It seems hard to believe that it has been a decade since Oasis arrived on the music scene, waking up the 1990s with strong, guitar-based rock and roll and sweet, Britpop melodies.
Looking back at their debut album Definitely Maybe, Oasis lead guitarist and songwriter Noel Gallagher gets a positive vibe from the band’s creation. “I think it stands up,” said Gallagher during a telephone interview from London. “Other people seem to think that it sounds as good in 2004 as it did in ’94, and you know what? Who am I to argue about that?”
Oasis landed on the radar of music listeners in 1994 after being signed to Britain’s Creation Records. The Manchester band featured Gallagher on lead guitar and backing vocals, his younger brother Liam provided the trademark Oasis vocals, while guitarist Paul (Bonehead) Arthurs, bassist Paul McGuigan and drummer Tony McCaroll rounded out the lineup.
Oasis had a signature sound based on prominent musical influences from very different time periods.
“It was a cross between three bands. It was the Sex Pistols, the Beatles and the Stone Roses,” said Gallagher, now 37. “I think if you were to listen to a song by each of those bands, you’d probably think ‘Yeah, it kind of sounds like Oasis.”‘
Definitely Maybe entered the British record charts at No. 1 and became the fastest-selling debut in British music history. Songs like Supsersonic, Shakermaker and Live Forever would go on to help define the sound of the mid-’90s on both sides of the Atlantic.
A comprehensive DVD version of Definitely Maybe was released earlier this month.
“I was heavily involved with all the aspects after the idea was put to me,” said Gallagher of the record company’s decision to issue the DVD with input from the band.
Contained on the DVD are crisp, vibrant audio tracks of the entire album, plus live concert footage of every song, promotional videos for most tracks and a detailed documentary featuring the original members of Oasis recounting the recording process of the CD.
“Because it was such a landmark British album, there’s lots and lots of people who, when they hear those songs, they just transport back in time,” said Gallagher. “We thought it was best if we were to properly tell the story of how that album came about.”
The documentary feature follows the format of the album song by song, with the occasional sidetrack for anecdotes about songwriting, touring and life in the rock and roll landscape.
“I think the original draft of the documentary itself was a good two and a half hours long,” said Gallagher. “With the album only being about 50 minutes it was decided the documentary shouldn’t really be twice the length of the album.”
Asked about what he’s most proud of on the album, Gallagher doesn’t stop with just one song. He cites Supersonic for its one take recording as a demo, Live Forever for its massive appeal and Slide Away for being written almost by accident in the studio.
It’s one of the best songs on there,” said Gallagher of the latter track. He also lists Rock ‘n’ Roll Star as a standout “because it pretty much said everything in a song that I’ve ever wanted to say.”
Gallagher is more modest about Oasis’s impact on music history than he has been in the past. “I haven’t even listened to it lately to get nostalgic or anything like that. I’m busy working on another one,” he said of Definitely Maybe and the band’s current project. “I only wrote it, what do I know?”
He anticipates a new Oasis album will arrive in stores next year.
“It’s going really well. This is our third attempt,” Gallagher said of the recording process. “The songs that are going to be on the album basically haven’t changed. But it’s just that the overall sonic quality of the two versions that we’ve done of it weren’t quite right.”
That passionate hunt for just the right sound also plagued the recording process of Definitely Maybe, which similarly underwent three rounds of recording and remixing before the finished product was achieved. The parallels aren’t lost on Gallagher.
“It’s quite spooky actually because it’s following the same pattern,” he said, with a good natured laugh. “So hopefully all the omens point to the same kind of impact, but who knows?”
Gallagher said Oasis is looking at touring plans in the future.
“The only way one can make a living is to do gigs,” he said, referring to the current economic state of the music industry. “People can’t download a gig yet, so at least we’ve got that,” he joked.
But don’t get him wrong. Gallagher has the heart and soul of a pure rock and roller.
“Rock and roll’s not about money, is it?” he said. “It’s about getting up, doing what you want, turn yourself on, going to bed at night thinking well, it was a great day, I hope I wake up in the morning.”
For Gallagher, the secret to success in music is simple.
“If people dig it live, then they clap,” he said. “If they don’t clap, then they don’t dig it. There you go.”