This coming Friday the 19th marks the long-awaited official release of the landmark Oasis concert at Knebworth 1996. I will be waiting a moment for my package with everything to arrive from Europe so to bide my time I’ll talk about the band’s landmark second album.
Oasis – (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?
Released October 2, 1995 via Creation Records
My Favorite Tracks – Champagne Supernova, Don’t Look Back In Anger, Morning Glory
Oasis entered the release cycle for What’s The Story … in a singles chart battle with Britrock rivals Blur. The end result would see Oasis become one of the biggest bands on the planet, with over 20 million copies of the album sold and one of music’s most recognized songs living on for decades after its release. The album was the UK’s best selling of the 1990’s and it marked the pinnacle of the Britrock movement.
This is my favorite Oasis record and, like so many others, my jumping-on point for the band. It was a changing time in music as well as my life – I had just graduated high school a few months before its release and would be on the other side of the world a few months after it. These songs would be with me as I entered a new phase of my life and left childhood behind. And music in the late 90’s would not be what it was in the early 90’s, that much is for sure.
It’s only fitting to tackle this record track-by-track, there’s a lot to talk about here.
The album opens with a nice, steady rocker that’s bright but also gets a bit in your face. The song serves its titled purpose well – it’s a nice introduction to the album about to unfold. Some nice, washed out guitars compliment the album’s compressed mix (apparently compressed because no one besides Noel Gallagher could play their instruments…) The song doesn’t do much besides say “hello,” and it does that just fine.
Roll With It
The album’s lead single was the focus of a chart battle with countrymen Blur in 1995. Blur’s Country House would edge out this song as the winner of the week’s battle, but What’s The Story… would obliterate The Great Escape in album sales. The chart battle was a media invention that pitted the British everyman that Oasis represented versus a more upper class, artsy vibe offered by Blur. Honestly the whole thing was kind of a lame, media-contrived mess and I don’t put much stock in the war between the bands other than noting its historical significance.
Roll With It is a perfectly fine song but an odd choice for a lead single given what else lies on this record. This song doesn’t punch as high or hard as others but that doesn’t make it a bad song. It’s still a nice tune and fits the vibe of the record well.
Here we are – the immortal, titanic song from this record, from Oasis and from Britrock as a whole. This song took over airwaves of all forms and lives on today as one of the 90’s most recognizable hits. Wonderwall was the second song recorded before 2000 to hit over a billion streams on Spotify, trailing only Queen’s epic Bohemian Rhapsody. It is often found on polls of “Best Britrock Songs Ever” behind maybe only Live Forever or Pulp’s smash hit Common People.
Wonderwall is a mainstream sensation, even to this day it’s near impossible to escape hearing it. But it’s also a huge point of debate amongst Oasis diehards – is the song worth the attention it gets or is it possibly the worst song on the record? I’ve ran into this argument on many occasions and especially in the past few years as Oasis nostalgia has a lot of people revisiting their work.
The truth is that no, it’s not the worst song on the record. It is an expertly-crafted song and most likely deserves the fanfare it gets. I wouldn’t say it’s the best song on the record but I won’t throw Wonderwall under a bus just because it took on a life of its own, even if I feel the next track is the one that should have seen the supernova of attention.
This tune is often cited as a love song but there is confusion as to its real meaning, a discussion taken up on the song’s Wikipedia page. That confusion is owing to the song’s creator, Noel Gallagher. Noel did state that it was a song dedicated to his then-wife, but after divorcing that wife he said the song was about “an imaginary friend who’s gonna save you from yourself.” Of course we probably won’t know the truth of the matter as Gallaghers and historical facts tend to not get on together at times, but I do like the alternate meaning of the song he proposed later.
Whatever the case, Wonderwall lives on in the hearts and ears of both willing listeners and people sick to death of it. It is the defining moment of this album and the Oasis legacy.
Don’t Look Back In Anger
I could write another essay about this song. Thankfully, I already have. Don’t Look Back In Anger was my third selection to my list of S-Tier Songs, those being what I consider the greatest of the great songs. That post covers the major points I’d want to address.
There is the question of this song’s place in history – is this the true crown jewel of the record? Did Wonderwall steal the thunder from this tune, which has become entwined with British culture? Was Noel’s decision to handle vocals on it instead of Liam what held this song back?
There’s an argument to be made that DLBIA was a bit held back, but there is no stopping popular culture. Wonderwall became the sensation and this song rode in the backseat. But in the years since it has quietly taken the driver’s seat as the album’s premier song. Its message is universally resonant and it has been a part of triumphant and tragic moments in culture over the decades since its release.
