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Jun 13

OASIS – “Some Might Say”

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#720, 6th May 1995

“And you still think you’re going to rule the universe? You wouldn’t know what to do with the universe. You’d only shout at it.” – Doctor Who, The Pirate Planet

“They ruined British music and they ruined British music journalism.” – Jeremy Deller, Mojo Magazine.

“I think you’re the same as me” – Oasis, Live Forever

This is not, you suspect, how anyone really planned it. The Kerenskys of Britpop, the intellectuals who dreamed back in ’92 and ’93 how a new British pop music might sound and feel – modernist, fashion-conscious, ironic, nostalgic (but naturally with excellent, unexpected taste), not really very much like rock – failed to predict anything like “Some Might Say”. They (we! I read Select too!) never anticipated this sound – swampy, lazy, loud as fuck, rolling with belligerent confidence, bleeding contempt for any music that wasn’t it.

For many, it was electrifying – I resisted hard enough to convince myself I wasn’t impressed, but listening back now to “Live Forever” and “Cigarettes And Alcohol” I still don’t love them but I can’t bring back the distaste, only the effort it took to maintain it. Where Take That pleaded, hand on heart, for classic status, Oasis simply demanded it, Visigoth-style.

To fans, the young Oasis were undeniable – but were they also inevitable? What they did rearranged British rock and your expectations of it, like the Pistols and the Beatles had, so that afterwards they seem obvious, a natural response to a lack. Once Oasis brought “rock’n’roll” and “attitude” and all that malarkey back to the mainstream people suddenly noticed its absence, but they did so with hindsight. The day – or year – before Oasis came was as full of crissed-crossed pop currents as any other, and some of these eddies paid homage to “rock’n’roll” too – the New Wave Of British New Wave, for instance, or Primal Scream’s calculated follow-up to Screamadelica. Nobody particularly missed what Oasis brought before they brought it.

So to change pop culture the band achieved the hardest thing to achieve in rock, which is to imagine, create and mobilise an audience nobody had counted on. Right at the start Oasis seemed to be, roughly, an indie thing – a post-Roses music press buzz along the half-forgotten lines of Adorable. But they devoured their context – even by the time “Some Might Say” came out, they were the biggest band in Britain, and they kept on growing.

Later on the Oasis Nation became the subject of speculation – some heroic, some damning. The heroic spin is the one you found in the mens’ mags – what Oasis helped awaken was the Great British Lad, hard-partying, up for a laugh, up for a line, Young Liams full of swagger. Some put a political skin on this – identify Oasis with the North, with young working-class men after Thatcher – but it’s not a necessary angle: too reliant on stereotype, and besides the band’s appeal went well beyond particular groups. In some ways though the Gallaghers really were the best of lad culture – funny, quotable, canny and charismatic. For a while, at least.

The damning version of the fanbase is very like the heroic one, but here it’s also a force of unbending conservatism, policing tastes, crushing the life out of British alternative music by sheer demographic weight, sponsoring a range of increasingly grim successor bands – not to mention the latter-day Oasis itself. The downside of Oasis would be apparent at every festival they played in the late 90s and 00s – hordes of lairy men in band colours, sitting in the beer tent all day, drinking and shouting and drinking until their heroes took the stage and never engaging with anything else. Unless Weller was playing too, of course.

Whichever version you prefer, Oasis’ fanbase changed the direction of British pop music in ways we’ll see play out over the next several years. But neither of these pictures seems wide enough for Oasis themselves in 1995 and 1996, in their pomp – the most genuinely inescapable band I’ve ever known. You don’t get to be that big – Morning Glory big, Knebworth big – without tapping into something an awful lot of people wanted. The question is – how much was it their energy, how much their traditionalism?

