18 Years Ago: Oasis Release Their Most Divisive Album, ‘Be Here Now’
Oasis were at the height of their fame — and pretty much the biggest rock ‘n’ roll band in the world — by the time they hit London’s famed Abbey Road Studios in 1996 to begin working on Be Here Now, the much-anticipated follow-up to their breakthrough release, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?
The first few days of recording Be Here Now were, in the words of the album’s producer, Owen Morris, “f—ing awful,” and he suggested to guitarist and songwriter Noel Gallagher that the band abandon the session. “He just shrugged and said it would be all right,” Morris continued. “So on we went.”
That statement pretty much sums up the making of Be Here Now, an album hailed as a masterpiece when it first dropped, though it quickly saw its reputation diminish since. It’s one of the biggest and fastest-selling British albums of all time — it moved 365,000 units on its first day out and debuted at No. 1 in more than a dozen countries around the globe — and also is considered one of the most bloated and overwrought, an album conceived in folly from the ego-driven minds of Noel Gallagher and his younger brother, singer Liam.
While ‘Morning Glory’ expanded on the raw edge of Oasis’ 1994 debut ‘Definitely Maybe’ with lush orchestration and epic arrangements that spawned hits like ‘Wonderwall,’ ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ and ‘Champagne Supernova,’ on ‘Be Here Now,’ Oasis mostly managed to skip right past ambition and focus solely on overblown excess. One reason? The insane amount of drugs they were consuming at the time.
“We were taking all the cocaine we could possibly find,” Noel later recalled to Details. “When you’re on the old cocaine, you think everything you do is incredible. The album is one of my least favorites, but wrapped up in that are some seriously amazing times.”
For an example of that overindulgence, one needn’t look past first single and lead track ‘D’You Know What I Mean?’ Clocking in at nearly eight minutes — including a full minute of droning feedback to start things off — the tune sounds like a sprawling reworking of ‘Wonderwall,’ only with Liam singing indecipherable verses that string together cliches with lines stolen from Beatles tunes, and then follows them with a chorus that asks “All my people right here, right now/ D’you know what I mean?” Sorry mate, can’t say we do.
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While ‘Be Here Now’ went platinum six times over in England, it only managed to sell a million copies here in States. And while the disc did spawn a string of successful singles — ‘D’You Know What I Mean?’, ‘Stand by Me’ and ‘All Around the World’ — it was still considered a disappointment after the massive success of ‘Morning Glory’ and its string of crossover hits.
Perhaps Morris summed it up best with this statement: “The only reason anyone was there was the money,” he once told Q magazine. “Noel had decided Liam was a s— singer. Liam had decided he hated Noel’s songs. [Everybody was doing] massive amounts of drugs. Big fights. Bad vibes. S— recordings.”
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