These days, people queue outside shops all night for the latest iPhone or the new Call Of Duty. 20 years ago to the day, Oasis fans queued outside record shops to get their hands on ‘Be Here Now’.
Such was the anticipation and build-up to the release of Oasis’s third album, its release was a full-scale event. The music within seemed oh-so aware of its own importance. The opening track, ‘D’You Know What I Mean?’ begins with the sound of a helicopter and lasts for eight minutes. It’s like the opening scene of an action movie. It must have been a ‘90s thing.
But back to ‘Be Here Now’, critics were given preview copies on cassettes that they had to sign for – at the time, this was maximum security for new music. Having been caught out by the success of ‘(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?’, many raved about ‘Be Here Now’. There was a collective will for them to deliver a masterpiece, a collective delusion that the album was better than it really was. The normally tight-fisted Q magazine awarded it a very rare five stars. Others wished they didn’t like it so much. “Halfway through the epic ablutions of ‘All Around The World’, you realise that every single hair on your arms and neck is standing erect,” wrote NME’s reviewer. “And you think, defiantly, but very, very quietly, “Bugger”.”
Yet over time, peoples’ perceptions of the album began to change. It began to be seen as a rock folly, a coke-fuelled monument to ‘90s excess. There was mass backtracking. It was the emperor’s new clothes, and we were all blind to the reality. Even the most hardened fan would struggle to put ‘Be Here Now’ before B-sides compilation ‘The Masterplan’ in their mental list of the best Oasis albums.
Producer Owen Morris remembers the sessions this way:
The only reason anyone was there was the money. Noel had decided Liam was a shit singer. Liam had decided he hated Noel’s songs… Massive amounts of drugs. Big fights. Bad vibes. Shit recordings.
So, 20 years on, numerous paler Oasis albums later, where does ‘Be Here Now’ fit in? Well, yes, it’s ridiculous. Yes, it’s the sound of two men’s egos exploding simultaneously. Yes it’s got lots of empty sentiment covered up by strings and noise. But really, this was ambition and self-belief on a grand scale, with big tunes thrown in for good measure. Can an album that includes the epic, rock ‘n’ roll rush of ‘D’You Know What I Mean’, the sing-along-y ‘Stand By Me’, the council estate pop of ‘The Girl in the Dirty Shirt’ and their most accurate Beatles pastiche, ‘All Around The World’ really be that bad?
Maybe it’s time to re-re-appraise ‘Be Here Now’. Or perhaps it was never meant to be scrutinised so closely at all. Noel Gallagher himself remembers it as follows: “the sound of five men in the studio, on coke, not giving a fuck.” And suddenly, it all makes sense.