If Oasis was a fringe Brit indie band that was making ripples through its debut album Definitely Maybe, then their second album (What's the Story) Morning Glory? generated an unexpected tidal wave of superstardom. In October last year, Oasis released the documentary Noel Gallagher: Return to Rockfield and a song-by-song journey What's the Story? of the super successful album, marking the 25th anniversary of the occasion that put them on a world map.
Noel traverses through the hallowed Rockfield Studios in Wales, reminiscing about the band's story and how the iconic album was put together. By the time Oasis descended on the Rockfield premises, the studio had already seen the likes of Black Sabbath, Rush, Motorhead, Judas Priest, Iggy Pop, and Robert Plant among others, recording their works. Renowned for being the glorious setup where Queen recorded A Night at the Opera (specifically the song 'Bohemian Rhapsody'), the studio has been a definitive part of Brit rock history.
'Bohemian Rhapsody' became the band's most successful song, and was their first #1 in the UK. Oasis had its first UK #1 with S'ome Might Say,' a single from (What's the Story) Morning Glory? that comprised many of Oasis' biggest selling UK singles: 'Wonderwall,' 'Don't Look Back in Anger,' 'Roll with it,' 'She's Electric,' 'Morning Glory,' and 'Champagne Supernova.'
It established Oasis as a force to reckon with, changing the sound of rock music at that time to nonchalant vocals that balances precariously between big riffs and subtle soundscapes.
In the documentary Noel Gallagher: Return to Rockfield, Noel looks back partly in wonder, and partly in nostalgia, at how he not only managed to live a boyhood dream of being a rock star, but also how the legacy remains to this day. In this one album alone, the band has packed in timeless anthems that every subsequent generation of rock fan has come to relate to, and newer musicians have cited as a major influence on their works. Through the second part What's the Story?, Noel deconstructs each song in the album, with some charming narrative on what went into creating them.
Revisiting the legendary studios where the album was recorded during May and June of 1995, the former lead guitarist and vocalist offers personal anecdotes and intimate insights into the process of putting the album together, oftentimes sitting back and enjoying the melodic spoils it has to offer. When he listened to the album for the first time in 25 years, he tried to understand why (What's the Story) Morning Glory? remains such a hit with fans and critics alike: "I understood it today. You know, the words, the melodies. Liam's voice is on another level on that record. Because there's nothing around today that even remotely comes near to it," he says.
At one point in the documentary, Noel takes jibes at the critics who initially panned it for being unremarkable. Against a brick wall, their scathing critique is pasted in the documentary to highlight how it was treated by journalists. One of the most blistering reviews came from Melody Maker, who said: "On this evidence, Oasis are a limited band . . . They sound knackered."
Fielding this in typical Noel style, he says: "Journalists know @%&$ all!"
Noel is joined by the owner of Rockfield Studios Kingsley Ward and album sound engineer Nick Brine, who bring their own unique perspectives to the band's journey. Ward takes pride in how pivotal Oasis' history is in the context of the studio's own rich legacy. Brine talks of how quickly the album came together even as Noel admits not having all the lyrics in place before recording started. Watching Noel describe how they set up the rig on the wall to record Wonderwall or listening to how Oasis " through their thoroughly professional attitude to their album " inadvertently changed the sound of '90s rock, is the stuff of fandom dreams.
Yet there is something missing the size of an asteroid-created crater: Liam Gallagher.
Yes, Noel references him several times, and is even effusive in his praise for his petulant sibling whose voice is one of the mainstays of the album, and the role it played in defining that '90s sound. The ongoing drama between the warring brothers is as legendary as the band's success story itself. Noel and Liam have spared no opportunity in the past decade and a half to take swipes at each other publicly. By the time Noel left the band in 2009, every rock fan and their neighbour were wholly aware of how Noel and Liam fraught dynamics.
But that does not take away from the fact that as a unified band, the two of them played off each other's creative energies.
While the documentary may be Noel's perspective on the band's most famous album, Liam, as a founding member, ought to have been heard.
Despite Noel's candour and insights, the absence of Liam's voice leaves one wondering how the creative process itself would have been for the band which peaked with this very album. A band on the brink of superstardom, much before the same stardom brought out their ego clashes, is a success story waiting to happen. Revisiting those energies, influences, and creative collaborations would have made these more balanced documentaries, befitting the adulation they continue to receive from their fans. Without Liam, they remain as nostalgic as they are self-indulgent.
The documentaries will premiere in India on Voot Select on 11 April.