On the 29th of August 1997, ‘TFI Friday’, one of Britain’s most popular TV shows, opened with a sketch that showed the new Oasis album, ‘Be Here Now’, released the previous week, lying on a mock-up operating table while host Chris Evans, dressed as a doctor, failed to resuscitate the album with a defibrillator before pronouncing the album “dead”. By Friday the 29th of August the British record buying public had been listening to ‘Be Here Now’ for eight days and during that time, the consensus seemed to be that the most eagerly anticipated album since ‘Sgt. Pepper’ was a huge anti-climax.
Until the ‘TFI Friday’ sketch however, the idea of ‘Be Here Now’ being a disappointment had barely been communicated in the press. Reviews in both the music and national press were ecstatic and national radio DJ’s seemed to hold back opinion, almost as though as a nation, the UK were wiling ‘Be Here Now’ to be Oasis’s masterpiece.
It could be argued that there was an ulterior motive behind Chris Evans’s sketch, Oasis having told Evans that they ‘did not need’ to appear on TFI Friday following an invitation from Evans to do so in order to promote ‘Be Here Now’. What could not be argued however was the fact that Noel Gallagher’s songs did not reach the standard of those penned for both ‘Definitely Maybe’ and ‘Morning Glory’, nor did they reach the standard of many of the b-sides that the band had been producing for the previous three years. In addition, the songs were generally too long for the average listener and in the eyes of some, over produced.
Alan McGee in ‘Alan McGee and the Story of Creation Records by Paolo Hewitt’: “It’s a really intense record. No obvious big hit singles like the other record. But at the end of the day, who was going to put their hands up and say, ‘Noel I think you should maybe shorten most of the songs and not repeat “It’s getting better man” 47 times.”
So how exactly did ‘Be Here Now’ become the point where Oasis went from being the most popular band in Britain since The Beatles, to a band who’s reputation would never be quite the same again?
In May 1996 Noel Gallagher took the decision to fly to Mustique in order to write and demo the songs for what would become the next Oasis album. Accompanied by his girlfriend Meg Matthews, Johnny Depp, Kate Moss and Oasis producer Owen Morris , Noel began work but as he stated in an interview with journalist Keith Cameron in 2016, ‘the holiday didn’t suffer’.
Upon his return from Mustique, Noel played Creation Records bosses Alan McGee and Dick Green, as well as Johnny Hopkins (Creation Records Head of Press) and Emma Greengrass (Creation Records Marketing Manager) the 14 songs he had recorded.
Johnny Hopkins speaking to Sounds Magazine: “I remember, initially, hearing a few songs, I guess on a cassette. Before you can get to the music, the phrase ‘recorded in Mustique’ rang alarm bells. But there were some good songs in there that were encouraging. From memory I reckon that was, ‘Stand By Me’, ‘My Big Mouth’ and possibly ‘Be Here Now’ itself. Demos are demos and the final thing can be something completely different. Later there was a meeting at Supernova Heights where we heard the finished album.”
Alan McGee in ‘Alan McGee &The Story Of Creation Records’: “He played us the demos to ‘Be Here Now’ and I remember thinking, ‘this is gonna sell about half the amount of copies of ‘Morning Glory’ (but) Because he hadn’t been wrong yet—he’d been right—everything the kid had ever fuckin’ said was right and even if you were right, which basically we all were in our heads, I don’t think anybody in that room thought any different from me, which was, ‘this is a guy who has just sold 14 million records and just collected a 15 million pound publishing cheque. Is he actually gonna listen to the bosses in the record company? Was he fuck— He was living in another dimension by that point.”
