19
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.

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Comments

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  1. 211
    Mark M on 27 Jun 2013 #

    Re: 203 Surely, the whole of the history of Creation was a punt… Their hit to miss ratio (no matter how you’re measuring success) was awful all the way along.

    I don’t think for a minute that Teenage Fanclub ever wanted to be as big as Oasis, nor obviously The Jazz Butcher. I wasn’t thinking about Creation in particular either – more The Railway Children, The Mighty Lemon Drops, those kind of people. But then, to backtrack sharply on myself, they would have probably said they had always aspired to a career that was more like the Bunnymen than the Television Personalities.

  2. 212

    Proof if proof be need be:

    1983: First single is released by The Legend!
    McGee takes out a £1,000 loan to form the record label.

    ^^^Acumen this be not thy name :)

    (Hi Jerry!)

  3. 213
    Patrick Mexico on 27 Jun 2013 #

    This deserves 212,000 comments for the simple fact it’s been a beautiful relief to hear a positive, balanced view on all things Oasis after this – the music press equivalent of “Rivers of Blood.” Nobody deserves 0/10. Not even Glenn Medeiros or Mr. Blobby.

    http://drownedinsound.com/releases/17684/reviews/4146495

  4. 214
    Cumbrian on 27 Jun 2013 #

    #211: I guess this might be true – my recollection of the Cavanagh book though is that Creation entered with some sort of a plan (be a bit like Postcard) which then spiraled away from them.

    Besides which, might well it be true of all record labels that things are done on a bit of a punt? I don’t know how much analysis goes into the likely commercial success of acts before they are signed – and if this analysis is done, how effective its hit rate is over just going into King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut and signing whoever you fancy on the bill that night.

  5. 215
    Mark G on 27 Jun 2013 #

    #212, so let us speculate on why…

    1) Alan McGee starts a record label with £1000 of borrowed money to fund a legend single that nobody seems to care for much (although I liked “Melt the guns”, and thought “chunka chunka” was funnny in a way.

    Did he have some sort of idea that sales might not materialise, but a certain amount of goodwill and/or attention from maybe half-decent bands might accrue by dint of actually having something out there?

    Answers on a post (card), I’m quite sure somebody reading this right now knows….

  6. 216
    punctum on 27 Jun 2013 #

    #213 – but does anybody deserve 10/10? Or 5/10, or 8/10?

  7. 217
    Chelovek na lune on 27 Jun 2013 #

    Let it be admitted: in terms of overall vision, aesthetics (visual as well as musical), or quality-control: Creation were never in the same league as 4AD or Mute.

    “Destroy The Heart”, and various bits of My Bloody Valentine and early Ride were their peaks. But among some other passible stuff, there was always a great deal of average and really unremarkable guitary stuff.

    Still: from another of their late-indie period patchier acts, who never lived up to early expectations: “She wears denim wherever she goes, so she’s gonna get some records by the Status Quos, oh yeah” is a fine opening lyric, loped over lazy hazy fuzzy noise.

  8. 218
    punctum on 27 Jun 2013 #

    Forgive me, but that is nonsense. Whose “early expectations”? Yours?

    Also, it’s “Status Quo,” singular. It might not be Auden, but do try to get facts right, because it’s important.

    Finally, “passible” is spelt with a second “a,” not an “i.”

  9. 219
    glue_factory on 27 Jun 2013 #

    Re: 217 – I expected to come away from My Magpie Eyes Are Hungry For The Prize: The Creation Records Story marvelling at Alan Macgee’s talent-spotting genius, but instead was mostly struck by the sheer volume of records he managed to release. An awful lot of which sounded like they weren’t that good.

  10. 220
    James BC on 27 Jun 2013 #

    #218 You yourself wrote “emphasise” when you meant “empathise” up-thread. Perhaps you could synthesise a bit more with the understandable slips of others?

  11. 221
    punctum on 27 Jun 2013 #

    The difference is that I take the trouble to stand back from the elephant and look at the whole picture.

    Also, I do not offer subjective assumptions in the guise of objective conclusions.

  12. 222
    Tom on 27 Jun 2013 #

    This has been a great thread – don’t screw it up with pedantic sniping please.

  13. 223
    Chelovek na lune on 27 Jun 2013 #

    #218
    Whose “early expectations”? No, not mine particularly, or really at all (beyond mild admiration for two songs): but as evidenced in terms of reception in the music press (or at least the “indie music press”, by the likes of John Peel listeners (with reference to, but only to, Festive 50s)*, and so on, which clearly peaked around the time of that group’s first and second albums. If anything of theirs post-1993 or so received the critical endorsement that “Everything Flows” attained, I am all ears and most willing to be corrected.