I want to say it was the energy – “Live Forever”, for example, is pop manifesting sheer force of personality in a way you hardly ever see outside of hip-hop, and rarely enough then. Liam Gallagher’s voice, at its early best on that song, was like a tear in the fabric of pop, a conduit for some primal, amoral will to rock. The extent to which “Some Might Say” works is the extent to which it carries this as a kind of background radiation – since the song itself is almost completely a nothing. If Liam, carried by the band’s sloppy noise, could turn this mid-tempo mess of “dirty dishes” and “itching in the kitchen” and “we will find a brighter day” homilies into something convincing then he really would deserve those Greatest Of All Time claims he (and Noel) liked to throw around. And he almost can.

But that remarkable energy was married to an utterly common-sense view of rock music and what it ought to get up to. Oasis’ success could easily have been down to tapping its audience’s more conservative impulses – certainly the Gallaghers rarely missed an opportunity to proclaim the virtues of the past and anoint its standard-bearers in the present (mostly themselves). It didn’t take much to see Oasis as a reaction against rave, or the arty wing of indie, or frankly progression in general. As the decade wore on it was hard to see them as anything but.

But that’s later, and this is “Some Might Say”, and they’re getting away with it. Just.

6

Comments

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  1. 251

    Yes, my copy was £3 in the second-hand section of the bookshop across the road. Haven’t read it yet though.

  2. 252
    wichitalineman on 28 Jun 2013 #

    Lucky yous two. It’s deffo not a ‘regular’ in N London. Marcello, if you see one, could you possibly pick it up for me?

    Sukrat, it’s a very good read. He’s overly sniffy about the early days, but there are few stones unturned.

  3. 253

    I remember Cavanagh a little from my brief work at v.early Select (I got the Wire gig and stopped having time to contribute): he seemed a nice fellow.

  4. 254
    MichaelH on 28 Jun 2013 #

    #243 However, EMI put out the (much more comprehensive than the Pink label comp) On Returning 1977-79 collection in 1989, which meant every single “famous” Wire song was widely available in the early 90s. Also, I certainly bought Pink Flag and Chairs Missing at mid-price in the early 90s, so I’m slightly baffled by the legendary unhearability of Wire at that point. And, as to Tom’s point about Can being hard to come by – Mute started reissuing the Can catalogue in 1989.

  5. 255
    punctum on 28 Jun 2013 #

    #250: Yep, no problem. Personal copy is currently part of extensive piles of “bedside reading,” in between Jonathan Coe’s Like A Fiery Elephant and Henry Root’s World Of Knowledge.

  6. 256
    MichaelH on 28 Jun 2013 #

    I interviewed a Major Creation Band a few months ago, and used some details from Magpie Eyes. Two days later I got an email from the singer’s wife saying all the stuff I’d cited was untrue. Which seemed odd given how extraordinarily well sourced the book is.

  7. 257
    Izzy on 28 Jun 2013 #

    I don’t remember Wire being hard to come by, just obscure. It was an irritating strain of indie comment at the time, to dismiss, say, Teenage Fanclub as Big Star II, or Suede as Cockney Rebel Redux, as if 99% percent of the audience knew more than one song by such acts (less in Big Star’s case).

    With Can, there was just so much of it. I did see them on telly once doing ‘Oh Yeah’, so Tago Mago was the one I eventually diverted £12.99 to. I’m sure many a dullard (had I ever met another person irl who knew their work) would dismiss me with a “should’ve bought Future Days“.

  8. 258
    wichitalineman on 28 Jun 2013 #

    Many thanks. I’d be intrigued to know what the Coe book is like too.

    Going back to my first comment on Some Might Say, it’s now blindingly obvious to me why this felt like the indie wars had been won. Ten years after the Pastels’ Something Going On, the Jasmine Minks’ Where The Traffic Goes and Biff Bang Pow’s There Must Be A Better Life had been touchstone 45s in a year of event number ones, Creation had their own event number one. Even now, I find this story quite remarkable.

  9. 259
    MichaelH on 28 Jun 2013 #

    And just a footnote to the mentions of Elastica … In spring 95 I was in the US, and an Elastica video (I think it was Connection) was on heavy rotation on MTV. Curiously, it was a different clip from the one in the UK, and in it Justine F was very brightly lit, causing all her features to become a white blur out of which only her eyes, hair and mouth were noticeable. Which had the effect of making her look much, much less Jewish. I’ve always wondered if this was a deliberate thing to try to make Elastica more palatable in middle America.