The ‘other dimension’ that Alan McGee spoke of was no more evident than on the 10th & 11th August 1996 when Oasis played to a quarter-of-a-million people over two nights at Knebworth, Staffordshire. A staggering 2.5 million members of the British public applied for tickets and although two of the songs written and recoded by Noel in Mustique (‘My Big Mouth’ and ‘It’s Getting Better (Man!!)) were performed live by the band and showed no sign of anything amiss in Oasis camp, the fact that Radio 1, when broadcasting the Sunday night performance live, had been banned from airing the two new songs, only served to give way to the shape of things to come. The previous year, as Oasis headlined Glastonbury, they band aired four new songs (‘Hello’, ‘Roll With It’, ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ and ‘Morning Glory’) during their set, all of which Oasis and their management were happy to have broadcast on Radio 1, over three months ahead of the release of ‘(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?’. Noel also performed a version of ‘Wonderwall’ for Channel 4 as well as a version of ‘Cast No Shadow’ for Jo Whiley’s Radio 1 show over the same weekend. It seemed that 14 months on however, Oasis were veering away from being the barrierless, anti-elitist working class heroes of 1995 and were quickly becoming the untouchable rock stars they had initially set out to knock off their perch.
Following Knebworth, the chaos that surrounded Oasis intensified. On the 23rd August the band were set to perform a set for the much-revered MTV Unplugged at London’s Royal Festival Hall. Hours before the gig however, Liam pulled out, blaming a sore throat yet still managed to heckle Noel from the side of the stage, cigarette in one hand and bottle of Becks in the other as Noel performed vocal duties.
Four days later Liam then pulled out of the bands US tour, a tour designed to give ‘(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?’ one final push in America. Liam made the decision that he was not getting on the flight as he “needed somewhere to live.” He and his fiancé Patsy Kensit were due to vacate Patsy’s recently sold home in St. John’s Wood while Liam was on tour. The fact that Liam did not pull out of the tour until he was in the airport departure lounge gave the British tabloid press a field day The realisation that he had nowhere to live upon his return, apparently not occurring to him until hours before the flight.
Liam did eventually joined the American tour three days later and on the 4th of September, as the band took up a prime slot at the 1996 MTV Music Awards, Liam, who looked magnificent in a Beatles-at-Shea-Stadium-style dark brown jacket, appeared annoyed and uncomfortable with piousness of many of the celebrities in attendance and their gushing acceptance speeches. With this in mind, he engaged those in attendance with, “You’re all here to have a good time but you’re having a shite time.”
Oasis performed ‘Champagne Supernova’. Before Liam had even got to the first chorus however, he had, like a naughty and slightly vulgar school child, let a large drip of spit drop from his tongue in almost slow motion until it hit the ground. He then proceeded to change the chorus lyrics to, “someday you will find me/caught beneath a landslide/in a champagne Supernova up yer bum”.
Three days later the band played the Jones Beach Theatre in Long Island. Reviews were more than unfavourable. Liam was drunk onstage, barely singing, shouting abuse and gives V-signs to the audience while constantly throwing his microphone stand around the stage.
By the 11th of September, following a backstage spat in Charlotte, North Carolina, Noel had had enough and left the tour, flying back to England amid a media frenzy that included the press congregating out said Noel and Liam’s mothers house in Manchester, vainly expecting the brothers to turn up there.
A band meeting took place, allegedly in a graveyard in order to avoid the press and the conclusion was drawn that the band would carry on and book into Abbey Road studios the following month in order to begin work on their bands third album. Going back into the studio appeared to be the bands default setting following a bust up.
Johnny Hopkins: “I suppose the old, ‘things are turbulent, we’ll go in the studio’ is a bit like people in relationships who go, ‘things are really tense—lets go and have a baby’, maybe its like that and an album is a baby.”
Prior to work beginning on ‘Be Here Now’, The Chemical Brothers released ‘Setting Sun’ in late September. Co-written, and featuring Noel on vocals, ‘Setting Sun’ gave those who were hoping for a more experimental Oasis album some promising signs. Those hopes were quickly dashed however when Noel gave an interview describing the new songs as ‘the usual pub rock bollocks’.
One month into recording, Oasis were in the headlines again. In the space of one evening on the 9th of November, Liam, attending the Q Awards, managed to offend Mick Jagger by flicking cigarette ash on his head, get into a fight with a photographer who confronted him with a set of photographs showing him with a woman that was not Patsy Kensit and then a few hours later, got arrested for cocaine possession. The decision was quickly made to move recording to Ridge Farm Studios in Surrey where Oasis would be away from the glare of the press and would be able to tighten their social circle in the process.
