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‘(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?’ at 25: Revisiting Oasis’ 1995 Album with Those Who Should Know
(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?, the second album from Oasis released to the masses in 1995, celebrated its 25th anniversary in early October. After bursting onto the British music scene with the massive success of its debut album Definitely Maybe just a year earlier, it was a career-defining moment.
Although the band had enjoyed a string of chart-topping singles, (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? — which included “Wonderwall,” “Don’t Look Back In Anger” and “Champagne Supernova,” as well as “Some Might Say,” “Roll With It” and “She’s Electric” — set the band apart from the BritPop explosion in a big way.
While the band’s debut album Definitely Maybe had a fraught birth – it was made and remade several times – it went on to become the fastest-selling debut album in British history, and redefined the musical landscape in England. A tumultuous year, in which the band nearly imploded several times, followed.
(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?, however, was born out of sessions at the legendary Rockfield Studios in Wales (where Queen famously cut “Bohemian Rhapsody”) during sessions that lasted only a few weeks and – but for one blow-up between the seemingly ever-warring Gallagher brothers – with little drama.
It went on to sell over 22 million copies worldwide, and was recently released on silver vinyl (click here to buy from our Rock Cellar Store) and picture disc and celebrated in an official mini-documentary to mark its anniversary – and marks the point where Oasis went from being a very big indie band to world beaters.
In honor of its 25th anniversary, Rock Cellar has compiled recent interviews with the band members, Creation Records label boss Alan McGee, and those who were there and have studied the period closely, to reflect on the scope of the of one of the greatest albums of the 90s.
Paul “Bonehead” Arthurs (co-founder, original guitarist): It doesn’t feel like twenty-five years ago, and that’s a scary fucking thing. Twenty-five years in anyone’s life is a long time. It feels like eight years ago. It doesn’t feel like twenty-five years at all. It’s weird, man.
Alan McGee (head of Creation Records): We recorded Definitely Maybe twice and mixed it three times. It wasn’t an easy album to make.
Bonehead: McGee signed us, then we got a manager. Johnny Marr recommended him. We got Marcus Russell on board. And we just gigged and gigged and gigged. We were so fucking tight. But as far as the initial recordings – we weren’t familiar with recording studios at the time. We were relying on the guy who was producing us. It was a fucking nightmare. The band played well. But we’d go back in the control room, and we were like, “That is not how it sounds in the room. That does not sound like us.” It was so restrained. And we couldn’t understand why it wasn’t sounding like us.
Noel Gallagher: Oasis was a load of guys who wanted to be in a fucking group. They were all good at what they did. The lead singer was a good-looking kid. They could all play. They all had the right clothes and a good record collection. What they didn’t have was the most difficult fucking thing that there is to do in rock and roll: [the ability] To write a chorus.
Bonehead: “What I remember is that we all believed in what we did. And Noel, as a songwriter, really believed in the songs. We were really confident that we had something. We were confident we had the right songs, the right front man, the right sound. We never doubted, but it did happen really quickly.”
Richard Bowes (author of Some Might Say): A great example of the confidence at which they’re operating post-Definitely Maybe was that, for an MTV show in London where they were promoting Definitely Maybe, they played “Whatever.” The album was hot, fresh and in the shops. It was brand new. But they were already moving onto the next thing.
James Corcoran (host of the Oasis Podcast): In December ’94 it was Mariah Carey “All I Want for Christmas is You,” East 17 “Stay Another Day,” and Oasis “Whatever.” That was top three. It was a big, big song.
Noel Gallagher: The charts used to be a great battleground, and when I first started in Oasis, I couldn’t fucking wait to get in amongst it.
James Corcoran: That wait then, from Christmas through till the single for “Some Might Say” coming out in March, was really, really intense. When I got “Some Might Say” I remember being blown away by the B-sides. It was really like an EP, because it had “Acquiesce,” “Headshrinker” and “Talk Tonight.” It was just ridiculous. From having really enjoyed those Definitely Maybe songs, but then to get those four songs, in all different styles, was just amazing. It was an incredible four-track EP that really wetted the appetite massively for what would come next.
Then “Roll With It” blew things up.
Gary Crowley (BBC DJ): That was the great Britpop battle! “Roll With It” versus “Country House” by Blur. That was largely, I think, Steve Sutherland’s idea; a guy at the NME. But it certainly captured the public’s attention, and certainly made the nighttime news here in the UK.
