Be Here Now: a retrospective

AUGUST 21, 1997: Oasis – arguably the biggest band on the planet – released their heavily anticipated third album Be Here Now. After Definitely Maybe and (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, Oasis consolidated with massive stadium gigs at Maine Road football stadium, home of Manchester City F.C (later immortalised in the live DVD …There and Then) and Knebworth. The pressure on BHN was immense, such was the Oasis obsession. Before the days where YouTube, Spotify etc made music freely available, die-hard fans would cassette record radio performances of new songs. The pressure was added by the Gallagher brothers “enjoying” the perks of fame, Sadly, the band’s indulgences turned Be He Now from heavily hyped to rather disappointing.

The first single “D’You Know What I Mean?” summed up the mess that was to come: loud, muti-layered and plain chaotic. While Oasis were famous for their noisy wall of sound, they overdid it with Be Here Now. Fortunately, Liam Gallagher’s voice was still brilliant. There were some gems among the noise: “I Hope, I Think, I Know” is probably one of Oasis’ fastest songs,  “Stand by Me” is a deserved live classic, “Don’t Go Away” is a beautiful, restrained ballad, the title track “Be Here Now” is a fun rocker and “All Around the World” tries to be BHN’s “Champange Supernova” and nearly succeeds (if not for all the “na na na na na na’s” by Liam and an unnecessary reprise).

Oasis would never fully recover from Be Here Now. After three albums in four years, Oasis took their biggest break, releasing B-side collection The Masterplan to appease fans (though there was little new for hardcore collectors). While Oasis had their critics, The Masterplan proved they could write amazing B-sides. While Oasis toured Be Here Now, the shows took a back seat to the Gallagher’s feuding and rowdy behaviour, especially in Australia. When Oasis released Standing on the Shoulder of Giants in 2000, it was underwhelming. The overproduction of Be Here Now was replaced by trippy, psychedelic, late-era Beatles wannabe songs. There were some highlights, “Go Let it Out”, “Who Feels Love?”, the epic “Gas Panic” and short rockers “Put Yer Money Where Yer Mouth Is” and  “I Can See a Liar”, tempered by Liam’s embarrassingly simple songwriting debut “Little James” (later works like “Songbird” showed improvement). Noel’s ballad “Where Did it All Go Wrong?” seemed to sum up the band’s plight. How did the they fall so far so fast? The live CD/DVD/VHS Familiar to Millions, chronicling their Wembley Stadium shows in 2000, was an unofficial greatest hits album, even if Liam’s voice wasn’t at his best and tensions were high between the Gallaghers.

Like a footy team going through rebuilding, a cleanout did Oasis the world of good, with new bassist Andy Bell and rhythm guitarist Gem Archer. Noel – for so long the only songwriter – opened the writing process for 2002’s Heathen Chemistry – with Liam writing three, and Andy and Gem one song each. The fun rocker “The Hindu Times” signalled a return to form.

With the pressure of being ‘the biggest band ever’ over, Oasis focused on releasing two more strong albums (Don’t Believe the Truth – 2005 and Dig Out Your Soul – 2008) before they finally split for good in 2009.

Twenty years after Be Here Now, Noel released the remastered “D’you Know…” ahead of the album’s re-release with B-sides and rare recordings. The pared down version of “D’you Know…” is far superior to the original. It retains the essence of the songs but everything – from the guitar riffs to the strings – is so much clearer. It makes you think: had Oasis applied this stripped down approach to every song, Be Here Now would have been a worthy successor to DM and Morning Glory. Unfortunately, Noel’s plan to redo the entire album never came to fruition, which is a shame. The recent documentary Supersonic wisely showed the Oasis we want to remember: framed by the monstrothic Knebworth gigs and chronicling the rise of Oasis up to 1996. No mention of Be Here Now.

So let’s play a hypothetical game of how to make Be Here Now better?

      1. Firstly, open with the new version of “D’you Know…”
      2. Keep  “My Big Mouth”. It’s one of the shorter songs and exemplifies the faster, louder BHN sound.
      3. Get rid of  “Magic Pie” and replace with superior B-side “The Fame”, swapping a Noel song for a Noel song.
      4. Keep the wonderful “Stand by Me”.
      5. Keep  “I Hope, I Think, I Know”, another big, fast, fun rocker and one of Liam’s best vocal performances.
      6. Axe the boring “The Girl in the Dirty Shirt” for another great B-side “Flashbax”. Ok, it’s swapping a Liam song for a Noel song, but few Oasis fans would miss “Dirty Shirt”.
      7. Dump “Fade In-Out” and push up ” “It’s Gettin’ Better (Man!!)”.
      8. Keep “Don’t Go Away”
      9. Keep “Be Here Now”
      10. Finish the album with “All Around the World”.

So that cuts a 12-track album to 10 tracks. It comes to around 50 minutes, which is better than the 70-plus original. Seven of the original songs are still there, with one remaster and two brilliant B-sides.

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