This was supposed to be it: the peak of Brit-pop endeavour. The arrival of Oasis’s Be Here Now felt almost as exciting for 90s teenagers as the moon landings did for their counterparts in 1969.
It was going to be big, bold a brassy. The hype was massive.
And after the previous sock-blowing-off releases of Definitely Maybe and (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, how could the band’s third long player outing be anything other than the bombastic, game changing, earth shattering album the Gallaghers and co. promised it would be?
These were different times of course.
There was a feeling of optimism in the country following a change of government from the sleaze ridden Tories, led by the grey-underpanted John Major, to the seemingly angelic, butter-wouldn’t-melt saviours of New Labour, headed by Tony Blair.
The days of Iraq and dodgy dossiers were – unimaginably – far in the future.
For the time being, at least, things really could only get better.
Noel Gallagher even popped round to Downing Street for a cup of tea. God was in his heaven (or, at least, Number 10), and we really were living in the days of Cool Britannia.
Be Here Now’s lead single ‘D’You Know What I Mean?’ seemed to deliver on much of the album’s promise. I mean it featured the sound of helicopters and Morse code spelling out “bugger all”, for goodness sake.
Matched up with the pre-requisite string section beloved of all Britpop/indie bands of the time and it was impossible for the song to be anything other than a rip-roaring success.
And, of course, it did get to number one – at a time when number ones still mattered.
But it didn’t take long for the tide to turn.
Be Here Now soon became derided by the very people who had proclaimed it a spectacular masterpiece. It wasn’t a case of the Emperor wearing no clothes. Quite the opposite. This particular emperor was wearing too many clothes.
Oasis’s third album saw the band become a pantomime pastiche of Britpop. The songs were too long, the whole album was too long, the production was too big. It was as if they had succumbed to Frasier Crane’s motto: “If less is more, think how much more more will be”.
Even before Be Here Now’s release, the cracks were beginning to show. Oasis’s old rivals, Blur, had decided to turn their backs on Britpomposity with a much more subdued self-titled record, released some months earlier.
While Oasis were seeking to outdo (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? by adding a submerged Rolls Royce with it, Blur seemed to recognise the death of a party when they saw it. ‘Beetlebum’ was a massive comedown of a tune. Even the bouncy ‘Song 2’ was rather more gnarly than anything that had preceded it.
And, by the time of Be Here Now’s 21 August release (easily remembered: the date appears on the album cover), Radiohead had released OK Computer, an album riddled with bleakness and pessimism. It has often been regarded as an album belonging more to the 21st century than the late-20th.
Nevertheless the Oxford band’s album, rather improbably, managed to top Q Magazine’s poll of the best 100 albums of all time in the year it was released – a position it maintained when the poll was re-run in 2006.
Against such a backdrop, Oasis’s hubris started to stand out like a luxury car in a swimming pool.
It’s a shame really. Rock and roll has historically relied on its characters to tell its flamboyant story. The Gallagher brothers were only ever buying into that. The problem was they invested too heavily at a point when the market was bottoming out.
Since then, we’ve not seen anyone else match their swagger or bravado. We’re left instead with Ed Sheeran, Adele and Chris Martin moping around stadia rather than Liam and Noel acting like they owned them.
For swagger and bravado, we now have to turn to politicians like Bojo and President Wotsit. A much more dangerous and rather grimmer situation.
Definitely. No maybe about it.