Oasis was a rock band from Manchester, England. They formed in 1991, put out seven mostly uneven albums and 28 singles outfitted with dozens of unforgettable B-sides, and then broke up in 2009. They were led by the two Gallagher brothers — Noel (guitar, backing vocals, primary songwriter) and Liam (singer, tambourine, chief troublemaker). The Gallagher brothers were best known for fighting a lot. Their last fight occurred before a festival show in Paris, when Liam threw a plum at Noel and then attempted to take his brother’s head off with a guitar. Noel quit, and Oasis was over.
Here’s another important piece of information: Oasis was my favorite band from 1994 to 1997, which happens to coincide with my high school years and my freshman year of college. This means that important landmarks in Oasis history are also important landmarks in my own history. For instance, this month marks the 25th anniversary of the third Oasis album, Be Here Now. Regarded as one of the most notorious drug-fueled fiascos in rock history, Be Here Now is typically viewed as the beginning of the end of Oasis’ mid-’90s prime. Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone once referred to Be Here Now as “a concept album about how long all the songs were.” Noel himself has described the album as “the sound of a bunch of guys on coke, in the studio, not giving a fuck.” As for me, I love Be Here Now, as I do all Oasis albums, even the bad ones. And I always will.
To better explain this, I have written about my 50 favorite Oasis songs and, in the process, attempted to illustrate what makes this band great and extremely entertaining (even when they weren’t great). It is my hope that Noel and Liam will read this column and be inspired to reunite, as I believe that this would make the world a better place.
Is that hyperbolic? Maybe … they’re gonna be the band that saves us. And after all … here are my 50 favorite Oasis songs.
50. “Wibbling Rivalry” (1995)
It is April 7, 1994. One day from now, Kurt Cobain’s body will be discovered. Four days from now, Oasis will release their first single, “Supersonic.” Their debut album, Definitely Maybe, won’t be out for another four months. But the Gallagher brothers already have a reputation in England. And now they’re talking to a writer from the NME about it. Actually, Noel and Liam are screaming at each other in the vicinity of an NME writer, who (for the benefit of all humankind) is recording the skirmish for posterity’s sake.
This is the set-up for “Wibbling Rivalry,” a novelty single released in November of 1995 — right as “Wonderwall” was turning our heroes into international rock superstars — that actually charted in the U.K. For those who haven’t heard it: The main topic of conversation in the 14-minute clip is an infamous episode from early on in Oasis lore, in which Liam — absolutely wasted on a curious cocktail of champagne and Jack Daniels — picks a fight with some football fans on a ferry in Amsterdam. Chaos predictably ensues, the band is kicked off the ferry, and Oasis’ first tour outside of England is compromised in spectacularly hilarious fashion.
Presumably, the NME writer brought up this episode, because Noel and Liam are already bickering at the start of the clip. I will now sum up each party’s position on whether “getting thrown off fuckin’ ferries” (Noel’s words) is rock ‘n’ roll or not.
Noel: It’s fookin’ not.
Liam: It fookin’ is.
Noel: Music! Music! Music! Music!
Liam: Shut up!
I’m paraphrasing but you get the point. (Have I mentioned that both men appear to have downed a thousand gin and tonics over the course of this interview?) Later, the writer suggests that public interest in Oasis is 70 percent about the music, and 30 percent about the antics. On this, Noel and Liam agree. So do I. It’s incredible that this was true in the spring of 1994 and remains true in the summer of 2022.
“Wibbling Rivalry” is not technically an Oasis song. But if I were introducing a person to this band for the first time, this is one of the tracks I would play, as it sums up the band’s ethos about as well as their actual music. First, the argument is laugh-out-loud funny. (On this count, there’s the same 70/30 split in terms of intentional vs. unintentional comedy.) Second (and more important), this is an argument that Noel and Liam never stopped having throughout the history of Oasis. The songs vs. chaos conflict forms the core of their appeal, and it’s also what destroyed them in the end.
What’s unfortunate is that they couldn’t see that they were both correct.
49. “Up In The Sky” (1994)
Countless pundits have noted that Definitely Maybe arrived shortly after Kurt Cobain took his own life, and that this confluence of events had great metaphorical significance at the time. It’s become a cliche to note the difference between the downbeat grunge vibe of the early ’90s and the life-affirming exuberance of the Britpop-dominated mid-’90s. I wish I could debunk the mythos but I honestly can’t. My heart was broken when Nirvana imploded. And I was thrilled when this very different band entered my life.
The crucial turning point in Definitely Maybe‘s origin story is when Oasis turned to Owen Morris to remix the record. Up until then, this seemingly simple slab of working-class pub rock had already gone through a few different iterations, without ever hitting upon the proper amount of piss and vinegar. Then Morris stepped in, stripped out most of Noel’s guitar solos — basically the opposite of what he did three years later on Be Here Now — and pushed the sound levels as high as they would go without going fully into the red. Morris called this “brick-walling,” and it would come to define the essential bombast of Oasis’ most essential period.
While brick-walling sounds like something out of This Is Spinal Tap, there was a deeper purpose to the madness: It ensured that Oasis records were louder than anybody else’s — stupidly loud in fact — even on a relatively fleet Definitely Maybe deep cut such as this, where Liam appears to challenge the supremacy of Superman himself. Oasis didn’t merely demand to be heard — if you put this song on at a pub you simply couldn’t hear anything else.
