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Definitely Maybe

Definitely Maybe is the debut album by the English rock band Oasis, released in 1994. It was an immediate commercial and critical success in the UK, having followed on the heels of singles "Supersonic", "Shakermaker" and "Live Forever". It is considered by many to be the greatest debut album of all time.

Definitely Maybe went straight to number one in the UK Album Charts on initial release. It was the fastest selling debut album of all time in the UK when released. Definitely Maybe marked the beginning of Oasis' success in America, selling over one million copies there, although only reaching number 58 on the Billboard 200. The album went on to sell over 7.5 million copies worldwide.

Background

Oasis formed in 1991. Originally consisting of Liam Gallagher, Paul Arthurs, Paul McGuigan, and Tony McCarroll, the group was soon joined by Liam's older brother Noel Gallagher. The elder Gallagher insisted that if he were to join, the group would give him complete control and they would work towards superstardom. Noel had been writing songs for years, and replaced the group's repertoire with his compositions.

Oasis signed to independent record label Creation Records in 1993. The limited-edition 12" single "Columbia" was released in late 1993 as a primer for the band for journalists and radio programmers. Unexpectedly, BBC Radio 1 picked up the single and played it 19 times in the fortnight after its release, surprising for a record not available in stores. The band's first commercial single "Supersonic" was released on 11 April 1994. The following week it debuted at number 31 on the British singles chart. The single was followed by "Shakermaker" June, which debuted at number 11 and earned the group an appearance on Top of the Pops.

Recording

Oasis booked Monnow Valley Studios, near Monmouth, at the start of 1994 to record their debut album. Their producer was Dave Batchelor, who Noel Gallagher knew from his days working as a roadie for the Inspiral Carpets. The sessions were unsatisfactory. "It wasn't happening," Arthurs recalled. "He was the wrong person for the job . . . We'd play in this great big room, buzzing to be in this studio, playing like we always played. He's say, 'Come in and have a listen.' And we'd be like, 'That doesn't sound like it sounded in that room. What's that?'. It was thin. Weak. Too clean."

The sessions at Monnow Valley were costing £800 a day. As the sessions proved increasingly fruitless, the group began to panic. Arthurs said, "Noel was frantically on the phone to the management, going, 'This ain't working.' For it not to be happening was a bit frightening." Batchelor was let go, and Gallagher tried to make use of the music already recorded by taking the tapes to a number of London studios. Tim Abbot of Creation Records said while visiting the band in Chiswick, "McGee, Noel, me and various people had a great sesh, and we listened to it over and over again. And all I could think was, 'It ain't got the attack.' There was no immediacy."

In February the group returned from an ill-fated trip to Amsterdam and set about re-recording the album at Sawmills in Cornwall. This time the sessions were produced by Noel Gallagher and Mark Coyle. The group decided the only way to replicate their live sound on record was to record together without soundproofing between individual instruments. Over the tracks, Gallagher overdubbed numerous guitars. Arthurs said, "That was Noel's favourite trick: get the drums, bass and rhythm guitar down, and then he'd cane it. 'Less is more' didn't really work then."

The results were still deemed unsatisfactory, and there was little chance of another attempt at recording the album. The recordings already made had to be utilised. In desperation, Creation's Marcus Russell contacted engineer-turned-producer Owen Morris. "I just thought, 'They've messed up here,'" Morris recalled after hearing the Sawmills recordings. "I guessed at that stage Noel was completely fucked off. Marcus was like, 'You can do what you like - literally, whatever you want." Among Morris's first tasks was to strip away the layers of guitar overdubs Gallagher had added. Morris completed his final mix of the record on the bank holiday weekend in May. Music journalist John Harris noted, "The miracle was that music that had passed through so many hands sounded so dynamic: the guitar-heavy stew that Morris had inherited had been remoulded into something positively pile-driving."

Release and reception

The release of Definitely Maybe was preceded by a third single, "Live Forever", which was released on 8 August 1994. "Live Forever" was the group's first top ten single. The continuing success of Oasis partially allowed Creation to ride out a period of financial straits. The label was still £2 million in debt, so Tim Abbot was given only £60,000 to promote the upcoming album. Abbot tried to determine how best to use his small budget. "I'd go back to the Midlands every couple of weeks," Abbot said, "and people I knew would say, 'Oasis are great. This is what we listen to.' And I'd be thinking, "Well, you lot don't buy singles. You don't read the NME. You don't read Q. How do we get to people like you?'. Abbot decided to place ads in publications that had never been approached by Creation before, such as football magazines, match programmes and UK dance music periodicals. Abbot's suspicions that Oasis would appeal to these non-traditional audiences were confirmed when the dance music magazine Mixmag, which usually ignored guitar-based music, gave Definitely Maybe a five-star review.