Through the winter of 1996 and the spring of 1997, aside from Noel kicking up a media storm after suggesting in an interview that ‘taking drugs was like having a cup of tea’, Oasis kept a relatively low profile. Liam was given a police caution for his cocaine possession and work on ‘Be Here Now’ quietly progressed with little word getting back to Creation regarding the music.
Johnny Hopkins: “We heard more about the chaos. Fights, arguments, that kind of thing. No-one was really hearing any of the music because no-one else was really in the studio from the office. We were just hearing the fall out.”
Speaking in ‘The Last Party’ by John Harris, rhythm guitarist Paul ‘Bonehead’ Arthurs told Harris his recollections of the ‘Be Here Now’ recording sessions:
“I would go home at weekends, it’d get to Friday and someone would be driving down from London with a big bag. People would be invited. It’d be, ‘were having Friday night, Saturday and Sunday off – we’ll start work again on Monday. We’re going to have it large.” Cocaine isn’t my scene: I just used to go home. And Owen used to like to go to the pub all day and then start work. Or he’d have to have two bottles of red wine – out of a pint pot – and three hundred silk cuts. That’s how he’d have to start work, at midday.”
By April 1997 recording was complete. As the album was mastered however, the usually confident Noel began to have doubts about its merits. Speaking in John Dower’s 2003 documentary, ‘Live Forever: The Rise and Fall of Britpop’ Noel described where his doubts lay: “It’s the sound of a bunch of guys, on coke, in the studio, not giving a fuck. There’s no bass to it at all. I don’t know what happened to that—and all the songs are really long—and all the lyrics are shit and for every millisecond that Liam is not saying a word, there’s a fucking guitar riff in there in a ‘Wayne’s World’ style. Fucking air-guitar gone mental.”
Noel also conceded to John Harris in ‘The Last Party’, “I wasn’t prepared to make things any better. I’d get to a certain point and I’d go, ‘fuck it, that’ll do.’ We made the record to justify the drug habit. I was making records to justify spending thousands on drugs—.The record company are hardly going to come along when you’ve sold twenty-five million albums and tell you that you might want to shorten the arrangements—and your managers not going to say anything ’cos he doesn’t want to upset anyone. Everyone’s going, ‘its brilliant!’ And right towards the end, we’re doing the mixing and I’m thinking to myself, ‘hmmm, I don’t know about this now.’”
If Noel’s concerns were linked to both the length and quality of the songs as well as the mixing of the album, Ignition, the company ran by Oasis manager Marcus Russell, held a bunch of concerns regarding not only the hype that would inevitably surround the release of ‘Be Here Now’ but also the potential for various bootleg copies of the album to appear on the black market prior to the albums official release.
On the 5th of May Ignition sent e-mails to the owners of all unofficial Oasis websites, many of these being little more than electronic fanzines, of which there were relatively few in 1997. The purpose of Ignition’s contact being to inform the website owners that they had one month to remove any copyrighted lyrics, album covers, guitar chords, videos, photographs and Oasis recordings from their websites. If they failed to do so legal action would be sought. The unnecessary publicity this created, in effect, was the reversal of what Ignition desired for the promotion of ‘Be Here Now’.
Emma Greengrass: “It was decided very early on that we don’t want to hype this album. We don’t want to over expose it. We want to keep it low-key. We want to try and keep control of the whole mad thing.”
If Ignition were concerned about ‘Be Here Now’ being overhyped, Alan McGee initially appeared to be in the opposite camp, publicly declaring that the album would sell twenty- million copies. As a result Ignition took McGee away from the albums marketing campaign altogether.
Emma Greengrass speaking to David Cavanagh in ‘The Creation Records Story – My Magpie Eyes are Hungry for the Prize’:
“The band got pissed off about that because they thought it was hyping the album, quote unquote she says. ‘I don’t think anybody thought it would sell that many. My thoughts were that we’d be lucky if we sold two million in the UK. How the hell could we equal ‘Morning Glory?’ or beat it? It’s impossible. It ain’t gonna happen. It was never going to be the same because—’Morning Glory?’ was a time, a place, a moment, a feeling.”
