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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.

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Comments

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  1. 271
    tm on 15 Sep 2013 #

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

  2. 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.

  3. 273
    hectorthebat on 17 Apr 2015 #

    Critic watch:

    Michaelangelo Matos (USA) – Top 100 Singles of the 1990s (2001) 20
    Gary Mulholland (UK) – This Is Uncool: The 500 Best Singles Since Punk Rock (2002)
    NME (UK) – The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (2014) 484
    Q (UK) – The 1001 Best Songs Ever (2003) 851
    Uncut (UK) – The 100 Greatest Singles from the Post-Punk Era (2001) 38
    XFM (UK) – The Top 1000 Songs of All Time (2010)
    Gilles Verlant and Thomas Caussé (France) – 3000 Rock Classics (2009)
    Hervé Bourhis (France) – Le Petit Livre Rock: The Juke Box Singles 1950-2009
    Face (UK) – Singles of the Year 9
    Melody Maker (UK) – Singles of the Year 3
    New Musical Express (UK) – Singles of the Year 4
    Select (UK) – Singles of the Year 2

  4. 274
    Chris on 12 Sep 2015 #

    @19: “Is it true they are still seen as college rock in America? It almost suggests that our class system is over-complicated.”

    At this time, yes. Oasis were seen as a cool alternative radio/MTV 120 Minutes (Sunday night at midnight show) band only “anglophiles” were into. Definitely Maybe sold a million copies, but it did so slowly, so it was never a top 40 album. Some Might Say and Roll With It were never played on MTV in prime timeslots (actually I don’t know if they ever played Roll With It outside of 120 Minutes.) Although Live Forever was on their top 20 countdown a few times in early 1995.

    They became a top 40 band in the Wonderwall, DLBIA and Champagne Supernova time in early 1996. But they still were not seen as one of the top tier rock bands of that year (which were Smashing Pumpkins, Bush, Sublime, No Doubt, Foo Fighters, Alanis Morrisette, Stone Temple Pilots, among others.)

    Oasis didn’t really become a big music news story here until Liam refused to tour in America and refused to sing on their MTV Unplugged. So we never had the Oasis Is Everywhere coverage you had in the UK. Most of the 4 million people who bought Morning Glory just liked Wonderwall, and Be Here Now was hyped but nobody liked DYKIM? so by the fall of 1997, nobody cared about Oasis. Rock music in general died off in 1997 because everybody was more interested in Tupac and Biggie being murdered and the younger kids were listening to Hanson and Spice Girls.

  5. 275

    Ah, the American Anglophile Britpop obsessives. God bless them. Especially one of my Twitter followers, a girl of 17 who wanted to be both Selena Gomez and Justine Frischmann.

  6. 276
    Izzy on 19 Nov 2016 #

    The new documentary is terrific. Far more interesting than I was expecting – there’s some unexpected stuff (the King Tut’s gig exists on film!) and both Gallaghers come across as very smart cookies.

    Maybe showing my withitness (or lack of) but it didn’t feel like a nostalgia exercise watching it, in fact it seemed rather current. The exception is the brothers’ belligerence – rucks appear out of nowhere, others’ issues are belittled, every conflict escalated. Do people behave like that now? It’s impossible to imagine Oasis issuing a non-apology to defuse a crisis, it’d only ever be publicity to be milked.

  7. 277

    […] rock, which is to imagine, create and mobilise an audience nobody had counted on,” Tom Ewing writes about Oasis, as if also describing what Donald Trump did with a sleeping American voter base in […]

  8. 278
    benson_79 on 6 Jan 2021 #

    A great thread and a very fair review from Tom. I agree with almost all the criticisms expressed towards Oasis, but the thing is they don’t matter. Britpop in general, and Oasis in particular, is my aural comfort blanket. Listening to SMS takes me back to those mid-90s halcyon days, larking about in the high school common room with hordes of like-minded friends, riding the tide of an unstoppable cultural movement.

    Except none of that was true. A painfully shy, introverted teen, I didn’t pass the secret test to be admitted to the cool common-room crowd; instead in free periods and breaktimes I lurked in classrooms with assorted stoners, metallers and nerds who rejected the mainstream and didn’t care much for any of the songs I liked. The peculiar power of music, aided by the passage of time and a generation’s relentless dewy-eyed nostalgia, has nonetheless turned the fantasy into a mental reality.

  9. 279
    Ian Ashcroft on 9 Apr 2021 #

    Another in the long line of stodgy mid-tempo chugging Oasis tunes. A soporific plod this one. 2/10 for me.

  10. 280
    Gareth Parker on 6 May 2021 #

    I would be more inclined to go with a 4/10 here. Personally, I think it goes on a bit and chugs along without really going anywhere.

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