Oasis’ seminal debut record ‘Definitely Maybe’ turned 25 years old back in August and to belatedly celebrate this – and the band’s incredible career in general – we asked fellow superfan Luke Barham of Super Fan 99 Records to list his top 5 songs by the Manchester Rock & Roll Stars. We also couldn’t resist giving our Top 5 as there are so many great songs to choose from. Does any collection of B-sides match up to those featured on ‘The Masterplan’ compilation?
Luke Barham, Super Fan 99 Records:
Thanks for inviting me to talk about Oasis, Ryan. As you know they were something of a big deal for both myself and you growing up. I think we’re the same age so we both experienced that point in time where it felt like the whole of the UK liked the same band. I don’t think that’s happened since and Blur never quite had that moment of such unity across the country. Like, every house seemed to have a copy of Morning Glory next to the CD player. So crazy on reflection. As I write this it is Sunday night and in honour of the Definitely Maybe sleeve I pour myself a large red and dive in on the back catalogue. This is gonna be tough to pick 5 but I will try…
To me this is the most Oasis song of them all. Where to start? Some things I Iove about this song; the pick scrapes down the guitar neck are extremely Oasis, Tony’s loose drumming that feels like it could fall apart at any time, the “come on” backing vocal refrains, the Owen Morris maxed-out mix making it louder than anything else on your compilation cassette, Liam’s voice sounding nastier than any other Oasis track. It just oozes character, bravado and charm. I remember when my band were recording our debut album having a great time blasting this out of the huge studio monitors. We were all a bit drunk and it was 2am, sounded as fresh and important as the first time we all heard it.
Again this feels like quintessential Oasis. It’s pretty simple but so heartfelt, one of Noel’s finest melodies. I love the 12-string guitars that drive it. I think my teenage band covered it for a music exam. Noel also did a great version on Jools Holland on what was I guess the same spot they did ‘Whatever’? It was perfect. ‘Talk Tonight’ equally fills a similar spot in the cannon and I have a lot of love for that song.
Ok, so this must be the finest Oasis b-side and there are many. I mean how many bands have a b-side which basically becomes one of the fan favourites/staples in a live set? Goes to show how Noel had loads of good material to spare at this point, the creative tap was well and truly flowing. Another one that feels like the purest of Oasis, maybe the first track where Noel and Liam share lead too? The contrast of the vocals between verse and chorus is very satisfying especially going from chorus one back to Liam letting rip on verse two. He literally eats that shit up for breakfast, so killer.
I used to love it when bands would do one-off singles between albums. This was a perfectly crafted stepping stone to ‘Morning Glory’. It musically has one foot in both camps, still raw but also elevated by the string arrangement which while being super Beatles indebted is really tasteful. I love how the chorus takes a darker turn before turning back to sweetness and light. Being a musician I also love a video where the band’s gear is all on show, here you can see all their cool Marshall Blues Breakers and Hi-Watt amps and Noel has a plethora of new guitars including a cool Gibson Firebird.
I Hope, I Think, I Know
‘Be Here Now’ isn’t a loved record in the cannon but to me it kind of holds a special place. I was on a family holiday in Portugal when it came out. On release day I managed to find a tiny CD shop in the town that had it, I guess testament to how big a band they were at that point. I was delighted to feel still connected to my friends back home (pre-internet era) who I knew would all be listening to it. While it is totally overblown and the mix is horrible it was probably the peak of the band size-wise. I remember seeing them tour it at Wembley Arena and they had the ridiculous stage set with the huge clock, the Rolls Royce drum riser and gigantic red phone booth they came out of. So much money, too many drugs, lots of fun. This song for some reason was the one that resonated the most with me. It kind of feels overlooked. It has a reflective sadness and yearning to it while being an upbeat kickass rocker.
This was difficult and I spent a lot of time deliberating. For that reason I’d like to mention how much I love ‘Fade Away,’ ‘Live Forever’, ‘Slide Away’ and ‘The Masterplan’. I don’t think they are a band that need to reform but if they did I’d want to see Tony, Bonehead, Guigsy, Noel and Liam do it. That would be very exciting indeed, perhaps with a secret show at Southend Cliffs Pavilions or King Tuts to kick off?