James Corcoran: I had no issue with them becoming, essentially, pop stars. I was really pleased. My team was doing well, because it was like a football team. The whole Oasis-Blur thing, what I tended to find was that it was maybe the quirkier, cooler-than-thou kids that had that issue, but it wasn’t like, “Oh, we don’t like the fact that other people have discovered them now.”
Mark Cooper (BBC producer): They were straight ahead in a way that bands hadn’t been bands for a long time in Britain, where everything had been very niche. If you were an indie band in those days, you wanted to be big in the world of indie. But you didn’t want to be bigger or more ambitious or more assertive than that.
And so Oasis coming out and being rocking, assertively male, simple, direct, unabashed, working class rock and roll — it felt really incredibly new and fresh. They had an attitude to die for and then it turned out they had really great songs.
Bonehead: We just were full of it. We didn’t understand the power of what was going on around us. It’s really fast and sudden, the way it blows up. It probably took about three years before we actually realized what had happened. At first we weren’t traveling around the world. We were in Manchester. So we didn’t realize the extent of the impact our music was making. I’d be walking down the road, or in local shopping malls, and people would be recognizing me. So it was fast and we didn’t realized how big it was getting.
Noel Gallagher: To write those songs, you have to be that person in that life. I’m not that person living that life anymore. I’m glad I wrote them. I don’t really pine for going back to those times of being broke again. Fuck that.
Bonehead: I think when you spend a little time out of your hometown, and then you come back, with people recognizing you, that’s a strange thing. People you’d never met before suddenly knew my face, knew my name, and would come up and talk to me about our music. I thought that was a very strange thing because, you know, it was fast. It was sudden.
Noel Gallagher: After Definitely Maybe, I didn’t know what the fuck was going on. With Oasis, we started off right at the very top, at a place that took U2 a decade to get to.
After the massive success of the band’s debut album, Gallagher began working on new songs. Churning them out at a furious pace, it soon became clear a second album was in the cards in short order.
Alan McGee: As I heard more songs, it became apparent this wasn’t a normal indie rock band.
Noel Gallagher: We were booked into the studio for about six weeks, I think, but it only took three. And that included a week off after Liam and I had had a massive fight!
With Rockfield Studios booked for six weeks, the band decamped for Wales. But in just three weeks, (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? Was in the can.
Noel Gallagher: No one saw it coming, because second albums are notoriously shit. We certainly didn’t see it coming. That’s for sure.
Gary Crowley: It’s like, jeez, twenty-five years? It really is arrow in the head stuff. But my memory is that of anticipation for the album, really. Obviously, they came off that classic, sizzling debut. So there was a lot of anticipation, and for once, as we all know, thankfully, they didn’t disappoint.
Bonehead: Every song Noel was writing in those days was just fantastic. He would play an acoustic guitar to a click track and then teach us each the songs before we’d add our parts. And every day there’d be a new song that it seemed hadn’t existed the day before, and it was better than the last one! I couldn’t believe it.
While the early singles “Some Might Say” and “Roll With It” felt like an update to the Definitely Maybe sound to early fans, the September 1995 single “Wonderwall” was a distinctive left turn that left some fans cold. At first.
James Corcoran: The thing for me with “Wonderwall” was that it was the quiet, weird one before the really good one. I’d heard Noel on the Simon Mayo radio show, and he played “Cast No Shadow,” and he played “Don’t Look Back In Anger” before the album came out. So I’d heard both those songs, and “Don’t Look Back in Anger” was breathtaking. To me it was up there with “Bridge Over Troubled Water” or “Hey Jude.” It was a classic song, and I could tell that straightaway. But “Wonderwall” I really didn’t like at first.
But soon, a whole new audience was discovering Oasis. Catapulted by the massive success of “Wonderwall,” diehard, early fans found themselves contending with newer, casual fans enthralled by the band’s new sound.
Richard Bowes: Morning Glory is a pop album, really. If you look at the hooks, and the way it’s written.
Gary Crowley: I remember going to see my mate in Los Angeles not long after What’s The Story? came out. I can remember us vividly, driving around, and KROQ just hammering the hell out of “Wonderwall.” And not just KROQ, but other radio stations, too. And I remember us pulling up to a traffic light on Melrose, and these pretty girls in the car next to us, a convertible, singing their lungs out to “Wonderwall.”
We both looked at each other. I thought, “Fucking hell. They’ve really made a connection here.”
The next single was held up in the wake of the chart success of “Wonderwall,” but it didn’t disappoint.
