Be Here Now is regarded by many as a joke, none more so than the critics who at the time were dishing out five star reviews. Luke Traynor champions the much-maligned third chapter in Oasis’ discography.
Music fans are fickle. The music press is more fickle still. Everybody is so God damn fickle.
What happened to the days when people just made up their own minds about what they liked to listen to and spurned the warped promptings of so-called experts trying to manufacture volatile headlines?
These were just a few of the angry emotions that sprang to my mind a few months after Oasis released their long-awaited third LP, Be Here Now. As we all know, prior to August 1997, the Mancunians were riding the crest of a very popular wave, the success of Definitely Maybe and (What’s The Story) Morning Glory beefing up their indisputed status as Best Band In The World.
They say a band’s third album is always ‘difficult.’ Strange that, isn’t it? I would have thought the second would be ‘difficult.’ You’ve established your sound on the first album, if the follow up is pretty much a replica, you run the risk of being repetitive.
Why is it the third album where you’ve got to break from the norm, give up what made you successful and try something totally removed? ‘Shall we chuck a few marimbas in, Liam? A wooden glock? I heard a cracking Madagascan barber shop on me hols, Noel. Give ’em a call! Sorted!‘
Those are the rules, according to NME and other vaunted publications, it seems.
I don’t think I’ve waited for an album release with as much anticipation as Be Here Now. I rember bombing down to Woolies, buying it, jumping on the bus back home and whacking it on the CD player. It was one of the best 71 minutes of music I’d listended to in a long time.
Funnily enough, a lot of the music press initially agreed. It was only a number of months later, when the odd dissenting voice was heard, that the sheep decided to follow the flock.
Soon, even Noel himself was publically saying how he didn’t think Be Here Now was much cop, forced into the admission by skewed music editorials about the album.
Here’s a step-by-step guide why those who dismiss this great record are so very wrong.
It opens with the majestic D’You Know What I Mean?. It’s a visceral, snarling, brooding, anthemic epic. The first single and it rightly stomped its way to number one in the hit parade.
Yes, it’s big and bombastic – this was a repeated off-the-mark critique of the album in general – but who cares about that? It’s never really been a live track for Oasis, but that’s more because it has a slowish pace and the difficulties behind producing that all-enveloping sound on stage.
Track Two is My Big Mouth. It could have been taken from Defintely Maybe. A typical fast-paced Oasis rocker that gets the pulses racing. A strong 7 out of 10. Track Three, Magic Pie, was interesting. On the first few listens it seemed like a potential classic in the making with its well-honed Noel angst. But its funereal pace meant it lacked that cutting edge to make it a stand-out track.
With the album was really moving, Stand By Me, asserts itself as a bona fide classic. If you’re ain’t blasting that out at the top of your lungs when you hear it, you’ve got no soul.
Yes, it’s very simple and straightforward. But all the very best songs are. Imagine, anyone? (no, I’m not saying it’s as good as Imagine….)
Noel & Liam at the Q Awards.
Next, I Hope I Think I Know – what a tune. One of the very best songs Oasis have ever written, and a track which is sadly never reproduced live these days. Just pure swagger, this is what rock and Oasis generally are all about. Liam’s voice is incredible, I could play this song six times over without getting bored.
‘As we beg and steal and borrow…..‘
Ah, now we stumble on the best song on the album. That’s right, it’s The Girl In The Dirty Shirt. How this track wasn’t a single, I’ll never know. It was short-sighted of the boys to release All Around The World instead of this one. If they had, this brilliant track would have got the kudos it truly deserves.
The intro, those Liam and Noel split harmonies, you’ve just got to sing the higher Noel line, haven’t you? ‘Give me just a smile and would you make it snappy, get your shit together girl!‘ It’s just so damn infectious and that chorus is the best of genius.
Liam live on the Be Here Now stadium tour.
Next is Fade-In-Out, with Mr Johnny Depp on slide guitar. For me, it’s the weakest on the album, but I know many who love this song. That said, it’s a good change of pace and its threatening guitar conjurs up some smooth menace to compliment the wham-bam that’s gone before it.
One for the ladies next, the hauntingly beautiful Don’t Go Away. Yes, even the wife loves it. And why shouldn’t she? The plaintive guitar, an outstanding vocal from Liam and a melody that only the best songwriters can pen. If someone chose this as their first dance at their wedding, they’d have their heads screwed on.
Nearing the end now, and onto the much-belittled All Around The World. If any song on Be Here Now prompted the music critics to unleash their ire, it was this track. Apparently, it was an embodiment of the cocaine-fulled vastness that the record had. It was just to bloody loud, the reviews said. The white powder had crept over into the lad’s songwriting and the production was just too overblow, they claimed.
Maybe they had a point with this track. At nine minutes (just five-ish for the single) it’s long and needs chopping down. But it’s an infectious melody and we all love a good powerful sing-song.
We all went mad for Don’t Look Back In Anger and Wonderwall, didn’t we? We might ridicule Hey Jude a bit, but it’s still one of the best songs The Beatles ever wrote.
The general mechanics of All Around….are great, it’s just the ‘na-na-na-nas’ and the elevated key changes that keep it rumbling on which detracts slightly. Only slightly though.
And don’t forget, the song gave us the famously-drawled line ‘These are crazy days, but they make me shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine.’ These kind of moments helped Liam become one the world’s most identifiable frontmen.
Which brings us to It’s Gettin’ Better Man, the last track. It’s not the strongest on the album, but it’s a good two-fingered salute-like finish to 70 minutes of fantastic self-posturing music. Plenty of underlying guitar feedback, rollocking along at a good old pace. This goes down a treat live.
They could have included this track on Definitely Maybe and nobody would have batted an eyelid. Noel and Liam were right. It WAS getting better. It was just that some people were too self-important to see it.
I’m not into all this meeting your hero bollocks. You like bands or you don’t. But if I did bump into Noel, the first thing I’d ask him would be: ‘That Be Here Now, mate. I know you said you didn’t like it when they started slagging it off, but be honest with me, it’s feckin’ brilliant isn’t it?‘
And I reckon he’d slyly nod, and say: ‘Course it is, mate. Between me and you, it’s the third best album we ever wrote.’
Stand By Me