Definitely Maybe was finally released on 30 August 1994. The album sold 100,000 copies in its first four days. On 4 September the album debuted at number one on the British charts. It outsold the second-highest album (The Three Tenors In Concert 1994, which had been favoured to be the chart-topper that week), by a factor of 50%. The first-week sales earned Definitely Maybe the record of the fastest-selling debut album in British history. "Cigarettes & Alcohol" was released as the fourth single from the album in October. Noel Gallagher said "Slide Away" was considered as a fifth single, but he ultimately refused, arguing, "You can't have five [singles] off a debut album.

Legacy

In 1997 Definitely Maybe was named the 14th greatest album of all time in a 'Music of the Millennium' poll conducted by HMV, Channel 4, The Guardian and Classic FM. In 2005 Channel 4's '100 Greatest Albums' countdown placed the album at number 6. In 2006, NME placed the album third in a list of the greatest British albums ever, behind The Stone Roses and The Smiths' The Queen Is Dead. In a recent British poll, run by NME and the book of British Hit Singles and Albums, Definitely Maybe was voted the best album of all time with The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band finishing second and Revolver third. Q magazine readers placed it at five on their greatest albums of all time list in 2006 and in that same year NME hailed it as the greatest album of all time. In a 2008 poll by Q and HMV in 2008, Definitely Maybe was ranked first on a list of the greatest British album of all time.

Track listing

All songs written by Noel Gallagher.

  1. "Rock 'n' Roll Star" – 5:23
  2. "Shakermaker" – 5:08
  3. "Live Forever" – 4:37
  4. "Up in the Sky" – 4:29
  5. "Columbia" – 6:17
  6. "Supersonic" – 4:44
  7. "Bring It on Down" – 4:18
  8. "Cigarettes & Alcohol" – 4:49
  9. "Digsy's Dinner" – 2:32
  10. "Slide Away" – 6:33
  11. "Married with Children" – 3:12

Notes

  • The vinyl LP edition of the album features a bonus track, "Sad Song". This song appears as the sixth track on the album.
  • "Digsy's Dinner" was misspelt as "Digsy's Diner" on the North American release of the album. Noel himself didn't know, until he found this out in a recent interview with CBC's George Stroumboulopoulos.
  • In the Japanese version, "Cloudburst" - 5:21 and "Sad Song" - 4:27 appears as track 4 and 6 in the album respectively

DVD

Definitely Maybe was released on DVD in September 2004 to mark the tenth anniversary of its original release. It went triple platinum in the UK. The DVD featured an hour-long documentary about the recording of the album featuring rare and contemporary interviews with the band and its associates. Also included was the album in its entirety, which included "Sad Song", which was originally only released on the UK vinyl version of the album and also on the Japanese CD edition. Other content included live and TV performances of the albums twelve tracks, and the promo videos to "Supersonic" (UK & US versions), "Shakermaker", "Live Forever" (UK & US versions), "Cigarettes & Alcohol" and "Rock 'n' Roll Star". A limited-edition release in the UK and Ireland included a bonus DVD containing more live footage and anecdotes.

There was also an accompanying made-for-TV documentary, entitled There We Were, Now Here We Are...: The Making Of Oasis. This was broadcast on Channel 4 in the UK at 11:30pm on Friday, September 3, three days before the release of the Definitely Maybe DVD. The programme combined existing and unused interview footage from the DVD documentary and focused on the origins of the band, and the four singles from Definitely Maybe. It also included a very rare clip of "All Around the World" performed live at a rehearsal session in the Boardwalk in 1992, five years before it was eventually recorded and released on Be Here Now. The DVD received the NME award for Best DVD.

Video on Demand

This film is available on Demand July 23, 2008 through October 31, 2008.

Personnel

Additional personnel

  • Anthony Griffiths – vocals
  • David Batchelor – producer
  • Mark Coyle – producer, engineer, mixing
  • Anjali Dutt – engineer
  • Owen Morris – producer, mastering, mixing, production concept
  • Roy Spong – engineer
  • Dave Scott – engineer
  • Brian Cannon – art direction, design, concept, cover design
  • Michael Spencer Jones – photography

Charts

Year Chart Position
1994 UK Albums Chart 1
1994 US Top Heatseekers 1
1994 New Zealand Albums Chart 5
1995 US Billboard 200 58

References

  • Harris, John. Britpop!: Cool Britannia and the Spectacular Demise of English Rock. Da Capo Press, 2004. ISBN 0-306-81367-X

Notes

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