And yes, while objectivity is rather impossible when looking at music, I would say that in an objective sense this is the best song on the album. It isn’t my favorite, we’ll get to that in a bit. But there’s no denying how powerful and impactful DLBIA is.
The album’s fifth cut is the one that many feel drags down the record. Many evaluators put the band’s debut Definitely Maybe ahead of What’s The Story… and Hey Now! Is exhibit A in the arguments. This tune is certainly meandering and ponderous and probably isn’t going to win many “best of the bunch” awards from anyone but the most contrarian of listeners.
I don’t look at the song as harshly as others but I do get the arguments. I don’t mind hearing it and I can play the album as a whole just fine without needing to skip this. There is no danger of this song appearing in a future S-Tier Song post, but that’s fine.
Some Might Say
The album’s mid section picks back up after a brief interlude with another of the album’s singles. Some Might Say might sit a bit under the radar in the wake of Wonderwall, DLBIA and Champagne Supernova, but the song brings its own weight to the table.
The song moves through some silly but great lyrical observations along with simple yet well-placed guitar work and the sum becomes greater than the parts. Liam drawls through the verses before belting out a powerful chorus full of some very interesting word choices. It’s one of several Oasis songs that is total nonsense yet still totally brilliant.
Cast No Shadow
This haunting, melancholy song was written by Noel to his friend, Verve frontman Richard Ashcroft. This interview with Noel spells out more of the background behind the song and Noel and Richard’s relationship.
The song is absolutely gorgeous and also depressing. I definitely feel the vibe coming from it, the desperation of trudging through life and just being plowed over by everyone and everything around you. It is a shitty thing to identify with but it’s there, no getting around it.
Cast No Shadow is a quiet favorite of many fans as well as the band, Liam has said it’s one of his favorites and he often includes it in his present-day solo sets. It’s just yet another example of how amazing Noel was at songwriting in this time.
The band is back with another fun, silly tune about a girl and a crazy relationship, or lack thereof with the protagonist. There’s a nice mix of the usual lyrical nonsense often found in Oasis songs and a very interesting narrative of a guy and girl who are or aren’t about one another, kind of hard to say.
The song is really nice and I enjoy it when it comes on. It won’t ever be accused of being the best on the record but it certainly still has a place here.
The album’s quasi-title track is an absolute banger. It comes in loud and runs red hot. Oasis only really “rocked out” a few times on their debut and this marks the only example of it here. While I clearly don’t find much fault with the band’s music, I do wish they had done a bit more of these headbangers.
The song is obviously about the band’s favorite party favor – cocaine. The white line is ubiquitous with rock n roll and Oasis did not shy away from their consumption of it in the 1990’s. It would lead to numerous issues for the band through their height of popularity and would mark their coming descent from the top of the mountain just around the bend in 1997, but it also gave us this magnificent tune.
The album’s closing track and fifth single takes a different turn, bringing a trippy and atmospheric vibe to close out the record. The song did extremely well worldwide and is often the second most-recognized track behind the gargantuan Wonderwall.
The song is, like many other Oasis tunes, total lyrical nonsense. It is perhaps the most famous example of words simply meaning whatever the listener wishes them to mean. Noel has made no effort to shine greater meaning to the words, only indicating that it means what the fans who sing every word back to him want it to mean.
This song is also my favorite Oasis track. It is simply splendid and it flows with just killer vibes that can’t be faked or conjured out of thin air. The song always takes me back to the mid 1990’s when I was in continental Europe as part of the US Navy. It was that perfect time between adolescence and adulthood where it seemed like the world was in my hands. It was all too brief of course, those moments are just that – moments. But it was a moment I’ll take with me as I drift into middle age.
Outside of my own personal connection, the song resonated with multiple generations of Oasis fans. It was one of the band’s most-played songs live and is often found in the solo sets of both Gallagher brothers. People far and wide still wonder just what the hell a Champagne Supernova is.
(What’s The Story) Morning Glory saw Oasis truly conquer the music world in the mid 90’s. It is today the fifth-best selling album in the UK and only Adele has topped its sales numbers with an album since. Oasis would ride the wave as conquering heroes into a series of landmark festival shows in 1996, with two epic concerts at Knebworth being the exclamation point on their career and the Britrock movement as a whole. The band would live on until their 2009 implosion, but were unable to attain the same stratospheric heights reached with this album.
Many words have been said about Oasis and the Gallagher brothers, some reverent and some reviled. But there is no question that for a time in 1995, they changed the shape and face of music. They lost a chart battle to Blur in the beginning of the album’s release cycle, but in the end they conquered everything.