Ryan Barham, Spectral Nights:
I’d been a fan of Oasis since first hearing them go for a Christmas number 1 with ‘Whatever’ in 1994. Over the following couple of years, me and my brother would play “Definitely Maybe’ and ‘(What’s the Story?) Morning Glory’ on repeat on his CD player (along with Supergrass’ ‘I Should Coco’, Pulp’s ‘Different Class’ and Michael Jackson’s ‘HIStory’ – the album that was promoted by the King of Pop floating a statue of himself down the Thames. The ’90s were wild) and develop an obsession with the Gallaghers and all their antics. I was too young for Knebworth and the ‘Be Here Now’ tour so when they announced a Wembley Stadium show for the summer of 2000, I was determined to get my hands on a ticket. I remember redialling the same phone number for hours before finally being rewarded with six standing tickets. We were right at the front and the gig didn’t disappoint – I can highly recommend seeing your favourite band two weeks or so before your 16th birthday!
‘While we’re living the dreams we have as children fade away’… Noel Gallagher always did have the knack of capturing the feelings of a generation and ‘Fade Away’, despite its big bluster-filled rock sound and Liam’s snarl in perfect form, had that air of melancholy that so many good songs do. It was fast, fraught and fantastic.
As Luke points out, ‘Be Here Now’ was the result of ‘So much money, too many drugs, lots of fun’. The next album, 2000’s ‘Standing on the Shoulder of Giants’, would very much be the album that captured the after-effects of these heady times. Creation Records was closed down, Guigsy and Bonehead left the band and Owen Morris was replaced as producer by Mark ‘Spike’ Stent. Despite Oasis being in a state of flux, Noel still managed to pull ‘Fuckin’ in the Bushes’, ‘Go Let It Out’ and ‘Sunday Morning Call’ out of the bag but ‘Gas Panic!’ remains the highlight with its psychedelic pangs and powerful descriptions of anxiety: ‘What tongueless ghost of sin crept through my curtains? Sailing on a sea of sweat on a stormy night…’
Rock & Roll Star
Whereas the band’s contemporaries Ian Brown and The Stone Roses sang ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ on the opening track of their debut album, the Gallaghers were far more assertive: ‘Tonight I’m a Rock & Roll star’. With those melodic hooks and Liam in fine form throughout plus a blistering conclusion – especially in the live setting – this was just the best introduction to a band that would shape ’90s culture.
Famously written after Noel almost broke the band up while on tour in the States promoting ‘Definitely Maybe’, ‘Talk Tonight’ found him baring his soul to a girl whose friendship and support managed to snap him out of his slumber. A B-side to ‘Some Might Say’ (along with ‘Acquiesce’ and ‘Headshrinker’ – the band’s best single release?), it became a live favourite and also was a highlight of the MTV Unplugged performance – complete with Liam’s heckling.
Some Might Say
I needed to have one song that is actually ON ‘Morning Glory’, didn’t I? And what better song than the band’s first UK number 1. The band had already made their mark with ‘Definitely Maybe’ and anticipation was building for the quick follow-up. Of course they delivered with lines about finding a brighter day and telling it to ‘the man who cannot shine’. Fun fact: the single artwork is packed with references to the more opaque observations, especially the verse: ‘The sink is full of fishes ‘Cause she’s got dirty dishes on the brain. And my dog’s been itchin’. Itchin’ in the kitchen once again.’
I found this just as tough as Luke as there are so many incredible songs to choose from. I made the decision to avoid any duplication between our picks and ‘Whatever’ and ‘Acquiesce’ would have been in my choices (in my head, when someone stumps up the cash Noel is holding out for Oasis will open their comeback show with the latter) and will give honourable mentions to ‘Round Are Way, ‘The Masterplan’, ‘Songbird’, ‘Slide Away’, ‘Step Out’ and ‘Supersonic’.
Luke Barham’s (Super Fan 99 Records) Top 5 Best Oasis songs:
- Sad Song
- I Hope, I Think, I Know
Ryan Barham’s (Spectral Nights) Top 5 Best Oasis songs:
- Fade Away
- Gas Panic!
- Rock & Roll Star
- Talk Tonight
- Some Might Say