When I was sixteen I saw a picture that ended up defining the rest of my adolescence. It was a picture of five men sitting in a room. One was laid on the floor, another sat on a plush sofa, a guitar in hand. The rest were watching TV. The picture was the cover art of Oasis’ first album, Definitely Maybe.
I bought the picture – and more importantly – the tape cassette it enveloped and listened to it again and again and again and again… That’s how you consume when you’re a teenage boy who has found his sound. And Oasis were my sound.
I wanted every part of them: the bravura swagger of Liam, the song-writing genius of Noel. And while the other three band members somewhat faded in to the background when you saw the whole package together on stage – which I did several times – the effect was astounding.
Against my better judgement I probably loved Liam most of all. He was beautiful and manly and somewhat dangerous. Nearly every week there would be a story in the papers about his latest fracas. I was drawn to his chaos. Because I was in chaos too. My body had thrown me in to a belated puberty that caused me to shoot up nearly a foot in height in the space of a year with no discernible weight gain.
I hated what I had become physically and so did the girls apparently, judging by the way they kept me at arm’s length. Or maybe they did that because I came across as a bit of a weirdo, doing my insane Liam impersonation any time Oasis got played at a party. Standing in the middle of the room with hands behind my back and my chin pushed forward. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it now but I even began affecting a slight mancunian accent in honour of him.
Don’t Look Back in Anger
Fast-forward ten years to my late twenties. By now I was in London, moving with a fairly smart set. As I looked back then it appeared to me that my love of Oasis had been somewhat misplaced. Liam was more or less becoming what he is now – a parody of himself – and when I heard the music again it struck me as hopelessly naive next to their contemporaries Blur, who you were told to hate if you loved Oasis.
I never really bought in to the rivalry that much but I was always firmly on the side of Oasis. Whereas back then in mid-2000s London Blur’s music seemed so much more knowing and prescient than the Oasis sound.
Let’s tick off another ten years and here we are – 2019 – and I find I have re-discovered Oasis in the last couple of years and in a completely different context than I could have ever imagined. In the course of my own personal journey I have discovered something extraordinary about Oasis – they are actually very spiritual. This completely passed me by.
I guess the aura of male aggression surrounding the band in its prime would have made any appraisal of this kind impossible for me at the time. Plus at the time I lacked the knowledge to understand the spiritual references in Noel’s lyrics. I had no idea, for example, that when in the Masterplan (one of their best songs, certainly their best B-side) Noel sings that ‘life, on the other hand, won’t make you understand, we’re all part of a masterplan’, this is a spiritual message about fate and karma and trusting in the universe.
Be Here Now
Neither did I know that the title of their third album was a direct reference to one of the most famous spiritual books of the New Age movement, Ram Dass’ Be Here Now.
Learning this in retrospect makes me wonder if this was in fact what I was drawn to all along, and that the male posturing was just a distraction to which I ended up attaching too much importance. When Liam sang, ‘I’m free to be whatever I, whatever I choose and I’ll sing the blues if I want,’ it was surely that message of self-actualisation that my heart responded to.
Because for all the dramas surrounding the group Oasis’ music at its best is always blindingly, beautifully positive. How could that positivity not in the end come from a position of faith. And how could I not respond to that call, a teenage boy, who despite all the angst really did believe I was free to be whatever I wanted. Even a rock’n’roll star.
Here’s a few Oasis tracks you might want to listen to if you feel in need of inspiration: