I bought Oasis’ second album, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? after seeing the video for “Wonderwall” and loving the song. I played that album a million times! I used to buy British music magazines like NME and Melody Maker and read about Oasis, and since I loved that album I bought their first one, Definitely Maybe, and became equally obsessed with it.
Yes, Liam and Noel Gallagher have been inspired by The Beatles. And yes, their music is more derivative than many. But so what? They have made no secret of their love for The Beatles. When you listen to this first album you can hear other inspirations as well. Liam lifts some of his singing style from Johnny Rotten—the way he enunciates on “Supersonic” and “Cigarettes and Alcohol” and “Bring It On Down”? Pure Rotten. You can also hear T. Rex in the beginning chords of “Cigarettes and Alcohol”. I always thought “Shakermaker” sounded exactly like “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (in Perfect Harmony)” from the 1970’s Coca-Cola commercials. “Digsy’s Diner” reminds me of something as well, but I’ve never been able to quite put my finger on it. But none of this detracts from the brilliance of this debut album that helped usher in the Britpop explosion of the mid-1990s.
This does not sound like a debut album. It sounds like these guys have been expert musicians and lyricists for years. There is a lot of great stuff going on here, and everything is perfect. Oasis were not poseurs. They were the real deal. Liam would fuck you up in a second. Noel would outwit you and kick you in the nuts before you knew what happened. They thought they were better than The Beatles, which of course is ridiculous, but seriously, who the fuck says that without a hint of irony? Definitely one of the best bands of the past 25 years. But not better than The Beatles.
That said, I fucking love Oasis. I have seen them in concert twice, the second time on the Tour of Brotherly Love with The Black Crowes shortly before they broke up. I am lucky. They were great, and the audience knew every lyric to every song. The boys did not disappoint. I buy everything they record, and I cannot say that about many bands formed since the 1980s. I think only Foo Fighters, Nirvana, and The White Stripes hold that distinction in my library.
What Definitely Maybe reminds me of is my early twenties and having lots of dreams about being a rich and famous writer. I did write incessantly back then, and I spent a lot of energy submitting my stuff to book and magazine publishers, but never getting anything published. Still, I wrote pretty much every day. And I went out a lot with my best friend. And I drank a lot. And I had so much fun. Yet I always felt bored. When I look back at stuff I wrote them, so much of it was about wishing something cool would happen so I could stop being so bored. I look back on that time as far more exciting than my life is now. Only recently have I returned to writing on any sort of regular basis, and it still is not nearly as much as I was writing back then. Part of it is that I have to work seven days a week between two shitty jobs that I hate, so I simply do not have the time or energy to devote to writing. Part of it is that I am 39 years old and simply do not have the energy, period! But I see that so much time has passed, and that even when I complained back then that I was bored and that things sucked, I still had hope for the future. Oasis’ music can be sort of melancholy at times, but I really do feel hopeful when I listen to the lyrics. I have written this before, but I do find their music to be an inspiring kick in the ass when I need it most, and I definitely need it now.
“Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” is an awesome way to start this album. I always wanted to be a rock star, whether that meant actually being a rock star or just being fucking amazing at anything else I wanted to do.
In my mind my dreams are real
Now you concerned about the way I feel
Tonight I’m a rock ‘n’ roll star…
You’re not down with who I am
Look at you now
You’re all in my hands tonight
Yes. That’s exactly it. You thought I was nothing, but now that I’m a goddess? Yeah, you’re so phony. I have gone through a bit of this. This song has a lot of meanings, and they all boil down to just doing whatever the fuck you want regardless of what other people think or expect. You will be respected as long as you are honest about who you are.
“You can have it all/But how much do you want it?” Hmm. I thought I wanted it more than anything. But here I am, a barren old hag, working seven days a week for nothing. Maybe my definition of “having it all” is different now, but it definitely is not what I am living. I am not unhappy like I used to be, but I am more frustrated. When I think about all the years that have passed since Definitely Maybe was released, I get angry at myself. Have these years been wasted? I was wasted for most of them until four years ago. But I have gained a lot of wisdom, I have grown, I have figured my shit out. So I’m not a successful writer. I will be. I should have done it by now, I like to pout. Well, I guess it wasn’t meant to happen yet. God has a plan and this is it. I’m finally going in the right direction. All those words I wrote when I was younger were important. It’s time to do something with them.
“You need to be yourself/You can’t be no one else.” Indeed. I never cared what people thought. But I did spend many years living my life in a way that others sort of expected of me, and though I did enjoy myself for a long time while I was scandalous, it became more This is who they want me to be and less This is who I know I am. Every woman has a whore inside them. Some of us let her out occasionally, some more often. Some let her run us for years. And that’s okay. I am a whore at heart, and I have become comfortable acknowledging that. In the past I was a straight-up whore. Now, I just lust in my heart. Sometimes I miss being a more proactive whore. But only sometimes. I am happier keeping that little hoochie locked up. But she’s starting to break through. So while I accept that I am both Madonna and whore, I find that I am more content with my life when keeping my legs closed. Yes. That’s it.
“Married With Children” is a great, great tune. “Your music’s shite/It keeps me up all night.” Right? The best friend I had when this album came out is no longer my friend. This song reminds me of him. Not that he was a complete asshole, but he was just who he was, totally un-self-conscious about it. He didn’t care if you liked him or hated him, really, as long as you respected him for being himself. “I don’t care no more/So don’t you worry/Goodbye, I’m goin’ home.” It took me a while to get over the ending of our friendship, but now it seems like a million years ago. Still, I would not be who I am without him. Oasis will always remind me of him.
I had this album on in my car today as I drove to and from one of my shitty jobs. It had been a while since I last heard it. As soon as it started, I immediately felt happy and excited, and it took me back to the fun I had with the band back in the day. That’s one of the great things about music. Even though Oasis was a major band who sold millions of albums all over the world, this album is so very personal to me. Every time the next song came on, I was shouting out loud Fuck yes! I love this shit! I smiled. I remembered. I couldn’t wait to leave work so I could listen to more of it on the way home. I couldn’t wait to listen to it all over again while writing this. I couldn’t wait to dig deeper into my love for Oasis. Ever since I wrote my MA thesis about rock ‘n’ roll and race in the early years of the music, I listen to music differently. More analytically, but not in a way that ruins the music for me as a fan. It has deepened my appreciation for all music, not just the stuff I love. I conducted a bunch of interviews while researching the role rock music played in views about race, and when I asked everyone why they responded to the music, no matter what race they were or where they grew up they had the same answer: It made you feel good. Oasis is one of those bands that always makes me feel good. The band itself was always a hot mess, but out of that came some incredible music that really means a lot to me. I am forever grateful for those fucked up Gallagher boys.