10 Things That Made Oasis Special

Twenty years ago Oasis were at King Tut’s and in the process of becoming famous. Louder Than War’s Katy Georgiou looks back at just what it was that made them great.

‘This is history! Right here, right now, this is history!’, Noel Gallagher once shouted out to a 125,000+ crowd at Knebworth.

Just three years earlier, Oasis were playing to a handful of people at Glasgow’s King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, unaware that metres away, a young Alan McGee was sipping his double JD about to make them a record deal. Twenty years on from King Tut’s, Alan is returning to the music industry with a new record label. As things come full circle, what better time than to look back on one of his most successful signings, and reflect on 10 of the things that made Oasis stand out.

 

1. Liam and Noel

Even now, we’re obsessed with these two. ‘Noel is the talented one’, some say, ‘Liam is the proper rock star’, chant others. But deep down we know that without each other to feed off, they would never have got to where they are now.

Liam’s frontman swagger worked well alongside Noel’s strategic brain. Liam’s emotive vocals carried the sentiment behind Noel’s lyrics beautifully. Together, their voices meshed. And the brotherly love that connected them together for so long is ultimately what made that band so interesting.

While off-stage, they appeared two big-mouthed (but misunderstood) lads, onstage, they were two kindred spirits who carried a narrative of shared pain and hurt behind them that resonated with a generation. Liam’s enigmatic surrealism was a humorous, curious contrast to Noel’s down-to-earth, acerbic wit.

There would have been no walkouts were it not for the tension between them. And no bust ups, means no news stories. The reality of the sibling rivalry, the honesty of it, the lack of pretence in trying to hide it, the relatability of it to others was refreshing and human, and ultimately what endeared them to so many.

It’s easy to take sides. We know the arrests, the drugs and the rock star antics would have amounted to nothing were it not for the love affair we had with Noel’s songs that gave our lives meaning. But the truth is, the anthems wouldn’t have packed as big a punch were it not for the intensity of Liam’s snarl, stare and swagger on stage that got people talking, and Definitely Maybe might well not have seen the light of day if Liam hadn’t started the band first.

‘We need each other, we believe in one another’ Noel sang on Acquiesce – the same song they sang together so beautifully at Maine Road in 1996, before Liam stormed off stage moments later when Noel said he got the opening to Whatever wrong. A reflection of their tumultuous relationship at its best.

 

2. The B-Sides

If there was one thing Noel had a knack for, it was writing brilliant B-sides, often better than the A-sides. Noel now curses the fact he didn’t save most of these for the third album, but truth is, he was that good a songwriter that he could afford to churn them out a dime a dozen with carefree abandon.

Who knows what spirit or drug he was possessed by at that time, but from Fade Away to Talk Tonight, there was a deeper side to Oasis that always came through in those songs.

Back when iTunes and Mp3s simply didn’t exist, it was an exciting part of the ritual to queue up for an Oasis single, unwrap the Cellophane and place the CD in the player in anticipation of the B-Sides that you knew you would love before you’d even heard them. And for many years, they didn’t disappoint.

It’s hard to believe that The Masterplan – the one song that probably captured the most profound statement of the spirit of what Oasis were about so perfectly – was plonked as an ‘extra’ track 4 on the CD version of Wonderwall. And how even now, some of the best B-sides Oasis ever did still remain a mystery to anyone who isn’t a die-hard Oasis fan – Take Me Away, for example, such a touching acoustic number, with an atypical country-twang and silky-smooth vocal from Noel, never even made the Oasis’ B-Side compilation – an indication of just how many great B-sides there were.

 

3. Their unapologetic attitude and self belief

‘We’re not arrogant, we just believe we’re the best band in the world’ Liam told us in the early days.

It’s an interesting debate – at what point does confidence become arrogance? But it’s what really made them stand out above the rest. Their ability to believe in themselves and encourage others to do the same was infectious and unique.

While many bands were graciously accepting awards, Oasis felt they deserved them – an alien and unsettling concept from a country that prides itself on polite modesty, and one that challenged our belief systems of the time.

