I had just turned twenty-one.
I was a student.
I was convinced that what had started as a couple of great albums by blur and Suede was now a full blown cultural phenomenom on a par with the Mods in the sixties.
I was entering the second year of my degree course at the “University” of Paisley.
All around me was a sea of beige.
I had heard them.
I had heard about them.
I knew that they thought they were the best band in the world.
I wasn’t sure.
I bought it more in hope than expectation.
By the time “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” had finished it had nearly finished me.
Before the next track could start I had lifted the needle and put it back to the start so that I could make sure.
After the second listen I was sure.
A pounding, driving, throbbing, bruising, visceral, violent, vibrating wail and howl of pure energy. The desperate cries of people who knew that they had a chance to be more than they could dream of, a chance to be the people they wanted to be and not the people they were meant to be, a chance to change everything and everyone…chances they were determined to take.
They were melody makers.
“Shakermaker” flowed over me…a soothing balm to help heal me from what had come before and while I enjoyed it and appreciated how it made me smile and sway it didn’t do what “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” had done and I had convinced myself as it closed that this was simply going to be a good album from a good band and that I could get back to my normal life once it had finished.
I wasn’t disappointed.
I was relieved.
The thought that anything else could match what had been contained in that song was almost too much for me to bear.
Then it happened.
“Maaaaaybe, I don’t really wanna know…” sneers into the canals of my ears and then further into the very core of me.
The cure for the nihilism and hopelessness of grunge and it’s awful “I Hate Myself…” manifesto.
“Nothing should be beyond hope” said Oscar Wilde “Life IS hope”.
Here, in one song, was all the hope that the hopeless could ever wish for.
I felt invincible as I listened.
My heart soaring.
My blood racing.
By the time it ended I was on my feet.
Even now, twenty-four years later, it has the ability to lift my spirits and bring light into the darkest corners.
“I can feel you…can you feel me?”
The anthemic bliss, the soaring, swooping, swell, of optimism that was “Up In the Sky” said nothing…and said everything all at once. People like to criticise Noel Gallagher as a lyricist, and it may be true that he is not Ray Davies or Bob Dylan the truth is that he has a way of writing lines that touch hearts and lift spirits, that make you feel less alone and that reassure you. “Up in the Sky ” is a great example.
I could feel him.
I felt sure he could feel me too.
“Tell me how high do you think you’d go before you start falling?”
“I’ve heard that the shine’s gone out of your life”
“Columbia” is a divisive song in the Oasis catalogue.
Few fall in the space between.
I’m a lover not a hater.
It’s dirty, trippy, noisy, cocky, ballsy and it makes me, even now, want to do that thing.
You know the thing.
Hands behind your back.
Walking like you’re waddling.
“I can’t tell you the way I feel…cos the way I feel is oh so new to me”.
Here we are decades later and “Columbia” still feels oh so new to me.
“Even their illustrious forefathers allowed themselves a few initial fumbles before hitting that swaggering stride, but ‘Supersonic’ is a paragon of pop virtue in a debut single: three or so minutes of laid-back urgency, generously appointed with at least four melodies, and fizzing with enough attitude to silt up the orifice of your choice. Milkmen will whistle it, impressionable youths will play air guitar to its swooping, stalking riffs, while fading twenty-somethings who remember with fondness something called ‘baggy’ will find themselves lapsing into the Dance Of The Tired And Emotional Baboon. Obviously, in the wrong hands this record is a potent weapon.”
(Keith Cameron, NME, 1994)
“I need to be myself, I can’t be no one else”
Really that was all that was needed.
An opening line so confident, so assured, so cocky and cocksure and yet so insecure and questioning…it is, and let us not beat about the foliage at the end of the garden here, the greatest opening line to a rock and roll record ever.
Seven years after “Supersonic” was released New York hip-cats from the mean streets of…well, Swiss finishing schools actually…The Strokes released a fantastic album called “Is This It?” The answer to that question was left up to the listener but with “Supersonic” there was no question, this was a band saying, clearly, THIS is IT.
The IT was very easy to identify.
IT = THEM.
Them was the greatest rock and roll band of their generation and, for the kids of that generation, the greatest rock and roll band ever.
The Stone Roses had talked the talk and delivered one of the greatest debut albums of all time five years earlier but then had disappeared in a fug of coke, record label wrangles, self-doubt, writers block, personality clashes and goodness knows what else.
The world was waiting.
The indie kids had found Suede.
The slightly hipper, art school, kids had found Blur.
The misfits had Pulp.
But there was an entire generation of kids who had known nothing but tinny pop, the American howl of grunge and the bleeps of techno who, perhaps unknowingly, were waiting for a band who would speak to them, who would inspire them and who would give them something to believe in…and after the lean, at best, years of the Thatcher government having something to believe in was rare.
Then this happened…
Nothing would ever be the same again.
Overnight kids in Hulme and Hackney had a new favourite band.
The faux misery of grunge, the over produced pop that cluttered the charts, the mournful strains of shoegaze…all of it kicked, violently, into touch and replaced with the most authentic, genuine, force of fire and fury that pop music had seen in a generation.
Gin and tonic.
Sittin’ in a corner all alone.
Livin’ under a waterfall.
A year before this Nirvana were the biggest band in the world, you couldn’t move for kids with terrible hair and even worse clothes, dragging themselves along the high streets of the country listening to a song called “I Hate Myself And I Want to Die”.
I hate myself.
I want to die.
I get it.
Depression, teenage angst, misery, loneliness, isolation, fear, panic, paranoia…life is hard sometimes for some people.
I’ve been there.
I’m not sure I’ve ever left.
Sometimes you want to hear people talk to you in a language you understand, there is solace in the company of strangers.
But there was no hope in Nirvana.
I hate myself.
I want to die.
I don’t want that.
I want to feel SUPER-BLOODY-SONIC.
I don’t want to hear Kurt Cobain wailing about runny yolks and runny noses.
I want to hear nonsense about a girl called Elsa.
That is the truth of the Oasis moment.
In one moment they kicked out the jams of misery and hopelessness and replaced them with soaring riffs, nonsense lyrics, hope, aspiration, swagger and dreams…and it was magnificent.
“Supersonic” started the march towards something better.
A rock and roll record that changed an entire generation…and an entire country.
How we need a record like that now.
I’ve been to King Tuts in Glasgow more times than I could count.
I saw so many bands there during the nineties.
Some of them went on to be really big deals.
Some of them were never heard of again.
I really want to say I was there when Oasis played that night.
I wasn’t though.
Neither were you.
“Bring It On Down” was the song that convinced the legend that is Alan McGee to sign Oasis…at least that’s the official version of the story…and it isn’t difficult to understand why.
“You’re the outcast, you’re the underclass” would have appealed to a Glaswegian socialist and former punk.
“Do you want a record deal?” said McGee to Noel after that gig.
Noel looked blankly in response.
And then it all started to happen.
Before long the band really were bringing it down.
“You gotta make it happen”
The key to Oasis at this point, as I have already noted, was the sense of optimism that they brought with them. They were, still, nominally an “indie band”. Being the biggest band in the world was still the dreams of children. Unlike so many of their peers there was no mope, no dark, no wallowing, no self-loathing…they brought something different to the party.
We are the greatest.
It was infectious.
“Cigarettes and Alcohol” was a very fine example of all of that…with a bit of drugs and hedonism chucked in for good measure.
I had spent most of my times trying to convince myself that I was as miserable as the bands I loved…what a waste of time that had been. Now there was a band who had zero interest in wearing their pain like some sort of badge of honour and, instead, they wanted to be themselves, to be someones and if we wanted to join in and get on board that was all good.
You could see “Digsys Dinner” as nothing more than a piece of fluff…a silly bit of nonsense…filler after so much killer.
You might be right.
“These could be the best days of our lives”
The sun is shining.
“I hate myself I want to die” or “These could be the best days of our lives”?
It’s not really a choice is it?
It is not what you would call a difficult decision to make.
“Slide Away” is, simply, beautiful.
“I need you now…you knock me off my feet.”
Other writers have talked of love with greater erudition but for ordinary people, living ordinary lives…like you and I…this is what love feels like.
Knocked off of your feet.
Chasing the sun.
Together we’ll fly.
The first time I met my now wife I felt like my today had fallen in from the top.
It’s too intimate to go into here…there are other blogs and other writers for that sort of thing…but from the first I dreamt of her.
When I was a student I used to stay up until silly ‘o’ clock so that I could watch “Married With Children”. A broad, slightly cheap, brash, comedy about the Bundy clan where dad “Al” and mum “Peggy” found ways to show how much they loathed and loved each other with, almost, equal fervour. The theme song was “Love and Marriage”, the Cole Porter song, sung by Frank Sinatra.
“Definitely Maybe”, possibly disappointingly, does not come to a close with Noel doing his own version of this standard but, instead, ends with a delicate little love song that Cole Porter couldn’t have written.
“Married With Children” is a shuffling, loose fit, raw and rough around the edges little slice of love and marriage that perfectly captures the ways in which relationships can flounder on the flimsiest of failings…
“You’re musics shite”
Longer, weightier and more informed articles by very serious and earnest journalists will be penned about “Definitely Maybe” in the next few days, and next year on its twenty-fifth anniversary, but for people like me who were there at the time all that really matters is that it exists and that those songs cleansed the musical landscape of people who really didn’t like music and paved the way for kids on council estates across the country to start taking a pride in their appearance, walking with a bit of swagger and appreciating the joys of rock and roll.