By the end of the ’90s, most big-time rock records were mixed to sound like a 747, and it was mostly terrible. But Noel wrote songs that required a Wagnerian sonic approach. When his music was turned up to a punishing volume, it suddenly became transcendent. Noel’s songs without punishing volume is like Christopher Nolan without iMax or Miles Davis without the word “motherfucker.”
48. “Songbird” (2002)
Liam hates Heathen Chemistry, the fifth Oasis LP with the seventh best title. In 2017, he rated it as the worst album he’s ever made, giving it only a five out of 10. (For comparison’s sake, the second Beady Eye record, 2013’s BE, rated an eight out of 10. In reality, I think only eight people have ever actually heard BE.)
“I can’t even remember that one,” he opined to the NME. Surely Liam must remember this Heathen Chemistry track, one of the better songs he wrote for Oasis once Liam Gallagher started writing songs for Oasis. Then again, Liam has attributed his musical ability to the time as a teenager when he was hit in the head with a hammer during a schoolyard brawl. This might have also affected his memory.
47. “Where Did It All Go Wrong” (2000)
The first song Liam ever contributed to an Oasis record was the shockingly saccharine ode to his then-stepson, “Little James,” on Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants, an album Noel later said should have never been made. (Nobody is harder on mid-period Oasis albums than the two guys in the middle of Oasis.) “At the time, I had no reason or desire to make music,” he told Grantland in 2011. “I had no drive. We’d sold all these fucking records and there just seemed to be no point.”
Now, I happen to really like Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants. Part of this is due to being 22 and poor when the CD was released, so I made myself like it rather than feel swindled by Noel ripping off the nursery rhyme “Liar Liar Pants On Fire” for the indefensibly dumb (yet also authentically rocking) “I Can See A Liar.” (While it didn’t make the list, my self-programming remains ingrained enough to maintain my “I Can See A Liar” love.) But I also like that the songs are Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants are self-aware reflections about creative exhaustion while also unconsciously demonstrating aspects of said exhaustion. This song, for instance, is a pretty direct statement about the fallout post-Be Here Now, which includes one of the legit great Noel lines: “Do you keep the receipts / for the friends that you buy?”
46. “Sunday Morning Call” (2000)
What I’m saying is that Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants is Oasis’ equivalent to Goats Head Soup, in which the bad vibes can be re-contextualized as strengths because our heroes’ diminished swagger has revealed heretofore hidden wells of vulnerability and even (here’s a first for an Oasis record) humility. Not that I’d want every Oasis record to sound this chastened, but it does make the album worthy of re-evaluation.
Oasis was so unsettled at this time that Noel was willing to rip off his “fookin’ stoodent” foils in Radiohead (with an added dash of Kris Kristofferson) for this song, one of the album’s many “remorseful hangover” tracks. “When you’re lonely and you start to hear / The little voices in your head at night / You will only sniff away the tears / So you can dance until the morning light / At what price?” Years later, Noel dismissed this song as “shit,” which isn’t surprising — aping “Let Down” likely didn’t sit well in retrospect — but in my mind, he’s totally wrong.
45. “Headshrinker” (1995)
Being an Oasis fan living in Middle America in the mid-’90s required you to constantly defend the band after every boastful interview, every drunken award show appearance, and every outrageously obnoxious antic that occurred in a bar, airport, and/or boat. If you loved Oasis, this was the vital yet problematic 30 percent that caused detractors to dismiss the musical 70 percent. At the height of their success and infamy, guarding their throne as a fan was a full-time job.
Could the Gallaghers be annoying jerks? No question. Here’s what they were not: A copy of the Beatles. That’s a criticism I didn’t understand then, and I don’t understand it now. What are the attributes of the Beatles’ music? Harmony vocals, jangly guitars, sophisticated arrangements, and an abundance of quiet and tender ballads. None of this describes Oasis. The Beatles were artists who made nuanced and impeccably assembled records; Oasis were bricklayers who eschewed nuance in favor of slathering noise on top of noise until it felt like downing a dozen pints at once. That’s what this B-side does. It’s what all great Oasis songs do.
44. “Going Nowhere” (1997)
Oasis B-sides were an obsession for me in high school, and still are to this day. (If I am at a party, and the person I am randomly speaking with makes a reference to “Step Out” or “Listen Up,” I immediately put that stranger in my will.) I’m not a snob about most things, but I do discern a true Oasis B-side aficionado (i.e. a person who bought the import singles as they were released) vs. someone who simply enjoys the B-sides compilation The Masterplan. To be clear: The Masterplan people get my respect, but the import singles crowd are my kin.
“Headshrinker” was one of three B-sides for “Some Might Say,” one of the greatest of all Oasis singles. (The other two B-sides are “Talk Tonight” and “Acquiesce,” both of which show up later on this list.) This song is a B-side from the Be Here Now period; whereas many of the Definitely Maybe and (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? era B-sides could have made those albums, the Be Here Now B-sides include several tracks that should have made the record. “Going Nowhere” is one of those B-sides — surely this low-key, Burt Bacharach-inspired strummer would have made more sense on Be Here Now than “I Hope, I Think, I Now,” a tune that Noel once dismissed to a reporter while promoting the record by making a fart noise.
