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Oasis

Oasis

Rock & roll with attitude and bravado has always been the key to a successful band, and the swaggering and sarcastic OASIS had it in bundles. Fronted by the cocky and overbearing Liam Gallagher, but guided by his songwriting older brother Noel (a foil to any of the singer’s quips), the Manchester scene added another string to its ever-expanding bow. Crossed/cloned (delete as appropriate) between The BEATLES, The STONES ROSES and The SEX PISTOLS, at least in rebellious and reckless abandonment, Noel had a sure-fire formula to succeed in the fickle world of the modern music industry. At least two classic albums in the bag (marking them just ahead of their tabloid Brit-pop rivals BLUR), OASIS had their massive fanbase eating out of their hands right from their initial breakthrough in 1994.
Formed (initially as Rain) by Liam in the summer of ’92, along with rhythm guitarist Paul “Bonehead” Arthurs, bassist Paul McGuigan and drummer Tony McCarroll, OASIS didn’t really get going until Noel joined the following year. He’d worked as a roadie/guitar technician for The INSPIRAL CARPETS and was also a budding songwriter/guitarist with a concrete self-belief. A year of rehearsals and occasional local gigs led to venues further afield, resulting in Creation Records’ boss Alan McGee signing them after the eagle-eared Scotsman clocked them at a Glasgow gig in mid-‘93.
With a groundswell of interest not witnessed since the heady early days of the ‘Roses, OASIS secured a near UK Top 30 placing with `Supersonic’, a sneering, leering anthem with lyrics that Shaun Ryder would’ve been proud to call his own. Later that summer the quintet hit No.11 with their follow-up, `Shakermaker’, a rather tame effort in comparison which appeared to be modelled on The NEW SEEKERS chestnut “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing”. Nevertheless, what the single lacked in originality, it made up for in controversy and the stage was set for OASIS’ first Top 10 breakthrough, the classic `Live Forever’. A life-affirming rush, celebrating the strength of the human spirit, the song was lauded as single of the year, closely followed by the epochal debut album, DEFINITELY MAYBE (1994) {*10}.
There were no maybes about it, this album defined an era in the same way that punk legends The SEX PISTOLS focused the frustrations of a generation with “Never Mind The Bollocks”; it’s just a pity that the dubious Brit-pop era spawned an interminable glut of production line indie chancers. The album opens on the same wave of freefall exhilaration as say, The ROLLING STONES’ “Exile On Main Street” (another oft cited influence); `Rock’n’Roll Star’ alive with a palpable sense of what it actually means to want fame that badly. The feeling that this was “for real, man”, while the set never lets up until the last track fades, a visceral, exhaustive listen and one of the most consistent debut albums ever released. Another highlight from the album, the T. REX-esque nihilism of `Cigarettes & Alcohol’ was the next single, peaking at No.7.
Basically, OASIS were all one’s favourite bands rolled into one, a kind of potted history of rock; Noel having a unique talent for constructing classic songs that seemed somehow familiar yet annoyingly difficult to pin down. On top of this, Liam was a natural, his piercing stare and coolly motionless stage presence coupled with his inimitably lethargic sneer, a vital component of OASIS’ rock’n’roll and media juggernaut. That Christmas the band narrowly missed No.1 with the string-laden, overtly BEATLES-esque `Whatever’, a pop-fuelled effort that hinted at the band’s future direction.
By this point, OASIS were a headline act, the scramble for tickets that accompanied any announcement of a gig becoming all too familiar over the next few years. As would the brothers’ press profile, their loudmouth self-aggrandising and embarrassingly public fisticuffs becoming a regular feature of their increasingly cartoonish image. The first casualty of the well documented in-fighting was McCarroll, his place in the drum seat subsequently filled by local lad Alan White.
The boasting was backed up by consistently strong material, however, and in the spring of ‘95, OASIS deservedly scored their first No.1 with the soaring, yearning `Some Might Say’. The band’s single releases had always been good value for money, the B-sides usually better than most indie bands’ half-arsed lead tracks. This release was no exception, containing the affecting `Talk Tonight’ (Noel on vocals) and the brilliant melodic noise of `Acquiesce’, arguably one of the group’s finest tracks.
