15 years of Be Here Now – Don’t Look Back in Anger!

Be Here Now clock

Last week marked the 15th anniversary of the release of the third Oasis album.  Whilst their peers The Charlatans are marking the anniversary of their 1997 album ‘Tellin’ Stories’ with a tour, all ‘Be Here Now’ seems to have attracted is a single half-hearted blog post via the NME.  The post attracted loads of comments all with differing views, one stating it is the band’s ‘Rattle & Hum’ whilst others defending the album.

For anyone too young to remember, there was no way Noel Gallagher could have met the expectations heaped on ‘Be Here Now’. Never before or since has a record been expected to deliver so much. ‘(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?’ wasn’t just another record, it had been the most successful selling album of the decade and had been played in every bar, club, dinner party and football terrace.  You literally couldn’t escape it.

Every decade a musical and cultural event seems to happen and the mood of the nation changes. It is often stated that the 1990’s started the week the Berlin Wall fell on November 9th 1989.  Four days later The Stone Roses released ‘Fools Gold’ and Happy Mondays released the ‘Madchester Rave On EP’.  The backlash against Thatcher’s Dream and Simply Red had begun.  By 1997 the Tories were finally gone and things kept getting better until the end of August 1997, when it all changed.

Noel and Alan at 10 Downing Street

‘Be Here Now’ was released on Aug 21 and sold 8 million copies worldwide over the following few weeks.  The album gained universal 5 star reviews, although in hindsight many suggested the press were trying to make up for the poor reviews they gave their last album and also hoping not to ruin their chances of an interview with the band.

Much has been made of the promotional campaign leading up the albums release and despite attempts to subdue the press, things were totally out of control.  There was lots of paranoia at Creation that The Sun were hacking their phones to find out about the album.

When discussing the music contained in ‘Be Here Now’ the same word is often used – bloated.  Admittedly, some of the songs were just too long, ‘All Around The World’ was 9 minutes and 20 seconds long and even then had a reprise adding another 2 minutes at the end of the album.  Much of the 11 plus minutes was of repetitive orchestration that added nothing to the song.

The night before the albums release, expectation was so high that BBC1 broadcast a documentary about the albums recording called ‘Right Here, Right Now’.

The cracks were possibly beginning to show before the albums release.  The acoustic version of ‘Stand By Me’ performed on the show (see above) highlighted a lack of melody in the chorus; where was the anthemic choruses that had made all their previous records so great?  Another major fault of the album was that ‘Stay Young’, a b-side and far superior song to the single ‘D’you Know What I Mean?’ was omitted from the album.

Rolls Royce in swimming pool at Be Here Now photo sessions

Whilst it’s easy for armchair musicicans to be critical, there were some great songs that emerged from the sessions. ‘Don’t Go Away’ with its vulnerable lyrics featured some of Liam’s best vocals to date.  Many of the other songs were equally as great as their previous work but suffered from too much production and were hidden by layers upon layers of guitars and strings.  Whilst ‘Morning Glory’ had been recorded in a matter of days the new recordings had been over-worked and unnessarily extended (Perhaps someone should remix and edit the album again…).

It wasn’t just the music that was suffering from excess, the live gigs saw a stage set that Spinal Tap would of been proud of with the band emerging from a phone box (see video below).  Brian Cannon’s excellent sleeve had been replicated with Alan White’s drums now sitting in a replica Rolls Royce with a giant clock situated above Noel. They were slowly becoming what they had been fighting against.

Just as much of the press was out of control, there was another factor that changed everyones view of the album, which no one could have predicted.  Ten days after the release of the album, Lady Diana was killed in Paris. Whilst the outpouring of grief from some was genuine, for others it was the realisation that no matter how young, rich and famous you are, you could still be vulnerable.  There was a black-out on UK radio for a day and the media went in to mourning.   The mood of the nation had changed once again.

The following day after her death The Verve, a band who’d championed Oasis in the early days and shared the same sleeve designer in Brian Cannon, released the follow-up to ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ and it went straight to number 1 in the charts.  ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’ captured the new mood perfectly and was followed four weeks later by their album ‘Urban Hymns’, which to this day remains the 15th biggest selling album in UK chart history.  By the end of the year ‘Be Here Now’ only managed number 25 in NME’s albums of 1997 list, the top three places were held by Spiritualized, Radiohead and The Verve, all albums that captured the sadder reflective mood for the rest of year.  And of course there was that bloody awful Robbie Williams song that was played over and over and over again, and giving the casual music buyer a new record to buy.

Just weeks after its release in October 1997 when interview by Steve Lamacq, Noel admitted he thought ‘Be Here Now’ had been overhyped and he didn’t think it was very good.  This may explain why very little of the album has been performed live since the accompanying tour.

The tour for ‘Be Here Now’ would be their last with Bonehead and Guigsy, the album would also be their last for Creation as Alan McGee and Dick Green decided to call time on the label in 1999.  Less than 10 months after the albums release Alan McGee predicted the demise of the music industry.  There would never be an album launch like it again, with the introdution of Napster in 1999 and subsequent developments in file-sharing, no one would ever queue round the block at midnight for an album, the excitement is now to be had online outside of the mainstream media.

Will we ever see such an event again?  Who knows?  I can remember being excited about hearing The Motorcycle Boy (a band consisting of members of Meat Whiplash and The Shop Assistants) on daytime Radio 1 only a decade before, no one ever expected a band on Creation to ever top the charts let alone produce one of the biggest selling albums of all time.  Only a year ago no one would have predicted that the biggest live band in the UK in 2012 would be The Stone Roses.

Regardless of your view today, ‘Be Here Now’ made the charts a lot more exciting for a while.

You can listen to the full album below…

Sleeve photography courtesy of Microdot Creative

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