43. “A Bell Will Ring” (2005)
Here is one indisputably Beatle-esque fact about Oasis: They eventually hired Ringo’s kid to play drums. But Ringo’s kid is the best drummer they ever had. Before him, Oasis drummers played the instrument like a day laborer slamming a sledgehammer into a brick wall. (The rhythms were already brick-walled before everything else was brick-walled.) But Zak Starkey brought his daddy’s swing to Oasis. He is a big reason why I love their sixth album, Don’t Believe The Truth, which I slot right after the first three albums in my personal Oasis LP power rankings. Sentimental attachment to the original incarnation aside, this really was the greatest of all Oasis lineups, from an instrumental firepower standpoint. (Tony McCarroll couldn’t even get a job as Zak’s drum tech.) As Noel gradually ceded control of the songwriting — which occurred as both his interest in Oasis and knack for turning out an endless supply of idiot-savant pop-rock hooks waned — Don’t Believe The Truth stands as the only Oasis album where the secondary band members pitch in genuine bangers, including this scrappy gem from Gem Archer.
42. “The Hindu Times” (2002)
There is no greater tell for a deluded super fan than the following eight words: “The later albums are better than you think!”
But while there’s no question that Oasis’ ’94-’97 output stands as their best, I do have affection for the aughts-era music as well. By then, they had morphed into Classic Rock: The Band — given their pedigree as survivors who had seen the mountain top and then crashed after snorting that mountain top right up their noses, they suddenly felt much older than they actually were in this new era of The Strokes and Linkin Park. From here on out, Oasis’ main influence was Oasis’ older albums. This song, the lead-off track from Heathen Chemistry, sounds like a cross between Jet and The Soundtrack Of Our Lives — two bands in the early aughts who clearly were influenced by Oasis, and are now remembered only by me — which will strike many as an insult by coming from me is a big compliment.
41. “The Shock Of The Lightning” (2008)
Early in his career, Noel was openly disdainful of music eclecticism, proudly bragging about his limited musical reference points. (As he says in the Definitely Maybe documentary, “I’d rather listen to ‘I Am The Walrus’ 20 times in a row.”) But by the time of the last Oasis album, 2008’s Dig Out Your Own Soul, Noel was painting Liam as the philistine in the band. “One day he saw some crew unloading keyboards into the studio and went mad: ‘What are those fucking keyboards doing in here? That’s too many keyboards for a rock’n’roll band,’” he told Spin. “How long has Liam been doing this? He has an irrational fear of keyboards.” Liam’s anti-keyboard stance has carried over to his solo career, while Noel has backed off from his former band’s wall of guitars. This song represents one of Noel’s final stabs at writing a “classic” style Oasis song.
40. “Married With Children” (1994)
An example of the “sweet” side of Liam’s voice that is more apparent on the demos for Definitely Maybe than on the album proper. By the release of the debut, he had already mastered the Johnny Rotten sneer that put Oasis’ snottiest numbers over. But on this tune he still sounds like a 21-year-old kid who can’t help but drop the punk posturing of the verses (“I hate the books you read and all your friends / Your music’s shite it keeps me up all night”) to reveal his inner sweetheart in the bridge: “And it will be nice to be alone / For a week or two / But I know that I will be / Right back here with you.”
39. “Little By Little” (2002)
In that 2011 Grantland interview, Noel made an accidentally revealing comment about his brotherly dynamic with Liam. “In my experience, you never see an older brother jealous of a younger brother,” he said. “Maybe he did get cast in the role of the performing fucking monkey by the press, and maybe I got cast as the man behind the curtain. Maybe he wanted to be the Wizard of Oz instead of the monkey.”
Now, Noel’s assertion here is clearly inaccurate in the macro sense. The most famous parable about brothers, Cain and Abel, is about an older brother (Cain) murdering his younger brother (Abel), so clearly Cain had some jealousy issues. Similarly, in the micro sense, I don’t buy that Noel didn’t feel at least a little envious of the handsome and charismatic “performing fucking monkey” standing at center stage. And this is pretty apparent from how often Noel sings lead on Oasis albums as the band’s career progresses. On Definitely Maybe, there are zero Noel-sung songs. On (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?, there’s one (and it happens to be one of the album’s most popular tracks, “Don’t Look Back In Anger.”) On Be Here Now, Noel had the decency to sing the LP’s dumbest tune, “Magic Pie,” himself. But after that, he starts singing multiple tracks per record.
To be clear: I like Noel’s voice, especially on ballads and B-sides. But usurping his brother on rockers like this song was usually a mistake motivated by a toxic combination of ego and resentment.
38. “Sad Song” (Live By The Sea version, 1995)
This, on the other hand, is squarely in Noel’s wheelhouse. Noel excels at straightforward expressions of earnest love that can be appreciated at face value as relatively nice-guy sentiment, whereas Liam is the asshole who draws you in because he’s an asshole who surprises you with an occasional moment of honest emotion. Noel is Luke Skywalker, and Liam is Han Solo. And “Sad Song” is definitely more of a Luke Skywalker song. I’m shouting out the specific version from the Live By The Sea video, which I wore out when I was still a few years away from seeing my favorite Brits live and in the flesh.
37. “The Masterplan” (MTV Unplugged version, 1996)
The difference between Liam and Noel as singers is spotlighted in the starkest possible terms during their disastrous MTV Unplugged appearance. The background lore is Oasis 101: The band showed up at the taping not long before launching an ill-fated American tour. At the last minute, Liam backed out, claiming he had a sore throat, which forced Noel to sing lead. Liam, meanwhile, watched the show from the balcony while chain-smoking Benson and Hedges cigarettes.
Liam really was the asshole here, no question, but his absence also showed how essential his needling whine is to songs like “Some Might Say” and “Live Forever.” Liam sells those songs as declarations of bravado because his overwhelming arrogance as a singer deflects any suspicion that a mere mortal would trigger after howling so much nonsense about sinks full of fishes and brains overflowing with dishes. Noel’s more sober and dulcet voice, however, puts a blacklight on all the lyrical sins and clunkers.
