Instead of longing for a reunion, we should cherish the past. It will never be like that again. It couldn’t possibly be.
Can you imagine if Definitely Maybe debuted today? Maybe it would revitalise music, just like it did in 1994, but it would almost Definitely get lost in the white noise of the contemporary industry landscape.
The digital age has brought with it unlimited access to music and unprecedented convenience. The art of mystery and, therefore, intrigue has taken a distant backseat. Very few rock bands wow now.
Whatever about there being a sibling reconciliation, let’s forget about talks of a comeback. Rather, Mat Whitecross’ ‘Supersonic’ was the reunion. There are a plethora of reasons to watch the superb documentary, because it showed us that Oasis’ relevance in the 1990s ensured their legacy for a lifetime. It also made grown men cry in 2016.
Image via Sick Chirpse
We should be thankful that it all happened then and not now, where some interest but more indifference and a standard place on Spotify would surely have been all that was waiting for these young blaggers from Burnage.
‘You need to find a way for what you want to say’
Timing. Above anything else, the Oasis phenomenon owes its weight in gratitude to timing.
While Nirvana were busy reaching finals and winning all the trophies, Oasis had a three-year pre-season, led by their coach and star man, Noel. He had been spending this time devising a devastating formation of era-defining anthems for the world to hear and had the next best thing in the game as his lead man.
Kurt Cobain’s tragic demise coincided with Oasis’ rise and after their blistering TV debut, these Manchester pals forced their songs and attitude down everyone’s throat while people were still eating.
Image via Taringa
Supersonic. Sunglasses indoors. Shakermaker. V-signs. Live Forever. Fearless interviews. Rock ‘N’ Roll Star. Relentless ambition. Slide Away. Swagger. Columbia. Unparalleled presence. Fastest-selling debut album. Who are these guys and where did this all come from? Wasn’t it supposed to be uncool to blatantly want it all?
Put simply, this was a group with unwavering commitment and self-belief far exceeding anything achieved, but completely justified when measured against their talent. Combine this with a disenchanted youth culture, without the modern day distraction of social media and on-demand everything to forget their troubles, and you’re left with stilted self-expression and a craving for some anarchic leadership.
With Grunge, the musical mood was introspective and angry. With Oasis, the fresh perspective was of hope and brashness. This is what the people were waiting for, and they didn’t even know it.
Clip via OasisVEVO
‘It’s just rock ‘n’ roll… it’s just rock ‘n’ roll’
Oasis’ influences were blindingly clear and they had a cavalier attitude towards originality in some of their melodies (Shakermaker is a tongue-in-cheek Coca Cola theme rip-off, while the beloved Half the World Away owes its existence to Noel’s hero Burt Bacharach). There wouldn’t have been an Oasis without the true Manchester innovators The Stone Roses and many would argue that their arch enemies Blur had more strings to their bow.
Image via BlurBalls
However, there were moments of pure clarity in the Oasis repertoire.
They were extremely prolific, with their first single Supersonic famously written and recorded in one night. Also, they had tender moments in the shape of the eternally underrated Sad Song and the pensive Talk Tonight (the origins of which are wonderfully explored in ‘Supersonic’).
Most of all, though, Oasis indirectly demonstrated the rewards of practice, belief and character, far extending beyond the world of music. The excellent Scottish comedian Kevin Bridges wrote to Noel some years after making it, thanking him for providing the courage he needed to follow his dream. He wasn’t talking about their songs.
Image via Her.ie
Oasis were providing inspiration and confidence to all one minute and causing carnage the next. The masses were receptive and a sensation was born.
‘Has-beens shouldn’t be presenting awards to gonna-bes’
Oasis were the anti-heroes with a knowing smirk as the mainstream protagonists. They didn’t care and their fans didn’t either. Everyone was in this together.
