I first heard Oasis when my dad bought (What’s The Story) Morning Glory and I was hooked as soon as Liam Gallagher sang the word “shit” in the first song. They immediately became my favourite band, with much of my early teens spent buying all their singles and learning how to play their songs on the piano and the guitar. It was always Morning Glory and Be Here Now that I obsessed over though – I didn’t listen to Definitely Maybe anywhere near as much, and it took me a while to even realise it was any good.
The first time I heard many of these songs was the live Radio 1 broadcast of the 1996 Knebworth concert. They started with “Columbia” that day and, as it was a song I’d never heard before, I just assumed it was a new one (especially because, when writing down the tracklist for the tape he’d used to record the concert, my dad called it “The Way I Feel”). So it was a nice surprise to hear it again, first in demo form as the b-side to “Supersonic”, then in the middle of Definitely Maybe. In an album full of anthems and highlights, it still manages to stand out as one of the best songs Oasis ever recorded.
Another highlight is the album’s opener, “Rock ‘N’ Roll Star”, which is such a statement of intent for the album and their whole career, that it’s a real shame it’s followed up by one of the most dated-sounding songs on here. I always thought “Shakermaker” was an odd choice for a single, with its twee, New Seekers-aping melody and Lennon-like double tracked vocals. It does have its charms (the middle 8 especially), and songs like this and “Digsy’s Diner” add a little bit of light relief to the album, but it hasn’t aged very well at all.
Fortunately (or perhaps not for those who’ve had to endure them at Manchester indie clubs every night for the last 20 years), the other three singles they picked were far better, and are now deservedly held up as classics. Of the three, “Cigarettes And Alcohol” has always been my favourite, with its chugging riff and the oft-mocked “sunsheeeeiiiiine” – it’s got the best b-sides too.
They could have released even more singles from Definitely Maybe, and it always surprised me that “Slide Away” was just an album track, especially as it’s one of Liam’s best vocal performances. Like “Rocking Chair” later, the melody is right at the top of his range, but he sounds all the better for it, with the cracks and strains adding an emotional side to his voice and the song that you don’t normally get with Oasis.
Definitely Maybe finishes with “Married With Children”, a throwaway ditty with some very funny lyrics, mainly in the form of insults traded with a partner (“I hate the way that you are so sarcastic and you’re not very bright” is just one of many excellent put downs). The song wouldn’t really fit anywhere else, so you can see why they tacked it on at the end, but it does mean the album finishes on a bit of a damp squib. I love the song, and was such a fan I once played it at a school talent show (I got to sing “shite” in front of the rest of the school – I was such a rebel), but this is one of the only times I would have preferred a hidden track.
This is a brilliant album that’s rightly heralded as one of the best records released in the 1990s. While I probably have softer spots for the two that came after, I still return to this on a regular basis and will definitely continue to do so. Maybe.