Wednesday 9 June 2021

10 from Oasis

For the latest in my semi-regular feature on 10 of my favourite songs by my favourite bands / artists, I've chose Oasis, a band I have blogged on and reminisced about quite a bit through the years.

There is a reason I keep going back to them. Oasis arrived at precisely the right time for me. I turned 18 in January 1994 and Oasis arrived shortly afterwards. Having been slightly too young to get into the Roses or The Charlatans when they were breaking, I'd been waiting for a band like this; the looks, the attitude, the songs, the work ethic, the humour, the honesty ...

As a religious reader of both the NME and Melody Maker I was on to Oasis from early reviews, so between 1994 and 1996 I went on a rollercoaster ride skywards to Knebworth via The Tramway, The Cathouse, a tent at T in the Park, the Barrowlands (twice), Sheffield Arena and Ingliston (Edinburgh).

8 incredible nights filled with an electric atmosphere that you were part of something important. 8-nights filled with songs, anthems, adrenaline, excitement and the pure rush of youth, culture and music combining.

Oasis were incredibly prolific, especially in the early days when a regular debate among fans would be on b-sides that should have been considered as either the a-side or for albums. Can you imagine Definitely Maybe with Fade Away in place of Digsy's Dinner and Listen Up instead of Shaker Maker? What about Morning Glory with Round Are Way instead of Hey Now? Not to mention The Masterplan!

Being an Oasis fan was wild and wonderful for those magical years mentioned above, it was never quite the same after that. 

Where were you while we were getting high? sang Liam. Maybe they got too high, they had to come down and at times they came crashing down; musically and with their behaviour, Liam started to become a bit of a caricature of himself for a while. So did some of the fans. 

Be Here Now was a major disappointment for me, starting with D'You Know What I Mean as the lead single. Yeah, Liam looked and sounded sensational, but it was (and is) a bit of a plod along, certainly in comparison to the skyscraping summer anthem Stay Young that was the b-side.

Media or the vast majority of the British public couldn't care, it was Oasis, they had barely been away, but they were back. Tills were ringing. Radio 1 played the song back-to-back.

Be Here Now had some moments, Don't Go Away is a gem for a start, but they were few and far between. I revisited the album for a blog back in 2016 and barely made it through. I haven't listened to it since.

Things got worse with the turgid Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants which should have been an EP. I still shudder at the thought of Put Yer Money Where Your Mouth Is, I Can See A Liar, Roll It Over ... By this stage the media needed Oasis more than Oasis needed the media - interviews with Liam and Noel added tens of thousands on to sales of newspapers or magazines.

Thankfully things picked up, the addition of Andy Bell and Gem Archer lifted the band massively for Heathen Chemistry in 2002, delivering a strong album with standout singles. Don't Believe The Truth in 2005 wasn't as good but there was still enough quality and fire in the belly. I caught the band at Benicassim in that year and they were outstanding.

By 2008's Dig Out Your Soul, although there were some gems like Liam's I'm Outta Time, it was clear Oasis were going through the motions and seeing them on tour that year was a little heartbreaking, it looked like Liam was the only person who wanted to be in Oasis. I blogged on their SECC show HERE.

So I wasn't hugely disappointed when Oasis broke up. It had been coming, it was time. 

Post Oasis, I've been hugely disappointed by Liam's musical output, first with Beady Eye and then his solo material, backed by an army of songwriters. I'd love to see him pick up the phone to the likes of Gerry Cinnamon, John Power, Andy Bell (on a roll with Ride and his solo material), Johnny Marr and Paul Weller who might write something that challenges him and has a little bit of soul. 

Noel still interests me. The eponymous High Flying Birds album was an incredibly strong collection of songs, Chasing Yesterday was the sound of someone enjoying stretching songs and playing in a way Oasis rarely achieved, while 2017's Who Built The Moon? was a very fluid album and Dead In The Water is as good a song as he has written. Noel has assembled a cracking band, he's pushing himself by working with the likes of David Holmes and he seems really happy with what he's doing.

I've thoroughly enjoyed delving back through the extensive Oasis back catalogue for this blog, there are so many wonderful songs from 1994 all the way through to 2008. I could easily have written a top 20 / 30 blog. Sad Song, Some Might Say, You've Got The Heart Of A Star, Cast No Shadow, Morning Glory, Rock n Roll Star, Cigarettes & Alcohol, Rockin' Chair, Don't Go Away or Half The World Away might well have been included on another day.

Here, at the time of writing, are what I consider to be my 10 favourite Oasis songs. 

Slide Away

All these years down the line, my spine still tingles when I listen to Slide Away. Noel's guitar is mesmerising, set for stun, playing a guitar given to him by Johnny Marr that had previously belonged to Pete Townsend, Noel has said that the song practically wrote itself when he picked the guitar up.

Written by Noel following the break up of a long term relationship, Slide Away is a heartfelt soul song of love, dreams, regret and just sliding away from it all.

