Here's one for the "Amazing and True Rock 'n' Roll Stories" compendium: In late 1992, the five members of Oasis - who had only met a year before and had never gigged outside their native Manchester, England - hitched a ride to Glasgow, Scotland, walked into a club, and told the manager that they simply wouldn't leave without being allowed to play. He took them at their word and let them on stage. The planets must have been well aligned that night: Within days of that performance, the manager-less, agent-less, penniless Oasis were on their way to a major record contract and incipient pop stardom.
Oasis have been on the ascent ever since. They've toured England four times within the past year, and each time every gig was sold out before they'd even hit the road. Their first single, "Supersonic," hit the independent charts at Number One, and their second single, "Shakermaker," has already cracked the British national Top 10. But Noel Gallagher, Oasis' songwriter and lead guitarist, isn't exactly dizzied by his band's rapid rise to the top. "It's all going really quickly," he says. "But if this is pressure, give me more!"
With the release of Oasis's American debut DEFINITELY MAYBE on Epic Records, rock fans Stateside will get a chance to discover the band that New Musical Express is calling "the premier gilt-edged rock 'n' rollers of the age." The album's title suggests a tentativeness that belies the self-assured rock 'n' roll swagger inside. "It's a phrase I use all the time. It's contradictory," Noel says with a slight smirk in his voice, "and I like that. It doesn't mean anything. Or does it? Definitely maybe."
"Rock 'N' Roll Star" kicks off Definitely Maybe with grinding guitars, over which Liam Gallagher - Noel's younger brother and Oasis' lead singer - laments the downside of the rocker lifestyle: too many late nights, too many intoxicating substances, accusations that it's just a "waste of time." Yet by the time the chorus rolls around, he remembers why he bothers with it all in the first place: "But tonight / I'm a rock 'n' roll star!"
The song fades out with a swirling, throbbing, psychedelic jam that in no way prepares you for what comes next: "Shakermaker," which evokes The Who Sell Out in much the same way as the crunchy guitar rhythm of "Rock 'n' Roll Star" suggests the Rolling Stones' harder-edged tunes. The spare arrangement of their sweet and melodic rock ballad "Live Forever" gives rest of the band a chance to shine. Drummer Tony McCarroll opens the song with a slow, almost wistful groove; rhythm guitarist Paul "Bonehead" Arthurs strums an acoustic; bassist Paul McGuigan joins in, first playing a complex melody line, then falling in with the rest as Liam's singing shows Oasis' vulnerable, heartfelt side.
Noel is particularly proud of "Live Forever" and "Married with Children," two of the slower songs on the album, because they force the listener to hear his band and not codify them too easily. "I like the fact that people can be taken aback by a song I wrote. That's what we're aiming for. I wouldn't like anyone to be able to define the Oasis sound; if someone can do that, then I'm not doing my job well enough." Don't try to pin these guys down, in other words; they'll defy every categorisation foisted upon them.
The power and popularity of Oasis' records, their unwavering belief in their own abilities, and their incendiary live performances have earned them a wealth of accolades from the most credible elements of the British rock press. On stage, wrote Mojo, "Oasis take their places and just stand there. Impassively cocksure, quietly convinced of their roughly distilled essence of Everything Rock Delights In; derivative yet manifestly now."
"[These] songs deserve to be heard," said The Face. "More than that, they deserve to be really listened to. These aren't dysfunctional, dopey dole anthems - they're too quick-witted for that. Oasis' debut album, DEFINITELY MAYBE, is packed with three-minute pop shrapnel bombs..."
The band is taking all of this adoration in stride. "We don't see ourselves as stars," says Noel. "We just want people to come to the gig, and if they like it to buy the record. We just want to play the music and have a good time."
A good time, indeed: The debauchery that surrounds Oasis's performances has already become the stuff of legend. But when they hit the stage they're all business, all single-minded self-confidence. Oasis takes rock 'n' roll very seriously, and they refuse to strike poses or engage in obsequious banter with the audience. Some critics have interpreted this stance as studied arrogance, but Noel disagrees. "We wouldn't dare go on stage and prance around and preach to the audience." Liam reiterates his brother's sentiment in blunter terms: "I've got no time for jumping about, do I? I'm too busy singing the songs."