(What's the Story) Morning Glory?
Noel Gallagher had a novel way of overcoming Difficult Second Album Syndrome when it came to making (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?—he had it written already. When the Oasis guitarist and chief songwriter began telling journalists around the release of debut Definitely Maybe in 1994 that he’d already penned the songs for its follow-up, a few must have imagined it was idle boasting from a new artist experiencing their first flush of success. Not in this case. But even Noel, underneath all the bragging, couldn’t have had any idea just how profoundly these songs would connect. Definitely Maybe had established Oasis as the most exciting British guitar band of the decade. (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? made the Manchester quintet massive on a global scale. Definitely Maybe was an astounding introduction but its strength lay in its fury, rock ’n’ roll as a means to wriggle out of humdrum life and make a break for something better. Here, the anger had subsided. These were supersized anthems made for mass sing-alongs and communal euphoria. The songs may have been burning a hole in Noel’s back pocket but everything else about …Morning Glory was of the moment. Recording, mainly done at Rockfield Studios in Wales, was quick—done like they were in a hurry, in a handful of weeks across May and June 1995. And they were in a hurry—there was a world out there to conquer. Band members were only handed a demo of the songs they were about to record days before and backing tracks were nailed in a matter of takes. Everything aligned in perfect alchemy, the sheer promise of these choruses making the band play better, new drummer Alan White bringing a more rhythmic dynamism to the group, and Liam Gallagher responding to his elder brother upping the ante by delivering the vocal performance of a lifetime. No one else could conjure that mix of yearning and swagger that makes “Wonderwall” so powerful. It’s a good job, then, that he chose correctly: Noel had said he wanted to sing one of the record’s surefire big hitters. It was either that or “Don’t Look Back In Anger” and he made his younger sibling pick. The barbed aggression might have been toned down in the music but it was still an ever-present elsewhere. Sessions were halted for two weeks when a giant brawl between the Gallaghers concluded with Noel being driven home to London by White. But that tension is what made Oasis tick, especially at the point in their career when there were still things to prove. It was released in October 1995 and it soon became clear it was more than just your regular successful second album from an excellent rock band. This was a landmark in British culture. It’s hard to remember now what it was like to first listen to …Morning Glory as a mortal collection of songs. Most of the tracks here have become bigger than that, music that has seeped into the consciousness, culture-shaping songs that just are. How could it be allowed for so many classics to be sat next to each other on the same album? As well as “Wonderwall” and “Don’t Look Back In Anger,” there’s the melancholy uplift of “Cast No Shadow,” the cosmic opus of “Champagne Supernova,” the thrilling crackle of the title track. Shifting well over 20 million copies, it went on to become one of the best-selling records of all time. It’s about more than just Oasis, too, an album full of hope and longing released in time to soundtrack a period when everything felt like it was on the up in the UK. Emerging from recession, the country entered economic prosperity, experienced a change of government, and—through the achievements of the likes of Alexander McQueen, Lennox Lewis, Kate Moss, Danny Boyle, Tracey Emin, the Spice Girls, and Oasis and all of their Britpop peers—suddenly felt like one of the world’s cultural centers. Here, in 50 minutes, is the story of a decade. There was no stopping Oasis at that point. That was something that could only be done by the band themselves and …Morning Glory was when they could still harness the chaos and turn it into something magical. It’s the sound of a once-in-a-generation band operating at their dazzling best.