Oasis’s “Definitely Maybe”

Cover of Oasis's "Definitely Maybe"

This week, I’ve been listening to Oasis’s debut album “Definitely Maybe” from 1994. This makes the second Oasis I’ve done for this “great albums” project, the first being their second album, “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?” Coincidentally, that’s the same order I heard these albums in the 1990s. I believe “Wonderwall” introduced me to the band in 1996. Closely followed by “Champagne Supernova.” I remember a friend of mine complaining that Liam pushed his voice too hard in “Wonderwall.” I didn’t really know what that meant. I was reluctant to like them at first, but within a year I had bought both “Morning Glory” and “Definitely Maybe.” Both albums directly influenced stuff I was writing then, getting constant play in my walkman. Suffice it to say, I’m well acquainted with this album.

Live Forever

The third track on the album, “Live Forever” starts with a tom and kick drum pattern. It’s like a 30s jazz groove slowed down. A clean electric guitar strums a chord, then Liam sings “Maybe I don’t really wanna know how your garden grows ‘Cause I just wanna fly.” One of the most Oasis sounding lyric lines sung in the most Oasis way. If you want to jump Oasis with an early song that introduces the overall feel of the band, this song is not a bad place to start.Within 20 seconds, you have been introduced.

Furthermore, Noel Gallagher knowingly draws inspiration from a classis rock song: the opening line “Maybe I don’t really want to know..” mimics the Rolling Stones line “May the good lord shine a light on you…” from 1972’s “Shine A Light.” Undoubtedly, Oasis followed proto-britpop bands like Primal Scream who also referenced Shine A Light in their 1991 song “Movin’ On Up.” Noel and Oasis developed a reputation for knowingly and proudly borrowing from classic rock.

For chord progressions, the verses band plays I-V-ii-IV-V twice; the I-V-ii are played one chord per 4 beat measure, then the fourth measure has IV-V played half a bar each. For the first verse, the chords are strummed once at the start of each change. Then into the chorus begins constant strumming on the super-compressed overdriven electric guitar through Marshall amps loud and probably an Ibanez Tube Screamer. These studio recordings extensively layer guitars to create this wall of fuzzy strumming. This near-constant noise of distorted guitar chords fills much of the album. The chorus follows the same chord progression, except the first chord is no longer the tonic I, but rather the minor submediant vi chord.

Noel does something unusual with the lyrics of “Live Forever” by having every verse be the same but making the choruses different. Typically, especially in pop songs, the choruses are identical, potentially allowing for minor variation and the verses are each different. Here he turns that around. Each chorus ends with the “You and I are gonna live forever…” as a refrain to tie the song together, and also to the title of the song.

Digsy’s Dinner

Oasis open “Digsy’s Dinner” with a hopping percussive crunchy overdriven electric guitar strumming. The song jumps at a raucious 140 BPM, with guitars, bass, and drums all heavily emphasizes the four downbeats of each measure, giving a little hop at the end of each bar. The bass also plays the eight notes, racing the rhythm along. This mood well suits the charmingly romantic and yet silly lyrics of the song.

The verses follow a I-III7-IV-V-IV-V-IV-V chord progression as Liam sings about inviting a girl over for tea and lasagna. He’s quite confident in his pasta, claiming that her friends “will all go green for my lasagna.” The choruses then jump into a vi-I-ii7-III7-I chord progression. Notice that in both verse and chorus, Noel makes use of a major III chord, which is typically a minor chord. Noel takes the same approach as in “Live Forever” by starting the chorus with the minor submediant vi chord. In addition to change in melody, the chorus sees the guitars play layers of constant strumming and arpeggios.

Slide Away

“Slide Away” starts with melodic picking on the overdriven electric guitar, layered with another guitar playing a lead solo, and yet another electric guitar strumming rhythmically. All the guitars overdrive their amps, allowing them to blend together into a massive force. This even while the playing itself is not particularly complex, the chord progression however is unusual.

The verses slide through a vi7-V-IV chord progression, repeated four times. Most pop rock songs will start on the tonic I chord, not the vi chord. What these verses do is give an illusion of resolving, but don’t provide a strong resolution. This creates the sense of longing and nostalgia that runs through the song.

After two verses, the band goes into a pre-chorus: V-IV-V-IV-V-IV-V-V. This repetition of dominant and subdominant chords tells the listener that the song is building up to something, and the ear hopes for cadence, which the band delivers. “Now that you’re…” and on the word “..mine” we finally hit that tonic I chord. The song feels grounded. And yet, the chorus doesn’t stay there long, going through V-IV- and back to the vi7, falling to a V, a II7 and IV. Again, we drift away from that grounded tonic.. until “two of a…” and on “kind.” back to the tonic I. Tying the meaning of the words to the feeling of the progression. This is home, this is the way things are meant to be.