Thus the stage was set for the media-created battle with the recently revitalised BLUR, both bands releasing a single simultaneously that August. In the event, despite the verbal jousting, BLUR took the top spot with “Country House”, OASIS forced to bite their tongue and, erm, `Roll With It’ at No.2. The Mancs had the last laugh, however, when their follow-up album (WHAT’S THE STORY) MORNING GLORY (1995) {*10} proceeded to sell multi-millions, catapulting OASIS into the musical stratosphere alongside U2, R.E.M., etc., something unheard of for a group who started out as, basically, another guitar band from Manchester.
While the album lacked the serrated edge and amphetamine rush of the debut, the songwriting was once again faultless, tracks like `Wonderwall’ (almost an Xmas No.1), chart-topper `Don’t Look Back In Anger and `Champagne Supernova’ reflecting a newfound maturity and a more coffee-table friendly pop-rock sound. The rapid ascent of the Gallaghers continued the following year, with awards galore and a significant dent into the US market. The latter wasn’t achieved without some cost to the band, however, as the bickering brothers had their most serious and most widely reported fracas to date, Liam flying home midway through a US tour amid rumours that the band had split. It was merely a case of another day, another fight however, and the band went on to break British concert attendance records with two sell-out shows at Knebworth in August ‘96. Noel refused to accept his Ivor Novello award for best songwriter of the year, after he was told it would be shared with rivals BLUR; it was also alleged he objected to The Smurfs releasing `Wonderwall’ on their album – maybe if they’d said they were Man City fans!
Early the following year, Noel was the featured vocalist on The CHEMICAL BROTHERS’ chart-topper `Setting Sun’, effective psychedelia and right on.
Notching up a tenth hit single via summer 1997’s `D’You Know What I Mean?’ – a third hit No.1 and reputed to have amassed UK sales of 162,000 copies on its first day of release – OASIS’s parent album BE HERE NOW {*7} was met with the usual hype and mass media attention; the record was a massive-selling chart topper (No.2 in America). Probably its finest four minutes, `Stand By Me’, surprisingly failed to make No.1, although its follow-up `All Around The World’ did; the album was also marked as a disappointment by some and was considered underwhelming to say the least. The posturing and epic feel of “Morning Glory” were still there but the record sounded like a parody of OASIS, if that’s not a contradiction in terms. While the album broke records with its first-day sales figures, it has hardly achieved the same momentum as its predecessor. A stop-gap collection of outtakes and rarities, THE MASTERPLAN (1998) {*6}, did little for any obsessed fan who already owned all the singles, although as previously mentioned, the B-sides were interesting – a re-tread of The BEATLES’ `I Am The Walrus’ hung their colours to the mast – some might say. In May ‘99, former drummer McCarroll won an out of court settlement of half a million – £18m for unpaid royalties was the figure he originally wanted. The old band took time out for the rest of the 90s (Bonehead and Guigsy also bailed out), although the Gallagher brothers were never far away from controversy and the tabloids. After an on/off relationship with actress Patsy Kensit (ex-of SIMPLE MINDS’ Jim Kerr), Liam married her in April 1997; a child or two later, one the result of an affair with Kill City’s Lisa Moorish, he split with Patsy and subsequently divorced in 2000, finding solace in ALL SAINTS singer Nicole Appleton; his second son was born in 2001. Meanwhile, Noel married Meg Matthews in ’97, but they too divorced after conceiving one child – without going into too much detail, he’s since married (June 2011) his long-time partner Sara MacDonald, mother of two of his other children.
