It Was 20 Years Ago Today

Be Here Now

Looking back, it’s bizarre to realize just how big a deal Be Here Now was in the UK. Yes, a long-awaited album from one of the most popular bands in Britain. Sure, sure. Even people queuing up at midnight to get their hands on it wouldn’t have been surprising, if Ignition hadn’t forced record shops to sign contracts that they wouldn’t sell the album until 8am (seriously). But all that plus a prime-time BBC1 documentary airing the night before (and let’s not forget, this is still in the ‘dark ages’ before multi-channel and Internet video was a thing)? Leading news items and almost blanket coverage on Radio 1? August 21st 1997 was an event.

On a sea of hype, it was unlikely that the album would live up to expectations, even if Creation strong-armed the music press to ensure good reviews. And lo, so it was that the album broke all sales records in the scant three days of sales it had in its first week (it took eighteen years for the record to be broken by Adele’s 25, and that only managed it by virtue of having a full seven days of sales), lighting up the charts for weeks on end…and then ending up in every charity shop in the British Isles as realization dawned.

Over the years, it has become a punchline, the moment when Oasis lost it, the point ‘where Britpop died’, the end of ‘Cool Britannia’, and the moment where Opal Fruits became Starburst (okay, that happened in 1998. BUT STILL). Now, twenty years on, we return to the Album That Ruined Everything and ask: was it really so bad?

D’You Know What I Mean?

This was released to Radio 1 on the day of our Sixth Form Leavers’ Ball. Which made it an event to mark an event.

And look, I still like this song. Even hearing it now, 20 years later, I’m reminded of the things I loved about it: a confident, swirling swagger of a song, brimming with limited promise. A band that might be on the edge of stepping forward; they were never going to make something like Sgt. Pepper, but the backmasking, the sampling of NWA (amusingly the Amen Break loop, so as traditional as you can get) seemed to show that they might have learnt a few things from their collaborations with The Chemical Brothers if nothing else.

And yes, the lyrics are the usual stuff and nonsense with swipes from songs thirty years prior, but again, here and there are flashes of humour along with the paranoia. I mean, come on, the second bridge of Liam snarling “I met my maker and made him cry” followed by Noel’s sly flanged deadpan of ‘It must have been love’ is completely unnecessary, funny, and manages to sum up their relationship in a manner that almost makes you forget how bad Noel’s lyrics can get. But don’t worry, he’ll be reminding us shortly!

My Big Mouth

My Big Mouth was one of the two new songs premiered at the 1996 Knebworth concert, edited out of the original Radio 1 broadcast (an early sign of the control that Creaton/Ignition would maintain over the Be Here Now tracks). Here, it sets the tone for the rest of the album: there’s a wall of guitar threatening to swallow everything in its path. And in this song it succeeds - you can barely hear the drums, you can barely hear the vocal, and somebody disconnected the bass guitar in the recording studio. And somehow it manages to last five minutes despite this. Not a good sign. But don’t worry, it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

Magic Pie

Even at the time, the day of queuing up to buy the thing at my local record shop, the excitement, the hype, swept up in it all, even then I knew Magic Pie was a dirge that had no basis being on the record. Twenty years on, I remain astounded that Stay Young somehow got relegated to a b-side and this wasn’t.

The organ, the noodling. the chorus that attempts to build…but can’t and just stops the song dead, which would be a problem for a song that comes in under three minutes. Or four. Definitely five.

It lasts for seven minutes and ten seconds.

Even now, I’m looking at the clock, looking at iTunes after typing this sentence and no, there’s still three bloody minutes left of this turgid song that seems so bloated that it slows down spacetime itself. And when it finally has the decency to end, it can’t just fade out, oh no. The kicker is the ‘jazz’ play out on the mellotron that makes the song about ten times more hateable.

Stand By Me

Two things about Stand By Me intrigue me. The first is this: just exactly what was Alan McGee taking when he said that this record was going to be the one that took America by storm? That’s some seriously high-quality hallucinogenics.

Secondly, did nobody during the writing and recording of this song even think about mentioning to Noel that stealing from the same bloody song for the fucking third time looked a bit desperate? Not even one person could pipe up that the clunky chords in the chorus sounded hideous?

And that’s about as interesting Stand By Me gets, I’m afraid. Not only did it fail to conquer America (shock!), it didn’t even hit Number One in the UK either, being stymied by Candle In The Wind (Dead Princess Remix).

