms of trying some new sounds. D'You Know What I Mean? was a line/question that Noel often used during his 100 mph interviews.

The first of many Beatles song titles/references comes early and features 2 in one line!

The fool on the hill and I feel fine

In the heady days of July 1997, this was all over the radio and all over the country. Oasis were continuing to soundtrack the nation but the chorus was lazy and uninspiring, completely at opposites from the verses and bridge that hinted that the band might just be moving forwards.

Liam Gallagher, D'You Know What I Mean video shoot

My Big Mouth was one of two Be Here Now songs to be played at Knebworth. It's got a ferocious feel to it, the multi(multi) tracked guitars are played with pace and aggression and Liam matches that with a fantastic vocal delivery.

I enjoyed listening back to this initially, but delving into it, it feels like Noel was getting somewhere with some lyrics and then he filled in the blanks with whatever came to mind. Could have been better if some more time was spent on it...and not in terms of song length!

Beatles reference - The Long And Winding Road in the 1st verse.

Magic Pie.....must I listen to it again? OK here goes.......

It is a struggle to get through this song. It takes an age to get to the chorus and then Noel sings about having a magic pie. Somehow this song is dragged out to 7 minutes and 19 seconds. I would be lying if I said I made it to the end. Congratulations if you can. Where was the quality control? Did anyone dare criticise Noel in 1997? Why this was on the album ahead of b-sides Stay Young or the Noel sung Going Nowhere remains a mystery to me.

Stand By Me is like music to your ears after the torture of Magic Pie. There is a brilliant positive flowing upsurge for the bridge to the chorus;

The cold and wind and rain don't know
They only seem to come and go away

Stand by me, nobody knows the way it's gonna be

Stand By Me catches your attention, Liam's voice is great, still only 25 at the time of release, Liam was the coolest front man around with a sensational voice. The melody is strong, one of the best moments on the album, if not an Oasis classic. Like all of Be Here Now, the song is stretched out a little long though.

Liam live circa 1997

Stand By Me live at Wembley 2000

I remember liking I Hope, I Think, I Know when it came out.  Great song title, powerful, pacey and Liam sounding in good voice, spitting out the bridge to the chorus. It flows well and teases by almost going into the chorus of Wonderwall.

The aforementioned The Girl In The Dirty Shirt is a plodder. No wonder Noel and Meg split up if this was the best he could come up with for her after Wonderwall!

Fade In-Out sounded great in 1997 and it sounds great in 2016. I haven't listened to Be Here Now for a long, long time. Probably not in this century! There is a menacing feel to the intro and guitars and Liam's voice strains with the energy and soul he is pouring into it. There is a great bit when Liam and Noel's voices join together to sing;

Today is just a daydream
Tomorrow we'll be cast away

This time the length of the song has a purpose with Liam screaming Cold Turkey Lennon style before  everything goes mental, leading us back into the chorus.

Don't Go Away is a song that I have listened to this side of 2000! Liam's yearning vocal and the fact he hits the bridge and chorus so quickly give the song much more feeling to it. It sounds like Noel has actually given it some tender, loving, care.

The bridge flows into the chorus and it's uplifting and soulful. It's hug your mate, punch the sky and sing your heart out like the best Oasis songs.

In the time of my life
'cause I need more time
Yes I need more time
Just to make things right
So don't go away

Noel also comes up with a beautiful and tender acoustic outro. It's one of only 2-songs (not counting the All Around The World reprise) under 5-minutes long.

The title track is..... well the lyrics don't really mean anything but at least they are fun and the song has a bit of a groove to it. But it is lazy, Liam turns it into Columbia off of Definitely Maybe at the end . If you were choosing an epic Oasis comeback setlist then this would be nowhere near it. And to be honest I don't much (if anything) of Be Here Now would be.

Beatles reference - Let It Be

And then we arrive at the 9-minute and 20 second All Around The World. In early interviews Noel talked of this song and said he was saving it for his third album and that he wanted to enter it in Eurovision. I remember reading a review where it was described as something like Hey Jude made by kids from a council estate in Burgage. The recent Supersonic documentary had incredible footage of a pre-signed Oasis rehearsing this song in Manchester.

I like it. It has that sense of dreaming and escapism that Noel's best songs tend to have.

Take me away
Cause I just don't want to stay

These are crazy days but they make me sssshhhiiiiiinnnneeee

Pretty simple, pretty effective. And then it goes on......and on.......and on.....and on.

Guitars are layered upon guitars, there is a hell of a lot of na na na na na's and then the chorus is rammed down your throat enough times to make you vomit. Seriously, there is another 5-minutes of it. It gets pretty sickly. There is no valid reason for this song to be over 9-minutes long. Blame cocaine.

I made it to 7 minutes 48 seconds and then skipped forwards.

It's Getting' Better Man was my personal favourite from the album back in 1997. Loud and squalling guitars, a flowing bridge and chorus and a sense of Pistols punk energy. They played it at Knebworth and I had it on bootleg before it appeared on Be Here Now.

Maybe the songs that we sing are wrong
Maybe the dreams that we dream are gone

It's stretched out but at least the band sound like they are enjoying it, rather than some of the other tracks that sound like they are being dragged out. The production doesn't help, this is a song that should have soared like those on Definitely Maybe.

Oh FFS I forgot about the All Around The World reprise!!! And do you know what, in 2016 this is one of my favourite songs on the album. Horns, strings, great beats, crashing symbols.....I enjoyed listening to it.

Be Here Now hasn't aged well for me. In fact it dated incredibly quickly.

In 1997 Radiohead brought out the incredible OK Computer, The Verve had Urban Hymns, Primal Scream gave us the glorious melting pot Vanishing Point, Spiritualized released the sensational Ladies And Gentleman We Are Floating In Space and earlier in the year Blur had released a brilliantly eclectic eponymous album. Oasis sounded bloated and uninspired in comparison to their competitors, but also against the skyscraping anthems they produced with ease between 1994-1996.

Noel had set the bar high, he has talked of being Champions League winners from 1994-1996 and then struggling to get top 4 in 1997. Not a bad assessment. Continuing that theme; Standing On The Shoulder... was relegation form!

The Masterplan, a b-sides album (featuring only 2 from the Be Here Now era) was released in 1998, the year after Be Here Now and it is head and shoulders above. That golden period from 1994-1996 for Oasis produced so many good songs.

Oasis then had the cheek to release something even worse than Be Here Now - Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants featuring the likes of Little James and the god awful I Can See A Liar, I'm not looking forward to listening to that again for the 20th anniversary! In fact, I won't!

I think the band only recaptured some of their magic in 2002 with the release of Heathen Chemistry when Andy Bell and Gem Archer had joined the band and been involved in writing and recording. But they could never recapture the magic of 1994-1996.

I'll always have time for Noel and Liam as they meant so much to me during an important time of my life. They soundtracked nights out, I made lifelong friends through a shared love of the band....but Be Here Now kind of felt like the band were cheating on me - they were better than that.

Listening back has been interesting. There are some good songs, but for me Be Here Now doesn't light a spark and for me that is what Noel and Liam are all about - making your spine tingle, causing you to punch the air and sing from the bottom of your heart. Too many of the songs are 'alright', almost all are too long and I just don't hear any soul in the vast majority of the album.

No comments: