Liverpool post-grad and musician, Chris Selman delved into his older sibling’s record collection and discovered an Oasis classic which would change his life forever.
While I would like to say that I was there from the start, following the band from the tiny club gigs, through to queuing up outside my local Our Price to buy their Britpop-defining second album and that I helped to make history at Knebworth in 1996, none of this is true. There was a time when I really didn’t like Oasis.
Back in 1995, my older brother bought a copy of (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, and proceeded to play it repeatedly for the ensuing several months. When Oasis released this album, I was nine-years-old; what little interest I had in music was limited to frivolous pop.
Back then, whenever I heard the opening chords of Hello blasting out of my brother’s hi-fi, I knew I’d be in for another 50 minutes of being subjected to the same dozen songs that had become the background soundtrack to my life. Little did I know that, seven years later, I’d be stood in Finsbury Park with 40,000 other fans, singing every word of that song back to Liam as if my musical life depended on it. So what happened in the intervening years?
Two things happened in 2000. First of all, Oasis released another album – not an especially good one, but I took an interest in a couple of the singles and purchased a copy. Secondly, my brother left home for university and, with my teenage years progressing and my interest in music ever increasing, I saw fit to pillage his music collection. Of all the records I thieved – and there were plenty of modern classics in there, OK Computer and Automatic for the People to name but two – Morning Glory was the one that really stood out.
Perhaps it was the instantaneous pop melodies, or the perennial feel-good nature of the album (my interest in more intellectual, artistic music was yet to develop). I have always subscribed to the ‘great melody’ school of song writing – the idea that if you match a memorable tune to a classic chord progression, you can’t really go wrong. This album had that magic formula in abundance – Hello, Wonderwall, Don’t Look Back In Anger, Some Might Say and Champagne Supernova being the best examples, although nearly every song complies with this (I have still yet to discover the appeal of Roll With It – too repetitive, uninspired melody, rubbish guitar solo).
The summer of 2000 was also a huge influencing factor; I had witnessed over the past year the ease with which my brother had picked up an acoustic guitar, acquired a copy of the Morning Glory chord book and taught himself to play. With both my parents also able guitarists, I assumed the talent must run in the family, picked up my mum’s guitar and tried to learn some of the tracks; I must have aggravated my parents by playing those songs over and over on the guitar like my brother had with the CD five years previously, but it was worth it.
Learning how to play that album made me want to aspire to be a professional musician; eight years later the dream still hasn’t come true, but I’m content to be able to play and sing some of my favourite songs. Noel Gallagher has remarked about the impact their music has had on kids picking up instruments and playing in bands, and the influence that their success has had on the British live music scene; anything of this value is certainly admirable in my books.
Oasis may not be the most creative or artistic band of the last fifteen years; lyrically, the album is certainly left wanting. I’m still not sure what ‘The sink is full of fishes, she’s got dirty dishes on the brain/It was overflowing gently, but it’s all elementary my friend,’ means, if it means anything at all, and it’s a pretty awkward rhyme to boot. The chord progressions and rhythms have all been done to death before; structurally the songs are fairly generic; none of the band members turn out virtuoso performances (Tony Carroll even plays drums on one of the tracks).
Yet I still like it due to the direct simplicity of song writing and the overall feel of the record. (One annoying hindrance within musical analysis is a distinct lack of vocabulary to articulate why one likes a particular song.) There is a general mood of optimism, about feeling good about yourself, about having the ambition to make the most of every day. It’s difficult to think, in the current musical climate, with Oasis having become something of a national institution, that there was once a time when these up-and-coming indie hopefuls were about to release their second album.
Thirteen years down the line, with a series of subsequently worse records, it’s easy to see why people have forgotten what they used to be like, but (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? is the sound of a great band at their very best.
Cast No Shadow at Maine Road 1996.