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Oasis "(What's The Story) Morning Glory?" (1995)
Hello/Roll With It/Wonderwall/Don't Look Back In Anger/Hey Now/[Untitled One]/Some Might Say/Cast No Shadow/She's Electric/Morning Glory/[Untitled Two]/Champagne Supernova
The Noel Gallagher masterplan seemed to be going well. 'Definitely Maybe' had proved that the
Gallagher's generation could identify with Oasis in sufficient numbers to make the band a best seller - 'Morning Glory' was all about widening that audience and where Oasis went from being one of the hottest things to happen to the music world to the best. It was a canny move from a music fan who knew enough history to avoid the biggest mistakes: rock music is filled with brilliant debut albums that were either followed by lacklustre repeats of the same formula or bands who split up under the pressure of making that second LP (The Sex Pistols, The Stone Roses). Oasis had vowed from the start that they would be here for the long run and by the look of sales in 1995 few would have argued against that: after achieving the impossible with four best-selling singles from the debut LP, 'Morning Glory' too featured four top five hits including the band's first #1 hit in their homeland (extra bonus points if you're enough of a fan to know that it was 'Some Might Say', not 'Wonderwall' which peaked at #2). Considering that there are just fourteen months between the albums the change is impressive: though a good two-thirds of the songs are still hung on the same (wonder)wall of noise, this wall now comes with pretty pictures. It's exactly what The Beatles tried to do past 1963: establish yourself and then experiment, with this album adding mellotron, acoustic guitars and sensitive singer-songwriter ballads to the mix. Having written so many of these songs before the band even had a record contract and with half an eye on what he wanted the band to sound like by now, 'chief' Noel could surely pat himself on the back for a job well done. Despite the in-fighting that continued to rage across the band's first year, it's also worth pointing out how well Oasis work as a team here with everyone adopting and adpting these new styles along with Noel: Liam has learnt to sound hurt and vulnerable as well as loud and massive, the twin guitars float as well as pounce and new drummer Alan White finds a way of taking these songs by the scruff of the neck without getting in the way of all this album's biggest strength, it's strong sense of melody.
Though 'Definitely Maybe' had by far the most quotable lyrics of the Oasis run ('Live Forever' and 'Cigarettes and Alcohol' between them must be the two most seen-on-T-shirts songs of the 1990s), 'Morning Glory' wins out in terms of the memorable tune. Though many of the 'Definitely Maybe' songs sound equally great in acoustic demo form (the hallmark of a really good song), the sweep of songs across this album (especially the second side) reveal that Noel had a real knack of writing memorable songs. 'Cast No Shadow' and 'Champagne Supernova' between them represent the peak of Noel's songwriting craft, hummable songs that have gone beyond the very early song's desire to simply mix other influences into a big fat blender. There's a demo tape out on bootleg that contains nothing of 'Supernova' except the chord changes (no lyrics, no real melody and none of the sense of scale of the finished product) and it still sounds like one of the greatest things ever written. Throw in 'Wonderwall' and 'Don't Look Back In Anger' - two songs that cleverly hit the same kind of nerve as the people who bought the first album but in a slightly maturer, more vulnerable way - and you have one of the few albums of the 1990s that everyone could look on and call an instant success.
However, while 'Morning Glory' sold more copies than 'Definitely Maybe' and many people still rate it as the pinnacle of the decade (not least the Brit Awards, who as recently as 2011 called it 'the best album of the past thirty years'), in retrospect there's already a sense of the grandiose growing out of control that will mark the band's comedown on 'Be Here Now'. Hearing this album across decades now reveals that this record owes at least as much to the third album's millionaire confusion as the first album's sheer joy of being alive and that there's a slightly artificial 'unreal' sense about the worst of this album - specifically the songs on side one written to order. Oasis needed a great song to re-establish the album the way that 'Rock 'n' Roll Star' had raced out of the blocks, but 'Hello' isn't it, extending the single line 'it's good to be back' into a song without really adding anything more (while Noel's first choice to come clean about the source he was 'stealing' the song from - Gary Glitter some four years before a trip to PC World ended his career - has become an embarrassing millstone around the band's neck. 'Roll With It', too, is lazy uncooked songwriting clearly released into the world before it was ready, in a misguided publicity campaign blown out of all proportion against main rivals Blur, who blotted their copybook with the similarly over-row 'Country House'. Where Oasis nicked from The Rolling Stones ('Roll With It' is 'Paint It Black' without the interesting bits), so Blur nicked from The Kinks ('Country House' is just 'A House In The Country' from 'Face To Face' without the humour or fun). Both songs are Britpop at its worst - recycling safe in the knowledge that the people who recognised the plagiarism wouldn't notice or care. 'Hey Now' is another of Morning Glory's slightly dodgy songs from their earlier years, an ill-advised blues that never really gets going. All three songs are, pointedly, weaker than all the dozen or so B-sides released across 1995 and not co-incidentally all three are amongst Noel's newest songs, his post-fame batches never quite living up to the intensity or the hunger of his first. The critics, looking for a way to take down a band they'd been late to noticing and slightly jealous at not really discovering themselves, hated this album and jumped on these holes - a point worth remembering, especially when at first they all loved 'Be Here Now', desperate not to miss the public's mood again. Extra-detailed analysis reveals that the masterplan hasn't actually quite come off this time: the whole point of 'Morning Glory' was to make an eclectic album that would be 'perfect', in order to beat the 'near perfect' Definitely Maybe' (a record whose slightly silly ending of 'Digsy's Dinner' and 'Married With Children' was a deliberate ploy by Noel who wanted to give himself something to aim for on record number two!) Worryingly this time around the three songs singled out above are weaker than these supposedly deliberately poor tracks, suggesting the drugs are already beginning to impair the band's vision. After all the band wasn't short of material: just imagine how greater yet 'Morning Glory' might have been with flipsides 'Headshrinker' 'Talk Tonight' 'Goin' Nowhere' 'Acquiesce' and 'The Masterplan' all here, with some of these songs better suited to life as self-indulgent B-sides. For the first time, but not the last, the masterplan is flawed not because Oasis aren't up to the task but because they struggle to be judges of their own material (a common fallacy - The Beatles occasionally had it too).