On the other hand, this B-side (which Noel also sings on the record) sounds wonderful in its MTV Unplugged incarnation, with Noel teasing out the melodic chorus as he quietly seethes at the prick in the balcony.
36. “Flashbax” (1997)
Another Noel song, and my favorite Be Here Now era B-side. It’s also among the least Be Here Now-like songs of the Be Here Now era. Noel later said that his biggest regret of this period is that he decided to take a trip to the Caribbean island of Mustique with Mick Jagger, Jerry Hall, Johnny Depp, and Kate Moss when he started writing songs for the album. This, presumably, is how Depp ended up playing slide guitar on Be Here Now, which incredibly might not make the top 10 of inexplicable facts about Be Here Now.
(I have no idea if Mick was ever in the running for a cameo slot on Be Here Now. I suspect he was already busy trying to convince the Dust Brothers to drop a Biz Markie sample into the middle of the Stones’ 1997 LP, Bridges To Babylon. I like to think that Noel and Mick could have saved each other if they had worked together instead.)
By that album’s standard, “Flashbax” is relatively restrained and charmingly laid back, with Noel wryly poking fun at his success. (“Sittin’ on a throne will give a bad back to you.”) Perhaps the cocaine was running low at this session. Otherwise, I’m surprised that Noel didn’t overdub an additional 20 more whistling tracks.
35. “Hello” (1995)
You could plausibly DQ this song from consideration given that Noel lifted liberally from a Gary Glitter song and was subsequently forced to share publishing with one of the music business’ true Certified Bad People. But I’m a sucker for self-aware album openers that note how the previous album changed the band’s life. This song is Oasis saying, “British angst has paid off well / now we’re excited and drunk.”
34. “Turn Up The Sun” (2005)
My most controversial take is that this is the third best Oasis album opener, slotted (clearly) right ahead of “Hello” and right below “D’You Know What I Mean” and “Rock ‘N’ Roll Star.” Actually, it’s not right below those latter two songs, as those tunes rank among my very favorite Oasis tracks, period. But “Turn Up The Sun” is a very good introduction to the best post-Be Here Now Oasis record. It’s also notable for being the only Oasis album opener not written by Noel Gallagher; former Ride guitarist Andy Bell contributed “Turn Up The Sun,” and it sounds like something he might have written for 1994’s Carnival Of Light, the Ride album that sounds the most like Oasis even though it predates Definitely Maybe by two months.
33. “Keep The Dream Alive” (2005)
Another Andy Bell song from Don’t Believe The Truth, and on this one he’s channeling the second Ride album, 1992’s Going Blank Again, which is a vibe I wished he had been able to mine more on future Oasis records. (I don’t know if Noel has ever confirmed this but “Champagne Supernova” is really just a Going Blank Again retread, only better.) By 2005, Noel seemed to accept that he was no longer the superhuman songwriting machine that he was a decade prior. (“I’d slowed down as a writer and didn’t feel like I could keep writing 20 songs every two years,” he later admitted.) Which means Oasis on Don’t Believe The Truth is more of a band than it ever was before or after. It was, I imagine, easier to accept songs from a pro like Andy Bell than it was his knucklehead brother (though Liam’s “The Meaning Of Soul” is a solid rocker and would have definitely been the best song on the first Beady Eye record). I do think it’s a minor shame that this incarnation of Oasis didn’t stick together longer, as Bell stands out in this era as a true George Harrison figure in the band, and this is his “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
32. “Mucky Fingers” (2005)
An exception to the “Noel Should Let Liam Sing All The Rockers” rule. Musically, this song borrows liberally from the Velvet Underground’s “Waiting For The Man,” one of the most terrifying songs ever about traveling to the worst part of town in order to buy really bad drugs. “Mucky Fingers” meanwhile is a song about how smoking a shit-ton of weed will make even the least coherent conspiracy theories about media disinformation sound plausible and wise.
31. “Whatever” (1994)
A rare stand-alone single that didn’t appear on an album, this song resembles “All Around The World” except it’s far shorter, presumably much cheaper, and not nearly as stupid. (Also: Noel is extremely intoxicated in the music video.) “All Around The World” fails because it was an attempt by Oasis to make a grand statement about the state of mankind, whereas “Whatever” succeeds because it’s about not having anything to say and being okay with that. “I’m free to say whatever I / Whatever I like, if it’s wrong or right, it’s alright” might as well as be the Oasis band motto.
30. “Bring It On Down” (1994)
Oasis didn’t need to have something to say, because their message was the very act of being Oasis. It’s why Oasis’ best music sounds timeless while their rivals Blur seem very tied to the mid-’90s. Damon Albarn was unquestionably a smarter and more insightful writer when it came to exploring the uniqueness of British culture and the need for Britpop to act as a bulwark against the encroachment of American imperialism. But I don’t care about exploring the uniqueness of British culture or the need for Britpop to act as a bulwark against the encroachment of American imperialism. What I care about are working-class blokes who decide to become the biggest band in England because the alternative, frankly, was a horrible life. The point of this band is that they weren’t special, only determined to survive and maybe just lucky that they pulled it off. And they made no attempt to hide this. “The only thing that separates us from people in Manchester now is that I’m sitting here, and all those people are still doing heroin and still on the dole,” Noel told Rolling Stone in 1996. “But we were no different. We’ve got no qualifications between the five of us. We’re not academically qualified to do anything.”
