Put your life in the hands of this rock ‘n’ roll band…

Oasis: Supersonic has it all: writing a certain song in the amount of time it takes six men to eat Chinese take-out, a speechless Liam Gallagher, ambushing a certain member of the band with a fire extinguisher because of his football preferences,a kiss for the camera, smashing a certain individual in the head with a cricket bat, the story of Abel and Cable, whispers of sausages, and much, much more. But how much do you want it?

The documentary, which played in US theaters for one night only (and that night was this past Wednesday, so sorry if you missed it, but no fear–it’s On Demand and iTunes and My Christmas List), focuses on the rise and early, insane success (covering, roughly, 1991-1996) of rock ‘n’ roll band (remember those?) Oasis, culminating in their historic performances at Knebworth Park. Combining audio interviews (no talking heads here) with Noel and Liam Gallagher as well as other band members, friends, family, and crew with live footage, never-before-been-seen-by-fans’-eyes home footage, and delightful animations, the story of this rock ‘n’ roll band and its two battling brothers is endlessly entertaining,  insightful, and surprisingly moving–just as advertised.

At the heart of Oasis, of course, has always been the combative, true love-hate relationship between Noel and Liam Gallagher. Their tension and explosive dynamic drove the band, while also ultimately killing it. In the film, the brothers offer differing explanations for their difficult relationship. According to Liam, Noel still holds a grudge against Liam for drunkenly urinating all over his new stereo; Noel rebuts that Liam has always resented Noel for his songwriting talent and being naturally assumed as the leader and decision-maker of the band. Noel offers perhaps the best explanation about the differences in their personalities: Noel is a cat, moody and valuing independence, while Liam is a dog, attention-driven and requiring constant attention (“play with me, play with me, play with me, throw this ball for me”).

Home video confirms this: in one of my favorite moments, Noel is intently focused at the mixing board in the studio during the recording of (What’s the Story) Morning Glory, and Liam pokes his head through the door, eventually dancing his way through the room, attracting all the attention. Yet, despite all their differences and jealousy, they each acknowledge the other’s strengths (often telepathically, according to Liam)–Liam praising Noel’s talent as a songwriter, Noel declaring Liam “cooler than me” (“There’s not a day go by that I don’t wish I could rock a parka like that man,” he states) and the greatest singer and frontman of his time. And even amidst all the tension and arguments, you can still see the inexplicable love and affection the two have for one another.

antics

“If this ever goes on video, I would apologize, but I’m not gonna ’cause he’s a PRICK!” Noel Gallagher

Aside from the basic differences in their personalities, however, the film highlights another dissimilarity between the Gallagher brothers: what exactly constitutes a great rock ‘n’ roll band. Noel believes in the power of the music and its fans, while Liam firmly believes that no rock ‘n’ roll band is truly great without the antics–being arrested (or, even better, deported–while en route via a ferry, no less), tearing up hotel rooms (“that’s a lot of work,” notes Noel), taking loads of drugs, and, of course, sex. (Never mind that The Beatles did just fine without this kind of lewd behavior–at least in excess or in public.)

During the group’s first visit to the United States, they appeared at the famous Whiskey A Go Go. Reeling from the effects of crystal meth (also known as ninja speed in some circles), the performance was a shambles: the group members weren’t always playing the same song (Noel apparently had a different set list from everyone else), and Liam may or may not have thrown a tambourine at his older brother. Disgusted by the band’s performance and behavior, Noel briefly left the band, retreating to San Francisco to meet up with a girl he’d met at an Oasis gig. When Noel told her he was leaving the band, she responded, “Well, what else are you going to do?” Lacking an answer, Noel wrote “Talk Tonight” and returned to the group. The dynamic between Noel and the rest of the band, however, had irrevocably changed: it was no longer a sense of “us,” it was now a sense of “me [Noel] and them.”

This revelation is one of the most moving and honest in the film. The Gallagher brothers have always been unabashedly honest, but their honesty throughout Supersonic is often startling. For example, the band’s first drummer, Tony McCarroll, has repeatedly been portrayed as incompetent and dim-witted in the band’s history. The Gallaghers (and others as well) concede their cruel treatment of McCarroll in Supersonic. “Whatever he [McCaroll] says is probably true,” Noel admits.