Even so, 'Morning Glory' does just enough to satisfy starved music fans that Oasis are the real deal. The title track is as tough as any song from 'Definitely Maybe', 'Some Might Say' is the classic band-audience dialogue the bad have been making their own and 'Wonderwall' is a means of expressing the inexpressible that comes close to matching 'Live Forever'. However the band don't just repeat past glories but add to them: though we've given the first side of the album (and this is one of the last records to feel like it had a 'side' in 1995, with vinyl and cassette sales matching CDs for the last time) short shrift, the second really is certainly amongst the best of Oasis. 'Cast No Shadow' proves that the band can do vulnerable and beautiful without sounding fragile, the way some of their early B-sides are: it remains a candidate for the greatest Oasis song not to be released as a single where it would surely have done well (fitting the mood of a difficult year far more than 'Roll With It' the same way The Verve's 'Bittersweet Symphony' - a song known to have made Noel very jealous - summed up 1997 better than 'Be Here Now'). 'She's Electric' shuts down criticisms that the Gallagher brothers are 'gloomy' (both brothers got voted onto a national poll of the most miserable Britons - George Harrison was on it too, though, just to show how daft it was). Far from being an unfunny knee-jerk re-action, though, 'Electric' has always been another of my favourite Oasis songs, a playful last look around the real world and how life might have been by now without the music while out Blur-ring Blur with its witty observations of street life (the difference is Oasis are singing about and care for their characters - Blur tend to treat the whole thing as an intellectual exercise, too concerned with sneering at people because they know something better - something that always make me slightly uncomfortable and too 'Michael Jackson' like - than Oasis, who are the people sneering at the world). Better yet 'Champagne Supernova' turns the record on its head, proving that the band don't need layers to sound epic and can do space-age as well as rootsy. It's one of those typical Noel Gallagher songs that are born for his critics to laugh out, making no apparent sense when read as a lyric. But in context, with the music and a candidate for the greatest performance of Liam's career, it all makes perfect sense: it's the cry of a generation who feel left behind dreaming not just of a better future in time but in space as well, as even the heavens tips it's hat to mankind's successes with champagne. Though Noel remains an atheist in most of his work (with, perhaps, a shift on 'Dig Out Your Soul' which mentions religion on almost all his songs) this is the moment when he senses that he's most at one with the universe and 'knows' what life is all about and even if he struggles to put it into words it's there in the music. Few albums have ever found a better way to finish than these seven minutes, in any era.
Most fans, though, bought this record just so they could hear the hits again and impressively there are four songs everyone who lived through the 1990s will at least know, even if they hate them. 'Roll With It' is the band's first mis-fire, the first time the connection between band and audience becomes an empty slogan rather than a kernel of truth embellished with guitars and chords. However the rest all have their part to play in shaping the eclectic nature of this record. Though Noel keeps changing his mind about his favourite songs (I still remember when he claimed 'Sunday Morning Call' was the best thing he'd ever written, before he relegated it to an unlisted bonus track on the 'Time Flies' compilation), but 'Some Might Say' seems like a strong candidate for the Oasis song he felt worked the best (alongside 'Live Forever'). It is perhaps the most Noel Gallagher song ever written, nicking from (but largely improving) The Beatles' 'Hello Goodbye' and 'Getting Better' all at the same time, with a tale of how the world may look half-empty but to him it's always been overflowingly full of potential that just hasn't been realised yet. For Noel, it's a stated fact of the universe that everyone has bad times and good and it's that which makes us equal: it's the last great working class status of a band who shed that skin as soon as they stopped being working class heroes, which in many ways is a shame: there's a particular kind of magic energy about this track which finds both brothers singing as if they mean it and are bucking each other up, which none of the later tracks quite have (including the other songs on the album - this one was recorded first in the album sessions although stylistically it really should have been the last recorded for 'Definitely Maybe', with more of that album's 'feel' about it somehow). 'Wonderwall' is Noel's first love song to share his natural buoyancy ('Slide Away' was the end of a relationship - he doesn't seem to have written about the beginning of it, oddly, unless we just haven't heard that song yet) and though the song's success has rather unfairly overshadowed the band's success (it isn't that good) the track works by taking that sense of universal brotherly love and optimism and turning it small scale, one on one. It is deservedly played at many weddings because Oasis' integrity (especially Liam's performance, who was adamant he got to sing this track not his brother) combined with Noel's melody and a rare sense of vulnerability makes for a highly memorable song: it's a shame Oasis never really got onto writing love songs ('Lyla' and 'Songbird' come closest, both being a tad too 'knowing' compared to this song's innocence). The other song is 'Don't Look Back In Anger', Noel's first vocal on an album and clearly another special song that also manages to somehow connect to the band's core audience thanks to a mixture of personal memory (the chorus is remembering having a family photo taken as his parents moan at him to smile) and a moment of revelation similar to 'Supernova' that life is better when we call a temporary truce and love unconditionally (even if the plagiarisms are getting blatant: this song is John Lennon's 'Imagine' with a guitar and a soppier chorus). Though even Noel admits he doesn't quite know what this song means, every line rings 'real' having read so many books and interviews about and by him, which together with a singalong chorus is enough even if they don't necessarily all belong in this same song.
That aspect of love and forgiveness makes for an interesting point. Although 'Be Here Now' is the album Oasis fans point to as the closest the band got to psychedelia (mainly the sheer scale and backwards guitars), 'Morning Glory' is the band's 'summer of love' album. That's an apt metaphor, given that the unusually hot and sun-sheeee-iny UK summer of 1995 was vaguely in the same spirit (with record attendances at rock festivals, a sudden rush of new bands all competing for record sales figures and slumping ratings for John Major's austere Conservative Government, who seemed to be slinking to defeat even before Tony Blair became leader of the opposition) and one Oasis had sorta made possible just as The Beatles had 'allowed' America to go mad in 1967. Though Oasis seem the last band to have got lost in a 'hippie' philosophy, that applied to the early Beatles too back in the days when Lennon was screaming himself hoarse on 'Money (That's What I Want)' and they certainly provided a burst of colour and hope in the music scene after the cobwebs of grunge left behind on their arrival. Obviously it's a heavy generalisation to say the country suddenly became happy for a few months in 1995 - I had a particularly miserable year that year I remember - but there was a sense of things turning a corner. It speaks volumes to me that whereas 'Definitely Maybe' started with dreams and ended with reality ('Rock 'n' Roll Star' and 'Shakermaker' giving way to the adult realities of 'Slide Away' and 'Married With Children'), so 'Morning Glory' pulls that trick in reverse. The record starts with the only thing close to a moan on the entire record (the first line is 'I don't feel as if I know you, you take up all my time...') and gradually whittles that negative vibe away with love ('Wonderwall'), mercy ('Don't Look Back In Anger'), hope ('Some Might Say') and a special sort of spiritual acceptance across the last three tracks. 'Cast No Shadow' should by rights be a sad and unhappy song ('As they took his soul they stole his pride'), but even as the 'sunlight' (Noel's usual metaphor for the 'muse' of creation or giver of life) is taken away from the narrator, so he realises he doesn't need the protection, that he's left still glowing from the encounter (actually on second thoughts perhaps it's a song about a nuclear accident?!) 'Morning Glory' starts innocently enough, a man waking up in the morning and dreaming of what to do that day, but suddenly it's the first day of the rest of your life when anything is possible - all you need to do is 'wake up wake up' and take off in the screaming circle of helicopters that end the song for no apparent reason and yet still somehow fit (this is a summer of love album - with this song as the 'drug trip!') Finally 'Champagne Supernova' takes the narrator up to the skies first-hand to embrace the light he once felt. No longer does he 'walk slowly down the hall, faster than a cannonball', he's no longer earthbound and isn't just touched by the sun's rays but drowned in a 'champagne supernova', perhaps the closest thing in Noel's mind to the bright light and colours he pictures taking place. It's worth pointing out too that while the mood of 'Definitely Maybe' was one of defiance (best summed by 'Cigarettes and Alcohol's tale of boredom, frustration and mundanity), 'Morning Glory' is one of love and hope with most songs ending by leaving the worlds a better place than when the narrator found it - and if that doesn't make this one of the hippiest of all the AAA albums then I don't know what does (there's even a mellotron part on 'Champagne Supernova'!)