The Stone Roses’ “The Stone Roses”

Cover for Stone Rose's Self-Titled Album

This week, I’ve been listening to the Stone Roses’ self-titled debut album from 1989. I fell in love with this album the first time I heard it in 1994. My friend Julie in high school played the CD for me, probably the same day she introduced me to The Fall and the Beautiful South. Their sound was nostalgic and dreamy, at times psychedelic, others watery or airy. While it drew on influences of so much music I’d grown up with, I’d never heard anything quite like it. The Stones Roses hold an evolutionary position between the Paisley Underground genre of the 80s and the Britpop genre of the 90s. In a way, what they created was Paisley Underground influenced by the rhythms of Acid-House music. Singer Ian Brown and guitarist John Squire wrote the songs. Bassist Mani providing much of the rolling grove and drummer Reni lending the songs their dancing beats.

She Bangs the Drums

The Stone Roses started to really catch international attention with their single “She Bangs the Drums.” The song describes being enamored with a girl through description of listening to music. The song that he hears perfectly captures the emotions he feels, partly because she causes him to hear the music. The seven line verses follow a AABBCCC rhyme scheme, and the six line chorus has AABCCB.

The third and sixth lines of the chorus are the same, “to describe the way I feel.” This makes the chorus two sets of three lines. The first set explains how there are no words to describe how he feels, and then the second set tell how she is the only one who can describe how he feels. This works captures the theme of the song cleverly. The feelings she causes within the speaker cause him to hear music; music which perfectly expresses how he feels; And as much as she plays the music, she has conceptually become the music.

I can feel the earth begin to move
I hear my needle hit the groove
And spiral through another day
I hear my song begin to say
Kiss me where the sun don’t shine
The past was yours
But the future’s mine
You’re all out of time

The verse of the song repeat a V-V-V-IV, to simplify it. The bright slightly-overdriven guitars mix rocking chord strumming with arpeggios that create psychedelic swirling textures. The chorus repeats a I-IV-I-IV-I-IV-V progression. The fact that the verses do not include the tonic chord helps the I-IV progression of the chorus feel more anthemic. The feeling is that the chorus musically provides the resolution (on the word “feel”) that the verses have been leading up to.


“Waterfall” opens with a low fade-in feedback met by single-note arpeggios played on electric guitar.. This guitar tone is an incredibly important part of the Stone Roses’ sound. Squire frequently combines the overdrive with chorus. In most cases, he pushes the overdrive only just to the breaking point; The use of chorus is similarly subtle, adding just enough to be present. This gives his guitar a richer tone while still coming across pretty clean. When he wants to go more of a lead tone, he adds some fuzz. And of course, the guitar sits in clouds of reverb, as does everything else.

The lyrics tells of a woman asserting independence by running away and finding her own life. Perhaps she is young and the home she leaves is her parents, or maybe she’s later in life and escaping an unfulfilling life. As the song progresses, the hints also get stronger that this woman may also be a symbol for Britain threatened by American influence. Either way, the narrator assures that “She’ll carry on through it all.” The last line suggests that what threatens her is what empowers her:

See the steeple pine
The hills as old as time
Soon to be put to the test
To be whipped by the winds of the west

Stands on shifting sands
The scales held in her hands
The wind it just whips her away
And fills up her brigantine sails

I love the sound of this song; I also love that the next song on the album “Don’t Stop” is based on Waterfall in reverse.. It’s like a mirror placed between the two tracks, and yet their different. They even wrote and sang lyrics that sound like Waterfall’s reverse vocals. Both songs stand on their own, but are even better back-to-back.

I Am the Resurrection

My favorite track “I Am the Resurrection” closes the album. It opens with an unassuming drum pattern. Just kick and snare and hi-hat. Then the bass joins after a full 8 bars. This same pattern plays through most of the song proper, with a few cymbal crashes and banging fills leading intoa and out of the refrains. That’s 15 seconds with nothing a repeated drum pattern without variation. Ian sings “Down, down, you bring me down.”

There are what we might consider two choruses to the song. . I’m talking about the “I am the resurrection and I am the life, I couldn’t ever bring myself to hate you as I’d like.” Though what I’m calling the main chorus, COULD qualify as the coda. Though when the proper song ends after about 3 and half minutes, the band launches into a 4 and half minute extended outro. It’s brilliant and servers as an outro for both the song and the album as a whole. Being purely instrumental for over 4 minute allows the band to jam out with a drummer banging away at a funky-drummer inspired beat.

Don’t waste your words I don’t need anything from you
I don’t care where you’ve been or what you plan to do