 Liam, at the age of only 21, delivers an impeccable gut wrenching rock n roll vocal, packed and wracked with emotion. Noel is lyrically at his most open and romantic, Liam takes his brothers words and makes everyone feel it.

Flying through two chorus to a bridge where Liam sings the superb line together we'll fly, we're then straight into a double chorus that is truly skyscraping in its power.

Now that you're mine, we'll find a way of chasing the sun
Let me be the one, who shines with you
In the morning, we don't know what to do
We'll do what we can, we'll find a way of chasing the sun
Let me be the one, who shines with you
And we can slide away

Noel's guitar solo is as soulful as Liam's vocal, the rhythm section of Bonehead, Guigsy and Tony McCarroll crash beautifully together, allowing the brothers to work their magic.

Oasis would later become guilty of stretching songs out for far too long, but in the case of Slide Away every single second of the six minutes 31 seconds is absolutely vital. 

For me, this might be their greatest song.

Live Forever

Live Forever was an early indication of how good Oasis could be. This was a song mentioned regularly in early interviews an live reviews. Held back until their third single, it was the song that began to smash down doors on the back of the slightly throwaway Shaker Maker

Suddenly you could hear The Beatles instead of the Pistols or the Mondays. Noel Gallagher was a proper songwriter, this wasn't done it with a doctor, on a helicopter or Mr Clean and Mr Ben are living in my loft.

This was 'cause I just wanna fly, this was feeling the pain in the morning rain and being soaked to the bone, this was about being in love and seeing things the same way, different from everyone else, this was about feeling like you were in love and you were gonna live forever.

I think you're the same as me, we see things they'll never see
You and I are gonna live forever

This is classic Noel; romantic, melodic, euphoric, dreamy, egging himself on now's the time to find out why, the guitar solo is stunning, Gallagher has talked of how he sat for days working it out and by the time Liam repeatedly sings gonna live forever at the end, you believe him 100%.

The first of many hug your mates and punch the sky feel good anthems in the Oasis story.


Oasis were on such a roll going into 1995 that they were confident enough to release this rip roaring anthem as a b-side to their first number 1 single - Some Might Say.

Liam flies through the verses and his brother Noel sings the chorus that was just absolutely perfect for the band, their media images as (sometimes) warring brothers and for their fans to sing. A stadium anthem, a chorus built for Knebworth.

Cause we need each other, we believe in on another
I know we're gonna uncover
What's sleeping in our soul

I remember Oasis performing this on Channel 4's The White Room and I was just blown away. Liam in in sensational form, his voice is so strong from a year of solid gigging in 1994. 

White Room, 1995

Fade Away (demo) was one of the first Oasis songs I heard, a demo version was given away in the spring of 1994 on a Select Magazine cassette. A burst of acoustic guitar leads into the song, Liam's voice is good, Noel harmonises with him beautifully on the chorus. But Liam's voice just hasn't quite got the punch that it has on the version released as a b-side to Cigarettes & Alcohol.

In this version everything seems louder, pacier and more urgent. The band are making a right punk racket, drums and cymbals are crashing, the guitars are relentless and Liam's totally on it.

While we're living, the dreams we have as children fade away

Fade Away is one of Noel's early songs where he just captures something; a realisation, an honesty ... soul. The band tear through it and could easily have stopped at 3-minutes, but they keep going and deliver one of my favourite Oasis outro's as Noel picks a riff for a full 40-seconds to close.

Oasis/Noel would revisit the song for the Help / Warchild album and Noel delivered a beautiful version at his Royal Albert Hall show, later released under The Dreams We Have As Children album.

Little By Little

Two years ago my brother managed to bag us tickets 4 rows from the front to see Noel Gallagher play Edinburgh Playhouse with his High Flying Birds band. It was the first time I had seen Noel in a decade and I absolutely loved it. His band were excellent, Noel was in top form and included a number of Oasis songs in the set.

One that took me slightly by surprise was Little By Little. It was utterly euphoric. Maybe I had kind of forgotten about it, but it was possibly my song of the night, the chorus nearly took the roof off the place! Since then it's become one of my most listened to Oasis songs.

Noel's melodic bridge beginning you know I didn't mean, what I just said lifts the song beautifully and quite dramatically from a short verse into the skyscraping chorus;

Little by little, we have you everything you ever dreamed of
Little by little, the wheels of your life have slowly fallen off
Little by little, you have to give it all in all your life
And all the time I just ask myself why you're really here?

After the second verse there is one of my favourite Oasis guitar breaks that builds into another euphoric chorus and a lovely psychedelic tinged outro.

Don't Look Back In Anger

When Noel wrote Wonderwall and Don't Look Back In Anger he knew that he wanted to sing one of them. He may have guessed (or probably known) they would become Oasis anthems, but I don't think anyone (not even Noel) could have predicted or even dreamed of just how anthemic they would become.

Once my mates and I were out for a night out in neighbouring Wishaw and we couldn't get a taxi home, so we started walking. All of a sudden there was a group of lads running for us ... until they spotted my Oasis t-shirt ... after a brief tense but friendly exchange (thank god I didn't have a Blur t-shirt!) we were singing Wonderwall - mental!