It's worth mentioning at this point the 'theme' that other fans think they've spotted on this album - one put forward by producer Mark Coyle who 'designed' the album cover - such as it is - of two men walking past each other (official album designer Brian Cannon and early Oasis supporter, DJ Sean Rowley, while Coyle himself is an 'extra', clutching the master-tapes for this album on the pavement). Apparently one represents the 'past' and one the 'future' as two halves of Oasis' story walk past each other in the street, surrounded by the ordinary Oasis public either side of them. No I don't really get that one either and Noel himself once described the tale as (altogether now) 'absolute nonsense'; of more interest might be the sheer amount of record shops spotted if you study the album carefully enough (I recommend the vinyl edition where it's actually big enough to see the details), with London's Berwick Street in Soho Square deliberately chosen because more copies of 'Definitely Maybe' were thought to have been sold in that street than any other so it would be 'recognisable' to more of the fans who bought the record than anywhere else (people who've come to this album in the years since will simply be amazed at how much out high streets have changed in twenty years - the dearth of music shops especially). Like most Oasis album covers though it's the weakest link in the chain, not really saying anything or matching the slightly surreal psychedelic vibe of the album (Oasis will have a real problem with their covers with none of them quite getting things right, though the much-loved and copied sleeve for 'Definitely Maybe' comes closest).
Perhaps the optimism of the album is reflected by the fact that, by Oasis standards, 'Morning Glory' was a record made with ease (i.e. there was only one blazing row that broke the band up - not four or five!) Impressively for such an important and potentially lucrative album, recorded on the back of a record that took the band three separate goes to get right and which included so many bigger epic productions than before, Oasis spent less time in the studio than last time, wrapping up the record within a month, with a new song recorded at the rate of almost one a day including the band's best year's worth yet of B-sides. Even more impressive, the band effectively 'split' while making it: this is where Tony McCarroll drums his last, playing on at least 'Some Might Say' whatever the credits of the record say and possibly much more too (he claims to have played on most of the album in his book - it certainly sounds more like his playing than successor Whitey's on 'Cast No Shadow' and 'Roll With It' to my ears too). McCarroll was unfairly pushed out of the band he'd co-founded before the Gallaghers came along, 'officially' because his playing wasn't up to scratch (which is only true as far as it goes - McCarroll had an excellent style for the band's harder edged songs in 1994, though it might have been a bit too repetitive for Noel's more elaborate songs of 1995 - to be fair though Tony was never given a chance to try), 'unofficially' for his curly haircut (a rubbish reason: Oasis were all about standing up and being proud of yourself whatever your genetics or the lottery of the postcode you were born into) and for standing up to Noel over a lack of money too many times (more likely; by now Noel's masterplan was in full swing and he was in denial of anybody disrupting the 'magic spell' by telling him 'no'). Alan White, hired through Noel's growing friendship with Jam and Style Council frontman Paul Weller (who was playing with his elder brother Steve White at the time) was though a perfect choice. Most wannabe drummers asked to join Oasis would surely have got it 'wrong', assuming the band's songs were all about rhythm and noise, rather than melody (on this album especially). Whitey instinctively 'got' Noel's songs more than any other drummer Oasis ever had (though he struggles a little with Liam, Gem and Andy's when they get writing later on - odd as he was always much closer to the younger brother socially), musically thumping the drums into a new tomorrow with a similar sense of joy and abandon, without distracting from the songs with a Keith Moon style abandon. Though White could hammer home the old hits and the new harder edged ones like 'Morning Glory', it's his more subtle performances on 'Wonderwall' (halfway into the song, on the 'wrong' beat) and 'Champagne Supernova' (which grow from a whisper to a shriek across seven unfolding minutes) that remain his career best work.
Though Noel rightly got lots of accolades for his work on this album, 'Morning Glory; would have sounded hopeless if the rest of the band hadn't grown along with him. Though many claim 'Definitely Maybe' as the younger bro's best performances, it's 'Morning Glory' where he becomes a leading rock and roll singer, rather than Oasis' lead singer. 'Slide Away' remains Liam's definite vocal performance but many of the songs on this sequel pick up on a similar sense of real emotion and hurt. Noel and Liam reportedly came to blows over who should sing 'Wonderwall' (a song Liam recognised would be a big seller) and wanted to nab 'Don't Look Back In Anger' for himself as well (Noel was breaking an unspoken rule that he would only sing lead on B-sides). It was one of Oasis' more serious fights, reportedly leading to Liam storming out of the sessions while Noel recorded the latter before turning up with a drunken party from down the pub when his brother was trying to mix the song, armed with a cricket bat that he used to smash everything he could get close to. Though I have the same sympathies for Noel bravely giving away his most personal song to 'the enemy' as I do for Paul Simon offering 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' to Art Garfunkel (how would they possibly sense what you wanted to say?) years of hearing both brothers sing one of their most famous songs reveals that there's no contest: Liam's ability to juggle posing macho swagger and genuine vulnerability is what turns 'Wonderwall' from one of the oddest love songs ever written into a million seller; oddly Noel never sounds as if he quite means the lyrics despite writing it (something that's become more pronounced since he split with the girlfriend he wrote it for, Meg Matthews). Similarly I'd be intrigued to hear what Liam might have done with 'Anger', though Noel seems to have mischievously transposed it to a key even he struggles to sing in tune which reportedly made Liam sound like Mickey Mouse when trying to sing along to the backing track (a lower key and he might well have wrung a similarly clever acting job from it though: the line 'take that look from off your voice' would suit a Liam sneer). However just as Liam went from copying The Stone Roses to 'that' sound in a heartbeat on 'Definitely Maybe', so he's adaptable enough to bring in some extra emotions here. 'She's Electric' calls for a music hall type of sneer that Liam delivers perfectly, with a lightness of touch other singers would miss. 'Cast No Shadow' calls for even more of a sense of hurt, trust and wonder than 'Wonderwall' and Liam again sheee-ines. 'Champagne Supernova', meanwhile, calls on everything Liam's learnt so far, as if his brother is deliberately testing how much he can do in one go, as he turns from quiet sigh to thunderous lead in such a way that it sounds perfectly natural. Anyone who says that Liam can't sing has clearly never heard side two of this album, which is a master-class in how to 'act' a song by tapping into what you can find to 'believe' in. Though Liam will manage this part of his craft just as well on later albums, as early as 'Be Here Now' he's slightly lost the highness and vulnerability of this record and will never sound quite as 'pure' (that's what a few years of full-tilt rock-star living will do to you).
