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Jun 13

OASIS – “Some Might Say”

Popular278 comments • 13,829 views

#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.

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Comments

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  1. 181
    punctum on 25 Jun 2013 #

    #179 – this is also why I think “Some Might Say” needs to be considered in its single context; Oasis were in ’95 one of the few acts, I think, to take the concept of the single seriously (growing up with all those Jam and Smiths 45s, and how well and delicately each of their single packages was put together), so you need to view the song in the company of “Acquiesce” and “Talk Tonight,” two songs which I don’t think could have come from bovine, unthinking blokes. “We need each other” and “Look at me, see how we are” – there are clues all the way through their work not to take them on initial impressions or, more radically, how some of their fans would interpret them.

  2. 182
    MichaelH on 25 Jun 2013 #

    I don’t doubt that Noel could have been a much, much more interesting songwriter than he turned out to be …

  3. 183
    Mark G on 25 Jun 2013 #

    It’s just that he gives the impression that he never ever went back and fixed lines that could have been better.

  4. 184
    James BC on 25 Jun 2013 #

    #180 I did mean Belly, but I only saw them on the Chart Show a couple of times and thought they were a minor British indie act rather than American. Echobelly would have been a much better example.

  5. 185
    anto on 25 Jun 2013 #

    re:180 Echobellys earlier singles included Bellyache and Insomniac – both well worth checking out. Bellyache featured How Soon Is Now? type gutiars and Indian vocal styings by Sonya Aurora Madan giving it an East-meets-West feel. Sonya was one of the better singers involved with Britpop. I remember a very good description of her voice in the Irish music paper Hot Press which compared her singing to the sensation of cold water gently splashing onto your face.
    The first Echobelly album Everyone’s Got One featured songs about arranged marriage, casual racism and abortion, and was generally well-received. The follow-up On was the one that featured Great Things and King Of The Kerb. The third album Lustra, which I bought out of loyalty found them a bit uncertain as to what to do next and made little impression.
    I’ve heard Sonya and the gutiarist Glen are on tour together again.

  6. 186
    punctum on 25 Jun 2013 #

    #183: Possibly he didn’t think they needed fixing, or they were a sustained and subtle comment on how punters don’t really listen to lyrics.

  7. 187
    weej on 25 Jun 2013 #

    #186 – Neither view is particularly positive. It flummoxes me that Noel can write something as vunerable and personal as Half A World Away and then be churning out hapazard meaningless collages of half-remembered classic rock lyrics for the next few years.

  8. 188
    James BC on 25 Jun 2013 #

    Or maybe Noel’s lyrics are actually good?

    In this song it’s the station, rain, dishes, fishes, itching dog and kitchen that ground the lyric in reality and stop it from being entirely abstract yearning in the manner of, say, Coldplay’s emptier moments.

    And provide a bit of light relief as well. You don’t realise it at first because of Liam’s down the line delivery, but it’s there. Paradoxically, Liam’s lack of subtlety makes the humour more subtle because it’s harder to spot.

  9. 189
    fivelongdays on 25 Jun 2013 #

    In reference to Alive sounding ‘effortless’ – just listened to it and I was shocked by how, well, Indie it sounded. Not much Britpop swagger there…

  10. 190
    James BC on 25 Jun 2013 #

    In case anyone’s wondering, here’s the full story about the fishes in the sink. It sets the scene of maddening domestic frustration, from which the hopeful verse lyrics offer a possible escape.

    The two main characters are a 17-18 year old Mancunian lad who is desperate to fly the nest but doesn’t yet have the means, and his poor put upon mother.

    Our kid wakes up one Saturday morning at 11am, full of purpose. Mam’s been on at him for weeks to clean out the fish tank and as much as it’s doing his head in, she does have a point – it looks pretty grimy in there. So he’s finally going to do it. Mam’s gone out somewhere so it’ll be a nice surprise for when she gets back.