On the 2nd June, while Oasis were rehearsing at Music Bank in Bermondsey, Noel made his reservations about the album public for the first time. In an interview with Select Magazine due for publication in the August, Noel stated, “I’m proud of the songs, but I think me and Owen got a bit lazy in the studio. We weren’t taking too many risks—I’m getting a bit bored of the ‘Roll With It’ type-song, the ‘Wonderwall’ type song and summat in the middle. That’s why I was saying years ago about doing three albums and having a rethink—I like the songs but the production is a bit bland—.There’s a song called ‘I Hope, I Think, I Know’ which is a bit [makes fart noise], a bit ‘Roll With It’ – pie in the sky fuckin’ shit really. All Around The World – that’s a bit cheesy.”
For the time being however, the British public were unaware of Noel’s reservations and on the 20th of June Radio 1 boasted the first airing of new Oasis material in 16 months. ‘D’you Know What I Mean?’, the first single from the album was broadcast on the Friday lunchtime and by the Saturday, Radio 1 were playing the single once an hour. The song itself was a seven-minute-twenty-two-second epic that divided opinion. It was far from a lighters in the air, ‘Wonderwall’ or ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ number, nor was it carrying the rock ‘n’ roll punk ethic of ‘Cigarettes and Alcohol’. Many fans believed that b-side ‘Stay Young’ was a better song but ‘D’you Know What I Mean?’ with its grandiose, call to arms lyric and almost Led Zeppelin-sized-production, certainly served to give the impression that Oasis were evolving as a band and moving in an ever so slightly new direction.
Johnny Hopkins: “D’you Know What I Mean?’ I loved it sonically – the layers of guitars etc. Liam’s vocal is great. It’s long, sure, but it’s dense and intense in a good way. One of the best tracks on the album”
Speaking of Ignition’s approach to the release of ‘D’you Know What I Mean?’ Emma Greengrass told Music Week, “The campaigners had decided on a late release to radio so as to not give the single too much advanced exposure. Ignition wasn’t joking about this, and its tactics were to be heavy handed.”
However ‘heavy handed’ Ignition’s tactics may have been, embargos were inevitably broken. Asda were selling copies of ‘D’you Know What I Mean?’ prior to the singles official release date while three radio stations – Edinburgh’s Radio Forth, Capital Radio in London and Liverpool’s City FM all aired ‘D’you Know What I Mean?’ three days ahead of Radio 1’s official ‘first’ play.
Emma Greengrass: “Does it matter that radio stations broke the embargo? Sitting here now? Couldn’t give a fuck. Who cares? But at the time, we’d been sitting in these bloody bunker meetings for six months or something, and our plot was blown. “Shit, it’s a nightmare!” Of course it’s not a nightmare. Who cares?”
To promote the release of ‘D’you Know What I Mean?’ Liam and Noel gave an interview with Ted Kessler of the NME. Published in the week of the singles release, Kessler led Noel down the ‘bigger than God’ path in an almost cartoon-like version of The Beatles story 30 years on:
NME: “The song seems to be pitting your people against God’s. Do you think Oasis are more important to the youth of today than God?”
Noel: “Now that’s a loaded question—I would have to say, without a shadow of doubt, that is true. Yeah. Football is more important to me than religion. Some of the pop stars I like are more important to me than God, so yeah. I would hope we mean more to people than putting money in a church basket and saying Ten Hail Mary’s every Sunday. Has God played Knebworth recently?”
The Daily Mirror latched onto the quote and the story made their front page during the week of ‘D’you Know What I Mean’s’ release. The headlines did the sales of ‘D’you Know What I Mean?’ little harm as an astounding 370,000 copies were sold in its first week – ‘D’you Know What I Mean?’ inevitably giving Oasis their third number one.
Two weeks later, on the 29th of July, in a defining moment of the era Noel Gallagher, a staunch Labour supporter, attended an evening with Tony Blair at 10 Downing Street along with his wife Meg Matthews, Alan McGee and a variety of other left-wing celebrities of the day including Kevin Spacey, Vivienne Westwood , Eddie Izzard and Sir Ian McKellen.