  10. 260
    Tom on 28 Jun 2013 #

    My memories of Wire availability are obviously full of holes – I even had On Returning! (Though discogs puts the actual CD reissues of the 70s LPs in 1994, so my memories of them being hard to find in 93 seem legit)

    Izzy is right though – it was obscure rather than unavailable. My context was being at Uni – a load of people were into Britpop, considerably fewer wanted to bother digging into the roots of it. (No slight on them, of course.)

  11. 261
    MichaelH on 28 Jun 2013 #

    Ah, 94 reissues makes sense. It’s possible I had a secondhand copy of Pink Flag earlier.

  12. 262
    swanstep on 28 Jun 2013 #

    @259, MichaelH. Connection went high in the alt-charts in the US, but didn’t even scrape into the regular Top 50. It nonetheless ultimately entered general consciousness in the US via a Budweiser ad (go 4 minutes in if the link doesn’t automatically deposit you there) for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

  13. 263
    swanstep on 28 Jun 2013 #

    OK, this link has the start time right.

  14. 264
    Rory on 29 Jun 2013 #

    You lot haven’t made it easy to find something new to say about Oasis and/or this song, but as I’ve been waiting for a Popular year for it I feel I should make the effort…

    In the few years after I’d spent a year studying in England, my main source of exposure to new UK indie music was via tapes from a friend who’d kept in touch, containing esoteric stuff like the Jennifers and Popdropper. In 1994 one of these contained Definitely Maybe, by a band he assured me was going to be even bigger than Suede; and so I became one of the minority of Aussies who paid Oasis much attention before Morning Glory.

    Without any of the hindrance of hindsight, or the contemporary UK critical context apart from my friend’s reports of it, I took the music on its merits, and… quite liked it. I didn’t rate it as highly as The Stone Roses (another album I came to almost context-free when I heard it during my UK year, and loved), or even as highly as Going Blank Again (by my friend’s favourite band), but it had some good tracks.

    So when Morning Glory came out, I became one of the first of the 22 million people who bought it worldwide – and this one I did love, unreservedly. The Beatles influences didn’t bother me; a lot of my favourite bands were overtly influenced by the Beatles, and while I was listening to it I was also in the grip of Anthology 1. Liam wasn’t my favourite rock vocalist, but I warmed to him in the context of the music as a whole.

    It was enough to carry me onto their next album, and eventually – despite that one – to all of them; even to Noel’s next band, although not Liam’s. It’s been in part down to lingering interest, in part curiosity, in part the remorseless logic of musical completism, and in part thanks to Fopp knocking them out for a few quid each in the 2000s after half their audience had moved on. But it’s all been with a much clearer awareness of their UK reputation, which has sucked a lot of the fun out of it. It’s been impossible to listen to any of those later albums with fresh 1994-95 ears, and hence to any of them more than a few times. Maybe I’ll revisit them when Popular reaches their hits.

    As to that reputation: all this talk about the thuggish tendencies (or not) of the band and/or some of their fans has given pause for thought, mainly about why that never deterred me, a standard-issue quiet nerdy/geeky type, from buying their music. And a couple of things have occurred to me.

    One is that the first bands I was exposed to in any depth were Australian pub rock bands in the early 1980s, and many of those had a solid ocker fanbase (“ockers” and their cultural successors being pretty much the direct Australian equivalent of the Loaded/lad culture discussed above). A band like Cold Chisel filled much the same space in Australian music as Oasis seems to have done here, the main difference being that they quit while they were ahead (though there have been a couple of reunions). Even an overtly left-wing band like Midnight OIl (essentially our Manics, but from the late 1970s through early 2000s), with a thoughtful lead singer who ended up as a federal government minister, had fans from the ocker end of the spectrum – because they rocked hard, and said lead singer had a shaven head back when that was well-hard. If you wanted to be a fan of such music as a quiet geeky/nerdy type, you just got on with it; worrying too much about your fellow travellers was pointless.

