You needn’t go past track one to get the gist of Definitely Maybe. Of course you’d be crazy not to, but it’s all there on ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Star’: A trebly wall of sound; Liam Gallagher’s voice – the perfect hybrid of John Lennon and John Lydon; lyrics that mean both nothing and everything; and of course, melody, melody and more melody. By the time you’re at the guitar solo, Liam’s already told you he’s a “rock ‘n’ rock star” five times. Crazy.
It’s true, though, he is a rock ‘n’ roll star’. Even when the group was playing to a handful of people in the pub above their rehearsal space he was one. Still it must have been an absurd scene – an unemployed, unsigned, twenty-something suggesting you ought to think of him in the same terms as Mick Jagger or Roger Daltrey or even John Lennon, when there are as many people on stage as there are in the audience.
Objective thinking would dictate that, at this point, Liam most certainly was not a rock ‘n’ roll star, but then again, what use is objectivity to popular culture? It just gets in the way. Sometimes, if you truly believe something, that’s enough. In this case, it helps if you repeat it a couple times, too. Fake it till you make it, as they say.“it must have been an absurd scene – an unemployed, unsigned, twenty-something suggesting you ought to think of him in the same terms as Mick Jagger or Roger Daltrey or even John Lennon”
‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Star’s’ combination of optimism, idealism, and mild delusion is a theme that runs throughout Definitely Maybe, from start to finish.
And it’s the reason why the record, which has celebrated its 20th anniversary with a deluxe reissue this year, continues to endear itself to new generations of music fans. Indeed many of Oasis’ most fervent supporters – liking Oasis is akin to barracking for a wildly unpopular football team, you do as much defending as supporting – are about as old as the album in question. For many of them, Definitely Maybe will have been their gateway into a new musical universe.
Almost any piece of writing you will read on the internet about Oasis will mention the band’s influences – from the obvious (The Beatles, The Stone Roses, The Sex Pistols) to the more obscure such as The La’s. In practical terms, Definitely Maybe and its follow up, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, are an accessible introduction to the music Oasis idolised: it’s rock music for people who don’t yet know they like rock music.
Still, Noel Gallagher, who wrote all the songs on Definitely Maybe, is often criticised for his pilfering of history’s most revered riffs and melodies. He’s countered this by saying he’s simply a fan who writes songs in tribute to his favourite artists, though it is true that his penchant for unsolicited borrowing shows no sign of letting up.
If you’re righteous about these things, that excuse probably doesn’t cut it anymore. But, to be fair, Noel was simply writing for his own enjoyment when the songs on Definitely Maybe were penned. And when he joined what was originally his brother Liam’s band, also comprising Paul ‘Bonehead’ Arthurs, Paul McGuigan and Tony McCarroll, they were going nowhere. Then, the fact that their song ‘Cigarettes and Alcohol’ had exactly the same riff as T.Rex’s ‘Get It On’ was inconsequential, because who was ever going to hear them play it?
These musical ‘references’ are, for want of a better word scattered liberally and unabashedly throughout Definitely Maybe. So much so that to be concerned is to miss the point. Noel has always admitted to similarities when they’re pointed out.
Surely it’s not such a big deal when Liam is singing lines this good: “Is it worth the aggravation/ To find yourself a job when there’s nothing worth working for?” In fact, that’s another thing about Definitely Maybe.It’s optimistic, but it’s honest, too. It’s that straightforwardness that set Oasis apart from some of their Britpop contemporaries. Unlike, say, Blur’s equally lauded Parklife, which uses characters to make wry, ironic observations, Definitely Maybe simply tells you how it is. And in no uncertain terms.
That naivety and lack of pretension is important, musically, as well as lyrically. If you could say anything about Definitely Maybe, it would be that it never feels forced or overproduced.
The album’s closer, ‘Married With Children’, is an acoustic demo that was recorded in a bedroom. It’s both charming and far removed from the bluster that typifies the rest of the album. Liam’s voice, paired with a quiet instrumental, is bereft of its usual menace while Noel’s lyrics are uncharacteristically puckish, “I hate the way that even though you know you’re wrong you say you’re right/ I hate the books you read and all your friends, your music’s shite it keeps me up all night.”