    Kid takes the heavy tank downstairs and carefully, carefully decants the fish into the sink for want of a better place to put them while he gets the muck off. Then he takes the tank down the bottom of the yard and tips away the rest of the water. When he comes back in, the phone’s ringing. Does he want to come down for a game of five a side, asks Kevin. Too right he does, so he leaves the tank on the side and sets off, three stops on the train. The tank’s waited four weeks, it can wait till this afternoon surely.

    Mam comes back in from the laundrette looking forward to a nice sit down and a cup of tea before her friends come round after lunch. Would you believe it though, all the mugs are dirty and… what is this? This house! You can’t even do the bloody washing up when you bloody want to. Nothing’s clean, people coming round and she can’t even have a cuppa. What’s she meant to do, take it all down to the tap in the yard? Not likely. She sits down with the telly to wait for our kid to get back. He can’t be long, wherever he’s gone off to. Surprised he’s even up to be honest.

    An hour and a half goes by and then the phone rings. And it’s our kid. And he’s stranded three train stops away because the man won’t let him on for being a general lout (or at least in need of education) and for letting off the fire extinguisher last month and soaking one of the carriages. Obviously it’s coming down in buckets, it is Manchester after all, so all he can do is wait till his dad gets off work by which time it’ll be gone five o’clock.

    Mam sinks into her chair with a sigh. Should have known this would happen, our kid’s reputation is always getting him into trouble but once again she is completely unprepared for the situation. She wanders back into the kitchen to survey the desolate scene: barely cleaned fish tank on the side, dirty dishes everywhere and all she can think about with friends about to arrive, and what’s more the floor’s a state because the dog’s been in.

    The doorbell rings. Her friends are here. They’re understanding about the tea and provide a welcome shoulder to cry on about son’s latest misadventure. Mam’s just starting to relax when she hears a trickling sound… Uh oh. The dripping kitchen tap which should have been fixed before Christmas has been adding to the water in the bowl all this time, and now a miniature torrent of water is making its way down the cupboard fronts and onto the vinyl floor. Give me strength. She can hardly let the fish down the plughole so all she can do is put a pan there while she hunts about in the blackish water to get the 15 or 20 tiny wrigglers out. Surely there’s got to be more to life than this?

    So that’s the story as I see it. If you just take the time to puzzle it out it’s all elementary, my friend. You don’t get that kind of charming vignette with Coldplay, I am telling you – I’ve tried it with the Scientist but the lyrics are almost incredibly vague and obscure; no such cop-outs for Noel.

    (Worth noting, maybe, that this dispiriting scene actually forms the chorus of the song, while the uplifting message of hope comes in the verses and bridge – quite artful and the reverse of how most songwriters would probably approach it.)

  11. 191
    ciaran on 26 Jun 2013 #

    This one was worth the wait wasnt it.

    Wish I could say the same about hearing SMS again though.

    As a 13 year old I was only aware of them from ‘whatever’ and knew nothing of definitely maybe.That all changed around this time and whilst they may not have had the larger-than-life reputation of michael jackson or madonna they did seem to be the biggest thing to happen since those 2.

    I liked the UK indie scene producing their own hero’s again especially after the grunge scene had fizzled out.Grunge had its own oasis in nirvana(scarcely believable in 2013) but no real pulp or b””” type mass market rivals so made it harder for me to worship the movement.A rock band 4 close friends of mine started the same year idolised Nirvana but looked back to guns and roses,aerosmith and metallica for inspiration.

    Looking back it seemed like a time of great change and excitement.Blackburn Rovers winning the premiership,Everton the FA Cup, Father Ted on TV along with a football themed comedy which for now is postponed due to bunnyable reasons, the compact disc beginning to save people time (if not pounds!)over slow cassettes.Not to mention the imminent technological arrivals of the 32-bit Playstation console and perhaps more importantly for us the release of windows 95 and the internet about to go mainstream.

