|First posted 10/3/2013; updated 9/9/2019.|
(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.)
All songs by Noel Gallagher unless noted otherwise.
The rise of Oasis on the British scene was part nostalgia, part tabloid, and – as is usually the case with album’s that take on iconic status – part timing. They are accused of ripping off the Beatles. The Gallagher brothers (singer Liam and guitarist Noel) were called “tossers, wankers” TL because they “spent the ‘90s getting arrested, yelling at each other and warring with Blur’s Damon Albarn over the very important matter of which band was Britain’s best.” TL
Detractors argue that it wasn’t talent that made the band big, but their luck in being at the right place at the right time. Regarding the album’s lyrics, Q magazine said, “They say nothing much about anything.” IN Melody Maker called them “a limited band” who sounded “labored and lazy.” IN FasterLouder’s Max Easton says (What’s the Story) Morning Glory’s “lasting place in ‘90s folklore is less about the quality of the album and more about the celebrity status and faux imagery attached to it.” WK It is an album “full of anthems for the sake of anthems” and that “they’re all variations on only a couple of good ideas.” WK
This is all part of the story behind what ranks as one of the most celebrated albums of all time.
The Pinnacle of Britpop
In the late ‘80s, the UK experienced a “retro-rock renaissance” PF with more guitar-driven bands like the Stone Roses and the La’s. The “Britpop movement” also fit nicely into the American transition from more indie-oriented college rock to the wider audience of ‘90s alternative. Oasis arrived in 1994 with Definitely Maybe, a mix of “‘60s psychedelia, ‘70s glam and punk, Madchester groove” PF that became the UK’s fastest-selling debut ever. SG By the time of sophomore effort, Morning Glory, Oasis had become the major player of the Britpop movement. Despite all the expectations, the album has come to be regarded as the “quintessential Britpop masterpiece.” RS
It was a “significant record in the timeline of British indie music,” WK selling a record-breaking 347,000 copies in its debut sales week. WK The day after the album’s release, central London HMV stores were selling copies at a rate of two albums per minute, WK making it the second fastest-selling album in British history, only behind Michael Jackson’s Bad. IN The album was in the top three on the UK charts for “an astonishing seven months.” WK It went on to become the UK’s best-selling album of the 1990s WK and the third best-selling album in British history WK (behind the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Queen’s Greatest Hits). RS On a global scale, it “propelled Oasis from being a crossover indie act to a worldwide rock phenomenon.” WK
Oasis have been plagued by accusations of “ripping off The Beatles (ok, excellent stealing).” ZS They may be “guilty of some borrowing, or even plagiarism, but [Noel] uses the familiar riffs as building blocks. This is where his genius lies: He’s a thief and doesn’t have many original thoughts, but as a pop/rock melodicist he’s pretty much without peer.” AMG “The nagging familiarity of the material and the group’s stroppy self-confidence made criticism redundant.” PR
“Oasis are hardly innovators” AMG but “this powerhouse sophomore album rocks, end of story.” ZS “They have a majestic grandeur in their sound that makes ballads…or rockers…positively transcendent.” AMG Their “songs are flat-out infectious with melodies that capture their passion, sneering arrogance and good chops.” ZS Liam’s “voice is a no-frills vessel for carrying a tune;” TL he shows a knack for “turn[ing] each song into a sing-a-long.” TL Oasis “came as close as anyone to combining the tunefulness of the Beatles with the attitude of the Stones.” TL
While the band is musically compared to the Beatles, the relationship of brothers Liam and Noel is more akin to the sibling rivalry of Ray and Dave Davies of the Kinks. The “paparazzi-level famous” RS nature of their “bickering and in-fighting would grab most of the subsequent headlines foreshadowed the group’s eventual demise.” RS Less than six months after the album’s release, Liam told The Sunday Times “I’ve been up for leaving for the last couple of months… I reckon I can write better music, a lot better, about 100 times better, than what [Noel] can.” RS
Scroll down to comments about the song “Don’t Look Back in Anger” for a more detailed account of one of the brother’s infamous battles.
Morning Glory vs. Definitely Maybe
Noel said “the first album is about dreaming of being a pop star in a band. The second album is about actually being a pop star in a band,” RS or as All Music Guide’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine says, “what happens after the dreams come true.” AMG Morning Glory had “all the same intense immediacy,” SG “the same swagger, the same self-mythologizing in process, the same take-no-prisoners songwriting,” SG but “more expansiveness and…arguably more longevity.” SG It “feels like the Britpop release that was truly as massive as the movement itself in England.” SG With “Wonderwall” and “Champagne Supernova” becoming chart-topping modern rock hits in the U.S., the band also achieved “the kind of in-the-air ubiquity that makes them undying staples at coffee-shop gigs or in dorm hallways.” SG
While it is “a more pop-friendly effort than its predecessor” RS, the second album is also “relatively introspective…filled with big, gorgeous ballads instead of ripping rockers.” AMG The tone is “decidedly darker and more reflective” PF with sentiments like “the foreboding ‘it’s never gonna be the same’ prophecy of opening salvo Hello.” PF “Unlike Definitely Maybe, the production on Morning Glory is varied enough to handle the range in emotions; instead of drowning everything with amplifiers turned up to 12, there are strings, keyboards, and harmonicas. This expanded production helps give Noel Gallagher’s sweeping melodies an emotional resonance.” AMG
Noel’s songwriting now had “an expanded palette – more lush, more intricate, even vulnerable in places.” SG Steve Sutherland, the former chief editor of New Musical Express, said Noel “began to take seriously the notion of being the voice of a generation.” WK Meanwhile, “Liam’s sneer had already bloomed into a far-more-assured rock howl. He always had a hell of a voice and was always a consummate frontman, but this is probably the moment where he was at his best as an actual rock singer.” SG
”Some Might Say”
The “defiant” AMG “Some Might Say” was the lead single from the album, hitting #1 in the UK. Released in April, the song preceded the album by six months. While David Stubbs of Melody Maker was critical of the album as a whole, he called “Some Might Say” “the best single of the year.” WK The song “has the sound of an older brother, the one who grew up and learned to bottle up his sense of swagger and actually take a stroll through the outside world.” SG
”Roll with It”
The album’s second single, “Roll with It,” also preceded the album, coming out six weeks before Morning Glory, a rather “unorthodox method for the time, contrasting the standard industry procedure of releasing the lead single three weeks before its parent album.” WK
More important, however, was the song’s place in the “media-fueled and (partially) media-created” SG “Battle of Britpop” – “the greatest pop rivalry since the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.” WK In the “UK chart equivalent of an after-school fistfight,” PF Blur moved up the release of their single “Country House” to directly compete with “Roll with It” instead of getting “lost in the latter’s wake.” SG The two bands symbolized the “battle between the middle class of the south and the working class of the north” WK with Blur serving as “the London art-school yin to Oasis’ Mancunian street-tough yang.” PF.” Blur won, debuting at #1 with 274,000 copies compared to 216,000 copies and a #2 debut for Oasis.