Sadly, while Noel's new songs bring out the best in Liam and the new drummer, they leave little enough room for Bonehead and Guigsy to grow. The bass player probably isn't even on this album, with Noel admitting openly that he got Guigsy to record parts with the others before replacing them all later himself - it sounds like it too, with the bass buried so far back into the mix it hurts and leaves the recordings sounding slightly lopsided, as if there's been a champagne supernova in the mix, from the ground up rather than the sky. Few songs use the old 'wall of noise' and those that do ('Hello' 'Roll With It' 'Hey Now') tend to be the most tedious anyway, so poor former leader Bonehead gets demoted from 'most important band member after the brothers' to 'somewhere behind the drummers', with only 'Some Might Say' 'Morning Glory' and the finale of 'Champagne Supernova' showing off what he could really do. Bonehead was at least as good a guitarist as Noel and any other band would have been pleased to have him there: demoting him to the role of 'session musician' seems like a waste and sadly things won't get better for his third and final album as a full member of the group. In other words, if I have a bone to pick about this album it's the treatment of Bonehead - Guigsy too may not have been rock's best bassist but he could play bass better than Noel (as can be seen in any period performance of this album's songs, where the bass rhythm guitar and drums are all far more integral to the sound). However the album's biggest achilles heel, even over and above the three weakest tracks, is the production which is everything the first rejected mix for 'Definitely Maybe' was accused of being; lifeless and flat. Though Liam and Whitey are central to the mix, they don't 'sound' as if they're in the middle: Oasis' sound came from the drums and guitar but the drums are mixed really low and the guitars ping about in the extreme left and right channels, so noisily that Liam is mixed to uncomfortable levels of shrillness to compensate. The close of 'Wonderwall', for instance, is nearly unlistenable ('Supernova' too, though more gloriously so) and there's a sense of separation here that you can't quite lose yourself in this record like before; the difference between 'Definitely Maybe' and 'Morning Glory' is the difference between being part of the party happening in the room - and a noisy party going on next door. Both may sound like fun, but only one draws you in. That's odd because 'Morning Glory' should be a quieter album, with a far higher quota of ballads, so it made sense when I learnt something new when researching this album: Oasis were the first band to throw massive compression at this album's mix. Basically it's as if all the album's loudest and quietest moments have been 'squeezed' to sound more extreme - it's the equivalent of filling the same size sheet of paper as 'Definitely Maybe's neat joined-up handwriting with text that's either very very tiny OR INCREDIBLY HUGE!!! That's why at the start of this album Noel seems to have an even louder cough than the guy who sat next to you in the cinema last Tuesday and why the end of 'Champagne Supernova' leaves your ears ringing for days, even though the volume is lower than on most albums you own. Frankly, it's a shame: Oasis were responsible for many great musical and technical innovations but this isn't one of them and the next twenty years will be full of bands desperate to use the same technique to sound as loud.
Overall, then, it's hard to know what to make of 'Morning Glory', a record which takes so many brilliant steps forward (especially on the second side, perhaps the definitive half hour Oasis ever made) and brings the songwriting and performances on leaps and bounds from a first album that was already pretty darn fantastic - and yet falls flat on its face in so many other ways (even 'Digsy's Dinner' was easier to sit through than 'Hello' or 'Roll With It', not to mention the issues with the production and the slight sense of panic that Noel is already running out of things to say now that he's running out of notebooks full of pre-fame songs). Though rightly hailed by many quarters as a far greater album than it ever should have been, with a wider palette few bands would have been brave enough to try after such a success, I also kind of agree with the early reviewers who thought that Oasis had already lost it (the period Melody Maker report, for instance, claimed the record was 'occasionally sublime but too often laboured and lazy' while the NME warned that though the album had brought Oasis to the edge of another great precipice they're dangerous close to 'losing their footing'. Overall, it's one of those AAA 'nearly' albums, close to being a multi-layered ambiguous masterpiece but also a single 'All Around The World' away from chuffing nonsense. An album full of highs and lows where greatness and ghastliness sit side by side, where recycled barely re-written songs from yesteryear sit next to genuine invention and brilliance and one of the world's greatest 'bands' gets reduced to two great brothers and a fan new drummer, with some of the best Oasis songs and recordings ever made partly messed up by a misguided production and a shoddy album sleeve, if Oasis' career was a bar chart you could pin this record absolutely halfway between the upshift of 'Definitely Maybe' and the come-down of 'Be Here Now', though in truth each pin for each song would be more like a scatter-graph, spread out all over the place. In retrospect maybe this album took off so much because it was an even better indicator of the summer of 1965 than Sgt Peppers had been for the summer of 1967 (the very summer when Noel was born), full of not just the glorious sunsheeiiine but also the clouds already forming and swirling in the champagne supernovaed sky.
'Morning Glory' opens with a tease: a few seconds of the introduction to 'Wonderwall' that's ripped open fifteen seconds in by one of Oasis' nastiest and most aggressive riffs. I've always been intrigued as to why: 'Hello' is obviously (at times a little too obviously) written as the album's opening track ('It's good to be back!') but is Noel keen to already show that Oasis have moved on from the crunch of 'Definitely Maybe' (which, of all the songs on this album, 'Hello' most resembles?) Or is this a deeper sense that ties into Morning Glory's gradual evolution from the nasty side of realities to the glorious spiritual high of 'Champagne Supernova'? (Or did it happen by accident and just happened to sound good enough to leave in?) To be honest the sudden switch of gears is the most interesting part of a song that is the first Oasis song to sound written to a template. This song is a peculiar mix of two halves of 'Definitely Maybe' stuck together: the sneer (complete with a repeat of 'sheeeiine' in the lyric, already a Liam trademark) and the hope. One reading of the song is that it's one long rant by Noel against his brother - perhaps the first time he's been addressed directly in song ('I don't feel as if I know you' starts a lyrics that complains about someone whose world view is so different to the narrator's own). This is also the first of a handful of Oasis riffs based around what seems to be an 'SOS' morse code (not unlike the one that ends 'It's Good To Be Free' from the same period), which always points towards a hidden 'cry for help'. In a way 'Hello' is the downside to 'Talk Tonight', possibly written during that feverish journey of escape Noel took while on tour in America, full of all his reasons why he ought to leave the band - before the 'fan' talks him into all the reasons for staying and causing him to sound genuinely thrilled that 'it's good to be back!' Note the line 'We live in the shadows, we had the chance - and three it away', which might well hark back to Oasis falling apart the minute the spotlight of fame started glaring in their eyes. It could of course be aimed at anyone Noel was feeling angry with, specific or general, and Liam was far from the only person doing his head in during this time, but there's a sense of family ties in this song, of a sort of respect-but-not-respect that marked out most of the band's rows: 'I've got the feeling you still owe me, so wipe the shit from your shoes' is, for instance, something an elder brother forced into being a guardian would say to a sibling, not to a friend or work colleague. In context then 'Hello' sounds like Noel explaining his reasons for both quitting and returning: he complains at the end 'it's never going to be the same till the life I knew comes to my house and says 'hello!' while Noel himself buts in at the end with a megaphone to tell us that it's 'good to be back' whilst sounding like a dalek (or at least someone whose now had experiences very different to the band he's returning to). This might make sense of what's always puzzled me about this composition: most Oasis songs tend to be consistent in mood and the few that aren't tend to make a logical progression from one feeling to another ('D'yer Know What? I Just Changed My Meaning' for instance), but this one always sounded cobbled together, as if a happy singalong Slade song got attached to a riff nicked from The Sex Pistols. Actually the chorus was a direct steal from Gary Glitter, Noel backing down and giving co-credits to Glitter and co-author Mike Leander for lifting a section from 'Hello Hello I'm Back Again' - although to be honest it's a less obvious steal than any of Noel's Beatley ones (or do I just know the fab four's back catalogue better?) Believe it or not stealing from Gary Glitter wasn't as 'wrong' as it seems now: though his noisy glam rock boasting became a joke quickly by the end of the 1970s it was a sound that was suddenly everywhere at the start of Britpop as Glitter re-ignited his career. Oasis never claimed to be big fans and Noel didn't even own a Glitter Band record (according to early interviews which took full stock of what he owned - and it was a lot), but probably enjoyed the sheer noise and spectacle not unlike his beloved Slade and the sense of boasting that appeared in many period Gallagher performances. After all that 'Hello' still sounds the weakest Oasis track so far (excepting the special case of 'Digsy's Dinner'), unfinished and slightly rushed, taken from too many past glories without really adding anything new of its own.
