When it was announced that Definitely Maybe was to receive a twentieth anniversary re-package treatment, Liam Gallagher, rather cutely, tweeted to not buy them, “How can you re-master something that’s already been mastered” he asked. A misunderstanding of modern day music reproduction techniques aside, he does have a point, the eleven tracks that make up what is still one of the UK’s fastest selling debuts ever, have left an indelible mark on the UK rock scene, what else has the album to give?
The records may be dust covered and left on our shelves but the memories remain. The early gigs in Manchester and Bradford supporting Saint Etienne or alongside the Verve in Leeds in ’93, selling out Maine Road, to them conquering at Knebworth all happened in a two year whirlwind, this was an upward trajectory that could not be stopped - it’s the kind of thing rock n roll dreams are made of.
Naturally, they could be stopped - the original band effectively split at the end of the ‘90’s and since then, either by a lack of interest, or a reluctance of sharing his best tracks, Noel Gallagher loosened his grip on the band. This resulted in them becoming a husk of what they once were, when you allow your bass player to contribute tracks, you should realise something is hideously wrong, even if that bass player is ex-Ride guitarist Andy Bell.
We all know about the main release, so it’s the other CDs that will garner the most interest. Containing demo versions, live tracks and b-sides from the singles of the time, it’s a fascinating glimpse into their swift musical progress. The evolution from “Supersonic” in ’93 to assorted b-sides such as “Listen Up” and “(It’s Good) To Be Free” and the standalone single “Whatever” just a year later is mightily impressive. This of course, is not the Rubber Soul/Revolver/Sgt. Pepper progression they’d probably had you believe, but by mass public endorsement and chart positions to back up their own astonishing self belief, they propelled themselves into supernova heights.
Arguably their best track, “Columbia”, is even more effective when stripped of the bombast of producer Owen Morris, whilst the raggedy demo of “Cigarettes & Alcohol” is sneerier, with a bigger swagger about it, especially with that riff being even more prominent. The rush of these tracks hasn’t subsided despite the musicality being pretty rudimentary. At this time only Noel had truly mastered his instrument and without decent production, some of the tracks included should have stayed in the vaults, “I Will Believe” or “Alive”, “Strange Thing”, all remain massively undistinguished.
Including so many acoustic b-sides may seem a bit overkill, but they are integral to the bigger picture, with the majority of them being sung by Noel - his introspective vocals were the perfect foil to Liam’s nasally whine - and over three CDs, give much relief from the aggressive delivery of his younger sibling: “Half A world Away”, “Sad Song”, “Take Me Away” and a lush country-esque rendition of “Up in the Sky” are all of a high enough quality to be included as part of the original album, showing off Noel’s early career purple patch.
Most good-will shown towards Oasis these days are solely down to wet eyed revivalism. Hindsight is a bitch; little did we know that these guys were not to be our Beatles, despite two years of telling us they were the best band in the world, but, blimey, they gave it a damn good shot.
It’s impossible to consider this release outside of its original context. With no other albums to compare this to at the time, it sounded life affirming, with its promise of white lines, gin and tonics and taking us away. When the first beat of the drum that herald the beginning of ‘Supersonic’, the deal is sealed, when Liam proclaims “I can’t tell you the way I feel, because the way I feel is oh so new to me” on “Columbia”, or when he promises us that we’re gonna “Live Forever”, it’s with an acid house-laced look of bright eyed wonder and a belief that anything is possible. Twenty years on, those sentiments are still impossible to resist.