Some called it arrogant, but the fans always knew – if you don’t love yourself, nobody else will.

 

4. Their ‘do it yourself’ ethic and down to earth spirit

Even at the very height of their fame, sipping champagne with prime ministers and holidaying in Mustique, Oasis didn’t hide behind five-foot walls of security and bodyguards.

To the end, they opened their hearts to fans, never compromised their integrity and walked the same streets we walk and kept true to the people. It shows a strength of spirit and resilience in the band members that was truly admirable, and gives every reason to suggest that they were good role models.

 

5. Their prolific hardworking ethic

For three years from 1993-1996, Oasis put out singles and toured relentlessly, and it paid off.

It’s hard to believe they had five singles and a debut album out in the same year, and then were straight back in the studio to record Morning Glory the following year.

By the end of 1996, they had gone from playing to a handful at King Tut’s to playing to 250,000 people over one weekend at Knebworth. That’s not bravado.

 

6. The way Noel played homage to his idols by ripping them off

The unmistakeable T-Rex opening riff on Cigarettes and Alcohol, the carbon-copy Imagine piano refrain at the beginning of Don’t Look Back in Anger, and the blatant rip off of I’d Like to Teach The World To Sing on Shakermaker: the boldness with which Noel emulated his heroes was cheeky, but genius.

Noel played with fire when it came to songwriting, but somehow you could never hold it against him, because he always managed to take those old songs and make them uniquely ‘Oasis’. Far from feeling like a rip off, it made us want to listen to those old songs and rediscover all the greats that Oasis shed new light on.

Many debate whether that’s genius or stealing, but that’s a fine line that not many can master.

 

7. Liam’s voice

When Liam was in his prime, his vocals were unrivalled by anyone. His ability to roar out lyrics while still sounding sweet like an angel was a marvel, and the way he articulated the feeling behind Noel’s words was at times truly heartbreaking and sensitive for a man so often slated for his hard-man exterior.

Many bands tried to emulate the style, but unsuccessfully. That lean forward, hands-behind-back, tambourine and ‘sunshiiiiiiiiiine’ snarl trademarked Oasis.

Bonehead said it beautifully once; ‘When you think of Oasis’ sound, it’s Liam’s voice’. If anyone else had sung Roll With It, it just wouldn’t have been the same.

 

8. Their anthems

Few other bands have ever been able to achieve the same hands-in-the-air anthems that Oasis were so famed for. They became a soundtrack to our lives, and the ability they had to get fully grown men arm in arm during a gig was a goose-bump inducing spectacle that remains unique to this very day.

Ask anyone what their favourite Oasis song is, and it’s like asking a parent to choose their favourite baby. Depending on what kind of mood you were in, you could find an Oasis song to match it, and just when you thought you had heard it all, along they would come with a better song that wrenched your heart and left you more in love.

It’s the stuff that built the fanbase, and why people remain fiercely loyal to this day.

 

9. The acoustic interludes

In the Morning Glory era, for every swaggering gig that Liam commanded, there was a half hour interlude, where Liam would walk offstage, and Noel would sit on a stool with a spotlight on him to sing acoustic renditions of Wonderwall and Don’t Look Back in Anger before anyone had heard them yet on record.

For that half hour, the stadium would be fixated on Noel in silence, a magical moment that fuelled the energy in the room.

That symbiotic contrast between Noel and Liam’s energy onstage will forever be etched in the memory of those lucky enough to have been there when that kind of magic was happening.

 

10. Their ability to affect a generation

Twenty years on, new Oasis fans are being born by the minute. There was something about the can-do positive attitude oozing out of the songs and through the band that was infectious, and it genuinely changed peoples’ lives.

Ask Miles Kane, Carl Barat, Glasvegas and Kasabian what made them want to pick up a guitar, and Oasis will always get a mention.

‘We will not be a footnote, but a footprint in the history of rock n roll music’ Noel defensively ranted in the weeks following Be Here Now’s release. Thankfully, their self-belief, talent and hard work paid off to make sure that those words became a reality.

 

Oasis be found at their website and at their Facebook and MySpace pages.