Noel similarly crushes the myth that the band suddenly became cohesive, successful, and talented once he became part of the picture. The band struggled to be noticed–until fate stepped in and the band tagged along to play at a gig in Glasglow with the band of Alan McGee’s ex-girlfriend. “There were seven people in the room, and he was two of them,” Noel later explained. McGee fell in love with the group on the spot and asked if they wanted a record deal. Wa-hey!  

Except there was no celebratory mood of “we’ve made it!” on the ride back home that evening, and the band struggled to record their first album (recorded on two separate occasions and finally successfully mixed by Owen Morris as a seemingly last-ditch effort–“Do whatever you want [with the tapes],” Mark Coyle instructed him). Yet, when fans sang along to the nonsensical lyrics of “Supersonic” on the day of its release at a gig, Noel began to realize the power of the band and its fans.

noelshair

Witnessing Noel’s haircut during his days as an Inspiral Carpets roadie on the big screen alone was worth the price of admission. More of this, please.

Despite the band’s arrogance, Noel, in one of the film’s most touching moments, attributes the dominance of Oasis to the group’s fans. Just as he did not realize he wanted to be in a band until he heard his songs being played back to him by his bandmates (his aspiration, up until that point, had been to simply keep his job as a roadie for the Inspiral Carpets–and, hopefully, get a new haircut), he similarly did not realize the power of his songwriting until hearing countless fans singing “I know a girl called Elsa/She’s into Alka-Seltzer/She sniffs it through a cane on a supersonic train” (…seriously, what?) along with his cocky younger brother. Oasis played to a record-breaking crowd of 250,000 during their two-night performance at Knebworth Park; however, Noel declares, that was not because of anything the band had ever done. It was because of the 2.6 million people who applied for tickets; it was the fans.

daband

Oasis, 1994: Tony McCarroll, Bonehead, Noel, Liam, and Guigsy (who is stoned through 98% of the film, suffering from nervous exhaustion the other 2%).

Yet Oasis is a truly unique phenomenon that will likely never be repeated. Cocksure and controversial, the Gallagher brothers were the most forceful rock ‘n’ roll stars the music world had seen for quite some time (maybe ever)–and hasn’t seen since. They were a group of homely (except for Noel and Liam, who was truly beautiful–and knew it), average musicians (no virtuosos ’round here) from a council estate who gained a record deal by fate, destiny, foreordination, whatever you want to call it. They produced the fastest-selling debut album (up to that point) and the second-fastest-selling album in U.K. history back-to-back, and their incredible songs, as Noel predicted, have (thusfar) lived forever.

Yet, the scale of their success is somewhat lost to our culture, partly because we have nothing to compare it to. When is the last time an individual (never mind, two of them) said exactly what s/he thought (even if it was as unfortunate as “Taking drugs is like getting up and having a cup of tea in the morning”)? When is the last time hundreds of thousands of people gathered to hear a single group perform–and they were actually focused on being a part of the experience instead of being apart from the experience by seeing it through their cell phone camera? No, as Noel states in the film, we live in a celebrity-driven, social media-crazed, self-absorbed culture. The internet is our global village, not the park of an English village with a population not even totaling 5,000. We take images of ourselves, not the world around us. And, Noel ponders in the documentary’s final moments,what does that mean for our history?

Supersonic reminds us of how much Oasis meant (and means) to so many people and what a cultural loss we are currently suffering through. Its only downfall is that it concludes with the historic concerts at Knebworth. Oasis should have disappeared into a puff of smoke at that point, Noel affirms, and Bonehead agrees. (The band instead continued, with various lineups, for 13 more years.) Liam disagrees, arguing that just because you’ve reached a peak and are likely to not go any higher doesn’t mean you just stop and give up. I’m not sure who has the stronger argument, but I do know I still miss this group of arrogant, disruptive, not-the-best-looking group where the whole was greater than the sum of its parts, exemplified by thousands of fans, not the lead singer, singing the chorus of one of their best-loved songs. So maybe Liam was right–you shouldn’t just stop and give up. At least not today.

Fifteen Oasis Tracks You Probably Haven’t Heard But Should Before You Die

Or else, you know, your life will be incomplete.