Definitely Maybe is still the most beloved Oasis album because it’s the one that’s purely aspirational. These guys were always full of themselves but on the debut, it seems heroic because they have no right to be full of themselves. This is the most explicit song about that very fact: “You’re the outcast, you’re the underclass / But you don’t care, because you’re living fast.”
29. “Shakermaker” (1994)
Since I took a shot at Tony McCarroll earlier, I should acknowledge that “Bring It On Down” is his finest performance. As for the rest of the original lineup … it’s hard to pinpoint what exactly they brought to the table. Rhythm guitarist Paul “Bonehead” Arthurs contributed by being Bonehead, and it’s generally agreed upon that Oasis was more lovable when there was a guy named Bonehead in the band. And then there’s bassist Paul “Guigsy” McGuigan, an introspective pothead and avid football fan who said in that Rolling Stone cover story, “I don’t really do anything,” which really says it all.
And yet, when those guys played with Noel and Liam, it made an enormous sound that was often bigger than the actual song. That’s definitely the case here — “Shakermaker” is hardly brilliant songwriting (“I’ve been driving in my car with my friend Mr. Soft / Mr. Clean and Mr. Ben are living in my loft” is Noel in full-on Dr. Suess mode) but if you play these track at full volume on headphones you might see God.
28. “The Girl In The Dirty Shirt” (1997)
Noel might be the second best singer in Oasis, but he’s the best backing singer in a rock band for his generation. And this song is one of the best showcases for his talents. When he’s adding a harmony vocal, Noel has that plaintive, high-lonesome Keith Richards thing down cold. But the real gold is when he does the counter-vocal playing off Liam, a device that always works in Oasis songs and was not utilized nearly enough.
27. “Cast No Shadow” (1995)
The last song written for (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?, supposedly on the train back to the studio. It’s the sort of tune you write about someone after they have died, but the subject of “Cast No Shadow,” Verve singer Richard Ashcroft, was very much alive and virtually unknown in America at the time. (“Bitter Sweet Symphony” was still two years away.) Now when I hear this song, I think about how in 2018 Noel listed Ashcroft as one of several contemporary singer-songwriters who use a battery of outside writers, which infuriated Ashcroft and prompted Liam to tweet that Ashcroft “pisses all over” Noel “every day of the wk.” I still can’t tell if this detracts from or improves the song.
26. “Round Are Way” (1995)
When he was in his songwriting prime, Noel claimed that he was most creative in the spring, from March to mid-May, which he attributed to being a Gemini. He is also dyslexic, which might explain how disjointed and oddly phrased a lot of Oasis lyrics are. (There is also the matter of Noel not giving a shit about lyrics.) On this fan favorite B-side, Noel is at his spring-iest and most dyslexic, from the horns-heavy, “Got To Get You Into My Life” bounce of the music to the Slade-esque malapropism inserted into the title. But what really makes “Round Are Way” such a charming pop song is the unguarded innocence of the song’s slice-of-life remembrance of childhood, which is matched by the unabashed poppiness of the music.
Please enjoy this 20-minute excerpt from the audio commentary on the Time Flies 1994-2009 box set, in which Noel Gallagher expertly roasts Oasis’ music videos, even if it renders much of what I written redundant.
25. “She’s Electric” (1995)
Anecdotally, I’ve found this to be a surprisingly polarizing song among Oasis-heads. I’ve even heard the argument that it’s the worst track on (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?, which could only be true in a universe in which “Hey Now!” doesn’t exist. Personally, I’ve always loved “‘She’s Electric,” and it’s entirely due to Liam’s vocal, which ranks among his very best. This is peak “charming asshole” Liam, who somehow makes the sociopathic lyrics that Noel wrote for him sound sweet. Yes, that includes the verse in which Liam says he fancies the electric girl’s mother, and then denies that he impregnated one of her dozen cousins.
24. “It’s Better People” (2005)
The one negative thing I’ll say about “She’s Electric” is that it probably should have been a B-side, and this B-side should have been on (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? (“It’s Better People” absolutely trounces the song that appeared on its A-side, “Roll With It.”) I’m contradicting myself slightly here, as Noel sings this song and Noel-sung tracks are best relegated to B-sides. It’s also possible that “It’s Better People” sounds a little too much like “Wonderwall,” though it sounds even more like “Magic Bus,” and that fact alone overrules the “Noel B-side” law in my mind.
23. “Be Here Now” (1997)
My first and only time seeing Oasis was in January of 1998, when they played Minneapolis’ Northtop Auditorum. This was the last stand of the “classic” lineup, and it was hardly a brilliant farewell. My main memory of the gig is that it was more fookin’ loud than any gig I had ever seen, before or since. The in-concert brick-walling was so intense that it made their records sound like Pink Moon. It’s possible that Oasis played spectacularly well that night, but I was so far up in the balcony that I honestly could not tell one way or the other. On that night, I was more into the non-musical 30 percent anyway. (Also, the loudness made the relatively paltry 15-song setlist — including a three-track Noel solo acoustic set stuck in the middle — a little less objectionable.) When they played “Acquiesce” for the encore, Liam actually walked off stage and watched Noel sing the outro from the front row of the auditorium, which would have been funnier if the band hadn’t already soured on their short-lived American dominance.
Honestly, the musical highlight of the night was when they played “Be Here Now” at the start of the set. At least at that point, the constant pummeling coming out of the amps felt less like Oasis taking their frustration out on the audience and more like the barroom bear-hugs of old.
22. “It’s Getting Better (Man!!)” (1997)
Here’s another song that slayed when I saw them live. It was the penultimate number in the main set before “Champagne Supernova,” which shows how much of a show-stopper it was back then. Alas, after this incarnation of the band fell apart, it was never played live again.