All words by Katy Georgiou.

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7 comments on “10 Things That Made Oasis Special”

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  1. Musically – dull unimaginative plodding
    Lyrically – meaningless moon-in-june rhyming
    Image – thick, never-read-a-book luddites, dressed in casual rainwear
    Legacy – a million dull, thick, unimaginative bands
    Style – ‘swagger’ rather than effortless cool
    Lowest Common Denominator Everyman approach/appeal = artistic stagnation and secondhand riffs and tunes – Karaoke Lennon. Jukebox rock’n’roll with no soul.
    The worst band in Britain – they shame the North which brought us Buzzcocks, the Smiths, Magazine, Joy Division….

  2. Brilliantly written. I totally agree and these are the reasons that Oasis are my favourite band, a soundtrack to some of the most formative times in my turbulent life

  3. Katy Georgiou

    Devoto:

    Musically – genuinely hit millions of people in the heart in a deep, inexplicable way that can only be likened to falling madly in love. Genuinely changed peoples’ lives for the better. I know somebody who quit their post-office job on the spot on hearing the lyric ‘I’m free to be whatever I choose’ then enrolled on a university course and is now a teacher for autistic children. He’s not the only one to have changed his life in a dramatic way as a result of Oasis.

    Lyrically: for every moon-in-june rhyming, there are several lines in several songs that are so inspiring and full of wisdom, I genuinely cried tears of joy on hearing them. Millions feel the same way. Don’t underestimate the incredible positive power of Oasis’ song lyrics and what that positivity does to a teenager in helping them look forward to a wonderful future. NLP doesn’t come close.
    Image: The image of thick, never-read-a-book luddite is a false one perpetuated by the media. Noel and Liam Gallagher are incredibly wise people and excellent role models for trying hard, thinking positively and believing in the power of change.
    Legacy: millions of awe-inspired individuals around the world who may not necessarily want to be in a band, but who embody the positive spirit of what Oasis created in them in their daily activity. Thousands of people who decided not to kill themselves that day, because the sound of one strum of an Oasis song made their heart beat strongly enough to make them realise the value of truly living.
    Style: Again perpetuated by the media. In truth, when you listen to early interviews with Noel and Liam, there is a humbleness there that many people don’t see because they never looked.
    Lowest Common Denominator Everyman approach/appeal = most of the greatest artists appeal to the masses. Shakespeare, Flaubert, the epic poetry that brought us the Odyssey and the Iliad: these works were created from ‘everyday’ people who understood ‘everyday’ people and knew how to take a feeling oh so very personal and make it absolutely universal.
    The worst band in Britain? Not if you listen properly and ignore the ‘media’ version.

    PS. Last month, my brother went to watch the F1 in Monaco. When he got home he told me a story about what happened. After the event, he went for a wonder with his friend and came across a side street that was empty. There was a pub, and in it, an old man with a tatty guitar. The man started playing Don’t Look Back in Anger, very badly. Within a few minutes, the people in the pub started singing. The sound caught the attention of some passers by who joined in. Suddenly, the street filled up. From nowhere, my brother was surrounded. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of French people appeared, and they all started singing along to every single word at the top of their lungs. My brother recorded it. He said it was the best concert he’d ever been to and it wasn’t even a concert. He’s not even an Oasis fan. But it made him realise something about the power that Oasis songs TRULY have.

