“don’t look back in anger” – oasis (1995)

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Ten years ago today, Oasis played their final gig and officially broke up.  I remember hearing about the news at the time and didn’t believe it.  Liam and Noel, one of rock’s most notorious cases of sibling rivalry, had fought throughout their entire career.  Growing up, I remember watching MTV News stories about their fights and as I got older, watching radio show clips on YouTube of one of them tearing the other down. It was shocking and strange at first, almost humorous, because I was at such a young age when Oasis hit the scene and I was so unfamiliar with other examples of rock and rock family dynamics.  By the time I hit college, new stories about their drunken brawls and childish taunts were no longer rock and roll.  They were on brand.

I remember thinking, when they broke up right before I started my senior year, that this separation would never last.  They’ll patch things up, play the gigs, and suffer eachother jus enough to barely complete an album. I mean, they had done this before and made a long, lucrative career out of it.

However, that never happened and both Liam and Noel were quick to form new bands almost immediately.  Beady Eye and High Flying Birds, two separate bands both formed in 2009 by Liam and Noel respectively, rose out of the ashes of Oasis and released studio albums in 2011.  I had just moved to Chicago when those releases hit the shelves.  Having been someone who really enjoyed Oasis, though never would call myself a true fan, I was eager to hear new music from the Gallagher brothers, even if they weren’t recording together.

Both freshman releases from the veteran rockers left a lot to be desired.  The albums were fine, but there was something missing and I tuned out when it came to any subsequent releases.  I just chalked it off as two guys, secure in their musical legacy both critically and commercially, just playing music that they wanted to play and keeping busy with it without a lot of drama. There’s nothing for them prove and I can appreciate that, but just like them, I had moved onto other things.

Though, while I moved on, it seems the brothers haven’t quite done the same.  Or at least, not fully. Since their final gig on August 22nd, 2009 when they cancelled their Dig Out Your Soul tour four shows early and Noel announced that he was quitting with claims about Liam’s excessive drinking and violence with him “wielding [a guitar] like an axe, “ the two estranged brothers have never stopped taking opportunities to dig out the other’s soul on radio, television, and social media. And ten years on, it still hasn’t stopped.

While Oasis were touring and making music, these taunts and jabs were par for the course.  And, frankly, it was entertaining to me as a kid and teenager.  Now, with the band broken up and the two pursuing their own projects, it is just sad.  As an adult, I just wonder why they don’t keep themselves focused on their passion projects.  With all the continued drama, it is almost as if they never broke up.

While I don’t really listen to anything new from the Gallagher brothers, I still very much enjoy their Oasis output.  Despite all the drama, there’s a magic there in the brighter, catchier alternative to the post-grunge sound the defined part of the 90s. They were taking the timelessness of the Beatles, indulging in their Britishness, and unabashedly translating that passion and identity to usher in a new era of alternative, joined by others such as Pulp and Blur.  Growing up in a house with an English parent, I just found Oasis more relatable than the other alternative bands on the radio coming from the American musical centers that contributed to the zeitgeist.

On their final gig, Oasis opened their encore with “Don’t Look Back in Anger.” Released as a single in 1996 on their 1995 megahit studio album (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, the song has endured as one of their best and most anthemic songs.  Noel describes the song as his “Hey Jude,” and while that is a bit of stretch to compare yourself that directly to the Beatles, the band did come close to doing so and it is with songs like “Don’t Look Back in Anger.”

On a radio interview, Noel said of the song “It started off as a song of defiance, about this woman: She’s metaphorically seeing the diary of her life pass by, and she’s thinking, ‘You know what? I have no regrets.’ She’s raising a glass to it.”  And I can imagine that was how he was feeling when he decided to walk away from Oasis, from the biggest thing in his life, and from his brother. He wasn’t on top of the world in 2009 like he was in 1995, but to walk away from a legacy like that is no easy thing.  Toxic people, no matter how close they are to you in blood or spirit, takes a lot of strength and courage.  And to do so on your own terms and not feel any regrets, there’s power in that.

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