    *Yes, I accept that this clearly is a relatively narrow frame of reference: but in the particular context of time and that style of music, it would not strike me as an unreasonable or inappropriate one.

  14. 224
    MichaelH on 27 Jun 2013 #

    re 198 – I mean that having made an album of big commercial guitar pop, they made a very deliberate decision not to promote the fuck out of it, and to remain unfriendly to the industry because – as they’ve said – the idea of becoming a huge band (which they probably could have been for a couple of years) didn’t appeal to them. The result is that they still have a loyal audience, whereas they might have been done by 98 or 99 if they’d pursued the bucks. I don’t think they were stupid at all.

  15. 225
    MichaelH on 27 Jun 2013 #

    re 223 I think, to be honest, TFC rather exceeded everyone’s expecations by becoming a viable band for more than 20 years. Also, their biggest commercial success was with Grand Prix and Songs for Northern Britain, so it’s not like it’s all been a slow decline since Everything Flows. And the albums since have continued to get very warm reviews – yes, their moment of “hotness” was at the beginning, but that’s the case with everyone.

    As a parallel (with a band TFC love), you wouldn’t say the Byrds failed to meet the early expectations generated by Mr Tambourine Man, would you?

  16. 226
    Mark G on 27 Jun 2013 #

    Not many people bought “Bandwagonesque”, but those that did all went out and got girlfriends.

    I know, I know, but actually it’s the one album that seems to have had a lot of “I met my g/f around this time” (I know I did).

  17. 227
    Mark M on 27 Jun 2013 #

    Re 226: Reviewed it and got a girlfriend off the back of that…

    Re 219: We had a pub conversation in the late-ish ’90s about doing a front-section piece for The Face called something like the ‘A&R genius of Alan McGee’ that would just be list of 20 rubbish bands he had signed. Then decided that the readership might not be as amused as we were. Probably more fit for a fanzine.

  18. 228
    swanstep on 27 Jun 2013 #

    To be clear, when people draw attention to Creation’s ‘misses’ they mean just that Creation *isn’t an exception* to the rule that every label places bets on a large number of horses (with the relatively few winners having to cover the costs of all the rest), right?

  19. 229
    Mark G on 27 Jun 2013 #

    Yes. Also, for every record head svengali (thinking Wilson, McLaren, Spector, Waterfowl) that makes it known that all they have to do is say so, and person/act is immediately a chart sensation, um, proves not to have that power at all…

  20. 230
    fivelongdays on 27 Jun 2013 #

    @210 – ah, yes, me brain and eyes seemed to stop working.

    I need to reread My Magpie Eyes. From what I can recall, McGee started spending the labels money in a rather bonkers way (Adverts for how good the Sex Pistols were! Rollers for a bloke who couldn’t drive!), and that may well have been that.

  21. 231
    Mark M on 27 Jun 2013 #

    Re 228: It depends whether you are comparing them to EMI or Postcard, really. Other high-profile indies of the time, from SST to 4AD, at least managed to give the impression that they put some thought into who appeared on the label, although, yes, they also released dodgy records.

  22. 232
    Tom on 27 Jun 2013 #

    #229 this is one of the reasons why Cowell is such an extraordinary figure in pop – he doesn’t totally have the Midas Touch, but he has worked out how to rig the system to give him it better than almost all his predecessors.

  23. 233
    MichaelH on 27 Jun 2013 #

    #231 SST is the very model of the indie label that fucked up its mission and fucked off its bands …

  24. 234
    23 Daves on 27 Jun 2013 #

    #203 – “Hey Venus!” is a fantastic album. But yes, otherwise I’d agree that the quality of their last few records has not been that consistent. I think they’ve also openly stated that had it not been for Oasis they would not have had ‘proper’ careers in the music industry – Gruff in particular refuses to engage in any Gallagher brother sniping for that reason. I would concur that if the price we had to pay for SFA was the over-exposure of a few middling Oasis albums and singles, that’s not too much of a burden. I think I’d even let somebody lob another bottle of piss in my direction at Finsbury Park if it bought me another great SFA album.

    As for “Magpie Eyes”, I need to revisit it in light of various comments made on this thread, but it’s actually propping up my broken bed at the moment along with some reference books. I’m not joking, by the way. It genuinely is. It’s quite a weighty tome.

  25. 235
    pootle on 27 Jun 2013 #

    I bought ‘Bandwagonesque’ and have never had a girlfriend in my life. I don’t particularly want one, really. Although I found Creation strangely irritating as a label but I was still in thrall to the last of Factory (imagine an era of competing record-label ethoses).