  4. Fair enough Devoto, everyone has their opinion and yours is one that is shared with many thousands of music fans the world over. But… They must have had something! You don’t become one of the biggest selling bands in British history by being a dull, boring luddite. That is actually a very dull, boring and over-used view of the band that many people are now steering away from as it is such an unbelievably stereotypical thing to say about Oasis from a person who clearly would hate to be stereotyped and is obviously just annoyed that his favourite bands could never achieve the same level of adoration that Oasis did in their peak. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Smiths and I know most of their fans are probably even more devoted than Oasis fans but for me and many millions like me, Oasis had the anthems. Yes, simple songs, easy to play, not exactly challenging the boundaries of the musical stratosphere, however, they were never boring, they were never dull and you’ve probably never listened to noel or seen him interviewed but he’s actually very bright, extremely clever, astute and most certainly does not come across as thick and having never read a book, that my friend is another lazy, stereotypical and assumptive assessment of someone because you read someone you think is cool saying that. Generally bands who don’t sell a lot of records have a go at the guys who do. Oasis never asked to be so popular, they weren’t promoted and tarted around like bands today, everything was very much word of mouth and down to their sheer power when they performed and their constant touring and hard work. Yes sometimes Oasis Lyrics can be meaningless, but then not everyone is interested in “jumped up pantry boys” and also, can’t the best songs sometimes be meaningless, plenty of the beatles songs were and they’re generally regarded as the greatest band ever by most of the world. Plenty f bands have meaningless lyrics but again your lazy approach, lack of actual knowledge of Oasis and stereotypical views that someone said shine through as they have so many songs with fantastic lyrics like the masterplan, cast no shadow, talk tonight, going nowhere, fade away, the list goes on, but even some of the songs you may actually have heard like CIgarettes and Alcohol, fair enough maybe not the most challenging or intelligent lyrics and of course the tune was stolen from T-Rex but that song was a very accurate commentary of Britain in the early 1990s. The country was very much a mess, people had no money, there was a lot of unemployment and “The North” had pretty much just been forgotten about by the Tory Government of the 80s and 90s and left to rot so there was “nothing worth working for”, people did “do the white line” and basically only needed cigarettes and alcohol to stave off boredom and depression. Other anthemic songs like Rock’n’Roll star also caught the imagination because again, while quite simple, what young guy hasn’t wanted to be a rock’n’roll star? Live Forever, maybe not exactly Morrissey or Ian Curtis but for so many a tale of friendship and the way we have all felt at some point and also for many, a better song than ever came from the pen of Curtis or Morrissey and I say that as a huge Smiths and Morrissey fan by the way but I personally think the simplicity and beauty of Live Forever far outweighs the wit, cleverness and meaning of many lyrics penned by Morrissey. Yes Morrissey had a gift, a talent for telling things in an intellectual way that nobody before him or since has had in the way of songs, yes there have been poets etc… but nobody actually put it to pop music. I agree the Gallaghers and Oasis are very much love them or loathe them but I really do feel that these people who get on their high horse and look down on their music as though it doesn’t even deserve to be called music should really take a look at themselves. There are far more important things in life than the fact that you might not like someone’s music, don’t listen to it then and don’t go scouring the internet for somewhere to vent your frustration, don’t let them affect your happiness, get on with your life in an Oasis free environment and just laugh at people like me and the millions of others who like them instead of writing something to make you feel empowered and good about yourself as though your soul is purer because Oasis never touched your heart. As for their legacy, yes they did spawn thousands of bands who thought they could play a few chords and get away with it and who were rubbish and rightly disappeared after a couple of months but then these bands didn’t have the same power, same edge, same intensity that Oasis had and they most certainly didn’t have the songs ( no matter how much you hate them they had better songs than all the bands who came after them). Also at a time when Rock’n’Roll music had died out completely in Britain, where the guitar was nowhere to be seen in the music industry, in a landscape dominated by dance music, house music, a million covers of old songs and and various other forms of rubbish – they single handedly resurrected guitar music in Britain. Bands like Pulp and Blur who were already around for years before Oasis had nowhere near the amount of success or popularity before Oasis came around and the acclaimed guitar bands of the 2000s such as libertines, arctic monkeys etc… could never have achieved such success had it not been for Oasis as they all site them as a major influence and had the way well and truly paved for them by Oasis bringing guitar music back to the masses.
    So criticise them all you want, i fully agree you have every rite to, as if we were all the same wouldn’t it be so dull?

  5. Great article. I’m so glad that
    I grew up during the mid 90s, they really did represent a peak in popular music in many ways. In terms of having a massive and meaningful impact, Nothing could live up to it and nothing has or will.

  6. lol I’d rather pierce my ears with the sharpest pair or knives in the world than listen to any Oasis song

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