Noel Gallagher: I wrote “Don’t Look Back In Anger” in a hotel room in Paris. That was the first time I’d used a Fender Stratocaster on any Oasis track. I’d borrowed it off Johnny Marr. It may seem easy to say in hindsight, but I knew it was great. It has become an extraordinary fucking song. My part in it is minimal, I only fucking wrote it. I have no recollection writing it. Did I even write it? I don’t know.
Live, the band’s massive sound seemed tailor-made for the arenas and stadiums they found themselves filling in the wake of the success of (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?
Alan McGee: The original lineup was the one. They weren’t great players, but they had a real Mancunian edge.
Noel Gallagher: Oasis was equally the five of us. When you’re in a five-piece band, everybody has their little place in it.
Liam Gallagher: A lot of things went into it. It was songs, it was the voice, it was the attitude, it was the look, it was the fans, and it was the people who fucking opened their ears and opened their minds.
Meanwhile, even the band’s b-sides were becoming anthems amongst their now rabid fanbase.
Richard Bowes: That 12-month period around (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?, where everything Noel did was golden, that was his imperial phase, I would argue. He was untouchable. And he wasn’t bound by indie. He copied the Beatles, and he was unashamed about copying the Beatles, but rather than it being him ripping them off, he was taking the essence of their melodies and making those into songs. He was going for timeless, classic pop-slash-rock.
The confidence that happened to churn out “The Masterplan,” and that being the b-side? That is absolutely outrageous confidence, and ability. For that period, he got the Ivor Novello the year afterwards, but it was for that work.
Alan McGee: I wish I had made them save the b-sides. But we all thought the purple patch would go on forever.
Gary Crowley: They were incredibly prolific. Noel as a songwriter and them as a band. And they seemed to take it very seriously, including the partying side. For a while, they seemed to be able to do both.
Still, the initial reviews for (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? were hardly glowing. It wasn’t until the fans had their say – buying copies up in droves – that it was clear what Oasis had accomplished.
Noel Gallagher: The reviews were not good. But put it up against anything that’s come out since. Very few albums are in its league, and certainly not anything being made today.
Bonehead: The fans knew. When they first heard the finished songs recorded, they knew that it was special. But even when we heard Noel, just one voice, one guitar, playing them, it was immediate. We just knew there was something there, that he had really written something special.
Richard Bowes: Some people claim that Morning Glory, for example, is a badly produced album. All that matters is the songs ultimately, I think. Everything else is legend, especially the headlines. Ultimately, it always comes back to the songs.
Noel Gallagher: You have to fucking go pretty far to come up with a worse one than (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?, trust me on that. I never liked it. But it’s just a title. They become themselves in the end.
Gary Crowley: Forget the reviews, the public responded. We weren’t just playing “Wonderwall” and “Roll with It.” We were also playing “She’s Electric” and “Cast No Shadow,” and of course “Champagne Supernova” as well, which was such a crowning glory. It was absolutely epic. To quote Liam, “Biblical.” But it really, really was.
Eventually, even deep cuts were becoming hits.
Richard Bowes: “Cast No Shadow,” obviously within the same album, that song just grew arms and legs. Being a teenager in the 90s, you’d listen to the Top 40, and it just didn’t go away.
Noel Gallagher: I’d like to think that if (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? was coming out tomorrow it would be as successful. It wouldn’t sell as many records, though, because the times are different.
Gary Crowley: It really captured the zeitgeist. Listen, I don’t want to say, “Oh, I’m comparing it to Sgt Pepper,” but as far as it just being everywhere, it seemed to be around in the ether for a few months.
Richard Bowes: With “Champagne Supernova,” no one really knows what it’s about, but it became an anthem, even as an album track, which kind of demonstrates the power of the album, really. That was also one that everyone knows, and they know that from buying the album.
As always, however, Oasis was teetering on the brink of collapse.
James Corcoran: Liam quit the US tour, and Noel started walking out on tours. They got kicked off an airplane in Australia. All that sort of stuff was in the news.
Gary Crowley: The tabloids loved Noel and Liam. I mean, they absolutely loved them. They were selling newspapers by the bucketloads for a while.
Oasis returned to London to headline the massive Earl’s Court. But with the band’s popularity exploding, their team soon set its sights on bigger quarry.
Richard Bowes: I think that’s probably that point at which they lost control. (Original bassist) Guigsy requiring some time off was probably the first indicator of that. Because they went from “Wonderwall” to “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” and topped that success. They had to delay the release of “Don’t Look Back in Anger” as a single because of “Wonderwall’s” continued success. Even in their wildest dreams I don’t think they anticipated that, because there was no real frame of reference, apart from Beatlemania or T-Rextasy. And arguably, not in their lifetimes. So, they just strapped themselves in and went along with the ride, the obvious culmination for that was Knebworth.