'Roll With It' too is easily the weakest of the six singles released to date. It's not so much that the song is bad and Liam somehow finds enough of worth in the song's empty sloganeering to turn in a vocal far superior to the song, but Noel's been rummaging through his record collection with even more carefree abandon than usual and this time he's nicked the wrong bits. Oasis are, up to this point at least, all about meaning: all their songs say something someone young hungry and disenfranchised with the system can relate to because they've come from personal experience, but 'Roll With It' is a string of instructions set to music, many of which contradict each other. One minute we're meant to roll with it, to take your time, to 'go with the flow'. A line later we're given the much more Oasisy instruction to 'never let anybody get in your way' and to 'never stand aside' or 'be denied'. Though both pieces of advice makes sense in different contexts, it's hard to do one simultaneously with the other. As with 'Hello', the music also sounds like exactly like what you'd expect Oasis to deliver, very much in the 'Definitely Maybe' mode but without the mood or emotion to make the song 'work'. There is, however, a nice middle eight which - deeply unusual for Noel in his 'happy' early phase - positively leaps keys from what the sheet music helpfully tells me is a 'G Major' to an 'F Major' (ie from one sharp to three) starting from 'I know the roads down which your life will drive...' This is the part of the song that sounds like Noel had a real message to impart and quickly turns to the shadowy figure who is surely fiance Meg Matthews whose no longer 'behind a door' now their relationship is out in the open. However Noel bottles it again, with ambiguous lyrics about 'finding a key' without telling us what that key is and a clever but confusing line about how Liam can 'recognise your face though I've never seen you before'. Like 'Hello', this song tries hard to sound happy, but ends up in a curiously miserable place, repeating the phrase 'I think I've got a feeling I've lost inside' as if even Noel is admitting this song is a bit of a sell out, written to a formula to order when Oasis need another single. A casualty of the Oasis v Blur clash (this song lost the battle, stopping at #2, though Oasis arguably won the war with heavy singles sales over a slightly longer period than their rivals). perhaps the most distinctive thing about this song is the ending, when Noel adds some belated 'reality' to this track thanks to a synth pattern that was clearly meant to be 'faded' and ending with the first of many audible coughs (Noel really should see a doctor, given the amount of splutters on this album and the next). What other mainstream band of the 1990s would ever have allowed an all important hit single to end like this?
'Wonderwall' sounds as if it too started as a song written to order, possibly as another of those delightful acoustic ballads Noel's been clocking up on the B-sides. The fact that the title is nicked outright from The Beatles again (though we'll leave Noel alone for being fan enough to have actually heard of the first Beatles solo album, a George Harrison soundtrack LP that's released in 1968 that's really rather good) doesn't bode well. But somewhere along writing this song Noel seems to have suddenly had a change of thought, with 'Wonderwall' slowly turning from his usual ambiguous wordplay into a lyrics full of heart and pathos. The first verse sounds less like a love song and more like a 'Roll With It' style mantra ('Today is gonna be the day they're gonna throw it back to you' must be one the of the weirdest lines to start a romantic song off with), but then Noel trips us up: he's so overwhelmed with love he can't put his feelings into words. The chorus even leaves this macho band spluttering while admitting 'there are many things I would like to say to you - but I don't know how!' Struggling to tell someone you love them is not new in music (even 10cc's heralded 'I'm Not In Love' isn't actually the first, though some people seem to think it is), but it is new for a band with the hard-lined street-cred image of Oasis. Impressively the music manages to sound like a 'softer' version of what Oasis always do, being fully in keeping with their usual power (no one seems to have told the new drummer this song is a ballad for instance, while the cellos rock harder than most string parts on rock ballads). Though in the Harrison original the 'Wonderwall' was a separation between the dull grey 9-5 world of business and boredom on the one hand and the technicolour hippie world on the other, Noel doesn't seem to have ever heard the actual album or seen the film (not many people had before the DVD in 2005). Instead his 'Wonderwall' is more like a reverse take on Pink Floyd's 'The Wall' (an album we now know, thanks to his Desert island Discs show, he was inordinately fond of), a figure of strength whose strong and loyal enough to never let him down. Though Noel was always unusually ambiguous over what inspired his songs (many of which seem to have come so suddenly from his sub-conscious ne never 'realised' had anyway), he always spoke about this being a love song to his new girlfriend Meg, who even bucked Oasis tradition by appearing on the sleeve of the CD single (Noel's since said that he regretted telling the media it was 'about' Meg because it was a more general impression of someone he dreamed would one day 'save' him - though as he was getting divorced from her at the time it's worth adding a caveat here: back in 1995 he probably did fell that Meg was the one to 'save' him, even if she was just the latest of many girlfriends he felt that way about). Like many songwriters, Noel seems to have spent his life searching for that special someone to 'save' him from a life of hollow emptiness: the earlier 'Slide Away' was about his devastation that his first choice wasn't 'the one', while the far later 'Waiting For The Rapture' is about being in two minds to go through the risk of heartbreak again when second wife Sara MacDonald comes along.
'Wonderwall' is a song that sounds similarly wary of being hurt (it wasn't that long ago Noel was howling the pain of 'Slide Away' after all), only slowly opening up from a simple strummed acoustic guitar riff into a huge orchestra. Together with the lyric, which manages to be tough yet vulnerable, you can see why this song is as popular as it is: far from being comfortable with saying 'I love you' (something Noel still hasn't quite down in a lyric just yet) Noel sounds as if he's squirming while writing this song before his belief in the Oasis 'integrity' and 'keeping it real' kept him writing; it's the perfect song for a generation who lived and loved hard, with just emotional but also a large dollop of honesty. The arrangement is particularly clever - the moment when the drums come in unexpectedly at the start of the word 'Backbeat' (another Beatles reference - a film of the same name about their Hamburg years had just come out) is perfect, signifying that this song is 'real' rather than staged, the narrator's love growing despite his fear of getting hurt putting the brakes on. Noel and Liam had a fight for hours about whether the drums should come in traditionally or here, apparently; though in most arguments Liam's instinct tends to be more accurate than Noel's careful planning, this is a case when the elder brother was most definitely 'right'. Noel was however most definitely 'wrong' when he assumed that his brother could never sing this song as well as him: if Noel had sung this personal song it would probably have ended up like 'Talk Tonight', a lovely song that fans admire but which tend to get forgotten. Liam brings bravado and bluster to the song as well as the very real sense of finding it tough to open up - 'Wonderwall' absolutely needs Liam's harshness for the dual sense of emotion to work as well as it does'; even by 1995 we knew Noel had a softer side but we'd never heard Liam's before. His is a first-rate performance, totally devoting himself to his brother's song and proving for the first time that he really is a first-class vocalist behind the Liam Gallagher swagger. Though I don't quite agree with most reviewers that 'Wonderwall' is the greatest thing Oasis ever did, it is a very clever song that people were always going to connect to in large numbers, though heartfelt enough for the fact it has such a wide appeal to be a happy accident rather than the whole cause of the song.
