The twenty best Oasis songs?
Seven studio albums.
Twenty-five top twenty singles.
How do you refine so much music down to just twenty songs? The answer, if you love Oasis the way that so many do, is that you can’t. I don’t love Oasis. There are moments of Oasis that I love but, if I am honest (and I don’t see why I shouldn’t be), their brand of bloke rock leaves me feeling…actually, that’s the problem, it leaves me not feeling. But there are moments in the catalogue that propel even a delicate flower like me to adopt that ridiculous walk that Richard Ashcroft does in the video for “Bittersweet Symphony” and there are other moments that are, no matter how loudly detractors like me bray to the contrary, are rock ’n’ roll at it’s finest…it’s just that they are fewer and further apart than the devout in their fanbase would want to admit.
Bring It On Down, 1994 (Definitely Maybe)
"You're the outcast, you're the underclass, but you don't care, because you're living fast"
Do we need another reason to include this? This is the sound of youth, of disenchantment and the disenfranchised. A rare moment when Oasis actually said…something, as opposed to just saying anything that happened to rhyme.
Everyday was a blur for me until Britpop arrived.
I was here, there and everywhere. Constantly on my own. Standing on the fringes. Looking for someone to blame. I was the outcast. I was the underclass. An uninvited guest. Convinced "they" were talking about me.
Despite the fact that the bulk of their audience would have been the boys at school who regularly beat me up for being a “poof” (I wasn’t gay but I liked “gay” things and so I was a “poof”) and despite the dreadfulness of the lad culture that Oasis helped bring into the mainstream of popular culture, a song like “Bring it on Down” can be viewed as an anthem for the very people they ended up erasing from pop music.
D'Yer Wanna Be A Spaceman, 1994 (Shakermaker, B-Side)
I didn't buy "Supersonic" and I certainly didn't have a white label demo of "Columbia".
The first record I bought by Oasis was "Shakermaker" and this little bit of shimmering, shining, hope and light was the track that convinced me that this was a band I could put a bit of faith in.
"We could just forget about life in this town"
That was exactly what I was trying to do.
Something about the truth at the heart of this song...that as we grow we lose sight of our dreams, that reality crushes hope made me shed real tears. Tears of sadness as I thought of all the things I had wanted to do and that, at the start of my twenties, I already knew I never would.
A punch to the gut.
But then the realisation that there was hope too...that if Noel had found his chance long after most people would have told him it had passed him by, then maybe it wasn't too late for me either.
If only they had carried on in this vein.
Half the World Away, 1994 (Whatever, B-Side)
The theme song for one of my favourite television shows, "The Royle Family".
Sitting in front of the telly with your mum and dad and siblings watching Saturday night light entertainment is a near universal experience for people of my age and from my background.
"The Royle Family" captured all the nuance, awfulness, joy, love, laughter and sadness of working class family life...in the same way that Oasis captured the hopes and dreams of the kids from those sorts of homes; kids with bigger dreams than their parents.
"I could feel the warning signs, running around my mind"
I've been feeling those warning signs for a while now...
Not a lot helps to quiet them...but listening to this does.
There is a maudlin quality to this that, as with “D’Yer Wanna be a Spaceman”, had me convinced that Oasis were more than football casuals with guitars. I still think that’s true, it’s just that they ended up trying to live up to their image and playing to their audiences expectations instead of looking to move forward.
Cast No Shadow, 1995 (What's the Story Morning Glory)
I think a theme is developing here.
This may be to do with my current emotional "condition".
I've been feeling a little...
There was a time in my life when I thought that listening to The Smiths was the solution to that. I thought I could find solace in the songs that had saved my life. Now I think they didn't save my life...they didn't offer hope or escape, they simply reflected what I was feeling back at me. I'm not sure that really helped.
I wish I had been able to choose the hope offered by Oasis. I would have given anything to be one of the boys. But it’s important to be true to oneself and, truthfully, I was never going to be a white lines boy. I love Oasis when they are a bit broken…a bit vulnerable. A bit…not Oasis.
"Bound with all the weight of all the words he tried to say.” A lovely, poignant bit of non-sense.
Step Out, 1996 (Don't Look Back in Anger, B-Side)
Talent borrows...genius steals.
Noel Gallagher knows music.
Because he knows music he knew that "Uptight" by Stevie Wonder is one of the greatest songs in the history of popular music...
Or he had heard "Love 45" by Orange Deluxe and thought that it sounded ace... Doesn't matter which...they are both fab.
So is this.
Guaranteed to make me feel better, bigger, stronger, happier.