If hob-nobbing with the Prime Minister elevated Noel Gallagher to a new level of stature in July 1997, by August, Ignition Management appeared to be treating ‘Be Here Now’ like the Holy Grail of rock albums. On August 11th Ignition gave Radio 1 a CD containing four tracks from ‘Be Here Now’. The tracks, which were to be broadcast on Steve Lamaq’s evening session show, were handed over with strict instruction that the songs must be interspersed with jingles to prevent listeners from making bootleg copies.
Steve Lamaq (The Last Party): “It was an absolutely ridiculous scenario. At first, we had the plugger saying, “You can have all the tracks off the album on one show.” So we were just about to start trailing that, when it was, ‘actually, we’re a bit worried about bootlegs creeping out, so you can play four tracks one night and three the next – but you have to talk over the tracks, or put a jingle in the middle. Dylan White (plugger) said to me, “can’t you put a jingle right in the middle of the track?” I said, “There is no way I’m dropping a jingle in the middle of an exclusive new Oasis track. You either run with this, in all good faith, or we don’t do it.” I said, give us the tracks and we’ll see what we can do.” And we got three tracks—.We played them and we got a call the next day saying, ‘Steve didn’t talk over them enough, so you’re not getting the others.” So I had to go on air the next night and say, “Sorry, but were not getting anymore tracks.’ It was just absurd.”
In the lead up to the release of ‘Be Here Now’, Johnny Hopkins, was tasked with playing various journalists tracks from the album:
Johnny Hopkins: “I’d have to drive certain journalists around in a car, round Regents Park playing them selected tracks from the album. It was an indicator of things starting to get over the top. It wasn’t something I’d ever done before nor have I done since. The radio plugger had to do something similar.”
Q Magazine awarded the album 5/5, NME 8/10 while Uncut awarded 5/5.
Further to this, when the music press were sent copies of ‘Be Here Now’ in order to review, journalists were required to sign a contract drawn up by Ignition Management. The contract required journalists to concede that they would not only refrain from discussing the album with ‘any persons other than those necessary to produce the article’ but also that they would refrain from playing the album to anybody. The contract read as follows:
“In connection with this Article you will receive a cassette copy of the album entitled ‘Be Here Now’ by Oasis to listen to. By signing below, you confirm that you will not duplicate the Cassette or any part of it in any medium, nor will you allow any person other than yourself to hear the contents of the Cassette, nor will you discuss the contents with any persons other than those necessary to produce the Article. Further your confirmation that neither you nor [space left for title of publication] will exploit the Article, or any part of it, in any other medium or manner than set out on the following page and no rights will be granted to any third party to exploit the Article, or any part of it, in any other medium or manner. You further acknowledge that to do any of those acts you have agreed to refrain from doing above may cause substantial and unquantifiable damage to Oasis.”
Alan McGee in ‘The Last Party’: “I got the blame for that, I remember opening the Sunday Times, the Sunday before ‘Be Here Now’ came out and it went, ‘McGee is the new Peter Mandelson.’ All I can say is you’re looking at a man who never had record contacts until 1990, and I started the label in 1983. Does that sound like a man who, in 1997, is going to be making people sign disclaimers so that they won’t play the record to their girlfriend?”
When the album was played to the staff of Creation, Ignition, Anglo (TV plugger) and Creation’s two main distribution companies, 3MV and Vital on the 1st floor of Soho restaurant, ‘Quo Vadis’, despite it being a very hot day, Marcus Russell’s right hand man Alec McKinlay made the decision to close all of the windows of the first floor of the restaurant, presumably in case an opportunistic window cleaner heard the new tracks, immediately identified them as the new Oasis album and in no time at all managed to set up recording equipment adequate enough to bootleg what remained of the ‘Be Here Now’ playback and the successfully sell copies of it on Camden Market.
Aside from the concern that bootleg copies of the album may have began to appear, concerns over the quality of the album also began to emerge following the playback of the album. Speaking to author David Cavanagh in 2000, James Kyllo who had worked for Creation since 1989 said, “Everybody was like, ‘these songs are seven-minutes long. This is bloated”
Tones Sansom, formerly of Creation Records recalled ‘a lot of nodding of heads, a lot of slapping of backs.’