'Don't Look Back In Anger' is another fondly regarded million-seller that's a bit of a muddle of images but has just enough personal integrity to work. Annoyed at having to hand 'Wonderwall' over, Noel was adamant that he would keep this song for himself, marking the first time he sang on an Oasis album track. Together with the highly personalised lyrics (a blur of memories of his childhood good and bad) and the central role played by his own guitar (which plays after every verse as if 'commenting' on the action and pointing more than the vocal to what was 'good' and 'bad' about the old days) it's virtually a Noel solo affair. We're invited at the start to 'slip inside the eye of your mind', which to Noel seems to mean his memory banks, perhaps transported there by the single most John Lennon piano lick imaginable (the chords to 'Imagine' played with the 'feel' of 'Strawberry Fields Forever'). Nothing quite divides a life in two like going from the slums to being a millionaire overnight and this song seems to be Noel's fond farewell to his 'old' life, remembering his 'masterplan' as he 'starts a revolution from my bed' ('Revolution In The Head', published in 1994, was the AAA's brilliant precursor on The Beatles' catalogue by the legend Ian McDonald) and makes full use of the 'brains' people keep telling him he's got but doesn't use (Noel being dyslexic and playing truant for much of his school years make this all sound deeply plausible). The chorus then moves back into full childhood with a memory of having a family photo taken - for some reason the Gallaghers pictures their brood against the fireplace every Summer (perhaps to show their changing heights) while Liam remembers that Noel was always being told off by their mam Peggy for looking sulky.
The Gallaghers didn't have the best childhood (though they were quick to point out their situation - an abusive dad, a midnight fleeing to a relative's house for safety and long periods of poverty and making do - was common Manchester way at this time) - this song sounds like Noel is trying to give his past absolution, declaring that it all worked out in the end as 'fuel' that enabled Noel to be mad and frustrated enough to dream big and reach this point in his life. He no longer looks back in anger - and by association neither should we. Liam, who would have shared many of the same memories, was particularly keen on this song and even came up with the 'Sally can wait' part after mis-hearing what his brother was la-laing to the song's chords backstage (there's long been a rumour that the character is 'Sally Cinnamon', the girl from the Stone Roses song, which should have been a very music-fan-Noel thing to do but is apparently false - this song is Noel through and through). Sadly the last verse isn't quite s inspired, Noel switching back to present day as he warns himself and perhaps the listener 'not to put your hands in the life of a rock and roll band' because he knows that he's only human and infallible, a sulky kid hopeless at school no one expected to come to much. But that ironically is what make Noel sound superhuman in songs like this: to be able to be that extraordinarily ordinary and still make it sound like the most important thing in the world to be. Like 'Strawberry Fields' and 'I Am The Walrus' to some extent (a song long in oasis' setlist by this point) 'Anger' is a song about the glorious feeling that after years of keeping your talent a 'secret' no one else understands ('No one I think is in my tree') and assuming you were a 'loser', suddenly the world 'loves' you; for Lennon that was a source of madness, of contempt for people who only liked him when he became rich and famous but Noel, characteristically, had more of the bounce of a McCartney and is simply thrilled that he was proved 'right' in the end. The glorious sunny high point of the Oasis catalogue, this song is the short glorious moment of celebration of success until the burden of speaking for a generation got to Noel and while other Oasis songs are technically better ('Live Forever', for instance, has an even bigger reach and a heavier concept, while 'Cigarettes and Alcohol' makes an even wider social comment), the sheer joy and life Noel brings to the song both on the vocal and his under-rated guitar playing make this song an unqualified success too.
After two major success stories out of almost nothing, things drag a little on 'Hey Now'. The last real return to the Oasis sound of old (along perhaps with B-side 'Rockin' Chair'), this is another song without much to say and sounds far more like filler than almost any of the band's flipside of the year. Oasis already sound tour and world weary, Liam singing with a depressive thud where he once soared and the band's wall of noise now sounding more like a box hemming him in than something to stand on top of and reach for the clouds. Noel sounds worried, perhaps by his lack of songwriting all of a sudden just as the band need a tonne of new material, feeling that 'time's slipping by' and worrying 'what will it hold for me?' in the future. The narrator of most of 'Definitely Maybe' ('Slide Away' and 'Married With Children' being the exceptions) knew exactly what life had in store: brilliance, as was the narrator's God-given right. 'Hey Now' sounds more shadowy, deliberately or self-consciously titling itself after another song from 'The Wall' titled 'Hey You', which sits as a 'warning' in the middle of Pink Floyd concept, a 'last chance' for the egotistical singer to stay true to his principles and his fall to becoming the pig-headed chauvinistic racist sloganeer who thinks his life is everyone's fault but his own. Noel keeps repeating in this song 'feel no shame' but Liam doesn't sound like he believes it - even more troubling is the idea that, despite all this mega-success, deep down Noel still isn't happy, asking himself (INFJ loner that he is) 'why I never let anyone in?' to share the masterplan and success. The band even sound bored here for the first time, losing their bounce and joi de vivre on a song that's actually one of the shortest on the album but sounds like one of the longest. A signpost to what's to come on 'Be Here Now' and especially 'Shoulders Of Giants', it's an ok-ish song adrift in the middle of an album where it doesn't belong, the one fly in the ointment of an album high on hope and giddy on success, acting as the record's unwanted 'conscience' the same way that George Harrison's 'Within You, Without You' is both central to and apart from 'Sgt Peppers'.
The end of the first side ended with what's officially titled ['Untitled'] though eagle-eared fans will have long ago spotted it as an extract from the B-side 'Swamp Song' (released in full a little after the album came out, on the back of 'Wonderwall'), a jam Oasis played with Paul Weller at Glastonbury during their second appearance but in the end only White's drums and the audience 'feel' was kept from this version - everything else was overdubbed later. It works ok as a sort of palette cleaner, but was never one of Oasis' better jams and the 'wrong' section of the song is used anyway (the track got better the longer it went on and the more everyone warmed up).