Ultimately, my one Oasis gig was kind of mediocre, and yet my memories of it are mostly good. (My friends and I even lingered outside the venue after the concert to watch Liam drunkenly mug out of his second-floor dressing room window.) That’s how I feel about the Be Here Now era in general. Even the bad stuff seems pretty great in retrospect, because Oasis’ stature was larger-than-life at the time. (The only other rock band that could get away with the outsized exuberance of using two exclamation points in a song title is early-’80s Van Halen.) It’s why the weakness of Mat Whitecross’ otherwise solid 2016 documentary Oasis: Supersonic is that it ends with the triumphant 1996 Knebworth concerts and excludes Be Here Now. A band this hubristic is at their most fascinating (and I believe most lovable) when they fail.
21. “Stand By Me” (1997)
Here’s a scene I want to see when the Be Here Now documentary is finally made, as related in a 1997 Rolling Stone article. The setting is a U2 concert in Oakland on the PopMart tour. Oasis is the opening band. And Liam is extremely high backstage:
Liam will tell Bono how great Oasis’s record is while it blasts on U2’s dressing-room stereo. He will clutch Bono’s shoulders and insist that he sing along. Bono does. He sings: “All my people right here, right now / D’you know what I mean?”
“I dig U2, ya know, but I don’t give a shit about all that fancy fucking stage crap. It’s bollocks, man, it’s like you don’t believe in your music enough,” Liam says now. “There’s nothing better than five lads on stage, or four lads…or 25 lesbians, just doing the bit, ’cause you get sidetracked and you end up not watching the show with that million-pound fucking lemon in the air.”
I assume poor Bono eventually got to the fourth track on Be Here Now, as it resembles the heart-tugging mid-tempo ballads that eventually populated their post-PopMart comeback, All That You Can’t Leave Behind. And U2 also returned to the “four lads on stage” set up as well. I guess there’s still time for a late-career “25 lesbians” bit.
20. “Lyla” (2005)
Their last great single. An absolute showcase for Zak Starkey’s heavy stomp and Noel’s angelic backing vocals, and also the first and last instance of “mademoiselle” appearing in an Oasis song. It didn’t quite bring them all the way back to their former glories, but “Lyla” was a sign that Oasis was settling into a respectable New Abnormal-sized resurgence right around the time that the Meet In The Bathroom bands were starting to implode.
19. “Gas Panic!” (2000)
An incredible achievement for Noel, in that he managed to write a song about cocaine that doesn’t make cocaine sound awesome. The exclamation point denotes terror, not elation. (This is the equivalent of Santana and Rob Thomas collaborating on a song about the downside of having “a hot one.”) He later claimed that none of the songs he wrote before 1997 were made “without the aid of the old Colombian marching gear,” and “that’s why they’re so good. And that pisses me off.” During the Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants era, Noel seemed incapable of separating the experience of making the record from the music itself. Which is why I think he slags off his first “sober” Oasis record, because writing a song like “Gas Panic!” was probably a lot less fun than layering 30 guitars on “My Big Mouth.” But “Gas Panic!” nevertheless stands apart as one of the only genuinely “dark” Oasis songs, with a heavy withdrawal undertow that stands fully apart from the party vibe of the first three records. It’s no wonder Oasis covered Neil Young’s “Hey, Hey, My, My” on their 2000 tour — they were in the midst of their own ditch period.
18. “Talk Tonight” (1994)
One of the earliest “sensitive” Noel songs. As he did “Rock ‘N’ Roll Star,” he’s imagining life as a touring musician — which entails flying on planes a thousand million miles from home and trying to rhyme “strawberry lemonade” with “make sure I eat today” — as well as the beautiful women that he’s left in his wake. (It’s also possible that he’s reminiscing about his former life as a roadie for British rock also-rans Inspiral Carpets. Though I find it hard to believe that roadies for Inspiral Carpets had their own groupies.) Also: The song begins with Noel “chewing on a bone,” which I later learned is British slang for “thinking intently about something,” but at the time I thought meant that he was really digging on a piece of a chicken. Never say Oasis songs aren’t educational.
17. “Listen Up”
One of three B-sides from the immortal “Cigarettes And Alcohol” single, which is probably my favorite Oasis release ever. I even put it above the albums, in part because of the cover, which encapsulates what made Oasis seem awesome in 1994 (and also now). We see our heroes Noel and Liam in a hotel room swigging champagne and hanging out with a couple of models. They look like they have just had sex or are about to have sex. Liam looks bored at the prospect, but Noel has a facial expression that communicates a feeling of total victory. (“Talk Tonight” takes place the morning after this spectacular scene.) As for this particular song, it’s incredible how hard it rocks because the band plays it so poorly. Tony McCarroll’s drums are even drunker than usual, which sets the tone of the rest of the sloppy musicianship, which sounds loose and disorganized and somehow absolutely perfect.
16. “Rockin’ Chair” (1994)
One of Noel’s most beautiful melodies and a top-five Liam vocal. This is the closest Oasis ever got to sounding like The La’s, the ill-fated Liverpool outfit whose lone self-titled 1990 debut helped to set the stage for Oasis, simply because the band’s resident genius Lee Mavers went into seclusion and has presumably lived off of “There She Goes” syncs ever since. If Oasis had committed to making retro folk-rock in the vein of “Rockin’ Chair,” they would be adored by 1,000 percent more vinyl nerds and would have been 1,000 percent less successful.
