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.

Oasis’s “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?”

Cover of Morning Glory by Oasis

This week, I’ve been listening to Oasis’s second album “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?” from 1995. I graduated from high school in Ohio while Oasis were in the studio recording these tracks. The CD hit records stores only four months later, in October. In the United States, we were almost completely unaware of Oasis, having missed their first album. Some of us may’ve caught the video for “Morning Glory” on late night MTV that winter. And then the single “Wonderwall” was released. By the spring of 1996, “Wonderwall” seemed to be everywhere. Soon after, we also fell in love with “Champagne Supernova.” I bought the CD by the end of April, and these songs were a major part of my 1996 soundtrack.

All of this tremendous music was hitting our ears, along with stories of the sibling band members, Noel and Liam Gallagher. There were stories of rock n’ roll drug use, fighting between brothers, and public cocky braggadocio. The press made a big deal out of their claims they were going to be bigger than The Beatles, which seems a bit of a turn on Lennon’s claim about the Beatles vs. Jesus. Noel was full of great lines for the press like, “We’re not arrogant, we just believe we’re the best band in the world.” He also pointed out that if you say something enough times, a lot of people are going to start believing it.


The third track “Wonderwall,” proved to be Oasis’s biggest hit and most lasting song. They obviously knew they had something with it, as the first track “Hello” starts with a tease of the “Wonderwall” riff. Originally the song was named “Wishing Well,” but was changed to a reference to George Harrison’s first song album “Wonderwall Music“. This song received a lot of play in 1996. In most cases, this would burn me out on a song, but “Wonderwall” is just tremendously good. The feeling comes across as hopeful in contrast to the slower tempo and minor key.

The verses follow a i-III-VIIsus4-IVsus4 chord progression. The highest two notes on the acoustic rhythm guitar remain the same throughout. The rest of the guitar strings are playing a more simple i-III-VII-iv progression, but those suspended fourths (and the raising of the minor iv to a major IV) happen by virtue of those high strings. This plus the strumming pattern (not too unlike “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and Radiohead’s “Just“) make the rhythm guitar immediately distinctive. And I’ve always loved how the drums come in half a measure after the second verse starts. That’s brilliant, and derived from the style of Ringo Starr.

The obtuse lyrics relay the feeling of things going badly, but having a relationship with somebody who could turn things around. The verses consist of four lines followed by a two line refrain. The first four follow a ABCB rhyme scheme, and sometimes the second line rhymes with the final line of the refrain. Every verse ends with “I don’t believe that anybody feels the way I do about you now.” This refrain expresses directly and beautifully something that many of us have felt at one time or another. Surely, accomplishing that is one of the keys of great songwriting. If you write a great line like that and it holds up to repetition, why not make it a refrain?

Today is gonna be the day
That they’re gonna throw it back to you
By now you should’ve somehow
Realized what you gotta do
I don’t believe that anybody
Feels the way I do about you now

Some Might Say

“Some Might Say” kicks off the second half of the album with some T-Rex inspired overdriven guitar. Oasis slam this electric Bolan riff into a wall of bright 90s guitar rock. Tony McCarroll’s drums stomp and smash, with cymbals crashing on the second and fourth beat throughout the chorus and much of the song. Bass guitar rolls along supporting the bottom end without competing with the guitars. Layers of distorted guitar creating a harmonic rich rock haze while the echo drenched vocals deliver the anthemic melody. There’s no denying the Beatles influence, in fact Noel Gallagher constantly did the opposite, perhaps overstating it, but with all the 90s noise here, the melody is rather Paul McCartney.

Champagne Supernova

“Champagne Supernova” stands as one of the greatest album closers of all time. It starts with water sound effects, joined by long notes played on a melodica by guitarist Paul “Bonehead” Arthurs. Single notes played on guitar ring out like bells. An acoustic guitar gently strums an Asus chords with a descending bass note: A-G-F#-E. Another epic anthem, “Champagne Supernova” has an overall wistful feel fought by hopeful rises for the chorus. It’s a disconnected sort of sad longing, a desire for something more without really caring so much.

Each verse consists of two sets of three lines: a couplet followed by a single line refrain. So we end up with a rhyme scheme of AAB CCB. With the one exception, the refrain is always the question, “Where were you while we were getting high?” Its not clear who is better off. Is the speaker missing the absent other, or are they wondering what better thing they could be doing? Because, this hanging out getting high with the promise of being caught beneath landslides doesn’t seem like a good time.

How many special people change?
How many lives are living strange?
Where were you while we were getting high?
Slowly walking down the hall
Faster than a cannonball
Where were you while we were getting high?

I would personally consider this the best song on the album, with “Wonderwall” being a close second. It takes the listener on a journey, with rising chorus, soaring psychedelic rock solos, swirling reverb, dancing drums. The ambivalent emotion comes across perfectly, some could hear desperation, sadness, longing, triumph, listlessness, hope, aspiration. A wide range. Noel Gallagher is a master of writing well-formed ambiguous obtuse lyrics that present first with style and later develop meaning through absorption. He creates that which is relatable through allusion and illusion.