Friday, 22 May 2015

Cigarettes & Alcohol

Band: Oasis
Album: Definitely Maybe
Year: 1994
Label: Creation
Status: Disbanded 2009
Could a title do more to glorify self-destruction? Maybe if it was backed up by a video where it is obligatory to have a bottle of booze in your hand or a cigarette hanging limply from wasted-looking faces; a video of people collapsing drunk, pissed snogs, smoky backgrounds, toilets as mixed-sex social spaces to show what things can descend into. Grainy black and white footage to imply a colourless life, fitting the lyrics – nothing worth making an effort for except drugs as escapism, go down the white line route. A seductive path to overindulgence reminiscent of the Happy Mondays. Even the single’s sleeve reinforced the smiling nihilism: cigarettes (Liam dragging on a fag) and alcohol (Noel holding up a bottle) cover the drugs angle. Beds, beautiful women, guitars: hints of sex and rock ’n’ roll too. It’s not subtle, but hammered home the new view of Oasis as something wilder than their psychedelically-influenced peaceful rock-pop first appeared.

This was the fourth single from their first album, Definitely Maybe. Cigarettes & Alcohol is a perpetual favourite with many of their fans. There’s a force and confidence to the music. Not from virtuoso solos or manic punk speed, but from the dirty guitar sound, the drawled pace, the working class perspective, and a “This is how it is” public persona statement that admits of no doubt and no alternatives. Confidence that suited a world-famous band.

Oasis are a band associated with an awe-inspiring number of hits. The titles of the songs entered our collective music unconscious: you read them and already you hear the music and words in your head, evocative, classic, memory-stamped: Supersonic, Shakermaker, Live Forever, Some Might Say, Roll With It, Wonderwall, Don’t Look Back In Anger, Champagne Supernova.

This was a turning point when the world really started to take note of this Manchester band. Definitely Maybe entered the album charts at number one, and for a while was the UK’s fastest selling debut album. The band went on to win all the major awards from the BRITs, MTV, NME, and Q. Best Band, Album, Video, Single, Musical Event, even Best Act In The World Today. They really do have awards coming out of their rear ends. Controversy too. The press loved the two oh-so-quotable foul-mouthed wild and hedonistic brothers, forever falling out. The Gallaghers couldn’t ever settle their differences for long. Always another insult, another whack with a tambourine, another headline.


If we move on to a different type of bloodline it is easy to see that Oasis was influenced by the cream of Manchester. The band’s members, at different times, cited Inspiral Carpets, Happy Mondays, The Smiths, The Stone Roses, and The Verve: if you are going to be influenced, make sure it’s by the best.




Extract from page 280 of 2000 Tunes: A History of Manchester Music by M. H. Rees; used with permission. Read the whole series (25 extracts) here; or my summary post. Readers might be interested in my forthcoming novel about a man obsessed with Manchester music - confusingly, it is also called 2000 Tunes!
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