Over on side two the crisp guitar crunch of 'Some Might Say' signifies one of Oasis' most characteristic songs, the laidback swagger of 'Cigarettes and Alcohol' played in the same spirit as 'Live Forever'. The sentiments, though as vague and ambiguous as any of Noel's lyrics, seem to concern inspiration and the idea that only 'certain' people are special. Nonsense, so Noel's lyrics seem to go, if I can do it then so can you because I'm as ordinary as any of you and we can all be great together! The lyric weaves a mundane life of dishes and 'itching in the kitchen' (not one of Noel's better lines) but also Noel's sheer frustration at the low sights the rest of the world are setting for themselves: he gets really cross at his girlfriend's insistence on doing the dishes when he's trying to save the sodding world, for instance; the inspiration he feels overflowing out the sides as he gazes at the sink filling up the metaphor for his feelings. We never find out who the 'some' are who say these things but everybody seems to be taking 'their' word as gospel: there's no point thinking big because we're all so small. Noel, through Liam's aggressive voice, demands that the world sit up and tries harder, his only 'education' to write songs the sheer misery of a life spent 'waiting' for something to happen 'in the rain' (a common problem in Manchester). This song also throws in a few clever couplets which have nothing to do with the rest of the song but work anyway in their own right as poetical discussions ('Some might say they don't believe in Heaven - go and tell it to the man who lies in hell!') However what the lyrics actually say is less important than the overall 'feel', which is that 'brighter days' are round the corner - and even though ;some' may not say that, Noel flipping does and he's a top millionaire geezer and everything. One of Oasis' most under-rated songs, summing up everything that was glorious about their first two years as a recording band (though as a recording this is perhaps just that little bit too cluttered, with the wall of noise a little too big on this one), this deservedly became the band's first #1. It may well be their best - certainly the best Oasisy sounding - single after 'Supersonic' and 'Live Forever', with a sound of hope no other band could deliver quite as well.
Better yet is 'Cast No Shadow', one of the greatest Oasis songs. Written last minute when 'Step Out' had to be taken off the album by Noel on a train as he headed back to work after temporarily splitting up the band (after the night Liam invited back a few friends to the studio for a party), it's a gorgeous song that like many a Noel Gallagher lyric says everything and nothing. Noel admitted later he wrote it after thinking about Verve songwriter Richard Ashcroft, the band he considered his biggest 'rival', although the mysterious figure who seems touched by the gloriousness of his maker and given special insight was assumed by many to be Noel talking about himself. Like The Beatles' 'The Fool On The Hill' the character is doomed to a life of being ignored even though if people listened to him they'd realise he knew things they never could: the narrator feels 'bound by all the weight of all the words he tries to say' and wonders if he has any right saying them, only to be greeted by the knowing wink of God in the form of the sun (the sun always seems to be God on AAA albums, Oasis' especially). Though the song gets a bit 'Jesusy' at times, with the thought of a martyr given great gifts from above no one allows him to use ('Surviving if he can', a line cleverly undercut by the sense of doubt on 'But only if he can'... plus the chorus'As they took his soul they stole his pride'), Noel's lyrics are just subtle and ambiguous enough about what's happening here: does the lack of a shadow suggest instead that this man is an alien? A vampire? Radioactive? An outsider? Electra from the Marvel comics? As with many Oasis songs, all interpretations are valid. Though the lyric is impressive enough, sweet and tender and again filled with the very period Oasis feeling that everything is possible for everyone, whoever you may be, what really gets me is the tune. For the first time since 'Live Forever' and 'Slide Away' it sounds nothing like anything by anybody else. Noel hasn't just shiggled some favourite songs around this time - he really has been blessed by...'something' in getting one of the most original and beautiful melodies of the 1990s. Though you'd normally expect Noel to sing this ballad, Liam does a great job again, the brothers putting aside their difference when there's work to be done. The band even use an orchestra that's perfect for the song, floaty without taking the track over, hinting just enough at another 'layer' above the ground 'we' don't know about. For a writer whose always claimed to be an atheist this is a mighty powerful spiritual song. Glorious, Noel at his melodic thoughtful best.
'She's Electric' just beat 'Bonehead's Bank Holiday' (on the CD and cassette versions at least) to becoming the 'joker' in the pack, the 'Digsy's Dinner' the band thankfully dispense with past this album. This song though is good fun. Liam gets to parody himself on a sneer that's turned inward, laughing at himself and the world on a lyric that takes the usual oasis of tack of writing about ordinary people and making them, well, ordinary again. This is a soap opera of a song behind the chorus about another 'Wonderwall' style person who exists above the mundane, all about a girl's 'family full of eccentrics' which include the narrator's knowing audience wink that he'd have slept with the sister too if he'd met her first, a MILF mum who openly fancies him and a cousin whose pregnant who the narrator is quick to nudge 'is nothing to do with me!' Even the idea that the sex-starved sister has a 'blister' on her hand is either a Carry On style reference I'm not up to explaining if you haven't worked it out yet (though she sounds like a close friend of The Who's 'Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand') or a really really desperate rhyme for the word 'sister'. If I was Meg Matthews I'd be very concerned about the timing of this song, for all we know it's another old one from the pre-fame days (is this why the relationship on 'Slide Away' ended, because Noel was slagging off his in-laws?) Once again we're back in the idea of 'light' and power sources: though Noel realises his girl isn't God exactly, she is at least a small bulb of artificial light that keeps him powered, 'electric' in the way she keeps filling his live with light and love and he longs to be like her, to have some of that illumination rub off on him (another possible, less plausible reading is that it's another song about Liam and his ability to 'mix' with anybody and everybody all the time, with many reviewers describing Liam as 'an 'electric' character in the press, something Noel never shared- this would make the line about a 'family full of eccentrics' a real in-joke!) It's all very English and music hall, with quick-stepping rhymes that keep coming on and on, ending with the music hall's biggest fans The Beatles via a closing chorale harmony ripped straight from their songs 'Getting Better' and 'Because'. A clever way of breaking a formula that is already becoming a bit rigid, Oasis are the perfect band to send themselves up with a 'mockney' (Manchester cockney) version of themselves and though lightweight the song is cleverly made and enhanced by one of the best band performances on the record (Liam, especially, nails the song's midway stance between comedy and earnest emotion).
Title track 'Morning Glory' arrives with a rush of helicopters - the first of a pair of songs (with 'D'Yer Know What I Mean?') where helicopters mean something HUGE and powerful. Though the riff is, if anything, a little harder and heavier than Oasis usually get (more like AC/DC, but with more melody) the lyrics are pure Oasis: the narrator is up for another day, dreaming of what great things might happen to him as he stared back at the mirror to shave the decay of the night away. The lyrics cleverly have the narrator already 'chained' to the mirror and his routine while his mind wanders off, suggesting that society norms have already got under his skin, but these are shaken off with a glorious bit of guitar riffing which sounds not so much like a wall of noise as a mountain. Though there are actually hardly any lyrics on this track (just one verse and a single-line chorus, repeated ad infinitum) that's actually all this song needs: the whole point of the song is that middle line: 'Today's the day that all the world will see'. The narrator is pumped up, desperate to prove that he's above all the ordinary things in life and willing the day that usually drags on so slowly to get on with it, as a million special thoughts now whir around his head as signified by all the guitars. We're back to the idea of a source of inspiration from the sky again, as the song closes with a helicopter taking off, as if Liam's narrator is rising above the rest of the world and their small narrow views. The mega-sound of the opening is not unlike a rocket taking off actually, as if all the pinging noise of a half-heard radio going in and out of station (another Beatley idea borrowed from 'I Am The Walrus', though used in a very different way) is being left behind in the distance by the sheer force of imagination. Another strong band performance (you can tell Liam loves this song too - the track ended up back in the band's setlist on their last tour at his suggestion, while Whitey's powerful wide drumming is exactly what this song needs and the one part on this record McCarroll would have struggled to perform) elevates another promising song to the premier league on this record's second side.
