20th August 1995 is for me one of those where were you? moments. I recall driving back from a day at the beach, listening to the UK Top 40, as the winner of the Battle of Britpop was announced. Blur’s ‘Country House’ pipped Oasis’ ‘Roll With It’ to then coveted number one spot. At the time, I was delighted that cheeky chappy Damon Albarn and his band had beaten the Gallagher brothers to the prize. Despite my opinions, six weeks later I held the new Oasis album in my hand. Twenty five years later, with nostalgia swirling through my brain, I reach up half expecting to feel the centre parting of my curtains hairstyle. The hair is long gone but the real question is whether (Whats the Story) Morning Glory? stands the test of time?
On release, Morning Glory was a huge commercial success, selling 345,000 copies in its first week. At the time, it became the second fastest selling album of all time in the UK. Even now, the album is the fifth biggest seller of all time in the UK. Commercial success doesn’t mean critical success and on its release the album attracted mixed reviews. In Spin, Chuck Eddy wrote that the band had eschewed the “Bowie glitter” of their debut for “generic classic rock”. David Stubbs of Melody Maker described the album as “laboured and lazy”. Conversely, Jon Wiederhorn of Rolling Stone awarded the LP four stars. He described it as a “bold leap forward that displays significant musical and personal growth”
It is incredible to think that some reviewers felt that Morning Glory was inferior to Oasis’ debut album Definitely Maybe. Maybe the sense of “phony Beatlemania” as it was described by Robert Christgau of the Village Voice’s annual Pazz & Jop Critic’s Poll generated a sense of snobbery amongst critics. Noel Gallagher is such a clever musical magpie, which helps define Morning Glory as a twentieth century classic album.
Morning Glory has an inauspicious opening with ‘Hello’ and ‘Roll with It’. Their savage guitars and heavy drum backing continue where Definitely Maybe left off. On this evidence, the album doesn’t seem original. I agree with Andy Gill of The Independent when he described the second track as “drab and chummy”. I still wonder why Oasis chose to pitch the worst song on the album against Blur.
The entire feel of Morning Glory changes with the now familiar guitar refrains of ‘Wonderwall’. Above relatively understated guitars and drum beat, Liam’s voice sounds smooth and soothing. This is progression from the shouty nasally performances of their debut album. When the violin and drum beat kick in at the word “Beatbeat” is one of my favourite parts of any song.
After Wonderwall, we move onto the strongest track on the album and what I regard as the best Oasis song ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’. Perhaps Noel knew the strength of the track as he took a rare stint on lead vocals. Noel admits he has no idea what the song he wrote is about. He has confirmed that the opening piano riff is lifted from ‘Imagine’. The line “So I start a revolution from my bed, ‘cause you said the brains I had went to my head” is adapted from a John Lennon quote. Whilst Beatlesque in tone, the guitars are distinctively Oasis and a classic stadium anthem. Poignantly, the song was adopted by Manchester in the aftermath of the Ariana Grande concert bombing in 2017.
The strength of Morning Glory is that the quality is not limited to the anthemic ballads. The lead single ‘Some Might Say’ is the track Noel Gallagher described as the “archetypal Oasis song.” It is not hard to see why, with the swirling distortion of guitars backing Liam’s sneering vocals. ‘Morning Glory’ with the opening guitar riff and sampled helicopter sounds is an assault on the senses. The way Liam punches out the words, makes you want to grab your air guitar and join the massed throngs. The album even gives us the jaunty ‘She’s Electric’ which, dare I say it, would have been at home on a Blur album.
Morning Glory has its moment of beauty with ‘Cast No Shadow’. With a gentle reflective melody enhanced with strings, it is easy to see why the song was originally penned for The Verve. Inclusion here adds to the overall balance of the album. It contains one of my favourite lyrics “As they took his soul, they stole his pride.”
What lifts Morning Glory from being a great album to a classic album is the sign-off track ‘Champagne Supernova’. Including a seven minute song was a risky strategy. However, this is no ordinary track. This is Oasis’ ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. Oasis’ ‘A Day in the Life’. ‘Champagne Supernova’ starts life as a gentle melodic ballad with Liam’s voice a light touch. As the song moves on we get the wall of Oasis guitars and layered riffs – a cacophony of noise. Before we finish, Liam takes us back down with the gentle melody returning. As the guitars gently burn away, the listener is sonically transported to the shores of some distant beach. Liam again asks us “Where were you while we were getting high?” Without any chemical enhancement, twenty five years later Morning Glory leaves the listener on a musical high.
In his 1995 Rolling Stone review, Jon Wiederhorn, concluded, “If Oasis can avoid falling prey to the kind of brotherly shove that eventually destroyed the Kinks artistically, the future looks bright indeed.” History has taught us that Oasis ultimately took the path he feared. For me, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? is the musical pinnacle of the Oasis story. Oasis may have lost the singles chart battle against Blur on that sunny August afternoon, but with this album, they fashioned a classic that has stood the test of time.
Words by Andrew Butcher
Check out Andrew’s blog here.
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