Tagged: oasis

Staring At The Shoes Of Giants

Back in 1991 Damon Albarn claimed that Leisure, blur’s début album, as going to ‘kill…baggy‘, the genre popularised by the Stone Roses and Happy Mondays which had also spawned Northside. As it turned out Nirvana killed grunge but blur were right about one thing – baggy wasn’t the major influence on Leisure, shoegazing was.

I was reminded of this fact after hearing a recently re-discovered demo version of Setting Sun by Oasis. The track was released as a single by The Chemical Brothers, with Noel Gallagher on vocals but it now seems that, rather than writing them specifically for that track Noel must have done an Aphex Twin*.

Whereas the version released by The Chemical Brothers sounded like a modern reworking of The Beatles Tomorrow Never Knows this demo has more in common with Oasis’ with the tracks on Leisure. It is, basically, a shoegazing track. Washed out but amped up guitars, a slightly hazy feeling and a nasally vocal. It’s shoegazing 101. The scene may have been almost universally maligned but its impact was felt far and wide.

As mentioned, the debuts of both blur and Oasis owed massive debts to the likes of Ride, My Bloody Valentine and pretty much everyone else on Creation Records which was basically the official label for the shoegazing scene. And whilst many of the bands who briefly shone during the late 80s & early 90s, such as Slowdive, Chapterhouse and Revolver rarely made a dent on the charts, others fared better.

A bunch of lads from Wigan called Verve** took the washed out guitar sounds made popular by shoegazing bands and added a dollop of Doors’ style mysticism; having refined this mix over three albums with a twist of northern attitude, they went on to outsell Oasis with Urban Hymns.

Ride, another Creation signing, were one of the first bands from this scene to properly crack the mainstream; two of their first three EPs broke the Top 40 (the first Creation releases to do so, 7 years after its formation). Their debut album, Nowhere, fell just short of the top ten but Leave Them All Behind, the first single off of their second album hit number ten.

As with The Verve, Going Blank Again saw the band building on their roots, with traces of The Who and even The Byrds to be found, alongside samples from Withnail & I. Highlighting the connections, bassist Andy Bell went on to join Oasis.

Of course Ride’s efforts in the charts would pale in comparison to Oasis after they too had been signed to Creation. But whilst they were often compared to the likes of The Beatles or the Sex Pistols, in their early (and best) work, Oasis had, as I’ve said, clear links to the (generally Southern) bands who were often mocked as being ‘The Scene That Celebrates Itself‘. Adorable, one of the last signings to Creation before Oasis, have often struck me as being a prototype for the latter with a good looking, cocky front-man and songs that melded melody and razor-sharp guitars brilliantly.

Looking back at Oasis now, I can’t help thinking that if they had stayed truer to these roots their later releases would have been less like a successful Bootleg Beatles than they were.

*Aphex Twin once handed in one of his own tracks having been paid to remix a Lemonheads song because he had forgotten to do the remix.
** They added the ‘The’ after being sued by American jazz label Verve; the band’s initial offer to change their name to Verv, thereby ‘dropping an e for America’ was rebuffed.


Adventures In Britpop


I recently got back from a holiday on which I had my normal book binge, to the extent that my Kindle melted (though that’s another story). One of the books I read was the autobiography of Louise Wener, former singer with Britpop band Sleeper.

Reading a book that charts the course of the Britpop explosion seemed rather apt seeing as everyone seems to have decided that this year is the 20th anniversary of Britpop (presumably based on the fact that both Definitely Maybe and Parklife were released in 1994). Wener’s book includes references to blur, Oasis and a host of other players in that scene, both big and small, with plenty of dirt, gossip and snide asides chucked in for good measure. It also details the undoubted sexism that pervaded much of the music industry, and probably still does.

In the book Wener seems to hold a bit of a grudge against blur because they’re arrogant and won’t let her band share blur’s rider when they support them on the Parklife tour. That wouldn’t surprise me – Damon has always come across as pretty arrogant whilst anyone who has read Alex James’ own incredibly entertaining autobiography will know that they were at the centre of a whirlwind that would send most people slightly mad.

Of course, it was probably supporting blur on that tour that helped Sleeper break in to the big-time. And it’s also pretty certain that no-one was likely to base the birth of Britpop on the year when any of Sleeper’s records came out*. Because, what the book never really admits, is that the reason that the likes of blur did better than Sleeper is because Sleeper were basically shit. With one hit single**.

Despite that, it’s a good read for anyone who lived through that time and was as in love with much of the music as I was. If you do want entertaining books by people who also actually managed to make more than one good record, I’d also recommend the previously mentioned Bit Of A Blur by Alex James and the painfully honest Telling Stories by Tim Burgess of The Charlatans.

If you’d rather just have an aural trip down memory lane, I’d recommend these two playlists – one a BBC 6 Music Best of Britpop, the other one I put together myself taking in some of the best tracks from 1994.

*If anything I would suggest that it was 1993, the year Suede by Suede and Modern Life Is Rubbish by blur both came out as I’d argue that Definitely Maybe isn’t really a Britpop record at all.
**They actually had 6 that cracked the top 30, but Inbetweener is the only one that has held any charm.


I Hate Videos


Whatever you may think of his music, and I am a massive fan who lost faith in them, it’s hard to deny that Noel Gallagher is one of the most intelligent and funniest musicians out there. His music may be dull but he rarely is.

As if to highlight these two facts some bright spark has collated the best commentary from a DVD collection of all of Oasis’ videos and it makes for hugely entertaining videos. If you haven’t seen it yet I can’t recommend highly it highly enough. I’ve watched it about 5 times now and it still makes me laugh.

Whilst his proclamation that no-one watches videos any more is as mistaken* as his views on hip-hop at Glastonbury, the rest of it is funny, honest and true. Some of my favourite lines include:

I look like…Columbo

Is that how easy this is? You just go and randomly suggest nonsense and people go and film it?

The missus wouldn’t let you do a video like that now would she?

Look how pissed I am there. That’s me really pissed.

It is a good song to jump up and down to, drunk.

That wasn’t an actual record player by the way and that’s not a real clown.

Do you want me to..stare at you like a…serial killer?

This is fucking nonsense

Look at the size of Bonehead’s shirt, that’s…insane

Is that Phil Mitchell?

If you need four guys to walk around in slow motion…we were the best at that.

So there’s a death in the video, that’s nice.

If anyone’s listening to this at home you’d probably be advised to go and mow the garden because this goes on for ages. And ages.

They are really ill-fitting suits aren’t they?

Robbie Williams based his entire…career on this song.

Is that a man with legs made of sausages?!

Why didn’t somebody…stop me at that point and say you need to go on a holiday?

That’s supposed to be a space-ship taking off, it looks like a load of scaffolding sinking.

Can we listen to this with the sound down?

Walking and playing is basically what (we) do. And standing still. And look bored.

I fucking hate this next tune, I really fucking hate it.

That last comment is followed by a sigh of such disgust that it really had to be heard to be believed. Just like Karl Pilkington was always the best thing about Ricky Gervais’ radio shows so it seems that the best things about Oasis’ videos is the man who starred in them all slagging them off.

*The video of him talking about videos has already notched up nearly 225,000 views whilst the likes of Sy, Rihanna, Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga would probably have something to say about whether or not anyone watches videos any more.


Elbow – Lippy Kids

I know that I’m hardly breaking new ground by posting this, but I’ve been listening to the new album by Elbow on rotation for about a week now, and simply can’t get the refrain from Lippy Kids, which gives the album its name, out of my head. It’s as plaintively beautiful as Oasis’ classic D’Yer Wanna Be A Spaceman?

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It’s not radical, nor outrageous, nor genre-defining, nor anything that you wouldn’t expect from Elbow. It’s just totally, and utterly, fantastically lovely.

Build a rocket boys, build a rocket boys!

Rocket garden by Milan Boers on flickr


20 Essential 90s Albums

In its ongoing bid to have more sub-brands than any other media owner, Absolute Radio recently launched a new niche-station, this time one tailor-made for those of us currently experiencing the dizzying pangs that come with realising nostalgia isn’t just something that happens to your parents: Absolute 90s. And, as part of the ongoing celebrations of the launch, they’re compiling a list of the Essential 90s Albums.

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Now, anyone who has ever read this blog before (Hi Mum!) will know that I love a good list and so, taking Absolute 90s compilation of such a list as a challenge, I thought I’d have a go myself. And here, after much thought, is my 20 essential albums of the 90s. It was hard enough keeping it to 20 (and they’re likely to change) so they’re in no-order other than chronological. I’ll happily admit that it tends to skew towards British music & hip-hop, but it’s not my fault that most grunge was shite.

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Anyway, for anyone that cares (Hi Mum!), here’s my 20 essential albums of the 90s.

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Now, the observant amongst you will have noticed that the list above only has 19 entries.So, I want you to make suggestions as to which album should fill that space and I’ll choose one of the suggestions and add it to the final list of the 20 Essential Albums Of The 90s.

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I should probably warn you now that it’s very unlikely that I’ll add any album that had a picture of a baby chasing a dollar bill on the cover. Just thought I’d mention it.


Adorable – Sunshine Smile

Back in the early 90s I remember writing a letter to NME (or it may have been Melody Maker, I can’t quite remember). I was annoyed at the amount of hype they were giving to a couple of new bands, undeservedly I felt. The bands in question were Suede & The Verve (or Verve as they were at the time). I thought these two bands were overrated and that the band that should be getting the attention was Adorable, who I thought deserved to be absolutely huge. As I often say, my predictions are almost always wrong.

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The reason I thought this was due to their début single, Sunshine Smile. A splendid mix of fuzzy guitars and a thundering rhythm, the song was a call to arms: it came out in 1992, as shoegazing was starting to wane but before Britpop had hit. In many ways Adorable were a dry run for Oasis – signed to Creation, front-man Piotr Fijalkowski had a knack for giving good quote, although he had both the gob of Liam and the brains of Noel. According to Wikipedia Oasis have quoted Adorable as an influence, and certainly early Oasis singles bear a passing resemblance to Adorable’s sound, which took shoegazing style guitars and added a dose of pop sensibilities & rock tempos.

Obviously Adorable weren’t huge. They hit the top end of the Indie Charts a few times, with Sunshine Smile as well as the equally excellent singles Homeboy & Sistine Chapel Ceiling. Unfortunately their (excellent) debut album, Against Perfection, failed to do much business at all, and after releasing another, much weaker second album, they split in 1994. By then of course both Suede & The Verve had been surpassed by the meteoric rise of Oasis and whilst my 17 year old self was probably wrong, Adorable certainly left some amazing tracks for us to remember them by.

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Subshine smile by fdecomite on flickr


Primal Scream: The Best Ever Mercury Winner?

So last night the winner of this year’s Mercury Music Prize was announced as Speech Debelle’s debut Speech Therapy. I have to say that I was pretty underwhelmed by the decision: it’s not a bad album, but I wonder how many people will still be listening to it in a year, let alone 17 year’s time. Why 17? Because that’s how long the prize has been running.

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To be fair to the judges, Debelle was probably as worthy a winner as any – looking at the short-list it’s hard to see any future classics: in fact it was probably one of the weakest selections since the prize’s birth in 1992. So, having had a look at all the winners since the prize launched I decided to pick what I think is the best winner of them all. And, in the end, I ended up back at the start.

The winner of 1992′s début prize was Primal Scream’s Screamadelica. Very few albums can claim to be truly iconic, let alone era-defining. Screamadelica can. With its blend of blissed out house and gentle rock & soul, Primal Scream provided a soundtrack to a million Saturday nights & Sunday mornings. The cover art became a badge for the rave genaration, like a clubbed up Watchman smiley. And they didn’t even include the amazing track that gave the album its name, which instead ended up on the brilliantly named Dixie-Narco EP and which you can see below: it’s good eh?