A hand clappin', foot stompin', classic that Geno Washington would have been proud to claim as his own.
Interestingly this is soul music done as rock ’n’ roll standard. My Oasis story is filled with “what if…” moments. What if they had carried on down this path, looking to create a new soul vision as Dexys had done twenty years earlier? Obviously nobody in Oasis is a genius or an artist like Kevin Rowland but they had momentum and they had talent, they could have done something…more.
Be Here Now, 1997 (Be Here Now)
Much, and oft, derided in the years since its release the third album from Oasis is, in truth, a cocaine soaked, bombastic, arrogant, slab of too much, too much. That’s why it’s my favourite Oasis album. It is an affront to all the music I actually adore but something about the fact that every single song is too long, has one idea too many and is wrong in almost every way makes me love it.
"D'You Know What I Mean?", "My Big Mouth", "Don't Go Away", "Stand By Me", "Fade In-Out", "All Around the World"...and this, the title track, all show a band high on success, dizzy with their own brilliance and fuelled by industrial quantities of cocaine. That makes for quite the marvellous medicine.
This chugs, churns, soars, swoops and boils along with a pounding beat and nursery rhyme rhythm that makes it impossible not to love.
Going Nowhere, 1997 (Stand By Me, B-Side)
A dreamy, plaintiff, yearning, mournful and yet, again, hopeful song with soaring strings, gently weeping guitars, subtle brass and a beautiful vocal from Noel.
It has something in common with "To Be Someone" by The Jam in its lyrical content...dreams of being a millionaire, driving a fast car, being someone. Which is interesting because Noel covered that song for the "Fire and Skill" tribute album.
A song that I reckon a lot of people would have let slip past them but one of my absolute favourite Oasis tracks.
Let's All Make Believe, 2000 (Go Let it Out, B-Side)
The first fruits of the new decade from Oasis included this B-Side to "Go Let it Out" which... Oh this is going to make me sound mad.
To Hell with it.
I'm just going to say it.
I reckon this would have made a fantastic Bond theme.
It's dramatic and orchestral.
I can see those shadowy figures moving and grooving across the screen as this plays. Just me?
I knew it would be.
Put Yer Money Where Yer Mouth Is, 2000 (Standing on the Shoulder of Giants) Scuzzy, fuzzy, buzzin', rock 'n' roll filth.
With a bit of fury.
This is the sound of a band who know they still matter, that they can still deliver. A great vocal from Liam, sounding like a man who realises that there are people who are questioning him, questioning his band...he's got answers.
The lyrics are...'phoned in from Noel but it really doesn't matter when everything else is as good as this.
This is what the Rolling Stones would sound like if they were as good as people think they are.
Where Did it All go Wrong, 2000 (Standing on the Shoulder of Giants)
My favourite track from "Standing on the Shoulder of Giants".
When Noel sings "But I hope you know, that it won't let go" a little bit of my heart breaks. It's not what he's singing but the way he's singing it.
Like it's the most important thing in the world.
Maybe it is...or was...to him.
"I hope the tears don't stain the world that waits outside"
I envy people who haven't ever asked themselves "Where did it all go wrong?" at some point in their lives...I envy them the peace, the safety, the strength, the charm that has graced their life.
I don't trust them though.
I like people who have suffered.
I like people who have been damaged.
I like people who have been down...and got back up.
That's what this song makes me think about.
Hung in a Bad Place, 2002 (Heathen Chemistry)
Mucky swamp rock with enough roll to get you to where you wanna go.
This has the feel of "Definitely Maybe" era Oasis...a wall of sound, a sneering vocal, pounding drums. A look backwards at the start of a new era. "Heathen Chemistry" was all about the singles really, and no wonder..."Heathen Chemistry", "Stop Crying Your Heart Out", "Little by Little/She is Love" and "Songbird" were all as good as anything they had released up to that point. That meant that the album itself was, compared to others, a bit heavier on the filler...but "Hung in a Bad Place" proves that even Oasis "filler" can be killer.
Idler's Dream, 2002 (The Hindu Times, B-Side)
Noel Gallagher isn't what anyone would call a lyrical genius.
That's fair right?
He isn't a Dylan (who is), a Patti Smith, a Weller (at his best moments), a Morrissey (at his best moments) or an Ian Curtis but in the simplicity of his lyrics, in his mastery of melody, in the purity of what he is trying to say and convey he is capable of moments of heartbreaking beauty and intensity.
"Idler's Dream" is exactly that.
A delicate, heartfelt, yearning, song of love and devotion.