STANDING ON THE SHOULDER OF GIANTS (2000) {*6} proved that OASIS were in for the long haul, a studied, immaculately professional effort which indulged Noel’s passion for classic psychedelia, while grafting on just enough contemporary flourishes (fifth chart-topper `Go Let It Out’ and two Top 5’s `Who Feels Love?’ and `Sunday Morning Call’) to make it relevant. Hardly the rebellious ball of sonic phlegm we all knew and loved, then, but no doubt the first in a series of passable 30-something efforts designed to please their already ageing fanbase. Double-disc live set FAMILIAR TO MILLIONS (2000) {*6} merely confirmed the fact, a Wembley Stadium gig which underlined the band’s stodgy reliability; check it out for two covers: `Helter Skelter’ (The BEATLES) and `Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)’ (NEIL YOUNG). Even Liam’s wildcard ranting had become somewhat predictable if no less amusing. Over the years, OASIS have covered many of their idols’ greatest hits, including `Cum On Feel The Noize’ (SLADE), `Heroes’ (DAVID BOWIE), `Street Fighting Man’ (The ROLLING STONES), among others.
Previewed by the regal, spring-coiled riffing of No.1 hit `The Hindu Times’, the much heralded HEATHEN CHEMISTRY (2002) {*7} held few surprises save perhaps Liam’s charming, countrified contribution `Songbird’; a belated Top 3 smash early in ‘03. The rest was Noel putting in a solid day at the office with reasonably efficient results; the requisite careworn ballads `Stop Crying Your Heart Out’ and `Little By Little’ (flipped with `She Is Love’) both reached No.2, while the album itself hit No.1; yet big brother’s insistence on a bombastic production did the band few favours.
Sharing out the songwriting pie once again (with guitarist Andy Bell and bassist Gem Archer) and marking the debut of one Zak Starkey (son of RINGO STARR), DON’T BELIEVE THE TRUTH (2005) {*8} returned OASIS to their place at the top of Brit-pop’s pecking order, elbowing its way straight in at No.1 (No.12 in America, their highest Stateside placing to date). Lead single `Lyla’ sized up a SWEET-like stomp and ‘Stones swagger at No.1, re-staking – and at least partly vindicating – their claim as inheritors of a classicist lineage, while `The Importance Of Being Idle’ was the most self-consciously, 60s referencing, UK chart-topper since BLUR’s `Beetlebum’ almost a decade earlier. But keep that a secret. Critics were in general agreement that Noel’s songwriting was much improved, and that Liam had finally come into his own, the Gallagher brothers pooling their talents on acoustic guitar ’n’ piano album closer (and near No.1), `Let There Be Love’.
Over the years, OASIS have painstakingly tried to emulate the classic early albums that made them giants of modern-day alt-rock, well DIG OUT YOUR SOUL (2008) {*8} came quite close to recreating these times; even long-standing members Gem Archer (on `To Be Where There’s Life’) and Andy Bell (on `The Nature Of Reality’) were afforded the secret key to the Gallagher signature songwriting formula. Three major hits, Noel’s `The Shock Of The Lightning’ and `Falling Down’ and Liam’s `I’m Outta Time’, proved to be somewhat kaleidoscopic of the brothers’ brash halcyon “daze” – and, as it turned out their swansong, final curtain call.
First to raise the curtain again so to speak was collective songwriters Liam, Andy and Gem (adding former ICICLE WORKS sticksman Chris Sharrock) as BEADY EYE; the Steve Lillywhite-produced Top 3 set `Different Gear, Still Speeding’ (2011). Meanwhile, Liam’s former sparring partner/brother was plotting his own comeback of sorts as NOEL GALLAGHER’S HIGH FLYING BIRDS. Hit singles `The Death Of You And Me’ and the genuinely brill `AKA… What A Life!’ preceded a chart-topping eponymous set`.
BEADY EYE’s sophomore delivery, `Be’ (2013) was kept off the UK top spot by ‘Sabbath’s “13”. Ironic, if Brit-rock had thought itself rid of “the dinosaurs”. As BEADY EYE wilted in October 2014, NOEL GALLAGHER’S HIGH FLYING BIRDS were soaring again the following March with `Chasing Yesterday’.
© MC Strong 1995-2006/GRD // rev-up MCS May2012-Jun2013-Feb2015

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