Blur won the battle but lost the war. In retrospect, “the decision to go with Morning Glory’s weakest song was..Oasis’ cockiest gesture yet: They were willing to take the first strike…because they knew it was only a matter of time before they’d be delivering the knockout blow.” PF Indeed, that proved to be the case. While Blur’s album, The Great Escape, “garnered critical praise that grew more conflicted in ensuing years” SG while Morning Glory sold twice as many copies over the next two years PF and, despite mixed reviews initially, “became emblematic of the time,” SG serving as “the unofficial soundtrack to England’s imminent changing of the guard.” PF
The “sympathetic” AMG “Wonderwall,” is the band’s “simplest, most universal anthem.” PF It has “a beautiful sense of sentimentality that bespeaks the despondency of a generation.” WK Noel wrote it for his then-girlfriend, Meg Matthews, who he later married and then divorced. The title was taken from the soundtrack “from an obscure film scored by George Harrison.” TL Meg explained that it was a symbol of how she was Noel’s “wall of strength. His solidity.” RS
Although it was the fourth single from the album, it gave the band it’s greatest exposure. It topped the Australian chars and was by far the band’s greatest success in the U.S., hitting the top 10 on the pop charts and #1 on the modern rock chart. It remains the band’s only top 40 U.S. hit and is one of two songs to rank in Dave’s Music Database’s top 1000 songs (the other is “Live Forever” from the band’s debut album).
”Don’t Look Back in Anger”
The album’s second #1 UK single offers a “showstopping star turn” PF for Noel as he “emerges as a more personable, sobering foil to brother Liam’s bratty swagger.” PF The song sparked a major battle between the brothers when Noel insisted on singing lead either on this song or “Wonderwall.” Initially, Noel was satisfied with Liam’s vocals on “Anger,” but tension returned when Liam strained to sing the high notes on “Champagne Supernova.” Noel then re-recorded vocals for “Anger,” which inticed Liam to corral a crowd from a local publ and crash the recording session, resulting in vicious fighting between the siblings. WK They reconciled three weeks later and spent two more weeks working on the album in what Owen Morris, the album’s producer, called “the best, easiest, least fraught, most happy creative time I’ve ever had in a recording studio.” WK
British legend Paul Weller joined Oasis in the studio to provide lead guitar and backing vocals for the “epic arena rawk of ‘Champagne Supernova’,” TL as well as harmonica for the two untitled tracks. WK This song and “Wonderwall” were chart-toppers on the U.S. alternative rock chart.
Noel considered the song “his most egotistical endeavor on the album,” RS telling The Sunday Times “For Christ’s sake, how big is that title? It’s like I’m saying, ‘I am Mr. Noel Gallagher. Do you know who I am? I am the greatest. I’m like Muhammad Ali.’” RS
The line “Where were you while we were getting high?” was a casual expression the bandmates often exchanged. RS
This is an album “with four hit singles that attested to the strength and consistent high quality of the material.” PR However, “the real triumph of Morning Glory is measured not by the tracks that have since become karaoke classics, first-dance wedding standards, and go-to bathtub sing-alongs, but the exceptional album tracks that never got a shot at certain chart supremacy – like the jet-roard jangle of Hey Now (…the best Oasis song never to be issued as a single) and the crestfallen Cast No Shadow, dedicated to a then-mostly-unknown Richard Ashcroft of the Verve.” PF
Noel said the former was “a direct reflection of the changing dynamics and personnel of the band” RS while the latter, with its “arena-rupturing chorus,” SG is “about songwriters in general who are desperately trying to say something. I’d like to be able to write really meaningful lyrics but I always end up talking about drugs or sex. People tend to ask my advice about a lot of things. I’m good at giving it, but I’m shit at taking it. But people like Richard and Paul [Weller] will look after me; they’ll make sure I’m conscious in a chair or that I can get home.” RS
The “raging” AMG title track is marked by “a hint of regret” AMG and “layers of guitar that sound like a hurricane made up of sirens.” SG The “humorous…She’s Electric, a bawdy rewrite of ‘Digsy’s Diner,’” AMG which was an homage to the Kinks and Small Faces. IN