WHILE DEFINITELY MAYBE distilled a lifetime of dreams into the most gratuitously exciting UK rock album since punk, its follow-up was driven by necessity, a rush-job: prefaced by the dismissal of drummer Tony McCarroll, written on the hoof and recorded in a mere 15 squabblesome days at Rockfield Studios in Wales. Even the album’s October 1995 release was disrupted by the eleventh hour removal of Step Out, where Noel Gallagher’s magpie compositional instincts had strayed beyond artistic licence into outright robbery – intolerably so, according to Stevie Wonder’s lawyers. But such was the pressure cooker atmosphere of the Britpop boom that the second Oasis album acquired era-defining status despite its manifest shortcomings. (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?’s chaotic genesis was a function of the demand for a soundtrack to the media-pumped mania of the band’s existence, a process that reached its astonishing peak at Knebworth on August 10-11, 1996, as 250,000 people sang the words of these songs back at their creators, who had the grace to look slightly flummoxed.
“Oasis had no time to pause – their moment was upon them, and they seized it fearlessly.”
Almost 20 years on, …Morning Glory? still doesn’t feel like the best-selling Oasis album. It opens too desperately with Hello – quoting Gary Glitter was aesthetic laziness at the time, let alone the unfortunate connotations now – and lurches under a surfeit of middling tempos. Cast No Shadow and Don’t Look Back In Anger peddle lachrymose generational nostalgia for second-hand memories, sorely lacking Definitely Maybe’s edgy agitation. The absence of the rollicking Step Out undermines the album’s second half, which drags despite the inclusion of transcendent single Some Might Say. Remastering simply affirms the record's crucial attribute: Liam Gallagher’s mighty voice, feeling life’s wonder as he anticipates its let down, on the abiding Wonderwall and Champagne Supernova.
Tellingly, Some Might Say is the song most represented by this 3-CD deluxe edition (the original, plus Noel’s deeply affecting solo demo and a June ’95 live performance). It’s a watershed: the band’s first Number 1 single and the original line-up’s last hurrah – poetically, Tony McCarroll’s final act would be to perform the song on Top Of The Pops, while his replacement Alan White’s debut was doing likewise one week later – as well as a valedictory gasp of innocence before the slideaway into celebrity's corrosive bubble.
The CD of B-side material is tantalising: surely if the band had taken stock for just a few months, (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? could have been far stronger (mournful Rockin’ Chair and zinging Underneath The Sky easily outdo the leaden Hey Now!). But Oasis had no time to pause – their moment was upon them, and they seized it fearlessly. For all its flaws, the outcome remains spectacular.
PHOTOS: Jill Furmanovsky, Stefan de Batselier