Why did they waste their best tracks on B-sides? Were Noel’s lyrics really that bad? It’s time to reappraise the Mancunian legends …
30. Lord Don’t Slow Me Down (2007)
A stand-alone single that was reportedly removed from Don’t Believe the Truth to cut down on the number of Noel Gallagher-sung tracks, Lord Don’t Slow Me Down offered fruitful, grimy repurposing of the old guitar lick from the Yardbirds’ version of Bo Diddley’s I’m a Man – by way of David Bowie’s The Jean Genie and the Sweet’s Blockbuster.
29. Those Swollen Hand Blues (2009)
Keeping up the curious habit of putting better songs on B-sides than their albums, the flip of Falling Down borrowed its title from Pink Floyd’s The Wall and its atmosphere from former Floyd frontman Syd Barrett’s disturbing final recordings with the band: it’s authentically spooky and unlike anything else Oasis recorded.
28. Be Here Now (1997)
Deficient in the songwriting department it may have been, but there are moments where the claustrophobic, clenched-jaw din of Be Here Now works, at least in inasmuch as it literally sounds like the 90s spinning wildly out of control, from the horrible noise that opens it to its finale – which seems to feature someone urinating – the title track fits that bill perfectly.
27. Gas Panic! (2000)
Standing on the Shoulder of Giants stripped away the sonic excesses of Be Here Now, but was virtually devoid of memorable songs – at least its predecessor was piquantly daft. Gas Panic! is the exception; a troubled, churning depiction of cocaine addiction named after a Tokyo bar.
26. All Around the World (1997)
The coked-out stupidity of Be Here Now in full effect: All Around the World is a great song – a product of Noel’s early songwriting purple patch – that deserved a better fate than being inflated to nine and a half minutes of melodramatic key changes, guitar solos and would-be Hey Jude-esque na-na-na-ing. Twenty years on, its preposterousness seems more charming than it did at the time.
25. Going Nowhere (1997)
A poster of Burt Bacharach was strategically placed on the cover of Definitely Maybe, but his influence on Noel’s songwriting is most evident on this overlooked B-side: you see how the sweetness of its strings and muted horns had no place amid the wilful ugliness of Be Here Now.
24. Married With Children (1994)
The lo-fi concluding track of Definitely Maybe is obviously a minor entry in the pantheon of Oasis greats, but Married With Children is worth considering, largely because it is one of the few times the kind of sharpness and wit you get as standard in Noel’s interviews crept into his songs.
23. Stay Young (1997)
Tucked away on the B-side of D’You Know What I Mean? alongside a dreadful cover of Heroes, Stay Young deserved more prominence: rejected from Be Here Now in favour of the abysmal Magic Pie, it had a beguiling lightness and a melodic touch noticeable by its absence from the album.
22. Whatever (1994)
Subject of a lawsuit that got the Rutles mastermind, Neil Innes, a co-writing credit, Whatever’s melodic borrowing from How Sweet to Be An Idiot doesn’t alter the fact that Oasis’s 1994 Christmas single was a great song in its own right: live, Liam Gallagher added lyrics that highlighted its similarity to Moot the Hoople’s All the Young Dudes.
21. Shock of the Lightning (2008)
Towards the end of Oasis’s existence, you occasionally got the impression that Noel’s willingness to experiment was doing battle with a desire to give their audience what they expected: there’s a hint of motorik to Shock of the Lightning, a single that recaptured some of their initial insouciance.
20. Let’s All Make Believe (2000)
Once again, with Standing on the Shoulder of Giants, you had to examine the accompanying B-sides to find the best songs: Let’s All Make Believe is a low-key delight, the lyrics of which address atheism and – perhaps – the ructions among Oasis’s members.
19. Columbia (1993)
On first arrival, Oasis were occasionally touted in the press as baggy throwbacks influenced by Happy Mondays. On Columbia, you can just about see that: a loping dance beat, cyclical guitar grind, a hint of druggy oddness about the lyrics: “What I heard is not what I hear / I can see the signs, but they’re not very clear.”
18. Lyla (2005)
A great lead single from an otherwise unremarkable album. If Lyla had been a flop single that came out on Bell Records in 1974 by a platform-shod band called something like Thumper or Bumper, it would be acclaimed as a lost junk-shop glam classic by the kind of people who, by the time of its release, wouldn’t give Oasis houseroom.
17. Fade Away (1994)
The combination of the overfamiliarity of their early singles and the workmanlike plod that became Oasis’s default setting means that it’s easy to forget how brattily exciting they seemed on arrival, but you can hear it – and a remarkably youthful-sounding Liam – on the punky, electrifying Fade Away.
16. Half the World Away (1995)
That Half the World Away ended up as the theme tune to beloved sitcom The Royle Family makes sense, and not merely because of their shared Mancunian origins. Like Talk Tonight, it has a warmth and fragility you rarely find in Oasis’s oeuvre: allowing a vulnerable side to the elder Gallagher to shine appealingly through.
15. Rockin’ Chair (1995)
On the other side of the dreadful Roll With It lurked the superb Rockin’ Chair, a last great example of Noel in wistful, get-me-out-of-Burnage-I’m-suffocating mode that betrayed the influence of the Smiths in its freewheeling acoustic guitar picking and extended outro.