Bonehead: When you’re part of it, its just going so fast and you’re doing so much, you don’t sit back and think what’s happening.
Alan McGee: It was bubbling under. The culture needed Oasis.
Mat Whitecross (director of Supersonic): I just think, once you become big, that most bands are kinda the same, even if you’re Led Zeppelin or whoever it is. It’s still the same thing. It becomes going from one stadium to a plane and onto the next stadium.
James Corcoran: That was the summer of Britpop for me. It’s a real cliché, and you hear people say it all the time, but it was really, really exciting, and a really exciting time to be alive and getting into music.
Bonehead: From playing to ten people to a couple thousand was really quite sudden, and surprised me. But also I think we were quite confident in our belief in ourselves and what we felt we’d achieved.
Noel Gallagher: They took me to the site, and it just looked like this massive empty field that we could never possibly fill. I told them we’d agree to do two nights. After all the ticket requests came in they came back and said we could have done eight.
Gary Crowley: I thought of it at the time as, “Yeah, they should be playing it. They’re the biggest band around.” And then there was a little bit of me thinking, “Fucking Knebworth!” It had got to this gigantic proportion.
Liam Gallagher: Fuck Knebworth, fuck Maine Road, fuck all that. The best part of it was getting a deal, getting in there and getting out of shitty little venues.
Bonehead: I’m about the biggest Oasis fan there is. But even from the inside looking out, it was massive. We went from playing little clubs to selling out two days at Knebworth in just two years. It wasn’t just hype. It was as though we could do no wrong.
Liam Gallagher: Knebworth was amazing.
James Corcoran: I saw them at Cardiff International Arena, and I saw them at Knebworth. It was the summer of ’96. We had the Euro ’96 football, which was massive. That was in England was well. So it was like that whole connection of football and rock and roll being in the popular culture, with Oasis being big football fans, too. Things all fed off each other. So for me, the whole day, really, because you had the Bootleg Beatles, and I was such a massive Beatles fan at the time. Obviously still am.
That, to me, was heaven. They were just the best band. That’s as close to seeing the Beatles as you can get. And then Ocean Colour Scene, who we couldn’t miss, plus Prodigy and the Manic Street Preachers. And Oasis! What a day!
Mark Cooper: They were the voice of a certain kind of British working class youth at that time. But it wasn’t just working class youths. Everybody loved them. The songs were huge, everybody sang along, they became part of a new optimistic time in Britain. I don’t want to be too grandiose about it, but it felt like a new kind of democratic, assertive Britain, in which people could go out and say, ‘I’m having it, I’m not going to apologize, I’m not going to be kept in place.’
Bonehead: Coming out of the helicopter, coming on at Knebworth, it’s a really powerful memory. But it’s what we wanted. It’s why we picked up guitars. It’s why we rehearsed every night. That was the dream we wanted to achieve. Standing on stage in front of so many thousands of people, it felt right for us. It felt like we were succeeding in what we wanted to achieve. We were very confident that we were going to get to that point, and that was the reward for it.
Twenty-five years later, the key players seem to feel confident that what they achieved will stand the test of time for another twenty-five.
Alan McGee: Oasis has got more popular with successive generations.
Noel Gallagher: It was tough to be in Oasis because of me and Liam. But out of it, you manage to somehow forge this fucking great music.
Liam Gallagher: The band should’ve never split up. I don’t feel like it’s split up in my head.
Bonehead: That’s the thing, we totally believed in ourselves and we totally believed in what we were doing. We totally believed that people were going to get what we were doing. I remember Noel saying, “In 20 years’ time, people are still going to be talking about us.” And I didn’t doubt it, but you don’t really believe it. That’s a massive statement. But they are. And more.
25 years later, it’s still a huge deal, which is incredible.
Liam Gallagher: I don’t regret anything. The minute you start regretting, it’s like dominoes. If you start taking one thing away, the whole thing falls to pieces. But I don’t regret anything. It is what it is. I’m very proud of what I’ve done.
Noel Gallagher: It spans so many generations now that you can’t even thank one particular demographic of people for it. It kind of belongs to the world. It’s a wonderful thing.
Liam Gallagher: We were great and we were stupid and we were daft and we were funny and we looked cool. We had our flaws, ’cause we didn’t give a fuck. But it was emotional, man. The majority of it, when you slice it fucking open, it’s euphoric and it’s beautiful and I love it.
October 18, 2021
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