I love Wonderwall, I love how the song has been transformed thanks to Ryan Adams covering it and Noel adding his own spin to that. But Don't Look Back In Anger is my favourite of the two, indeed, Wonderwall almost became a victim of its own success.

Meanwhile Don't Look Back In Anger has developed to become a real anthem with added poignancy after it was adopted by the people of Manchester after the 2017 bombing in the city.

Check the live version from Buenos Aires in Argentina to see how this song means something to people across the world. Listen to the huge crowd singing it so passionately. Noel looks genuinely taken aback at the end.

Why does it mean so much? Maybe it sounded instantly familiar to people, the borrowed Imagine chords at the start helped. Maybe it's Noel singing another line from his childhood that would resonate with others of his age - stand up beside the fireplace, take that look from off your face or maybe it's the soaring you ain't ever gonna burn my heart out that leads to the chorus.

Who was Sally? Who cares? 

Champagne Supernova
Champagne Supernova is utterly majestic. As psychedelic as Oasis got without trying too  hard; some of the lyrics are nonsense yet they came to make sense; slowly walking down the hall, faster than a cannonball, others asked questions - where were you while we were getting high? , others made statements that likely stemmed from Noel's working class roots - cause people believe that they're gonna get away for the summer, a line that Liam really seemed to relish and attack when singing it live.

Elsewhere a dreamer dreams, she never dies is one of of my favourite Noe lyrics, swiftly followed by a line I'm sure a lot of people will have heard when they were kids wipe that tear away now from your eye.

What was a champagne supernova? Who cared? It sounded amazing, Liam's voice still sounds amazing, Noel's guitar sounds amazing and his mate Paul Weller guests on the track, John Squire would join the band on stage at Knebworth to play on it.

Listening back now, Champagne Supernova beautifully balances moments that blast towards the stars with moments of tender, melodic, melancholy. The way the song ebbs to conclusion with Liam repeatedly singing we were getting high, before the outro is lazily and beautifully allowed to drift to conclusion is stunning.

Round Are Way

A triumphant celebration of youth, optimism and sunshine. Oasis blast through this, sounding like they are having fun, loving life, as carefree as the lyrics suggest.

Round are way the birds are singing
Round are way the sun shines bright
Round are way the birds sing for ya
Cause they already know ya

The song features in the 1997 film A Life Less Ordinary starring Ewan McGregor and Cameron Diaz. McGregor is walking in glorious sunshine singing the song, it is exactly that type of song! It's a feel-good, punch the sky romp, reminiscing about the simple pleasures of life - being a paperboy, lying to your teacher and my own favourite, playing football at the park until dark.

The game is kicking off around the park
It's 25-a-side and before it's dark
There's gonna be a loser and you know the next goal wins

Alongside She's Electric, Round Are Way perfectly captures the kind of council estate vibe that Oasis brought into the mainstream with their looks, attitude, humour and complete honesty. Straight from the off, Noel would talk lovingly of his Mum, of his abusive Dad. You didn't get anything like that in the NME or Melody Maker before Oasis! He felt real, he was real, he came from a scheme with a head full of dreams (great lyric for someone).


Coming in at only 2-minutes 8 seconds, Songbird is incredibly short for an Oasis song. And it's a Liam Gallagher penned song! Taken from 2002's Heathen Chemistry, this is a real gem of a song, Liam was head over heels in love with his fiance (at the time) Nicole Appleton and he pours his heart out in the song.

Talk of better days that are yet to come
I've never felt this love from anyone
She's not anyone

The harmonium, played by Gem Archer, adds a lot to the song, he plays it beautifully. The demo version of the song was released, it's more brashy and upbeat, complete with harmonica. I really like it, but the single version really captures the beauty of the song and Liam's voice is stunning.

The Masterplan
Two of the b-sides to Wonderwall (Round Are Way being the other) are in my top 10 favourite Oasis songs. Indeed, with Fade Away and Acquiesce, 4 out of my 10 are b-sides. 

With a heavy use of strings, it really felt like Oasis (or at least Noel) had grown up. Noel had certainly developed massively as a songwriter. If the aforementioned Live Forever set a bar, then the older Gallagher was regularly meeting it and at times he was setting new heights.

Noel had a masterplan with Oasis. He spoke of it in interviews. They would hammer it and release singles every few months like his heroes The Jam. 10 singles and 2 albums from April 1994 - February 1996 is astonishing, with the quality of b-sides highlighted in the compilation album - The Masterplan.

Noel is unrushed, the intro is extended, strings are at the heart of everything, there is that classic little Gallagher bridge that lifts into a chorus tumbles and flows.

Dance if you wanna dance, please brother take a chance
You know they're gonna go, which way they wanna go
All we know is that we don't, know how it's gonna be, please brother let it be
Life on the other hand, won't make us understand
We're all part of the masterplan

It's Noel at his best; meloic and beautifully mixing melancholic with euphoric.

1 comment:

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