    Oasis seemed like the musical equivalent to all of the above back then.Working class lads with a tendency to mouth off and with a terrific number of tunes to back up the enormous hype, generating hope for an industry/scene which needed a shake up.IMHO The Number 1s from 1991-94 would illustrate the point I’m trying to make. The praise didnt seem too excessive at the time and I would have to admit I found myself caught up in the band which seemed the most important for some time and many years to come.This would last a further 2 years or so.

    For all that SMS sounded like a step backwards. The stupid lumbering buzzing intro, the lazy lyrics, the monochrome video going against the bands growing profile, the somewhat overall length and repetitive nature of the song.This was the weakest of their output so far with only the next single making it look better.It hasnt aged well.Rather like U2 hitting the top with Desire in 1988, this was coming for a long time even if the material was less inspring this time around.

    I like WTSMG a lot in spite of its flaws but SMS is one of the 2 tracks I like least from it.5

  12. 192
    23 Daves on 26 Jun 2013 #

    Whenever people talk about the relationship Oasis have to “indie”, and whether the Stone Roses and Suede (or even The Wonder Stuff and The Wedding Present) paved the way for their success, I’m always reminded of a particular Phil Collins interview. I can’t remember where it was published, but I got the distinct impression he was being a bit of a bitter chap and probably thought his records weren’t selling as well because of Britpop. Of course, I’d blame his decreased sales on the fact that he was churning out some very forgettable work at this point, but that’s not important for the purposes of this comment.

    “Of course,” he said towards the end, “musically I really do have an enormous amount in common with Oasis, but you’re never going to get a music journalist to admit to that”.

    This puzzled me at first as he failed to expand on his point, and it was impossible not to laugh, but when I got thinking it made a strange sort of sense. Both Collins and the Gallagher brothers prided themselves on their ordinary blokeness, their knowledge of classic rock and pop, their idea of “giving it to the people”. Collins could be retro in a different way, clearly loving his Philly and Motown rather than pilfering Slade and The Beatles, but a definite A-grade student at the Bloke’s School of Classic Pop nonetheless, even if he did produce work which frequently did nothing for me.

    And this did cause me to wonder whether Oasis were actually always outside indie. Most indie acts – if we’re using the music press stereotype as a yardstick and not including the likes of Kylie Minogue and Bomb The Bass – had either an art school temperament to them, or hints of non-stadium rock imperfection, or both (the Roses had both – Ian Brown’s weak voice and Squire’s artiness). There wasn’t really any of that with Oasis at any point. Even the initial drumming was unremarkable rather than Mo Tucker styled. And “Whatever” has more of the dynamics of ELO than The Las or The Smiths. Maybe Uncle Phil had a point. Or maybe both he and I are talking rubbish. I’m undecided at this point. I do know that my Canadian wife saw an old Chart Show indie chart run-down at one point and spluttered: “Who put Oasis in there? How are they indie?” so for her there was definitely something very jarring about that description.

  13. 193
    Mark M on 26 Jun 2013 #

    I may have said this before, but anyone particularly interested in Oasis and their relationship to indie in several of its definitions should have a look at Dave Cavanagh’s Creation book (My Magpie Eyes Are Hungry For The Prize). It is vastly long, but then it’s really as much about Alan Horne, Mike Alway, Dan Treacy and Geoff Travis as it is Alan McGee.
    Oasis clearly had some roots in the 1960s-inspired, low-budget guitar music of the 1980s, but equally existed in a different time and ideological place, as well as positioning themselves as different types of personalities. What Cavanagh does suggest is that the likes of The Weather Prophets would have dearly loved to have been in Oasis’ position – by the late 1980s much of the active opposition to playing the corporate game (‘selling out’ in the old-fashioned phrase) had gone. Luke Haines’ book Bad Vibes is a more entertaining look at the same period of transition that went from when being as big as The Wolfhounds was considered a fair ambition to where you could have a number one album and still be in danger of getting dropped by major label.