    Then there were the reports of brotherly bickering that started making the news not long after Oasis made it big. These didn’t bother me either, because brotherly bickering was all I knew growing up. The Gallaghers’ relationship strikes me as no worse than my brother’s and mine would have been had we spent three or four decades in close proximity instead of two. (Which says nothing about how thuggish or laddish either of us were, because we weren’t.) So that was no reason for me to dismiss the music, either.

    As to the music – and to turn finally to the track at hand – “Some Might Say” is a good Oasis track, but not their greatest, not even on its parent album. In the context of the album, I could even go with a 6… but I’ve just listened to it again in isolation, and it’s reminded me of what I did like about them, so it’s a 7.

  15. 265
    Dan Quigley on 30 Jun 2013 #

    I recall being at first slightly embarrassed at proclaiming my (not unqualified) love for Oasis to my 13-year-old peers at the time, not because of their thuggish reputation – which I was not yet aware of – but quite the opposite: because I thought their twee turns of phrase and the cellos on Whatever and Wonderwall (their first two hits here in Australia) made them read as soft.

    So many great tangents on this thread – I am with Mark and Partick way back at #29 and #35 in noting that – boogie intros aside – the Oasis wash of sound recalls no one more than a slowed-down Hüsker Dü. ‘Slide Away’ in particular sounds to me as if it could almost have come straight off the second disc of Warehouse: Songs and Stories.

    As for the track under discussion, and having not listened to it for years, it took me about five different You Tube versions before I realised that it is supposed to sound *quite* so artlessly compressor-pumpy. The song is overlong, or to be more precise, about 10bpm too slow, but the chorus, not in the least bit hindered by its unrepeated string of endearingly daft lyrics is joyous – like a major-key answer record to ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’.

  16. 266
    enitharmon on 30 Jun 2013 #

    Thinking about my non-buying of new music in the mid-90s reminds me that one of the very few contempory albums I bought at the time was Morning Glory, and as a consequence this track is a bit of a landmark for me – the first number 1 to be in my collection “naturally” (that is, apart from those tracks I have sought out in connection with Popular) since “Every Step You Take” in 1983.

  17. 267
    Patrick Mexico on 12 Jul 2013 #

    Re 265: Well our playground version of Smells like Teen Spirit usually went:

    “Here we are now, fucking tosspots;
    We like salads, we like hotpots”

    So a (technically) Lancashire band doing one of those shout-along anthems was a match made in heaven.

  18. 268
    Ed on 5 Aug 2013 #

    David Stubbs in 1995 describing SMS as “brilliant” and “single of the year and the best thing on the album by a disturbingly large margin.”

    He is less than complementary about (Bunnied), though.

    http://archivedmusicpress.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/david-stubbs-reviews-whats-the-story-morning-glory-30th-september-1995.jpg

  19. 269
    Izzy on 5 Aug 2013 #

    I’d never heard ‘Step Out’ before and don’t remember the story of it being pulled at all. It’s really good! Oasis at their best in fact, other than the slight lull in the bridge. They should absolutely have given Stevie 50% if that’s what it took to get it on the album (assuming the whole thing wasn’t just tedious publicity-generation); it would’ve raised the whole set a lot.

  20. 270
    Erithian on 14 Sep 2013 #

    You don’t have to have been a “lad” to see the appeal of this – riffs and melodies from a pair of opening albums chock-full of them, bags of attitude and above all lyrics that feel great in the mouth – even if ou think Liam is a bit of a twat you could still appreciate the “she-yiiiine” snarl. And for me as a Manc (and for enough other people to get Wibbling Rivalry to number 52 in its own right), the bickering brothers were hysterical. Even now a Noel interview in any given magazine is the first thing I’d turn to.

  21. 271
    tm on 15 Sep 2013 #

    Noel and Liam are on too, pithy form in the Live Forever documentary too…

  22. 272
    Mark G on 16 Sep 2013 #

    I recommend the DVD with Noels commentary on all the singles’ videos, it came with the “Time Flies” box set.

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