You've Got the Heart of a Star, 2003 (Songbird, B-Side)
"Come on my brothers and sisters, if you could see what I could see, maybe we could all get along."
It's so simple.
But as the tambourine shimmers, as the guitar gently weeps, as the drums whisper and as Noel sings his heart out...you are reminded, again, of how great Oasis really could be. It wasn't all lad culture, swagger, beer and coke...I mean, it was primarily that for a lot of the time but there is real beauty in the music to be found too.
More often than not it is the songs like this that I return to...they lift my spirits, make me feel less broken, offer a bit of hope in an increasingly hopeless world and I don't think you can ask for more from a band than that.
Keep the Dream Alive, 2005 (Don't Believe the Truth)
"This was my dream, but now my dream has flown, I'm at the crossroads, waiting for a sign, my life is standing still, but I'm still alive"
With Liam growling his way through the verses before letting his voice soar on the chorus "Keep the Dream Alive" is evidence that, even at this stage in proceedings, he was still a singer and a figure to be admired and cherished.
Very few singers from the nineties have a voice that is so instantly recognisable. Part Lennon, part Lydon and yet all Liam.
The greatest rock and roll singer of his generation?
Of all time?
He at least deserves to be considered in the debate.
Won't Let You Down, 2005 (Lyla, B-Side)
There is an argument to be had about whether or not Oasis had peaked by the time these noughties recordings arrived...that the tension between Noel and Liam, Noel's clear desire to go it alone, the marriages and divorces, the money and the coke had all taken a terrible toll on the band and they were now nothing more than, well, just another band. My own thoughts are that that’s all they ever were…just a band, right place and right time but just a band.
That's the argument.
But when a band can chuck away a song like this on the B-Side of a single you realise the argument isn't worth having.
At their weakest Oasis were still capable of trumping not only their peers but themselves at their best.
"Won't Let You Down" is short, simple and surprising. It is, easily, the match of the single that housed it and wouldn't have been out of place on "Don't Believe the Truth"...in fact it probably should have been.
A Bell Will Ring, 2005 (Don't Believe the Truth)
There are bands right now who are selling out arena venues who would sell their souls to Satan just to have a song as good as "A Bell Will Ring".
It's got riffs that Keith Richards couldn't dream of matching in his prime.
It shakes your soul.
It grinds your guts.
It's a big, old, chunk of rock and roll, of the sort that, truthfully, only Oasis could manage.
Sittin' Here in Silence (On my Own), 2005 (Let There Be Love, B-Side)
I don't actually like The Beatles.
When people tell me how great they are I try to imagine what the songs I haven't heard by them must sound like in order to inspire such rabid devotion from people. It's obviously not "Yellow Submarine" or "Yesterday" or "All You Need is Love".
In my mind I hear "Sittin' Here in Silence (On my Own)" which is the best Beatles song that The Beatles never wrote...because they weren't as good as Oasis.
Before you get all hot and bothered by this, just remember that I don’t actually like Oasis all that much either and that it has taken me a long time to whittle down their back catalogue to 20 songs that I think justify the hype..
Falling Down (Chemical Brothers Remix), 2008 (Shock of the Lightning, B-Side) Biff!
In the "Supersonic" documentary Liam tells the tale of being smashed over the head with a hammer and, subsequently, having an interest in music that had, previously, never existed.
This Chemical Brothers remix is the sonic equivalent of that hammer blow to the noggin. Furious and frenzied in places it also has moments of real subtlety and fragility.
It might not change you in the same way that the hammer to Liam's skull changed him...but it might.
Waiting for the Rapture, 2008 (Dig Out Your Soul)
A pub rock, glam stomp, thumping, raucous, blitzkrieg bop of a pop song.
Really this is Oasis by numbers...a dot-to-dot version of what they were so good at...but that doesn't make it any less of a thrill. A song that demands to be played one louder and that leaves you breathless by its conclusion...but then, like a McDonald's, has you hungry again within a few minutes, wanting more of whatever the mystery ingredient was.
Those Swollen Hand Blues, 2009 (Falling Down, B-Side)
The only new composition on the final single released by Oasis.
It isn't possible to talk about it without invoking the name of The Beatles again...this is cut from the same psychedelic cloth as some of the trippier moments in the Scousers back catalogue.
This is weird, cosmic, psychedelic, druggy and dreamy.
A world away from the songs that had announced their arrival back in 1994 or that had cemented their place as the biggest band in the world in 1995 but worthy of inclusion in any list of favourite moments from them simply because it is the full stop on the story.
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