  14. 194
    Auntie Beryl yet unlogged on 26 Jun 2013 #

    Both books are remarkably rewarding reads.

  15. 195
    Nanaya on 27 Jun 2013 #

    JamesBC at #169/184 – I was slightly shocked by the casual dismissal of Belly as ‘dispensable’, in the Popular indie-hive, but I suppose it makes sense if you only ever caught them in passing on the Chart Show. While everything *after* their first album is forgettable, that first album was hugely relevant in the early 90s, and I still find “Low Red Moon” eerily compelling and in my head with minimal prompting.

    Still, Tanya Donelly is kind-of indie royalty, so I guess it was inevitable they’d get airtime. Like Elastica but moreso.

  16. 196
    anto on 27 Jun 2013 #

    re193: I remember Noel Gallagher on a tv special dismissing bands like Sonic Youth and the idea that rock music should aspire to be art. Also he scoffed at one of the other members of Oasis for liking the Cocteau Twins. Noel himself always stuck up for Bono and U2 (not exactly hip now, but not much in 1995 either) and seemed fairly impressed at how big they were. Certainly I don’t think anyone would claim Oasis were ever precious about indie or what it might mean.

  17. 197
    MichaelH on 27 Jun 2013 #

    re 193 I think it’s a little bit more subtle than that. Because certainly a few years earlier, everyone else on Creation was very sneery and dismissive of the House of Love and their desire to be big (that’s in Cav’s book). But once Oasis got huge, loads of the bands – Ride is the notable example – fell absolutely in thrall to them. I’m not sure any of them wanted to be Oasis circa Shakermaker; it took them being a phenomenon for other bands on Creation to think, “Why can’t we be like this?” (Answer: because most of you were shit.) But it should be noted that not all of them felt that way – Teenage Fanclub continued to gloriously self sabotage even when with Grand Prix they had an album that should have been huge.

  18. 198
    punctum on 27 Jun 2013 #

    What do you mean by “gloriously self sabotage”? To me it implies “commercial stupidity.”

  19. 199
    23 Daves on 27 Jun 2013 #

    The one point regarding Britpop I always make elsewhere on the Internet – so I fail to see why “Popular” should be any exception – is that for me the main excitement wasn’t the main circus or the B-list chancers such as Menswear, but in what got caught in the slipstream.

    Thinking purely about Creation artists, it was heartening for me to witness the Super Furry Animals being given the space to slowly and steadily build their fanbase from album to album, a situation I really can’t imagine would have happened at many other points in popular music history. Pre-’94 I can only imagine that they’d have lived out their lives on a low budget on some small Welsh indie, or been signed to a major for one album and promptly dropped. And besides those, there was the joy of watching numerous outsiders climb into the lower reaches of the charts, and not least the thrill of Pulp getting two number two records as others have already pointed out on this thread. It made the popular music landscape seem much more rich and varied.

    The key difference between Britpop and the mid-noughties indie explosion seemed to be that the industry had learned its lesson and weren’t going to sign any more oddballs, sticking purely to the pretty kids with catchy tunes. There were lots of skewed, bizarre indie pop bands on the circuit (many of whom I loved) but they were left on cottage industry labels and utterly sidelined. The equivalents of Tiger and Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci were left to fend for themselves.

    As for the point raised at #197, I think it all comes down to an age-old paradox. Most commercially successful artists will always envy their critically acclaimed colleagues, and most critically acclaimed artists will envy the success of others. If an act signed to a small record label suddenly becomes preposterously huge, those kinds of feelings are likely to intensify in that claustrophobic environment (especially when it’s clear there suddenly is more money for the taking), although obviously it didn’t spread its way right around Creation. I seem to remember that Cavanagh mentions in his book that McGee phoned up the Jazz Butcher to ask if there were any good singles on their next album, and was met with roars of laughter…

  20. 200
    Mark G on 27 Jun 2013 #

    #197 I dunno about everyone (yes, I did read that bit of the book), Peter Astor was full of praise for them when I spoke to him, the only thing he was jealous of was the ‘attention’ they were getting, but did say that it was deserved…

    #198, yes and this happens a lot. When Peter Bjorn and John had the hit with whistle whistle whistle, they did not follow it up with more of (more or less) the same, they did an introspective set of instrumentals. Clearly, they did not want comercial acumen. With Teenage Fanclub, it’s unclear if this was what they wanted or not (for me, anyway).

