“Without doubt the finest book I’ve ever read about songwriters and the songs they write. Fantastic insightful interviews. I remember being interviewed for it at the time and thinking I wish all interviews were like this.”
Oasis have have 8 number one albums including What’s The Story (Morning Glory) which has spent 227 weeks on the British chart.
Of their 23 top ten singles, there have been 8 number ones including ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ which spent 39 weeks on the chart).
Biggest Album Definitely Maybe, September 1994 – No 1; 177 weeks in chart
I once said that I wrote songs ‘for the man who buys the Daily Mail and 20 Bensons every day’. And I meant that at the time. I’d consider myself to be just an average man in the street who’s been blessed with a talent to write songs. I don’t write songs for the Observer or The Guardian, or for the NME or Mojo. I’m not bothered about pushing the envelope. I wanted everyone to like Oasis, not just some people in Oxford, a few people in Hull and a couple of people in Glasgow.
I learned long ago not to go looking for songs. If it comes, it comes; if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I’m not standing on the runway waiting for the aliens to appear going, ‘Come on.’ It just never happens, does it?
I only listen to music from, or derived from, the 1960s. I’m not interested in jazz or hip-hop or whatever’s going round at the minute; indie rubbish. I don’t listen to avant-garde landscapes and think, ‘I could do that.’ I’m not a fan of Brian Eno. It’s Ray Davies, John Lennon and Pete Townshend for me.
All that Definitely Maybe, Morning Glory, Be Here Now stuff was written while I was still on the dole. I had the chords, the arrangements, the melodies; just bits of lyrics to fill in. You start off writing songs, you’re not sure who’s going to hear them. Then when I tried to write the next batch, I was like, ‘We’ve 20 million fans.’ Then your records become eagerly anticipated and you start going, ‘Umm, I might go to the pub today.’
If you wrote Digsy’s Dinner (from Definitely Maybe) now, The Guardian or the music papers would destroy you. It’s a song about going to someone’s house for lasagne – you only write songs like that when you’re free of inhibitions.
It’s not natural for me to say to my missus, ‘I’m going to the country to write an album.’ That was Be Here Now. I had all the music but not the words. We were starting in two weeks, so I went to some Caribbean island and I thought I’d do it all in two weeks. I listen to those words now and I just cringe. I was heavily into drugs at that point and I just didn’t give a damn.
All the songs I like, they’re not written by songwriters pulling scabs off themselves. I’m not interested in all of John Lennon’s stuff about his mother, because it doesn’t mean anything to me. How can Mother mean anything to anybody apart from John Lennon? It can’t, because he’s singing it about his mother, not mine. The abusive father I had belongs to me. And I wouldn’t want to share any of that or to put it into a song.
‘Slowly walking down the hall’ (from Champagne Supernova) is from either Chigley or Trumpton. Which is the one with the train?
How long can you go without writing?
Oh, fuckin’ 10 months. I don’t chase it any more, doesn’t bother me in the slightest. It only really dawns on me when I’m out with Weller. He’ll say, “Have you written any songs recently?”, and I’ll say, “Actually no, I haven’t.” He’ll say, “When was the last time you wrote?” and I’ll say, “Oh fuck, nine months ago.” We’ll have an argument about that or something or other and he’ll say, “Get your fuckin’ finger out, you lazy …” – all that. From when I joined Oasis to when we became a real big, fuck-off band – when you fall into that cycle of album, tour, a year off, so it’s once every three years – I was on a mission. All that Definitely Maybe, Morning Glory and Be Here Now stuff was all written while I was on the dole. After that other shit gets in the way, like going on tour for a year and a half. It slows you down a bit. It comes with age, kids: you don’t get the time to devote to it any more.
When the band needed a first single you just went into a room and wrote “Supersonic”.
That just appeared. We were doing “Bring It on Down” because Creation wanted it as the first single and it was just fuckin’ rubbish. Instead of scrapping the session somebody said, “Just go and write a song.” I had the chords and that, it was just magic, and I’ve never done it since. It was amazing, that night. I wrote the whole song in less than half an hour, recorded it and mixed it that night, played it to Creation and that was it – fuckin’ hell, great.
Do you think in traditional structures when you’re writing?
I only listen to music derived or from the 60s. I’m not interested in jazz or hip-hop or whatever’s going round at the minute; indie shit. I don’t loathe it but I don’t listen to it. My education as a songwriter was from listening to the Kinks and the Who and the Beatles. I don’t listen to avant-garde landscapes and think, “I could do that.” I’m not a fan of Brian Eno. It’s Ray Davies, John Lennon and Pete Townshend for me.
Where would that education take you? Was it listening and absorbing or thinking, “What’s Ray Davies doing here?”
No, I’m not that clever. I would play along at home to “Dead End Street” and “Waterloo Sunset” but that’s it. I taught myself to play the guitar; it’s just a tool for me to write songs. I’m not a great guitarist. I don’t study it. It frustrates me sometimes. I’ll never be the super session guy: I can do sessions for Oasis. It would take all the magic out of it to break down “I Am the Walrus” to its basic components. I listen to it and go, “It’s fucking amazing; why is it amazing? I don’t know, it just is.” That’s why I find journalists such joyless fucking idiots. They have to break music down and pull it apart until there’s nothing left, until they know it all; they analyse it down until it’s bland nonsense. They don’t listen to music like the rest of us.
Is it a default when you’re stuck for ideas: rain, shine?
I’m not one of the world’s greatest thinkers. Damon Albarn said this once in an interview: he can “see four black dudes playing cards in a pub in Notting Hill and write a symphony about it”. I would see the same four black dudes and to me it’s just four black dudes playing cards. It’s just how you perceive things in life. I’m not a great reader of books; I’m not a great art lover. What I know is street life and street talk and football and drugs. I am probably the only songwriter in the entire world that hasn’t written a song about 9/11.