  26. 236
    tm on 27 Jun 2013 #

    I really don’t get Teenage Fanclub: their mojo is meant to be that they’re these genius songsmiths but most of their stuff seems to meander along with no real hooks. I saw them a few years ago* and they bored the arse off me. I’m ho-hum about The Byrds, but I can enjoy the beauty of their sound even if I don’t find it terribly exciting, but TFC, apart from That Ain’t Enough, I just can’t hear anything special about what I’ve heard from TFC. Am I missing something? (Tell me what – I’m not just trying to piss people off here…)

    *At a festival sponsored by Ben and Jerry’s headlined by Super Furrys (who do have effortless-sounding indie-quirk songcraft in spades) who were pretty shambolic. Almost as if they’d been smoking cannabis…

  27. 237
    Mark G on 27 Jun 2013 #

    As I say upthread, I did buy “Bandwagonesque” and liked it with a small l. Fairly sure I got it along with “Loveless” and would play it as a break from the noise. Eventually I liked it, but never felt the need for more.

    Happy they got a bonafide hit, but a lot of their influences are in the “meh” pile for me.

  28. 238
    Auntie Beryl yet unlogged on 27 Jun 2013 #

    Grand Prix is the Teenage Fan club album that could have crossed over, but to be fair to Creation, they did go down the CD1/CD2 £1.99 route with the first two singles.

    No matter how the band spin it now, the label tried to have hits with that method, given how well it had worked with the Boo Radleys a few months before.

  29. 239
    Patrick Mexico on 27 Jun 2013 #

    @236: I’m with you on Teenage Fanclub. The Smiths, Felt, very early Primal Scream and a lot of C86 I find much charm in, but I can’t seem to engage with that band at all. Perhaps the music hasn’t aged well given its revivalism even at the time, and the one step forward, two steps back approach of many bands of the early noughties put me off anything “West Coast” or transparently “Sixties” in the slightest for ages. Especially the blasted Thrills.. I just wish they had gone back to Big Sur, and stayed there. (Apologies for some hypocrisy on my part as I always warmed to the White Stripes and the Hives when they had the same retromania – only much more energetic and the latter providing cheap belly laughs, and I was a sucker for any “energy” because of – ha! – the often godawful New Acoustic Movement of the turn of the century Oasis’s ubiquity – though not the band themselves – were partly to blame for.)

    But it wasn’t just them – as well as the post-post-punk “Gang of Four without the wit or incisive anger” crop, even when it was cool to like a certain Tennessee bunnied act a decade ago, they struck me as tiresome Skynyrd/Allman Brothers/Exile on Main St-era Stones revivalists. We’ll talk much more about them later, but the following decade yielded so many bands who within two years or less declined from “heir apparent” to “influences completely transparent.” Then again, maybe it’s an individual rose-tinted childhood thing, forgiving of many bands who’ve done the same thing in the Britpop era. Exhibit B after the ‘Sis: Elastica. Yet Connection (Wire’s Three Girl Rhumba) and Waking Up (The Stranglers’ No More Heroes) steal in such a loveable rogue manner it’s impossible for me not to be suckered in by the zippy, economical charm of that band’s debut. Perhaps compared to the latter-day bands it feels less like reverence and more winningly cowboy (NOT alt-country.. we’ll burn that bridge when we come to it, as well as pop-punk and nu-metal.. but for now I’m just looking forward to seeing how Oasis could appear SEVEN more times on Popular, outliving a lot of the above trends as they came and went. And looking forward even more to how Marcello might eat some of the above acts for breakfast on TPL..)

    Quick couple of questions to the older readers (I’m 28): how were Oasis received by the wise sages in the pub 93-94? Did the general public genuinely believe they’d be around for well over another decade? And if so, did the fans back then have faith they could maintain the quality control?)

  30. 240
    Tom on 27 Jun 2013 #

    “Too retro” was a damning and irrevocable card to play. But whether you played it or not depended on i) whether you’d heard the old stuff, and ii) whether you liked the new. A LOT of the ‘obvious influences’ were out of print, or just really expensive – so you were into post-rock and wanted to learn more about Can? Good luck with that – it was all more than full price CDs. I spent a hell of a long time in 93-94 trying to find copies of the 70s Wire LPs at a price I could afford. So making a fuss about Line Up, say, was partly just a way of saying WHY YES i HAVE heard I Am The Fly.

    But at the same time there really did seem to be something at stake in things not just ripping old stuff off (not everything could be as good as “Connection”) so the principle of “no retro” seemed a good and serious one even if the actual practise was utterly full of holes.

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