  21. 201
    punctum on 27 Jun 2013 #

    Thinking purely about Creation artists, it was heartening for me to witness the Super Furry Animals being given the space to slowly and steadily build their fanbase from album to album, a situation I really can’t imagine would have happened at many other points in popular music history.

    This happened regularly in the sixties and seventies. It was only in the eighties that the wheel turned in favour of instant returns or nothing.

    Tiger were on Island.

  22. 202
    Mark G on 27 Jun 2013 #

    Island used to be good at “letting them develop”. Did Tiger get the chance to succeed or fail over time?

  23. 203
    Cumbrian on 27 Jun 2013 #

    #199: In my personal list of reasons to be thankful for Oasis, Super Furry Animals are #1. The money and fame that Oasis brought Creation seemed to give them a pass to go for a punt on various artists. Some were not great, it has to be said, but it bought SFA time to develop into what I think was one of the UK’s best indie/rock bands (was – I think they struggled from Love Kraft onwards; though all those records still have winning moments, I like the stuff on Gruff’s solo records much more, and now they seem to be on extended hiatus).

    #201: Indeed.I doubt Springsteen, for one, would ever have got to Born To Run in today’s climate. Indeed, he might even not have got as far as The Wild, The Innocent… There are doubtless countless other examples.

  24. 204
    23 Daves on 27 Jun 2013 #

    #201 – It was true by the late sixties, but the early to mid sixties were far more ruthless and saw a lot of awkward or noisy bands being dropped after just a couple of flop singles. Ray Davies has often noted that had “You Really Got Me” not been a hit, that probably would have been the end for The Kinks, and indeed they were lucky to have had the chance to record a third 45.

  25. 205
    23 Daves on 27 Jun 2013 #

    Or – to clarify the clumsy wording of my original comment – the music industry did often try to slowly develop artists from around 1967 – 1979ish, but viewed across the long term that seems to have been a break in their general pattern of behaviour rather than anything else.

  26. 206
    fivelongdays on 27 Jun 2013 #

    In response to the people upthread expressing their concerns about UK drummers – it’s worth noting that the great Fyfe Ewing left Therapy? around this time

    And 206 comments? Can someone tell me if that’s a record for a Popular thread?

  27. 207
    Izzy on 27 Jun 2013 #

    Matt Helders should be right on that list of great post-punk/indie/rockist (except not really) drummers too.

  28. 208
    Cumbrian on 27 Jun 2013 #

    #206: No Charge is still the undisputed champion for number of Popular comments. Some of the year ends have loads of entries due to the TOTP re-runs.

    There’s a most comments button at the top of the FT site. I’m not some kind of savant who just knows this stuff, honest!

  29. 209
    fivelongdays on 27 Jun 2013 #

    Just seen the ‘No Charge’ thread. Seriously, bloody hell. It’s the Everything I Do+Love Is All Around+I Believe of Popular Comments, times a shedload.

    And there was me imagining a rather pleased Noel Gallagher thinking ‘Yeah, but I’ve got yer comments record, yer twats’.

    (And where is the Most Comments button? I so need to check out the threads)

  30. 210
    Cumbrian on 27 Jun 2013 #

    Up at the top underneath the FT banner and the Popular picture (with Take That), there is a red ribbon running across the screen, saying About FT, Latest Posts and so on. Most Comments is on that. It’s all clickable.

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