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Since then there have been some other great winning albums, though scanning through the short-lists it does feel like more often than not, the best album has not been the winning one. Oasis’ Definitely Maybe, OK Computer & In Rainbows by Radiohead, The Verve’s Urban Hymns – all were left unrewarded – let’s not forget that in one year alone Parklife, Music For The Jilted Generation & Wild Wood were all beaten – by M People.

So if Primal Scream’s Screamadelica is the best ever winner of the Mercury Music Prize, which is the best album that was shortlisted but didn’t win? I’m torn between OK Computer, Parklife & Definitely Maybe. What do you think?

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PS – Am I the only one who thought it ironic that in the same week the Mercury Prize was announced, T-Mobile, the brand that killed Mercury when it took over its One2One mobile operation, announced a merger with Orange which will see the T-Mobile brand itself killed off in the UK.

Screamadelica stained window by Gordon Watt on flickr


RIP Oasis. You’ve Been Dead To Me For Years.

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.

Noel Gallagher: August 28th, 2009

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Well, that’s that then. The band who burst on to the scene back in 1994 and revitalised the British music industry in the process, are no more. After what was apparently a physical confrontation which involved Liam smashing one of Noel’s guitars, the man who turned indie never-weres Rain into world beaters Oasis has finally left his brother’s band. The radio stations will be playing Oasis tracks for weeks now, and I’d guess that the next Best Song Ever chart to roll along will be stuffed with Oasis tracks. But for me, the band have been dead for years.

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Back in the mid 90s, after the Gallaghers had sacked original drummer Tony McCarroll, George Michael said something about how, in doing so, they had sacked their soul. His argument was that whilst replacement drummer Alan White (also sacked a few years later) was undoubtedly more talented, what had made Oasis so appealing was their simple, straight up energy. Fancy drum rolls and the like would be no replacement for what had made them so great, And, bizarrely, he was probably right.

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Back when they first started, many of Oasis’ best tracks were wistful songs of ambition & regret: even if they were played at ear-splitting volume, they seemed to reach for the stars from very humble beginnings. Fade Away, D’Yer Wanna Be A Spaceman & Acquiesce to name but a few. But as the money & coke rolled in, and they moved to Supernova Heights, the songs regressed to being little better than bad Beatles/Kinks/T Rex/insert 60s or 70s band here cover versions. Where Noel had once been a mischievous tinker, lifting little bits of Burt Bacharach here, getting nicked for borrowing some Stevie Wonder there, he ended up just reliving others’ past glories, and adding nothing to the musical canon in the process.

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I didn’t buy any Oasis album after (What’s The Story) Morning Glory and really don’t feel like I’ve missed anything: if you own it, Definitely Maybe & Stop The Clocks, there’s really nothing else you need to buy. Whilst I’ll be interested to see what Noel does next (I really couldn’t give a fuck about Liam: he hasn’t been able to sing for years & if he wasn’t in a band the twatt would probably be in prison or dead by now), I’ll keep remembering Oasis as they were at their peak: arrogant yet vulnerable and looking over their shoulders whilst taking over the world.

Graveyard by peterastn on flickr


You Are Here: Oasis On Berwick Street

A while back I was walking down Berwick Street when I happened to notice this in the window of Revival Records, one of the many fine record shops in Soho: it’s a copy of the 2nd Oasis album (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? with a YOU ARE HERE post-it note on it. It made me chuckle as anyone who knows their Oasis folklore will know that the cover shot was taken on Berwick Street – the two men shown are Owen Morris, who produced the album, and Sean Rowley, a friend of the band more famous for his Guilty Pleasures series.

I seem to remember reading once that it was taken in the early hours of the morning after the band had put the finishing touches to the album and that, already sure they had a smash hit on their hands, they decided to hit the streets of Soho. I also seem to remember reading that Noel thinks it’s a shite cover. He’s right.

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I’ll leave you with Champagne Supernova, the track which, more than any other on Morning Glory, seemed to represent the sense of endless possibilities and open doorways that existed at the time, just 18 months before Tony Blair entered Downing Street. Of course both Blair and Oasis would disappoint us, constantly rehashing their greatest hits, but for the moment let’s revel in the nostalgia.

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