15. “Step Out” (1995)
Another great Noel melody that Stevie Wonder coincidentally happened to write first 29 years earlier. All I can say is that Oasis came into my life two months before I saw Pulp Fiction, and Noel Gallagher and Quentin Tarantino both taught me that stealing from the best and synthesizing those elements with flair, a sense of humor, and a certain shamelessness qualifies as great art.
14. “Some Might Say” (1995)
Speaking of stealing, this is Oasis’ second greatest T. Rex rip-off. (Memo to contemporary rock bands: Rip off T. Rex more.) “Some Might Say” is slightly diminished by being inferior to one of its B-sides. (More on that in a moment.) But this track is probably the best example of brick-walling really serving Oasis well, as the blown-out, distorted sound overwhelms the famously ridiculous lyrics, which are so dumb and lazy that you have respect Noel’s integrity for not even trying to improve them and really respect Liam for selling the hell out of them.
13. “Fade Away” (1994)
Oasis’ punkiest number, and the one where Liam stakes his claim at being the world’s most potent Johnny Rotten disciple. “Fade Away” is also the rare Oasis track with a genuine melancholy perspective on the arc from childhood to the adult world. This band ultimately connected with so many people because nearly all of their songs have a life-affirming message. Few rock bands are as strident about insisting that dreams are worth pursuing and possible to achieve. But in “Fade Away,” youthful dreams are ground to dust once you’re no longer a kid. Which must be why this song — which was good enough to make Definitely Maybe — was relegated to B-side status, because it would have negated all of the tunes around it.
12. “Columbia” (1994)
Noel has said that this is the first song he wrote for Oasis, not long after Liam invited him to join (and subsequently) take over his band, Rain. If that’s true, it suggests that he understood immediately what Oasis needed to be, in spite of their pedestrian beginnings. (The next two songs he wrote were “Up In The Sky” and “Live Forever.”) Everything about this song is epic, beginning with the long intro — Liam doesn’t even start singing until the 67-second mark. And then comes the chorus, which sparkles because of Noel’s all-time best backing vocal. This is not the sort of song you write if you want to play pubs for the rest of your life. “Columbia” is an act of positive stadium-rock visualization — you hear it once and you long to hear it again with 100,000 people.
11. “Supersonic” (1994)
Take a bow, Tony McCarroll. Yes, you were fired from Oasis. And, sure, I have taken some shots at you in this column. But you played the drum part on “Supersonic,” so you truly get the last laugh.
Every line in this song is a mission statement. “I need to be myself, I can’t be no one else.” “You can have it all but how much do you want it?” “You need to find a way for what you want to say.” I even agree with the part where Liam demands a gin and tonic, and I don’t even like gin and tonics. The only verse I can’t endorse is the one about snorting Alka-Seltzer, which doesn’t sound dangerous or even fun, just more like a way to provoke severe congestion.
10. “D’You Know What I Mean” (1997)
The first of two songs in my top 10 to open with the sounds of aircraft. Like many Oasis fans, I associate those sounds with helicopters because of the music video, in which Oasis performs this song in a hellscape that’s reminiscent of the second half of Full Metal Jacket. But it’s actually the sound of an airplane landing on an airstrip next to a house that Noel was renting in the Caribbean during the writing of Be Here Now. “We took the tapes back to Sony in London,” Noel later recalled, “and you’ve got all the suits sitting round the boardroom stereo thinking, ‘These fucking jokers are riding on the biggest expectations of any band this decade, and they have recorded a plane landing.’” But the plane sounds amazing, Noel, and it’s entirely appropriate for the “more is more” sensibility of Be Here Now‘s opening track.
9. “Morning Glory” (1995)
Now, here is the true Oasis “helicopter” song. It also about being blasted on cocaine, which makes me think that Noel must have been watching Goodfellas on VHS when he wrote it.
8. “Wonderwall” (1995)
Given that this song has been streamed 1.5 billion times on Spotify, and nearly a half billion times on YouTube, a case can be made that it is the most popular rock song of the ’90s. Which is kind of strange given that it wasn’t even the most popular rock song of 1995. That distinction probably belongs to “Lightning Crashes” by Live, which topped the Mainstream Rock chart for 10 weeks that year. Noel should remember this the next time someone puts on “Wonderwall” when he’s out at a restaurant in Ibiza. As uncomfortable as that might be, at least they’re not playing “Lightning Crashes.”
7. “Don’t Look Back In Anger” (1995)
The ultimate example of how you can write a classic rock anthem by sounding like an amalgam of every classic anthem released between 1968 and 1974. “Hey Jude,” “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” “Imagine,” “Changes,” “All The Young Dudes” — this song evokes all of them. Even though the lyrics make absolutely no goddamn sense. Let’s try to parse the following section:
Take me to the place where you go
Where nobody knows
If it’s night or day
But please don’t put your life in the hands
Of a rock and roll band
Who’ll throw it all away
I’m gonna start a revolution from my bed
‘Cause you said the brains I had went to my head
Step outside ’cause summertime’s in bloom
Stand up beside the fireplace
Take that look from off your face
‘Cause you ain’t ever gonna burn my heart out
And so Sally can wait
She knows it’s too late
As she’s walking on by
My soul slides away
But don’t look back in anger
I heard you say
Noel is apparently addressing Sally at the start, and (I assume?) he’s asking if she can take him to a windowless room. Sally presumably likes Oasis way too much, and Noel is trying to her talk her into taking a more pragmatic approach toward her fandom. Then Noel decides to go outside, because it’s sunny out there. Noel then accuses Sally of trying to “burn his heart out,” but she’s already walking away. “Don’t look back in anger,” she says. But why is Noel angry? This is left frustratingly vague. My best guess: There is also a fireplace in the windowless room, which would make that room feel like the inside of a gym sock given that it’s summertime.