Oasis is often a polarizing group. I’ve read every criticism of this band (Beatles tribute band! One song! One eyebrow!), and I’d love to sit and refute every single one of them…but I figured this little list might be a bit more time efficient. Basic criteria for this list:

  • No A-side Singles, obviously. (Not only are these more instantly recognizable, thus negating the list’s purpose, but allowing these would have made this list impossible to narrow down to a reasonable number.)
  • Favoring of lesser-known B-sides. This basically translates to excluding anything found on The Masterplan compilation. Ya’ll should have that track-listing tattooed on your hearts already anyway. Again, using this criterion is the only way I could narrow this list down.
  • No more than one non-single, album track per album. This was pretty easy to follow–eat that, all ya’ll who say Oasis suck after the first two albums! Ya’ll dumb. And deaf.
  • No demo/alternate/live versions!! I’d be here all day. Have you heard the ’92 “Live Forever” demo? No? You call what you’re living LIFE? Get out. P.S. Listen to it.

I think that’s about it. I had an initial list of about 50 songs, before halving it using the above criteria. Finally, after moaning in pain and rolling around the floor screaming “I don’t wanna live in a world where I have to choose!” for about twenty minutes, I cropped the list at 15. It was kinda hard, if the moaning and rolling around the floor bit didn’t give that away. Let’s go!

Honorable Mention: “Bonehead’s Bankhead Holiday” [(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, Vinyl-Only Bonus Track, 1995]

“Don’t ya know, I shoulda stayed in England
On my polluted beach with all my special friends?
Don’t ya know, I shoulda stayed in England
With me big house and me big car and all me friends there at the bar, la la la…” 

Hahaha, like I really narrowed it down to 15 songs. Fooled ya’ll. I couldn’t cut out this track–not because it is anywhere near the standard of the other songs included in this list (and omitted from this list) but because I think it’s one of those songs that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s just a fun track. Let’s all just take a moment, though, to appreciate the fact that Bonehead chickened out of singing this. Can you imagine? Love you Bonehead but…no.

15. “Born on a Different Cloud” (Heathen Chemistry, 2002)

“Talking to myself again,
This time I think I’m getting through.” 

Remember when Liam started writing songs and everyone laughed? “Live for your toys, even though they make noise” and all that. Well, that was pretty lame, not gonna lie, but when Noel proclaimed his younger brother a songwriting genius whose songs “make me cry ‘cos they’re better than mine,” he really wasn’t employing too much hyperbole. (Well, maybe a little bit. But not too much.) This track can easily be written off as a mere Lennon imitation (à la “Working Class Hero”), but you know what? I think Lennon would like this. And I reckon he’d like that cocky little lead singer, too. That voice!

14. “My Big Mouth” (Be Here Now, 1997) 

“I ain’t never spoke to God
And I ain’t never been to heaven
But you assumed I knew the way
Even though the map was given
And as you look into the eyes
Of a bloody cold assassin
It’s only then you’ll realize
With who’s life you have been messing.”

Remember when this was part of Oasis’ set list for the first time since their Be Here Now tour in ’08? And then Noel decided to drop it before I saw Oasis later that year because the set list was “too long”? And then he briefly re-added after I saw them? And then I wallowed in tears and crappy fan videos of the song from that tour (see above)? No? Well, it was pretty disappointing. I don’t want to talk about it anymore.

13. “Lord Don’t Slow Me Down” (Liam Vocals) [No Official Release; 2005]

“I’m tired and I’m sick
Got a habit that I can’t, won’t lick
I feel hungover and I’m all in love
Let the lights go down, 
Me and you are gonna shoot ’em all.”

Um, I think I broke one of my rules by including this. Oh well. They were dumb rules anyway. “Lord Don’t Slow Me Down” was a released as a stand-alone (and primarily digital download only) single in 2007, taken from the rockumentary of the same. The released version features Noel on lead vocals, but this song has Liam Gallagher’s name written all over it. This rough mix was obviously never properly produced, but you can still hear how much more awesome this song is when Liam sings it.

12. “Pass Me Down the Wine” (“The Importance of Being Idle,” 2005)

“To all my sisters: yeah, you’re looking pretty fine
And to all my brothers: bet you’re feeling kinda high
And to all the mothers: well, come on now, don’t be shy
And to all the fathers who are sick and f***ing tired.” 

Confession: Don’t Believe the Truth is my least favorite Oasis album. I know, it was a supposed “return to form,” “creative rebirth,” etc. for the band, but I think it’s their weakest album. There’s only a handful of tracks I would take with me to a desert island. But this is a great B-side, written again by Liam, who has always struggled with lyrics and so I have subsequently have no idea what this song is actually about, but it sounds really, really cool. I just googled the lyrics, and the last line is: (Liam screeching). Oh yeah. Mad fer it.

11. “It’s Better People” (“Roll With It,” 1995)

“It’s better people love one another
‘Cos living your life can be tough.” 

