Saturday, April 11, 2009


Formed by brothers Noel and Liam Gallagher and their Manchester mates, Oasis rose to the top of the British charts in the mid-'90s with its flair for classic psychedelic pop. The heavily Beatles-influenced rock of its debut album, 1994's Definitely Maybe, made Oasis overnight pop stars, while the Gallaghers' bravado, open drug use, and general disrespect toward other artists garnered constant media attention. Some detractors suggested that Oasis had merely mastered the musical ideas of others; regardless, the band’s first release sold in the millions.

Noel Gallagher grew up in Manchester and got his first guitar at age 13 and began dabbling in songwriting. His father, who poured concrete by day and was a C&W DJ by night, left the family while Noel was still a teenager. At 18 Noel was caught burgling a house, but he soon found work as a roadie and spent the next four years touring with Inspiral Carpets. His younger brother, Liam, meanwhile, started singing in a band with friends Paul “Bonehead” Arthurs (guitar) and Paul McGuigan (bass), later enlisting drummer Tony McCarroll. When Noel returned to Manchester with a batch of new songs he had written, he offered to take creative control of the band, by now called Oasis. They agreed and began rehearsing. At an early show in Glasgow, Scotland, they were discovered by Creation Records founder Alan McGee, who immediately offered them a contract.

In 1994 Oasis released Definitely Maybe (Number 58 U.S., Number 1 U.K.), which became the fastest-selling debut album in British history at the time. The band quickly won the attention of the British music press with its blend of ’60s pop, ’70s glam, and the sneering attitude and bravado of punk. But some critics complained that the music was derivative, noting that “Cigarettes & Alcohol” blatantly stole the opening riff from T. Rex’s “Bang a Gong.” Oasis was later forced to change some lyrics to “Shakermaker” after a lawsuit filed by Coca-Cola charged the band with lifting the melody and some words from its jingle “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing.”

(What’s the Story) Morning Glory? (Number Four, 1995) was greeted warmly by both fans and critics. It included the hits “Wonderwall” (Number Eight, 1995) and “Don’t Look Back in Anger” (Number 55, 1995) as well as the seven-minute epic of psychedelic pop “Champagne Supernova.” Trouble loomed, however: Liam was arrested for suspicion of cocaine possession, public feuding between the Gallaghers became a frequent occurrence, and Noel quit that year’s U.S. tour. Be Here Now (Number Two, 1997), with its ’70s arena-rock sound, was met with mixed reviews and relatively disappointing sales.

The Masterplan (Number 51, 1998), a collection of B-sides and non-album tracks, found the band in a holding pattern. Oasis reconvened in 1999 in France to begin recording an album with sessions now conducted under a new no-drinking policy. Before sessions were finished, however, both Paul "Bonehead" Arthurs and Paul McGuigan had quit (the other original member, McCarroll, had been fired following the debut album). Standing on the Shoulders of Giants (Number 24, 2000) demonstrated club-culture influences and sold fewer copies than any Oasis album. For the first time, a Liam Gallagher songwriting credit found its way onto an Oasis album: the sentimental “Little James.” Relations between the Gallaghers remained combative on the band’s subsequent tour, with an argument in Barcelona resulting in Noel’s return to England. The tour continued, with guitarist Matt Deighton (Paul Weller, Mother Earth) filling in for Noel. The absent bandleader worked on a side project called Tailgunner, but returned to Oasis in time for a pair of shows at London’s Wembley Stadium, where Oasis recorded the two-disc live album Familiar to Millions, which barely dented the U.S. Top 200 album chart. 

Oasis replaced its departed members with former Heavy Stereo guitarist Colin “Gem” Archer and former Ride guitarist Andy Bell (switching to bass) for the 2002 album Heathen Chemistry (Number 23). When drummer Alan White left the band in early 2004, the band replaced him with Ringo Starr’s son Zak Starkey, who had been playing with the Who. Oasis’ next album, the band’s Sony BMG contract-fulfilling album Don’t Believe the Truth (Number 12, 2005), turned out to be a commercial and critical comeback, and Starkey stuck around for a tour and subsequent recording sessions. In 2006, the band released the compilation Stop the Clocks. The following year, Oasis won the Brit Award presented to musicians for their outstanding contribution to music. 

Dig Out Your Soul, the band's seventh studio effort, was scheduled for an October 2008 release, and featured a marketing strategy where buskers in New York City were hired to play songs from the album out on the street. Oasis also made headlines when Noel Gallagher was attacked onstage during a show in Toronto, with his injuries resulting in the cancellation of several shows prior to the release of the album.

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