To celebrate the fact that so many great albums were released in 1994, Giddy Up America is looking back at some of the best and some of my favorites. You can follow along on Spotify with Giddy Up America’s Albums of 1994 playlist.
Giddy Up America’s Albums of 1994, Part Five: Oasis Definitely Maybe
John Bonham has himself some legendary drum beats- beats that are significantly memorable and instantly recognizable. The minute you hear the beat of “When the Levee Breaks,” you know what song it is. That thumping back beat, the thunderous bass drum and lightning snap of the snare drum. It’s saying something that within the very first measure of the song, you know what it is, especially because it’s drums that are what serve as the signifier for what song it is. Guitar parts are easy. Same with vocals and pretty much any other instrument. But for drums to serve as that warning shot, that’s something.
Now I don’t know who played drums for Oasis on their song “Live Forever,” but that beat is right up there for me with “When the Levee Breaks.” To this day, twenty years after it’s release, as soon as I hear that beat (and it’s not a particularly original beat) I know what song it is. I love that beat- the sound of ride cymbal, the back and forth between rim shots and the floor tom. That beat has been played for years, but to my knowledge, never sounded like that. It was, and let’s be honest, one of the few things that Oasis did that was 100% original. Actually, back it up- the beat epitomizes everything that is Oasis- something inherently familiar twisted ever so slightly to be theirs. Oasis were never ones to re-invent the wheel, but they did alter ever so slightly the position of the spokes.
Definitely Maybe, Oasis’ debut album, was released in April of 1994. A reissue of the album was released early this year- complete with the required demo and live versions of the album’s songs. “Live Forever” remains the most popular song from the album. I actually think it’s probably one of the best songs of the decade. It has a regal vibe to it that was severely missing from almost everything released that decade. In a decade full of dirt, mud and sour grapes, it comes out shiny, clean and pristine. England- they can make anything sound fancy.
Because yes, Oasis were from England and had a hard on the size of the country’s once gigantic empire for the Beatles. We all love the Beatles. Oasis however, loved the Beatles, only slightly less than they loved referring to themselves as the next Beatles. That was their thing- they were the next Beatles. No one was asking for another band to be the Beatles, but Oasis was going to be that band anyway so go eff yourself San Diego. Their Beatles fascination and allegiance comes out more in their second album, specifically a song like “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” which despite not really making any sense, sounds like a Lennon/McCartney outtake. It might even be about John Lennon. Tough to say. Because hey, fun fact about Oasis- I’m pretty sure they put lyrics together via Mad Libs. Who cares, though? Sounded good. Not every song needs to be comprised of poetry. Jim Morrison was a poet and even some of his stuff is shit. Oasis wrote some great melodies. If the words involved in said melodies were borderline ridiculous and occasionally nonsensical than whatever. Oasis weren’t a bottom line band, they were a rock ‘n roll band. The only lines they were concerned with were fraught with booger bombs headed for their nostrils.
They fought each other. They spit on stage. They were surly, obnoxious, arrogant, dickish.
They were refreshing.
Music in 1994 was reflective in some of the worst possible ways. Kurt Cobain killed himself because he hated fame (among other things) and Eddie Vedder railed against an establishment that put him on the cover of Time. No one was interested in being a rock star, only railing against the trappings of rock stardom. With big venues came big responsibility and no one seemed all that keen in the latter. Then Oasis came along, kicking in the door of self-pity with their hands full of booze, coke and their egos. They wanted nothing more than to only be rock stars- specifically the biggest effin’ rock stars on the planet. Sad sacks be damned, they would only be bummed when good time juice was empty. The Oasis rebellion was different than a band like Weezer’s was– whereas Weezer brought sunshine to the rain soaked tundra that was the early 90’s, Oasis’ emergence was layered in our eff off defiance of the rain. It was not misery, it was not joy. Oasis was pure hedonistic celebration.
The band’s second album will probably be remembered as the more accomplished album, but I’ll always be partial to Definitely Maybe. It’s a song like “Digsy’s Diner” that will stick with me, or “Slide Away” or “Rock ‘n Roll Star,” which has to go on the list of best album opening tracks. For a song needed to announce a band like Oasis’ arrival, I’d be hard pressed to find a better one. And it’s so unbelievably perfect and fitting that a band who harbored such gigantic aspirations from the jump to come out of the gates swinging with a track entitled “Rock ‘n Roll Star.” As if they would start their first album with anything else? Oasis’ goals and aspirations were as pronounced as lead singer Liam Gallagher’s unibrow. They weren’t coy or bashful. They were downright full of themselves and downright proud of it and downright ready to conquer the world.
And they kind of did. Not so much with this first album, more so with their second, thanks to “Don’t Look Back in Anger” and “Champagne Supernova.” Then “Wonderwall” came around and the band blew up, helping incite the kind of earth-shattering dominance they strove for. But it was a relatively short-lived reign of pop rock terror, as they never again reached the kind of peaks they did with (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?
The band reportedly called it quits in 2009, ending a tumultuous decade for the band that mainly featured the absence of it’s songwriting force of nature, Noel Gallagher. It was essentially Liam and some dudes. For a while it was another band, Beady Eye, which may or may not still exist and people may or may not even care about. The reality is that Oasis never really existed in the 00’s, only the 90’s. That was their time. That was when they made the most sense.
Oasis hit the scene at the exact right time, when a band like Oasis was needed. They were rock stars before anyone even knew their name and they’ll be rock stars long after people have forgotten.
Like it or not, Oasis will live forever.