Life is hard. But it’s easy listening to this song. On repeat. All day. Every day.

10. “Idler’s Dream” (“The Hindu Times,” 2002) 

“I never did say and I wish I could
I never could pray ‘cos it’s just no good
I hope you don’t break my heart of stone
I don’t wanna scream out loud
And wake up on my own.”

Two words: breathtakingly beautiful. That is all.

09. “D’Yer Wanna Be a Spaceman?” (“Shakermaker,” 1994) 

“You got how many bills to pay and how many kids
And you’ve forgotten about the things that we did
This town where we’re living has made you a man
And all of your dreams are washed away in the sand.”

Who can’t relate to this song? The remembrance of what you once wanted to be–say, a spaceman–before reality caught up with you? And forgetting about feeling down, forgetting about life in this town, while you remember that dream? And thinking for a moment–just for a moment–it’s still not too late to be a spaceman? Totally.

08. “Fade Away” (“Cigarettes & Alcohol,” 1994; War Child Version–“Don’t Go Away,” 1998) 

“Now my life has turned
Another corner
I think it’s only best
That I should warn you
Dream it while you can
Maybe someday I’ll make you understand.”

This song deals with some of the same themes found in “D’Yer Wanna Be a Spaceman.” My favorite thing about this song is that we have two official versions that allow us to see Liam’s Yin to Noel’s Yang. The version sung by Liam, found on the flip side of “Cigarettes and Alcohol” as well as The Masterplan compilation (there I go, breaking those rules again), is, of course, nothing but pure rock ‘n’ roll, while the Noel-sung version, recorded for the War Child Charity, is gentle and lulling. Which do I prefer? That is the eternal question.

07. “Let’s All Make Believe” (“Go Let It Out,” 2000)

“So let’s all make believe
We’re still friends and we like each other
Let’s all make believe
In the end we’ll need each other
Let’s all make believe
That all mankind’s gonna feed our brother.”

I just wanna know: what other band relegates a song like this to a B-side? (Beatles exempted.) Seriously, I wanna know.

06. “Sad Song” (“Don’t Go Away,” 1998; also included on the Japanese and vinyl editions of Definitely Maybe

“We as people, are just walking ’round
Our heads are firmly fixed in the ground
What we don’t see, well it can’t be real
What we don’t touch we cannot feel.” 

OK, bending the rules again because this could be considered an album track (and I’m going to choose another track from Definitely Maybe in a bit), but it’s not on most releases so…Basically, if you’ve ever wondered what an angel might sound like, you should listen to this song and find out. ‘Cos Noel Gallagher’s voice is otherworldly…seriously.

05. “Waiting for the Rapture” (Dig Out Your Soul, 2008) 

“She said, I’m tiiiiiiiiired
Come get me off the merry-go-round
I’m wiiiiiiiiiiiiired
Well, heaven must sent ya to save me for the rapture.”

Yeah, the Doors’ “Five to One” and all that, who cares? This song is so much better anyway (in your face, Jim Morrison!), and I didn’t even realize how good it was until I saw Oasis play it live. Annnnnnd you should hear the alternate version, too. Per-fec-tion.

04. “Angel Child” (“D’You Know What I Mean,” 1997)

“When you find out
When you find out who you are you know you’ll be free
To see your own ability
But there’ll be no eyes
No eyes that see such beauty could lose their sight
And there’ll be no lies
No lies that you could tell me to make things right.” 

Okay. So I’m breaking my rules again because this is technically a demo. WHATEVER. That rule has to be broken because this song is so amazing. Remember a few weeks ago how Liam Gallagher was the star of the Olympics Closing Ceremony as he and Beady Eye performed “Wonderwall”? Well, the next day, his beautiful older brother decided to play this song at a radio session for the first time since he recorded it. Way to induce a heart attack, Noel. Thanks.

03. “Cast No Shadow” [(What’s the Story) Morning Glory, 1995]

“Bound with all the weight of all the words he tried to say
Chained to all the places that he never wished to stay
Bound with all the weight of all the words he tried to say
As he faced the sun he cast no shadow
As they took his soul they stole his pride.” 

Initially dedicated to Richard Ashcroft to bolster his spirits following the first (what are we on now, third? Fourth?) breakup of The Verve, Noel once explained “cast no shadow” was not a reference to Ashcroft’s skinny frame but actually means that one would be invisible. Duh. I think it’s a beautiful tribute (reflection?) to songwriters actually–Noel himself included.