As the helicopter takes off 9and, weirdly, we end up rowing on a lake) we get another extract of [Untitled] aka 'The Swamp Song', which seems an oddly earth-bound rootsy jam for a quick tour of the stratosphere before we reach...
Well, nirvana, arguably, on 'Champagne Supernova', the album's glorious finale and one of the most discussed Oasis songs of all. Like much of the record, this track seems to be discussing inspiration and it's sources, re-wondering whether the sentiment of 'Some Might Say' and whether this special gift is open to everybody on the 'right wavelength' (hence all the radios - see?) or just a particular few. 'How many special people change?' is the song's opening line as the narrator promises to lift someone he's close to (maybe even us, the listener) from our earth-bound realm ('walking slower than a cannon ball') to a champagne supernovas he senses happening in the sky. In context of where we've come from this is, if not God, then at least inspiration - the ability to see things the rest of the worlds can't see and as shown here sounds like a drug trip, taking the world from monochrome into technicolour with the wave of a magic wand. This time the sun's rays of golden inspiration are so strong they're now a landslide of champagne, the embodiment of success. Noel has never felt so inspired, by his band or the new love in his life, and has finally found out who he 'is' after a lifetime of being told he's no one special. It's an epic feeling that leaves him dumbfounded as he tries to leave us mere mortals instructions on how we can get here too to join him as the song simply explodes into life in a way few songs before it ever have. Even when the song settles back for a second verse, imagining all of 'us' as a girl dreaming from her bed that there's more to life than what she sees, wiping a 'tear' away from her eye (which the clever way Liam sings it - by design or accident? - sounds like a rip in the fabric of ordinary life), it's still epic, the narrator having learnt something he can never 'unlearn'.
Throughout it all Noel half-mocks, half supports the people who dream big, even if their dreams are only as big as 'getting away' for the summer: Noel knows that it's possible to exist at this higher plain because he's been here for years now and in this magic realm time stands still to his dreams that you and I are gonna 'live forever' are a reality. This is such a monumental discovery that it inspires one of the greatest noises of the Oasis canon, as Noel pours all those twenty-seven years of unexpressed longing and desire into one of the greatest guitar solos of them all, howling out his rage and frustration as his guitar spits out sparks, while Liam is turned from a mere rock star into a God chanting his way over the top of the most colossal backing track. Though reports vary as to how many Oasis songs were written 'on' drugs (all of them? none of them? Written 'through' drugs might be a better description) this is surely one of them, full of unlocked doors and new higher levels that the narrator has never realised before and which the whole of his soul is screaming for him to remember when he 'wakes up'. It's also a song that comes in 'waves', not so much getting faster and slower or louder and quieter but ebbing and flowing, always the sign of a good drug song (not to mention the obvious finale: 'We were getting high'). It's the Oasis equivalent of 'A Day In The Life' as the band would truly love to turn us on, but here there's no drug come-down, just a post coital glow of warmth and understanding. The only thing keeping this song anywhere near the Earth anymore is a single held organ note that plays throughout the song, though it's droned out for much of the time, like the 'spiritual chord' that's meant to be 'cut' when we die (the whole song is like an out of body experience, with champagne). By the end of this song it's enough to leave you feeling drained and wiped out, but so it should - this is an event/drug-trip/chance meeting that's changed the way the narrator thinks forever, so much so he's shocked to find the world 'still spinning round' on his return to Earth. Noel is amazing, Liam is amazing (his unusually vulnerable shriek of pain off mike at 4:20 is extraordinary), the band are extraordinary and suddenly for seven glorious minutes everything that Oasis have ever stood for has come together.
Overall, 'Morning Glory' is quite an album, one that's very slow to get going but somehow ends up reaching the clouds quite magnificently on the second half. Twenty years on now and I'm still not entirely sure what I think of it - whether my knee-jerk re-action that is was a slight come-down after 'Definitely Maybe' and the mixed reviews on release are right, or whether this is an album that even now I haven't quite teased all the strands out of yet and it's actually the pinnacle of my collection (give it another twenty years and I'll have another bash - you don't mind buying all these books up again do you?!) The truth is probably somewhere in the middle: 'Wonderwall' 'Don't Look Back In Anger' 'Some Might Say' 'Cast No Shadow' 'Morning Glory' and 'Champagne Supernova' are the real peak of Oasis which reach a height of monumental proportions that earlier only 'Live Forever' and 'Slide Away' (and possibly 'Rock 'n' Roll Star') could quite reach. It takes a lot to beat perfection and the fact that so many of these album songs managed it is a source of (morning or anytime) glory I don't blame for rushing to the band's heads. The fact that so many key songs of our era were recorded in a month, maybe even a fortnight taking the other period songs away, is mind-blowing. And yet there's so much about 'Morning Glory' that isn't even good but ordinary. Oasis fans writing in their bedrooms probably had a better pastiche of the band's sound than they could muster themselves on 'Hello' 'Roll With It' and 'Hey Now', the production spends too much concentrating on noise over beauty, the arrangements might have been better yet had Noel been just open enough to using Bonehead and Guigsy's strengths as well as his and his brother's and the album cover must be one of the most bland and generic ever given to a 'classic' album (though Pet Sounds' day at the zoo comes close). Genius or madness? True inspiration or bluster? Poetry or garbage? Would you believe a lot of both? (albeit with enough of a decent run on the second half to make you forget the first half by the time you reach the end - it seems like a lot longer than 50 minutes ago you last heard 'Hello' when you flip the album on again). A glory, certainly, with enough reason to bring out the champagne - though not every song turns supernova by any means.
Other Oasis articles from this website you might be interested in reading:
'Definitely Maybe' (1994) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2011/07/news-views-and-music-issue-105-oasis.html
'Be Here Now' (1997) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.com/2013/11/oasis-be-here-now-1997-album-review.html
'The Masterplan' (B sides compilation) (1998) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/review-99-oasis-masterplan-1998.html
'Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants' (1999) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2009/09/news-views-and-music-issue-44-oasis.html
‘Heathen Chemistry’ (2002) http://www.alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/oasis-heathen-chemistry-2002.html
‘Don’t Believe The Truth’ (2005) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/oasis-dont-believe-truth-2005.html
'Dig Out Your Soul' (2008) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2008/10/oasis-dig-out-your-soul-2008_31.html
'Different Gear, Still Speeding' (Beady Eye) (2011) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2011/03/news-views-and-music-issue-93-beady-eye.html
'Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds' (2011) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/news-views-and-music-issue-119-noel.html
‘Don’t Believe The Truth’ (2005) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/oasis-dont-believe-truth-2005.html
'Dig Out Your Soul' (2008) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2008/10/oasis-dig-out-your-soul-2008_31.html
'Different Gear, Still Speeding' (Beady Eye) (2011) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2011/03/news-views-and-music-issue-93-beady-eye.html
'Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds' (2011) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/news-views-and-music-issue-119-noel.html
‘Be’ (Beady Eye) (2013) http://www.alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/beady-eye-be-2013-album-review.html
Yesterdays' (Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds) (2015) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/noel-gallaghers-high-flying-birds.html