Andrew Perry who was reviews editor for Select Magazine told Cavanagh: “It seemed, particularly once you heard the album, that this was cocaine grandeur of just the most ludicrous degree. I remember listening to ‘All Around The World’ and laughing – actually quite pleasurably – because it seemed so ridiculous. The contract seemed almost like an extension of that. You just thought: Christ, there is so much coke being done here.”
Despite Andrew Perry’s thoughts, the reviews of ‘Be Here Now’ were gushing to say the least. No album had received such hype and then praise, since ‘Sgt. Pepper’ 30 years earlier. The Daily Telegraph commented: ‘Be Here Now’ is a great rock record. It refines the Oasis sound—and takes it to the final frontier..It captures the moment. Right here and right now, this is the place to be. While The Guardian said: “Be Here Now’ validates all of the Gallaghers’ boasts about their greatness—Oasis are writing the history of 1990s pop to suit themselves.”
The Observer called ‘Be Here Now’ a ‘triumph’ and declared it ‘the album that would make Oasis into a global force, insinuating itself into tormented, hopeful yung hearts from Indiana to Jakata and filling arenas full of waving scarves and flaming cigarette lighters across the planet.”
Q Magazine awarded the album 5/5, NME 8/10 while Uncut awarded 5/5.
In the lead up to the albums release, retailers were ordered not to sell ‘Be Here Now’ before 8 am which ruled out the midnight opening of stores, so popular in major cities across both the UK and US in the lead up to a major record release.
John Andrews, Marketing Manager of Creation Records during the ‘Be Here Now’ campaign also told Cavanagh: “There wasn’t just an embargo on the press. There wasn’t just an embargo on radio. There wasn’t just an embargo on retail. There was an embargo on other people on the label. I remember one day when somebody came round to check our phones because they thought ‘The Sun’ had tapped them. It was Ignition’s paranoia about Creation and—it made people despise Oasis within Creation before the record was released. If you’d heard the tape, you weren’t allowed to talk about it amongst yourselves. It was like a fascist state.”
While Andy Saunders Director of Communications at Creation Records said, “It was a reign of terror. You couldn’t step out of line and people were constantly looking over their shoulders. The influence that Ignition had on the company as a whole was very destructive. A lot of people were worries about what Ignition were doing—it was all about control. Ignition terrorised people – passively-aggressive they call it in America – and it created a horrible climate.”
In a final show of paranoia, the decision was made to release ‘Be Here Now’ on a Thursday 21st of August rather than an industry standard Monday. The main reason being that American record stores tended to receive soon to be released albums days (sometimes weeks) in advance and Ignition were concerned that a copy of the album could leak out of an American store and a bootleg could find its way to Britain before the actual UK release date.
On the eve or the albums release BBC 1 aired a 39-minute documentary entitled ‘Oasis: Right Here, Right Now’. For the TV cameras at least, Oasis’s unshakable self-belief was still very much in tact:
Noel: “All these other bands have been hogging the limelight while we’ve been away and I suppose it’s a case of saying, ‘move over now, the big boys are back’
Bonehead: “I think it’s the best thing we’ve done. The best thing we’ve recorded.”
Noel: “This is probably going to be the most important album of our career really. This is the one that’s either going to send us to U2’s sort of levels or it’s the one that will probably see us back on the dole.” “Nothing than the best album of 1997 is good enough for us. We want to blow every other band into oblivion. As simple as that. (We) still want to eclipse every single musician in this country.”
The documentary showed Oasis performing three songs from the album. Recorded live in the July at George Martin’s Air Studios, the albums title track and ‘It’s Getting Better (Man!!)’ sounded less cluttered without the multitude of guitars afforded to the recorded versions, while an acoustic version of ‘Stand By Me’, recorded in Bonehead’s back garden, again suggested that musically, less was more in the case of Oasis’s third album.