02. “Slide Away” (Definitely Maybe, 1994) 

I don’t know
I don’t care
All I know is you can take me there
Take me there, take me there, take me there…
WHAT FOR?

I know it’s required listening in Oasis 101 and all, but this song had to be on this list. ‘Cos I said so. I don’t know that there are any words in the English language to describe this song. Paul McCartney said it was his favorite Oasis song. Once. He’s kind of busy talking about writing “Hey Jude” and “Yesterday” to mention it more than once, y’know. But he said it at least once–and that’s just another indication of his good taste and this song’s genius.

01. “Gas Panic!” (Standing on the Shoulder of Giants, 2000)

“What tongueless ghost of sin crept through my curtains?
Sailing on a sea of sweat on a stormy night
I think he don’t got a name but I can’t be certain
And in me he starts to confide 
That my family don’t seem so familiar
And my enemies all know my name
And if you hear me tap on your window
Better get on your knees and pray panic is on the way.”

Listen to this song and then try to tell me that Standing on the Shoulder of Giants is the worst Oasis album. Listen to this song and then try to tell me that Oasis lyrics lack meaning. Listen to this song and then try to tell me that Oasis’ sound has never evolved, not even a little bit. Listen to this song and then try to tell me that Oasis is a talentless, unoriginal band. Guess what? You can’t do it, poopstains.

Best.

Song.

Ever.

(Well, one of them anyway.)

This list is far from perfect. I feel physically ill thinking of all the songs omitted. It probably would have been easier to list my most-loathed Oasis tracks. Regardless, the point is that Oasis was a really great band with so many fantastic songs often overlooked. And you should listen to them before…you know…you die. ‘Cos you probably ain’t gonna live forever.

But they will.

Time flies…

Three years ago today, I was knifed.

And by knifed, I mean Noel Gallagher released the following statement: “It’s with some sadness and great relief to tell you that I quit Oasis tonight. People will write and say what they like, but I simply could not go on working with Liam a day longer.”

Oasis has never been my favorite band (that title belongs to the Beatles). I don’t have the deepest emotional connection to Oasis (that, too, would be with the Beatles). I don’t even admire them the most as individuals (…the Beatles, of course).

But they’re pretty close.

“I let you turn off the Beatles, so I could watch THIS?!” — Me, circa 1995/6

I despised Oasis at the peak of their fame; I was seven, obsessed with the Beatles, and watching A Hard Day’s Night for the fiftieth time when I was hoodwinked into watching an Oasis concert because they played with a huge picture of John Lennon in the background and even played with the Beatles. After twelve years of bitterness and one chance listening of “Live Forever,” I embraced this abrasive, arrogant, fearless band. I counted down the days until the release of Dig Out Your Soul. I traveled eight plus hours to see them in concert, where I could have had the worst possible seats in the entire world and it wouldn’t have mattered–it still would have been as amazing and exhilarating as it was with the-almost-worst-possible-seats-in-the-world. When I left home for school the first time, with my parents and younger sister in tow, we listened to (What’s the Story) Morning Glory the entire drive. And when I felt homesick those first few weeks away from home and didn’t quite feel like going down to Strawberry Fields, I listened to Oasis. And when I finally came home one weekend, it was spent jointly celebrating the birth of my mother and Liam Gallagher, replete with marathons of Oasis concert videos and a cake that read “Happy birthday Linda and Liam.” Y’know–the usual.

The band celebrates Liam’s 33rd birthday in Denver, Colorado, 2005. Precious.  

And so when this band bowed out, it hurt. When the Beatles disbanded, John Lennon responded to the public’s continual overdramatization of the split: “It’s just natural, it’s not a great disaster. People keep talking about it like it’s The End of The Earth. It’s only a rock group that split up, it’s nothing important. You know, you have all the old records there if you want to reminisce.” And he was right. It’s not that important. And the records are still there. But when the one band you love who isn’t dead or broken up or on an indefinite hiatus or old and irrelevant breaks up, it still kind of hurts.

And I love Beady Eye. And Noel Gallagher and his high flyin’ birds. Or turds. Or smurfs. Or whatever they’re called. But I still miss this little band that once was the biggest and best band…

I miss their arrogance.

I miss their brotherly love.

I miss their b-sides.

I even miss their Umbro jogging suits.

And it’s not important. And it’s not the end of the world. It’s only natural.

But I still miss them.