Oasis’ ‘(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?’ was released in the autumn of 1995 and planted the seeds of the band’s legendary status. The album has sold 4.9 million copies in the UK, making it the UK’s fifth best selling album of all time.
Famed as much for their infighting as they are for their music, Oasis are often viewed as the last real rock ’n’ roll band; they dominated the front pages, got caught up in controversy, divided opinion and often saw slandering other musicians or having a scrap on a street corner as a fool- proof marketing tool.
To my mind, ‘(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?’ does not have the kind of status it does because the music on it is some of the best ever made, nor do I believe its status comes from the influence the record has had on vast swathes of musicians. I don’t mean to say the music on here is not good, nor am I suggesting that this record had zero influence on acts that followed it, but I do mean to say that I don’t think this record is remembered for the musical mastery displayed on it; I think the legendary status it has comes from the wider context of its release.
At the time of its release, Oasis were the willing mascots for the working classes in the north of England, displaying laddishness, broad Mancunian accents and a disregard for much of the established norms in the music business. They were happy to be viewed as the new kids on the block, shaking things up from within, and unapologetically being as loud and brash as possible. Their image was amplified by the fact that Blur, a band from the south, were challenging them for the top spot on the UK charts, which resulted in a clear divide being drawn; you were Blur or you were Oasis. This rivalry is one that defines the two bands and their respective fans to this day.
‘(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?’ came only weeks after Oasis had famously lost one of the most hotly watched races to No.1 in history. Blur’s ‘Country House’ outsold Oasis’ ‘Roll With It’ by 50,000 copies and gave the southern-born band the upper hand in the war to be Brit-Pop’s biggest band. The story of the single’s parent albums would paint a different picture, however, and ‘(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?’ outsold Blur’s ‘The Great Escape’ by a ratio of 2:1. History also smiles on ‘(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?’ and shows it to have served as the soundtrack for a generation, becoming synonymous with the rebranding of British music. This was bigger than the war with ‘Blur’. The impact the album came to have and the musical shift it came to represent is, in my view, the key to the album’s longevity. As well as building on their own debut, it also came to complete the rebirth of a more retro sound, a process started by the likes of The Stone Roses five years before, and catapult it across the Atlantic ocean.
‘(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?’ is perhaps the only Britpop album to prick the ears of the American audience and, for all the laddishness displayed by the band, listeners across the pond viewed the band as symbols of ‘Cool Britannia’. In fact, American listeners were so taken in by ‘(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?’ that, as of 2018, the album accounted for 43% of all the band’s US sales.
Without mentioning the supremely overplayed, over-covered, and over mentioned low point of the album that is ‘Wonderwall’, many of the songs on the record have come to be loved in the 26 years since their release, from the unofficial national anthem ‘Don’t look back in anger’ to the slow and melancholic ‘Champagne Supernova’. These tracks were favourites upon the album’s release and stood the test of time so well that they remain so to this day. However, I feel that certain songs on the record are often overlooked, tracks like ‘She’s Electric’ and ‘Hey Now’ are fantastic tracks (‘Hey Now’ was even released as a single before the album’s release) but don’t get the recognition they perhaps deserve.
To my mind, the album itself seems to encapsulate the attitude of the band at the time, it sounds like a celebration of the times they find themselves, but at the same time notes the fact that the good times cannot roll on forever. “Champagne Supernova” is an example of this, it takes stock and pauses itself in a moment of contemplation. The line: “where were you while we were getting high?”, for example, suggests the party is already over, and the time for reviling in the moment has passed. The record doesn’t aim to take over the world in the way the that their debut does, I think it more aims to
Musically, the albums takes a healthy amount of inspiration from popular bands of the 1960s. Oasis never shielded away from their love of The Beatles and their DNA is all over this record; the pre chorus of ‘She’s Electric’ is scarily similar to the pre chorus of the fab four’s ‘While my guitar gently weeps’. Similarly, the opening chords of ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ are reminiscent of the chords in John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’. I’m not of the mind that Oasis were in any way ‘pinching’ The Beatles sound; I think influence is just that and it does not constitute what some people would call ‘copying’.
I think the album does a great job in bringing the sounds that the band were inspired by together into their own piece of art, a piece of art that has aged incredibly well. Oasis have rightly gone down in history as one of the defining British bands. They were, in many ways, the poster boys of the Britpop sound; succeeding in taking it to America. Oasis, and specifically this album, has rightly gone down in history as one of the defining albums of the 1990s and will always sound good when listened to the the context of its contemporaries. Further, the album even sounds well placed in today’s musical landscape, mostly down to the fact that it helped shape it, and I have no doubt it will continue to unite listeners for many more years to come.