Exactly 20 years on from the release of Oasis’s first No 1 single, there are good reasons why they still cast a huge shadow over the pop landscape.
Last week, the Daily Mirror ran a story on a supposed (read: 100% not happening) Oasis reunion. It arrived almost exactly one year on from a Daily Star front page that claimed the “chart-topping Manchester band” were “set to headline Glastonbury in a £500m comeback deal”. Coincidence? Maybe. Although perhaps it isn’t coincidence. Maybe the tabloids take turns. Maybe the Sun is readying its own Gallagher-brothers-reunite exclusive for this time next year.
Also likely coincidence, but the Daily Mirror story arrives close to the 20th anniversary of the landmark event that kickstarted the red tops’ obsession with Oasis: Some Might Say, the band’s first No 1 single, was released exactly 20 years ago, on 24 April 1995. The single entered the charts at No 1, a landmark event not just for Oasis, but for what was then “indie” music, and for British music in general. Up until then, the idea of a band like Oasis reaching the top of the charts, as much as Echo & the Bunnymen or the Stone Roses might have boasted it was their aim, seemed like a romantic, nebulous concept. But Oasis actually did it. When Noel Gallagher raised his guitar above his head during a celebratory appearance on Top of the Pops that week (guest presenter – of course – Chris Evans), the alternative, music press-consuming nation felt a collective pang of triumph. At that precise moment, their world became the mainstream.
Within a year, genuine disappointment would greet Bluetones singles “only” entering the charts at No 2. Oasis, meanwhile, graduated from having indie centrefold Evan Dando trail them around on tour and play tambourine badly with them at instore appearances to having Robbie Williams – the Zayn Malik of his day, only with more cocaine – trail them around on tour and dance onstage badly with them during a Glastonbury headline set. Some Might Say was followed by Roll With It, the release of which – for reasons you’ll be aware of – was a lead item on the national news. Enter the tabloid press, bearing daily stories on Liam and/or Noel for at least the next two years. In August 1997, a picture Of Noel Gallagher mooning in Ibiza was the lead story on a Daily Record front page. The second lead was the death of Princess Diana.
In April 2015, pictures of Liam getting pissed would be unlikely to trump the arrival of Kate Middleton’s baby, but the regularity with which reliably spurious Oasis stories are deemed of greater interest to readers of a national newspaper than, say, the general election is testament to a continuing, insatiable public appetite for all things Gallagher. At the more specialist end of the media scale, consider also that NME – a magazine that is in theory primarily for teenagers keen to discover the hottest new bands – has published three Noel Gallagher covers already this year, and 21 Oasis-related covers in the six or so years since they ceased to exist. Even given there have been two Noel solo albums and two Beady Eye albums to contend with in that time, that’s a lot. And it can’t solely be down to the fact Noel is consistently the sharpest, most entertaining interview in town. It is because a lot of people still care, a lot.
There is a tendency to scoff that these people are all nostalgic football-loving British lads in their mid-30s, but that is easily disproved. Noel Gallagher recently expressed frustration that neither Arctic Monkeys nor Kasabian have succeeded in inspiring a next generation of bands. There’s a reason for that. If you look to Catfish & The Bottlemen – easily the fastest rising guitar band of the moment – they’re still going back to Oasis. Their leader Van McCann had his “I must do this” epiphany at their gigs at Heaton Park in 2009. “It was as if Jesus had come back,” he said recently of the occasion. It’s worth noting at this point that McCann was not even two years old when Definitely Maybe was released.
Arctic Monkeys and Kasabian themselves, of course, are both direct, self-confessed descendants of Oasis. And if you want to look beyond white, male British guitar bands, you could pan out to Frances Bean Cobain – born the same week as Van McCann – who continues to be a vocal, B-side referencing obsessive on Twitter (quizzed as to who she preferred out of Nirvana and Hole, she answered “Oasis”). Or to Jessica Alba, who celebrated her 21st birthday at an Oasis gig in Las Vegas. Or further afield to Mish Way, singer with Canadian feminist punks White Lung, who recently wrote an article entitled “It’s literally impossible to hate Oasis”. These are just a few. Marilyn Manson adores them (‘Be Here Now’ is his favourite album). Quite brilliantly, Tupac Shakur once said that they were “true thug life”.
What Oasis still represent to this wide spectrum of people is that idea of a band doing things completely on their own terms and triumphing over ”manufactured” music. Oasis didn’t even make a dedicated video for Some Might Say (Liam didn’t turn up to the shoot, and a clip had to be cobbled together from footage shot for Cigarettes and Alcohol). Nor did they, unlike the supposedly more alternative-minded likes of Blur and Pulp, utilise that most execrable of 90s fan-extortion tactics – the multi-edition CD single – to pump up its chart position. They didn’t, it turned out, need to play either of these games. Their songs and their attitude was enough.
“We’re here to get lids like you out of the charts and bands in,” Van McCann said recently in response to fawning adoration from Louis Tomlinson of One Direction. A fantastically correct attitude for a young would-be rock’n’roll star to have. And one that comes directly from Oasis, a band who will likely still be the template for kids with or without guitars to do the same in even another 20 years’ time.
Check out the current collection and offers from Pretty Green here.