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Feature: 20th Anniversary of Definitely Maybe

Oasis reissue classic 1994 debut album Definitely Maybe for 20th anniversary

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It was announced on Tuesday morning that Oasis’ Definitely Maybe, one of the most iconic and ground-breaking debut albums of all time, will be reissued as a super-deluxe boxset, to be released on May 19th. All 11 original album tracks have been remastered by Ian Cooper at Metropolis Studios, and the reissue features a smorgasbord of additional content spread over 3 discs and 4 vinyls.

Definitely Maybe was originally released in August 1994 and went straight to number 1, becoming the fastest selling debut album of all time in the UK. The fervour surrounding this album was akin to that surrounding the release of the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollocks in 1977. Although lyrically apolitical, this record almost single-handedly rejuvenated disaffected working class youths throughout Britain, giving them an identity and purpose. Definitely Maybe was released against a backdrop of nihilistic grunge and the usual conveyer belt of bubble-gum pop in the UK. But after the tragic death of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain in April 1994, there was vacancy in rock music. The brothers from Burnage seized this opportunity with both hands – and then some. This stunning debut album, along with Noel and Liam Gallagher’s rock ’n’ roll attitude and razor-sharp humour, dragged British music onto a new path. Together with Blur, who released Parklife in April 1994, Oasis created the media phenomenon of Britpop. Rock ’n’ roll had been rescued from the abyss.

The album’s brilliant opening track ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Star’ couldn’t be a more appropriate way to start the album, and acts almost as Oasis’s mission statement. Noel Gallagher’s nonsense and apparently meaningless lyrics are ingenious, allowing the listener to project whatever context they want onto the songs. This is epitomised by ‘Shakermaker’ where Liam sings, in his vintage Mancunian snarl, “I’d like to build myself a house out of plasticine”. This gibberish somehow seems bursting with meaning, and complements the album’s feel perfectly.

All great albums have a stand-out, ‘super-human’ track, and in Definitely Maybe that track is ‘Live Forever’. Here, Noel creates the perfect melody, and the sheer spirit and optimism of the song makes it Oasis’ crowning achievement. Forget ‘Wonderwall’ – ‘Live Forever’ should be the timeless signature of Oasis. An often underestimated element of the early years of Oasis was the huge level of feedback and distortion in their guitars, and this helped to create a truly unique wall of sound. None of this is typified more than on one of my favourite tracks of all time, ‘Columbia’, a 3-chord swirling juggernaut of psychedelia. After the fan favourite ‘Slide Away’, Definitely Maybe finishes with ‘Married With Children’, a placid, reflective number that escorts the listener back down to Earth after the chaos of the previous 10 tracks.

Noel was heavily influenced and inspired by bands from the rock ’n’ roll vault; The Beatles and Sex Pistols, for example (Cigarettes and Alcohol’s riff was ‘borrowed’ from T-Rex’s ‘Get It On’), but Oasis’ style was truly original and unique. A near perfect album. Definitely deserving of some painstaking remastering.

Incidentally, Noel Gallagher and his High Flying Birds are currently recording their/his second album, with Definitely Maybe co-producer Mark Coyle claiming on Tuesday that it has “the spirit of Definitely Maybe” and is “utterly amazing”. I look forward to it.