Britpop, Blur, Blair, new Labour, Liverpool’s ‘Spice Boys’, Cantona’s United, The Prodigy, Alan Partridge, TFI Friday, Father Ted, Football’s Coming Home, and Trainspotting, with Oasis leading the charge. This was a young man’s game and suddenly, anyone could be someone. Opportunity was now affordable to the willing.
Clip via Mark R. Jones
On this side of the ocean, there was and still is a special affinity with brothers Gallagher thanks to their Irish heritage, with mother Peggy, originally from Mayo, the light of their lives. The unforgettable gigs at The Point in 1996 will live forever in Irish memory – where Noel famously barely got a word in during his acoustic Wonderwall rendition.
Youth culture was suddenly vibrant because it was all so tangible – the party had started and there was no catch-up option. These were exciting times, but there was a backbone of graft. It wasn’t all drunken sibling rivalry shenanigans.
In ‘Supersonic’, Liam is recorded singing a perfect version of Champagne Supernova, having just heard the song for the very first time. While Bonehead recounts his reaction of disbelief (“you didn’t just f*cking write that!”) when Noel initially played Live Forever to the gang. Substance behind the bravado.
Image via Sonic Editions
That’s the truth. There was no short cut, but there was also no better stage than mid-90s UK and Ireland to strut your stuff. The people were waiting and they were in a good mood.
Roll With It. Earl’s Court. Wonderwall. Tantrums. Cast No Shadow. History-makers. Some Might Say. Maine Road. It’s all over. Don’t Look Back in Anger… Knebworth.
This is the point in the Oasis journey where it becomes hard to verbally justify their impact. By summer ’96, they briefly transcended music to become cultural phenomenons. Three years earlier, they couldn’t get a write-up from the local press. It was a genuinely unrealistic ascent and it’s captured perfectly in ‘Supersonic’.
Image via Mirror Eyes
When you realise that Oasis could have played for seven successive nights in Knebworth after nearly 5% of the UK’s population applied for tickets, you begin to comprehend the seismic scale.
As Noel lamented when prompted by Mat Whitecross, the 250,000 people that gathered in Knebworth on August 10 and 11 are etched in music folklore – for they were the last great gathering before the birth of the internet age and reality TV.
Nowadays, information and creative outlets are ubiquitous and people neither need nor want such a movement. It was a different world back then – slightly more mysterious but with just enough exposure in which to engage.
Image via Virgula
‘It’s all part of the masterplan’
Knebworth was the start of the end for the greatest period in music since the dawn of The Beatles, over 30 years prior.
Soon, the Spice Girls would burst onto the scene and music began to shift in a new direction again. Meanwhile, the wheels kept spinning. Oasis released the cocaine-fuelled Be Here Now. Or, as Noel would later call it, ‘F*ck it, that will do’.
Oasis were now enjoying the fruits of their labour and gone was the band’s intense drive to change the world. The hangover began while the students took notes, but the peak of people power over those three glorious years began to dissipate.
It was inevitable.
Clip via ModRevivalOfficial
‘Some might say, we will find a brighter day’
It was a time of innocence and hope, when Liam’s voice was at its zenith, Noel didn’t know his creative limits and Oasis were the soundtrack for possibility.
And hey, if this mad crew from Manchester weren’t your cup of tea, there were plenty of other options out there. As Noel said, “It was just a great time to be alive.”
Image via Radio X
I shudder to think of the apathy if such a movement was launched today. Their behaviour wouldn’t be tolerated, their language moderated, their output more collaborative and their look more Hollywood. Basically, in the words of Liam, it’s all “too beige” now.
Had Oasis launched a few years earlier than they did, they probably would have been met with a world not prepared for their ignorance and posturing.
So, instead of longing for a reunion, we should cherish the past. It will never be like that again. It couldn’t possibly be.
Clip via rgmu101
Cover image via Drowned in Sound
Listen to my interview alongside ‘Supersonic’ director Mat Whitecross on the Marian Finucane show on RTE Radio 1.