On the twenty-year playback, this song makes me angry. So lazy, so full of contempt for anything resembling beyond a half-hearted ‘will this do?’.

I Hope, I Think, I Know

So here’s the thing. This is not a great song. It’s essentially Roll With It with a bit more jaunt. But! It has quite a few things going for it in the context of Be Here Now:

And so, as the years have gone by, this has become my 2nd favourite thing on the album. It knows exactly what it is and doesn’t stay any longer than it needs to. Hurrah!

The Girl In The Dirty Shirt


Okay, I was 18 years old and I loved_ The Girl In The Dirty Shirt_. In my defence, I did fall in love with Floodlit World a couple of months earlier, so I had some taste. Honest.

My God, even aside from the Manic Pixie Dream Girl overtones, there’s…just nothing here. Aside from that bloody organ dragged out from the Magic Pie recording. glances at the length Six bloody minutes. I mean, it’s not terrible…it’s just like wallpaper. Wallpaper with an organ.

Fade In-Out

And then things got weird. Yes, Johnny Depp was on the fastest selling album in British chart history. Because Noel couldn’t play the slide guitar for the recording session, they used Depp’s guitar line from the demos instead (this might, in less coke-fuelled times, have been seen as a warning sign).

Oh, and I had forgotten about the Who-esque scream part-way through. sigh

Again, there’s nothing truly terrible about Fade In-Out, but although the fair may be in town today, it does not make me want to go on the roller coaster. And it has no business being seven minutes long, but this album has already worn me down on that front.

Don’t Go Away

You might call Don’t Go Away an ashamedly transparent attempt to create another Wonderwall. I couldn’t possibly comment. I’d actually place it as an attempt to write another Cast No Shadow but with impressive attempts to pronounce ‘situation’ and ‘education’ while trapping your finger in a drawer.

However, unlike Stand By Me, this attempt at the ‘album ballad’ works where the other fails; I mean lyrically it’s clunky but the song doesn’t feel like it’s stapled to All The Young Dudes with knitting needles, and Liam’s delivery actually does feel pleading at various points. Obviously the song is bursting to overflow with strings and compressed as much as the mixing desk would allow, but it doesn’t suffer too much from either, and the coda is classic Oasis balladry, for whatever that’s worth.

Be Here Now

“Your shit jokes remind me of Digsy’s”.

I struggle. I mean, come on, this is Status Quo. With added whistling.

All Around The World

Welcome, my friends, to the song that never ends. The longest running time of a Number One in the UK, their last single of the 20th century.

This was one of the first songs that Noel ever wrote, held back until the band could afford a 36-piece orchestra to record it. I mean, come on, say what you want, the man had some vision. Again, though, you wish that somebody in the studio might have asked a couple of questions about that vision during recording.


Yes. Yes we are.

First key change! Second key change! THIRD key change! The orchestra being compressed to neutron star levels of density. Liam insisting that it’s going to be okay, but it’s fine for him, he doesn’t have another five minutes of the song to face.

Everybody should listen to this once, though: you’ve never heard hubris as distilled into song form until you’ve heard All Around The World all the way through.

It’s Gettin’ Better (Man!!)

It’s Gettin’ Better (Man!!) (tragically, not a secretly ironic Amiga Power reference) was the other song debuted at Knebworth, and it is a forgettable Stones knock-off. The album peters out with a limp and a fade as the bass-less cacophony draws to a close…

All Around The World (Reprise)

…oh God, it’s sodding back. Not just a ‘reprise’, but two more minutes of All Around The World. I mean did nobody at Creation actually listen to this (yeah, I know their internal response was initially something akin to the scene in 24 Hour Party People where Factory has a playback of a lyric-less Happy Mondays album, but seriously).

It ends with a door slamming…which probably sums the album up effectively.

I was hoping that revisiting the album would reveal something worth keeping, but D’You Know What I Mean? aside, time has been even less kind to the album. And, because I suffer for all ten of you reading this, I even listened to the Mustique demos as well. Let’s just say that there wasn’t a lot to build on, though it’s clear that the desire to fill every channel with guitars did not help.

So when you see one of the 696,000 CDs bought on those first three days languishing in a dusty corner of a charity shop, nod your head to the perils of cocaine, but take solace in that you may have made mistakes in your time, but you did not stick Magic Pie on an album.