For me, growing up during my school years, I hated music. The only music I was exposed to was a mixture of awful late-‘80s pop and soft stadium rock (think New Kids on The Block and Bon Jovi) booming from my sister’s Hi-Fi through our cottage’s wafer-thin walls into my room. My dad was a huge Led Zeppelin fan and my mum was crazy about Bowie, but for some reason they didn’t really ever play their music in the house, so what with not really knowing what else was out there, I simply dismissed music as a possible interest.
That was until 1994.
Twenty-five years ago today, on 29th August 1994, Oasis released Definitely Maybe. I was 13 at the time so can’t claim to be cool enough to have bought it on the day of release (I wasn’t allowed to get the bus to town at that age), but I clearly remember MTV being on a lot back then. A few months before the Definitely Maybe release and during a rare break from my sister’s pop trash reverberating from our 2-foot deep TV, the video to Shakermaker (Oasis’ second single) caught my eye whilst en route to our study (probably to embark on a 7-hour Championship Manager sesh).
I watched from a distance, your typical aloof early-teen, trying to retain some level of disinterest in all things popular culture. But I couldn’t hide it. I stood marvelling at the attitude and swagger of this strikingly handsome singer and feeling a peculiar urge to examine the lead guitarist moodily playing the riff that was dictating the song. For the first time I was seeing young men I could associate with (outside of tiny-nylon-shorts-wearing footballers), and making music look cool - something I didn’t think possible. With the rest of their band mates, they strutted around backstreet alleys, singing nonsensical lyrics and much to my enjoyment played football wearing a crash hat - bloody lads. Little did I know just how much that moment would shape so much for me. I was seeing Liam and Noel Gallagher for the very first time, two men who would go on to influence my musical taste, my haircuts, my fashion and my attitude for years to come.
From Shakermaker, I then quickly discovered their first single, Supersonic. Now, bear in mind this was very much days of MTV in its prime, the importance of a video cannot be ignored. Supersonic’s video, which was simply five men on a damp rooftop, shot in black and white was instantly different from the colourful and chaotic pop I was used to, and watching Liam sing with a heavy dose of nonchalance into the camera, I felt for the first time since I was five-years-old, I really wanted to be another man (I wanted to be Superman previously). Whilst the video was strikingly simple yet hugely memorable, the song, (and let’s remember it was their first-bloody-single) was off the scale. Has any other band, except for possibly the Arctic Monkeys had such a ballsy first single? I’m not sure. The riff was alarmingly catchy and the accompanying lyrics brilliantly buoyant, I knew my relationship with music would never be the same again. By the end of the summer, Live Forever had been released, and after hearing it I didn’t think anything else would ever compare (nothing has).
A couple of weeks later, Definitely Maybe was finally released. A few days after hitting the shelves, my mum headed into town and bought me a copy (only because she probably had some errands to run in town - no instant downloads back then kids). With no previous interest in music I didn’t own a CD player, so during the first few months (up until Christmas when I got my first CD player) I had to play it through the PC in our study. Even through the tiny tinny speakers, the album blew me away. I had little to compare it to, but upon hearing the opening bars to Rock ‘n’ Roll Star, I knew it was a defining moment in modern music. What kind of cheeky upstarts have the balls to open an album with a song like that? Before a word had even been sung, the intro sounded like it could soundtrack an uprising. It was loud, bold and sparked something in me I hadn’t really felt before, a fire in my belly to be more confident, stick out my chest and dream of being a rock ‘n’ roll star myself.
When I consider that the rest of the album includes the aforementioned singles, the grooves of Columbia, the punky Bring It On Down, the stomping Cigarettes & Alcohol and the simply beautiful Slide Away, I can’t think of a better debut album over the last 25 years.
But as I mentioned, it wasn’t just about the songs. I spent a lot of my teen years being bullied, but the importance of Oasis and Definitely Maybe can’t be ignored in the part they played in me being able to survive. Seeing how Liam held himself, the clothes he wore, the way he didn’t stand for any crap (although sadly often presenting himself as a drunken lout), gave me the nudge I needed to embrace some of his confidence and walk down the street with my head held a little higher than it would have been without his influence.
On a cultural level, as a young boy with no musical knowledge, hearing them in interviews talking about The Beatles, The Sex Pistols and The Stone Roses pushed me to further my education. Hearing their influences started a snowball effect, and now approaching 40, I still love to embrace any musical knowledge I can, whether it’s reading about the origins of the sitar or delving into the music scenes that have shaped popular culture down the years.
Because of Noel, I learnt to play the guitar and started a band. Through my early years of mental ill health, having a creative outlet and writing songs gave me a huge purpose. I could lose myself for hours creating something positive rather than dwelling on my issues. Even today, when I pick up a guitar in our garage, I can disappear to somewhere else in my mind and will often find myself picking out the Supersonic riff or smashing out Cigarettes & Alcohol as loud as I can without the neighbours wanting to put their house on the market.
Sadly Oasis never really achieved the brilliance of Definitely Maybe again, (obviously there are hugely popular songs on What’s The Story, and moments of greatness lost behind a wall of coked-up guitars on Be Here Now), but the fact so many of us are still listening to their debut a quarter of a century on and so many teenagers are discovering it for the first time, shows just how good it was. It came at the right time for me. It changed my outlook on music, but perhaps more importantly, on life.
So, on the 25th anniversary of Definitely Maybe, whilst it’s recognised as one of the most popular and highly regarded albums of modern time for its brilliant songs, to me it’s also the most important. There’s no maybe about it, it definitely changed everything.