In reality, the only lyric that really matters here is, “But please don’t put your life in the hands / Of a rock and roll band / Who’ll throw it all away.” Most people hear that line, and in their minds they turn the entire song into an older and wiser answer record to “Rock ‘N’ Roll Star.”
6. “Live Forever” (1994)
The third song Noel ever wrote. It’s amazing that he had enough chutzpah to think he could ever top it. This is absolutely the kind of song you hear once, and then the people who made it instantly become your favorite band. (The music video made for the American market makes this explicit by flashing on imagines of dead rock stars — Lennon, Hendrix, Cobain — that Oasis has been sent to replace.) Given their reputation for bloat and bombast, it’s worth noting how elegant and efficient their initial breakout is. This song is all rising action, starting with Liam’s flawless “Mayyyyyybe” and then ascending to the surprisingly brief seven-word chorus. Even Noel’s guitar solo is relatively succinct and tasteful.
5. “Cigarettes And Alcohol” (1994)
Is this the best working-class rock song of the ’90s? This is the best working-class rock song of the ’90s. For all of the guff that Noel catches for his lyrics — including from me in this column — he must be acknowledged for the absolute masterpiece of rock writing that he delivers here. As much as I love The Who, Noel actually improves on “My Generation” on this song. As for all the other signifiers of Gen X slacker culture, they all take a backseat to “Cigarettes And Alcohol” as far as I’m concerned. I could pretty much quote the entire song:
Is it my imagination
Or have I finally found something worth living for?
I was looking for some action
But all I found was cigarettes and alcohol
If this wasn’t your life at 21, I don’t want to know you.
You could wait for a lifetime
To spend your days in the sunshine
You might as well do the white line
Cos when it comes on top…
You gotta make it happen!
One could accuse Noel of inconsistent storytelling here, as affording “white lines” when you’re young and broke is next to impossible. But who am I to quibble with genius?
Is it worth the aggravation
To find yourself a job when there’s nothing worth working for?
It’s a crazy situation
But all I need are cigarettes and alcohol!
The best verse of all. It’s songs like this that make me nostalgic for one of the worst periods of my life. It’s why, until the day I die, I will always relish the smell of a freshly lit cigarette, even if I know the lingering stench ultimately isn’t worth it.
4. “Rock ‘N’ Roll Star” (1994)
In purely musical terms, this probably belongs right outside the top 10. But given that this is the greatest called shot in rock history — imagine if Oasis flopped and hadn’t become rock ‘n’ roll stars after “Rock ‘N’ Roll Star,” and instead became Gay Dad, how embarrassing would this song be then? — it definitely belongs in the top five.
3. “Slide Away” (1994)
Liam’s greatest and most emotional vocal. His superpower as a vocalist is whenever he pushes about 10 percent out of his range, and he does that all over this song. He might actually push it to 15 percent on the chorus, when he strains his voice on the “we’re two of a kind / we’ll find a way” section to the point of sounding slightly hoarse. If Noel had sung it, it would have been sweet but it wouldn’t have that same tension. When Liam delivers it, you hear him — ever so briefly — set his usual bullshit aside.
2. “Acquiesce” (1995)
In my heart, this is No. 1. Not just on an Oasis list but any list. It gives me everything I want from an Oasis song. First, it’s a B-side. Also, the opening riff is absolutely lethal. Liam’s vocal is commanding and exhilarating. Noel’s vocal chorus somehow tops it. It’s only four minutes and 27 seconds. It’s perfect.
“Acquiesce” is set up as an argument between the brothers, but it’s really a conversation about why their dynamic works so well. Liam’s verses are all about expressing venom and confusion and aspirations: “I don’t know what it is that makes me feel alive / I don’t know how to wake the things that sleep inside / I only want to see the light that shines behind your eyes.” Then Noel swoops in and expresses a breathtakingly complex (for this band) concept: “Because we need each other / We believe in one another / And I know we’re going to uncover / What’s sleepin’ in our soul.” How can Noel write those lines and not see how well he’s described his own band? You guys need each other. You recover what is sleepin’ in each others’ souls. All that’s left is believing in each other again.
Noel and Liam should be locked inside of a room with this song on repeat for as long as it takes for them to reunite.
1. “Champagne Supernova” (1995)
I didn’t go with “Acquiesce” because I worry that going with a B-side will be seen as annoying “obscurity for obscurity’s sake” behavior. So I’m going instead with Oasis’ “Stairway To Heaven,” which is the righteous and just choice. Whenever I hear this song, I think about the day in 1996 when I sat in my buddy Marc’s truck during our senior year of high school. His girlfriend had just dumped him, and he was crushed. “Champagne Supernova” came on the radio, and it was not his jam. (He was into Pantera.) But when Liam sang, “Someday you will find me / caught beneath the landslide / in a champagne supernova in the sky,” my big strong and macho buddy cried his eyes out. Just bawled like a baby. In that moment, he was transformed into Liam mewling “why, why, why, why?” (I think, like Liam, we were also gettin’ high.)
Now, can I explain what a champagne supernova in the sky is? I cannot. But I know Noel wrote it, and I know Liam interpreted it, and I know that somewhere in that process those words became profound. And I know how it makes me feel — it makes me feel like I’m watching a high school kid having his heartbroken. And how can that not move you? And how can you not love the band who moved you like that forever?