"(What's the Story) Morning Glory?" Could Have Been Even Better
“(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?”, which celebrates its 25th anniversary on Oct. 2, is Oasis’s best-selling album and is widely regarded as the band’s co-masterpiece along with its debut, 1994’s “Definitely Maybe.” And I have long believed the sophomore release should have been better.
The album is strong – there isn’t a single song on it that I do not, on some level, enjoy. But following a year spent promoting a straightforward hard rock album, “Definitely Maybe,” with songs designed for clubs as much as stadiums, Noel Gallagher consciously wrote a follow-up album loaded with big, arena-ready anthems. Sometimes they work fine, sometimes they work spectacularly, but put together, the album can feel overwhelmed with them. It wasn’t that Oasis lacked options – the B-sides they released with their singles demonstrated potential for a more eclectic album.
For me, the 2014 re-issue is the definitive version of “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?”, and a three-disc set probably fits the Oasis maximalist aesthetic more than a mere 12-track album ever could. But I was issued a challenge to develop my own 12-track, alternate history version of the record. Omitting any songs hurts, but it was a challenge I couldn’t resist.
1. “Morning Glory” (actually track 10): I suppose it’s difficult to have a song called “Hello” and not make it the first (Adele) or last (Lionel Richie) song on its album, but because it didn’t make the cut of my version, I can opt for the album’s semi-title track. It sounds like a 737 taking off and is the perfect table-setter, partially because it’s the track on “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?” that most sounded like “Definitely Maybe” – this is the transition song.
2. “Acquiesce” (a B-side): Sometimes, you have to go big and obvious, and that is why the dueling vocals of Liam and Noel are in order here. Like “Morning Glory,” “Acquiesce” has elements of hard rock, most notably in the opening riff and Liam Gallagher's snarling delivery, but its anthemic chorus provides hints that this isn’t just a bar band.
3. “She’s Electric” (actually track 9): By comparison, “She’s Electric” is a pretty lightweight song, but who’s to say an Oasis album needs to sound like a hardcore punk album? And in this alternate reality Oasis, listeners get a few cracks at songs with pronounced backing vocals from Noel, who didn’t sing lead on any songs on the previous album, before they get a taste of him as a frontman two tracks later on my version of the album.
4. “Wonderwall” (actually track 3): Showing affection toward Oasis’s biggest song in the U.S. is basic, and as an Oasis superfan, I’m not supposed to fully acknowledge its greatness, but there’s a reason it was such an enormous hit. Maybe you’re sick of “Wonderwall” by 2020, but that’s only because you’ve spent a quarter-century hearing it constantly, because it’s awesome.
5. “Don’t Look Back in Anger” (actually track 4): I am choosing to be relentless with Side One, hence going with two of the band’s three biggest singles back to back. “Don’t Look Back in Anger” is a perfect utility song for this album; it is as qualified to lead off the album, close out the album, or (as I am doing) throwing it in the middle as a change of pace after a pair of more spare Liam-sung songs.
6. “Headshrinker” (a B-side): 1994 Oasis brought us a lot of Sex Pistols-esque songs, while 1995 Oasis was far less raw, with “Headshrinker” being the major exception. There is a lot of concert encore energy to it, but in the middle of my version of the album, which marks a stylistic departure, it also acts as a reminder that this is Oasis and they can still melt your faces.
7. “Some Might Say” (same place in the track listing): It sounds a bit like T. Rex, and a sound that fits somewhere between the outright punk and the sentimental pop. Like “Morning Glory,” “Some Might Say” is an appropriate table-setter for this side of the album.
8. “Talk Tonight” (a B-side): For as loaded as the real album is with power ballads, it doesn’t have a lot of ballads in the more traditional sense of the word. “Talk Tonight” is arguably the saddest song in the Oasis repertoire (and this is a band that has a song called “Sad Song”). And if “Wonderwall” nudged the door open on possibilities for the band’s style, “Talk Tonight” leaves the possibilities endless.
9. “Rockin’ Chair” (a B-side): It’d feel weird to go back into straight-ahead rock after “Talk Tonight,” so let’s have “Rockin’ Chair” be the mid-tempo intermediate we need to get this album up and kicking again. I assume I’m not allowed to use the Rod Stewart version, so the Oasis studio version will suffice.
10. “Round Are Way” (a B-side): “Digsy’s Dinner” is the worst song on “Definitely Maybe,” but I’m glad it’s there. Every album should have a goofy throwaway that has no delusions of grandeur but just puts a smile on your face if you don’t think too much about it. I almost steered all the way into it with “Bonehead’s Bank Holiday” (another B-side), but a brass-fueled ode to a pickup soccer game will do.
11. “Underneath the Sky” (a B-side): Simultaneously exuding psychedelia and grunge, this track is a textbook example of Liam elevating nonsensical lyrics into a monster of a song.
12. “Champagne Supernova” (same place in the track listing): It would’ve been weird to not end with it. A 7 1/2 minute song that is primarily guitar solo for the final three minutes will inevitably be one of two things: a disaster, or the pitch-perfect album closer. And in this case, it is definitively the latter.