14. The Hindu Times (2002)
Oasis developed a hugely annoying habit of trailing their lacklustre latterday albums with singles that erroneously suggested that things were back on course: The Hindu Times isn’t quite up to Definitely Maybe standard, but it’s raw, exciting and insistent in a way that the rest of Heathen Chemistry isn’t.
13. Round Are Way (1995)
An anomaly in the Oasis catalogue, Round Are Way’s delightful vignette of provincial life is sunshiney 60s psychedelia shot through a snarky Gallagher lens and decorated with gleeful brass: it’s a shame they didn’t do more songs like it.
12. Supersonic (1994)
Oasis’s debut single was a rough studio mix of an off-the-cuff jam with hastily written lyrics – Noel apparently downed a large gin and tonic in the studio before writing them, hence the song’s most famous line – but its spontaneity worked in its favour: Supersonic sounded like an incredibly bullish statement of intent.
11. Wonderwall (1995)
Wonderwall seemed to become ubiquitous within weeks of release, a ubiquity it has never lost: 25 years on, you are still guaranteed to hear a busker belting it out at least once a week. It has undoubtedly dulled Wonderwall’s charm, but songs become ubiquitous for a reason: certainly, Liam manages to invest its largely nonsensical lyrics with real emotion.
10. Talk Tonight (1995)
The aftermath of a disastrous crystal meth-fuelled gig in LA, and a subsequent fight that saw Noel quit Oasis, set to music; a lovely acoustic ballad that found Noel wrestling with that most un-Oasis like topic: fear of failure.
9. Cigarettes & Alcohol (1994)
A charitable interpretation of Oasis’s light-fingered approach to other people’s songs (in this case by T Rex) is that it was a rock equivalent of sampling. Certainly, it gave them a familiarity that, on Cigarettes & Alcohol, clashed thrillingly with the venom of Liam’s delivery.
8. The Masterplan (1995)
Oasis’s willingness to relegate songs as good as The Masterplan – far more appealing and less portentous than subsequent lunges for anthemic status – to B-sides was both a masterstroke and a mistake. Initially, it made Noel’s songwriting look startlingly abundant; although if he had stockpiled them, the third Oasis album might have been a very different beast.
7. Rock ’n’ Roll Star (1994)
A perfect example of how circumstances overtook Oasis, Rock ’n’ Roll Star’s snarling hymn to self-belief sounded hugely exciting and powerful performed by a band on the brink of fame, but didn’t make a huge amount of sense a few years later, played by people who were literally rock’n’roll stars.
6. Don’t Look Back in Anger (1995)
Footage of crowds spontaneously singing Don’t Look Back in Anger after the Manchester arena bombing underlined how the song has become part of the fabric of British life. The tune is indelible and the lyrics mix placeholder gibberish with a prescient note of caution regarding hero worship: “Please don’t put your life in the hands / Of a rock’n’roll band / Who’ll throw it all away.”
5. Live Forever (1994)
A song that launched a million closing-time sing-alongs, Live Forever was the song that marked Oasis’s shift from headline-grabbing music press phenomenon to vast mainstream success. You can still see why: the melody is fantastic, as is Liam’s vocal, and its mood of battered-but-blazing optimism remains incredibly infectious.
4. Morning Glory (1995)
Cocaine helped ruin Oasis’s third album, but before the inevitable crash, they came up with one of rock’s great paeans to the drug’s dubious power. Weirdly, it’s all in the sound, not the lyrics. Morning Glory is potent, feral and aggressive, topped off with a particularly sneery Liam vocal: it’s impossibly thrilling while it plays, but you wouldn’t want to live there.
3. Acquiesce (1995)
With hindsight, Noel’s insistence that Acquiesce should be the B-side of the inferior Some Might Say was an early sign of a hubris that would be Oasis’s artistic undoing. It’s a fantastic song, and the pleading tone of the chorus still makes it sound like a rather moving depiction of sibling relations, despite its author’s constant insistence that it isn’t.
2. Slide Away (1994)
Definitely Maybe is packed with songs that yearn for escape from everyday life, but Slide Away is the greatest of the lot, the pent-up frustration of the verses, perfectly embodied by Liam’s vocal (“We talk of growing old / But you say ‘please, don’t’”) exploding into the chorus’s irresistible, longing euphoria.
1. Champagne Supernova (1995)
(What’s the Story) Morning Glory opened with a song that rewrote Gary Glitter’s Hello! Hello! I’m Back Again and ended with Britpop’s equivalent of the great elegiac anthems that marked the waning of glam: Bowie’s Rock ’n’ Roll With Me, Mott the Hoople’s Saturday Gigs, T Rex’s Teenage Dream. Exalted company, but Champagne Supernova earns its place; self-aggrandising and melancholy, it’s the sound of Noel, at the peak of Oasis’s success, apparently realising it is a passing moment, offering the perfect epitaph for swaggering mid-90s hedonism (“Where were you while we were / Getting high?”) and delivering an oft-mocked line (“Slowly walking down the hall / Faster than a cannonball”) that’s actually a pretty good description of someone treading gingerly to avoid attracting attention to their head-spinning state of chemical refreshment.
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