A tremendous commercial success, Definitely Maybe is the 1994 debut album by Oasis. This album was instrumental in revitalizing the bright and optimistic “Britpop” movement in the midst of an era dominated by the deeper and darker grunge sound. Although portrayed at the time as a collection of largely spontaneous tracks, many of the songs were actually composed years earlier by guitarist Noel Gallagher, some predating his 1991 arrival joining up with the band. In any case, the themes of things said plainly and for the very first time really struck a chord in Britain and beyond as Definitely Maybe provided the fuel for Oasis’s rocket dominance of the mid 1990s.
In the early 1990s, guitarist Paul Arthurs, bassist Paul McGuigan, and drummer Tony McCarroll formed a group called The Rain. Unhappy with their original vocalist, the group auditioned Liam Gallagher as front man, who in turn suggested the name Oasis for the band. When the band started playing live in 1991, Liam invited his older brother Noel to see the band. Noel decided his brother’s group would be a good vehicle for the songs he had written and joined Oasis as a fifth member.
The group began recording the album at Monnow Valley Studio. The Stone Roses were about a mile down the road, recording Second Coming, the follow-up their own brilliant debut, and the two groups bonded. However, the sessions proved unsatisfactory, as the group found the sound to be “thin, weak, and too clean”, despite the high cost of these sessions. In February 1994, the group began re-recording the album at Sawmills Studio with producer Mark Coyle and replicated their live sound by recording together without soundproofing between individual instruments.
The long recording process delayed the release of the album. In the interim, between April and August 1994, Oasis released three singles ahead of Definitely Maybe. This actually helped build anticipation for the debut and it shot straight to the top of the U.K. charts upon its release and went on to be certified eight times Platinum.
Definitely Maybe by Oasis
|Released: August 30, 1994 (Creation)
Produced by: Mark Coyle, Owen Morris, Dave Batchelor & Oasis
Recorded: December 1993–April 1994
|Track Listing||Group Musicians|
|Rock n’ Roll Star
Up In the Sky
Bring It On Down
Cigarettes & Alcohol
Married with Children
|Liam Gallagher – Lead Vocals
Noel Gallagher – Guitars, Piano Vocals
Paul Arthurs – Guitars, Piano
Paul McGuigan – Bass, Vocals
Tony McCarroll – Drums, Percussion
The short, slow, droning guitar breaks out into the more upbeat song proper of the opener “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star”. Released as a single, the song became a radio and concert favorite, as did the album’s second song, “Shakermaker”. Dominated by a slow jam with Liam Gallagher’s extra long, whiny vocals, the song starts somewhat interesting but gets annoying after a short while. Further, the song borrowed its melody from a 1970s Coca-Cola commercial and the band eventually had to pay $500,000 in damages.
The compositionally excellent “Live Forever” follows as the most indelible song on the album. Noel Gallagher wrote the song in 1991, and it contains a great chorus, overtone, and melody that was inspired by The Rolling Stones song “Shine a Light”, and was the first Oasis song to enter the Top Ten. “Up In the Sky” is a heavier track with interesting riff variations, almost sixties psychedelic, while “Columbia” has chanting lyrics and a rotating drone of three chords throughout its six and a half minutes, never really relenting but still the band’s favorite song to play live.
McCarroll’s drum intro with a long guitar pick scratch above the melodic riff introduces another radio single, “Supersonic”. The beat never deviates one bit, while overdubbed guitars make it all entertaining. This song was the band’s first single to chart in the United States, where it peaked at number 11. “Bring It On Down” is a more intense, almost punk song where the music overtakes Liam Gallagher’s voice for one of the rare times. McCarroll couldn’t quite get the beat, so a session drummer was brought in to show him how, and McCarroll was promptly discharged from the band once recording was complete, sparking lawsuits for years to come.
“Cigarettes & Alcohol” contains a more traditional, bluesy rock arrangement, almost like a cross between The Rolling Stones and T-Rex (which sparked the second accusation of plagiarism on this album). The vocal hook is also more traditional (and catchy) and lyrics more legible than most songs on the album. “Digsy’s Dinner” is like a short radio hit of the early sixties, except with heavy guitars and distant vocals, while “Slide Away” is a long track with little variation in guitars, souring vocals and complex, methodical choruses. The closer “Married with Children” is a rather refreshing change from the over-production of the rest of the album. Recorded partially on a hotel bed, the song contains a strummed acoustic with slightly overdubbed electric and low-key vocals, that warm down the album to a formidable end.
The critical and commercial success of Definitely Maybe carried over strongly to their follow-up in 1995, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, which kept Oasis on top of the pop world for years to come.
Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1994 albums.
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