“You could hear the coke in the production” he said, “all top-endy and no bass”
So came the day of release. The 21st August 1997. As well as being grandly displayed on the albums cover, if the record buyer happened to buy their copy of ‘Be Here Now’ from HMV, they were presented with a certificate carrying the headline ‘I Was There Then’ and the following statement: “The holder of this certificate is the proud owner of the long awaited Oasis album ‘Be Here Now’ purchased from HMV on the first day of release: 21st August 1997.” If Ignition were wanting to play down the hype surrounding the album, such gestures were not really helping matters. Fans being encouraged to believe they were taking part in some form of historical event.
ITV News interviewed three such fans. Sporting Manchester City shirts they commented, “It’s just something you can tell your grandkids, the biggest album of all time and I was there.”
350,000 copies of ‘Be Here Now’ were sold in the first day – Britain’s fastest selling album ever. 696,000 copies had been sold by day three of its release and by the 31st of August (11 days after its release) ‘Be Here Now’ had sold a staggering 800,000 copies.
After the initial hype and the glowing reviews it quickly became apparent that ‘Be Here Now’ was not the masterpiece many were hoping for. It was certainly not the 1990’s version of ‘Sgt. Pepper’.
The general public quickly realised that the songs were too long and over time this has been the common criticism surrounding ‘Be Here Now’. When considering that two of the most important singles of 1997, The Verve’s ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ and Radiohead’s ‘Paranoid Android’ both clocked in at around the six-minute mark however, the argument regarding the length of the songs on ‘Be Here Now’ does not necessarily stand. What was evident was that dynamically, not a lot happened on ‘Be Here Now’. The guitar wall-of-sound rarely let up for the seventy-one minutes and thirty-three seconds of the albums duration. The success of both ‘Paranoid Android’ and ‘Bittersweet Symphony’, both released the same summer proved that, if the song was strong enough and interesting enough, the general public would take it onboard.
Another criticism was levelled at Noel Gallagher. Having held a reputation over the past three years for recycling chord progressions, guitar riffs and melodies from the likes of The Beatles, The Kinks, David Bowie and T.Rex, prior to ‘Be Here Now’ fans had a fair amount of fun spotting where Noel had drawn his inspiration from. The fact that Noel began recycling his own material on ‘Be Here Now’ however, seemed to be a step too far for some fans. The chords on ‘D’You Know What I Mean’s’ verse were the same as that of ‘Wonderwall’s’, ‘Stand By Me’s’ verse melody held a strong resemblance to the verse melody on ‘Married With Children’. ‘I Hope I Think I Know’ carried a similar guitar-riff to ‘Supersonic’ b-side ‘I Will Believe’ while ‘Don’t Go Away’ carried the same guitar intro and a similar chord progression to ‘Slide Away’.
In ‘Creation Stories’ Alan McGee stated that he believed that ‘Be Here Now was let down by ‘the production and having too many drugs in the studio’.
“You could hear the coke in the production” he said, “all top-endy and no bass”. He then went on to sight part of the issue lying with producer Owen Morris:
“It seemed to me that more than anyone else Owen Morris lost the plot producing the record. Noel was adding guitar part after guitar part and all I could think when I went down to the studio was, this is loud—But the band were a runaway train by then. It was hard to say who was in control.”
Like many, Alan McGee believes that ‘Be Here Now’ demolished much of the affection that people had previously held for Oasis:
“They’d been a refreshing change when they’d first arrived, down to earth and laddish in a way that the average guy from Salford understood. The campaign for the album was all wrong and left a bad taste in everyone’s mouths. It made them seem aloof, like they thought they were above everyone else.” Again, like many people around Oasis at the time, Alan McGee also felt that Ignition Management were responsible for some of the issues surrounding the album:
“Ignition took control of it and insisted we embargo it heavily and not allow it to be played on the radio before release. In one fell swoop, we managed to turn all the journalists off Oasis but while Ignition were busy alienating the press, The Verve got hold of the football and ran with it and became the biggest band of the moment with ‘Urban Hymns’—We let the Verve in. We blew it. We blew it and we sold 11 million copies in the process. Now that’s a sentence you don’t hear said very often. That’s how big Oasis were at the time. But they’d never be as big again.”