Be Here Now is the third studio album by the English rock band Oasis. Released in August 1997 the album was highly anticipated by both music critics and fans as a result of the band's previous worldwide successes with their 1994 debut album Definitely Maybe and its 1995 follow up (What's the Story) Morning Glory?. The album's pre-release build up led to considerable hype within both the music and mainstream press. At that point, Oasis were at the height of their fame, and Be Here Now became the United Kingdom's fastest selling album to date, selling over 420,000 units on the first day of release alone, and over one million within two weeks. As of 2008, the album has sold 8 million copies worldwide.
Oasis' management company Ignition were aware of the dangers of overexposure, and before its release sought to control the media's access to the album. Ignition's campaign included limiting pre-release radio airplay, and requesting that journalists sign gag agreements. These tactics resulted in the alienation of members of both the music and mainstream media, as well as many industry personnel connected with the band. Ignition's attempts to limit pre-release access served to fuel large scale speculation and publicity within the British music scene.
Although initial reviews were positive, retrospectively the album is viewed by much of the music press, the public, and by most members of the band as over-indulgent and bloated. In 2007, Q magazine described the fact that Be Here Now is often thought of as "a disastrous, overblown folly — the moment when Oasis, their judgement clouded by drugs and blanket adulation, ran aground on their own sky-high self-belief." The album's producer Owen Morris said of the recording sessions: "The only reason anyone was there was the money. Noel had decided Liam was a shit singer. Liam had decided he hated Noel's songs [...] Massive amounts of drugs. Big fights. Bad vibes. Shit recordings." None of its songs were included on the band's 2006 compilation album Stop the Clocks.
In August 1996, the band performed two concerts before crowds of 250,000 at Knebworth House, Hertfordshire, while more than 2,500,000 fans had applied for tickets. The dates were to be the zenith of Oasis's popularity, and both the music press and the band realised it would not be possible for the band to equal the event. By this time however, there was much instability and internal conflict emerging between the band members. On 23 August, 1996, Liam refused to sing for a MTV Unplugged performance at London's Royal Festival Hall, pleading a sore throat. Though he did attend the concert, he spent the evening heckling Noel from the upper level balcony. Four days later, Liam declined to participate in the first leg of an American tour, complaining that he needed to buy a house with his then girlfriend Patsy Kensit. He re-joined the band a few days after for a key concert at the MTV Video Music Awards in New York, but intentionally sang off-key and spat beer and saliva during the performance. The following day, The Sun led with the front page headline "America sickened by obscene Liam's spitting rampage." Amongst much internal bickering, the tour continued—with Liam—to Charlotte, North Carolina, where Noel finally lost his patience with his brother and announced he was leaving the band. He later admitted "If the truth be known, I didn't want to be there anyway. I wasn't prepared to be in the band if people were being like that to each other." Although Noel rejoined Oasis a few weeks later, the band's management and handlers were worried. With an album's worth of songs already demoed, the general feeling among the Gallaghers was that they should record as soon as possible. Their manager, Marcus Russell, said in 2007 that "in retrospect, we went in the studio too quickly. The smart move would have been to take the rest of the year off. But at the time it seemed like the right thing to do. If you're a band and you've got a dozen songs you think are great, why not go and do it."
On 11 November, 1996, Oasis relocated the sessions to the rural Ridge Farm Studios in Surrey. Though the band reconvened with more energy, the early recordings were compromised by the drug intake of all involved. In 2007, Morris remembered that "in the first week, someone tried to score an ounce of weed, but instead got an ounce of cocaine. Which kind of summed it up." Noel was not present during any of Liam's vocal track recordings, typifying the high drama surrounding the sessions. Morris thought that the new material was weak, but when he voiced his opinion to Noel he was cut down: "[So] I just carried on shovelling drugs up my nose." Noel, wanting to make the album as dense and "colossal" feeling as possible, layered multiple guitar tracks on several of the songs. In many instances he dubbed ten channels with identical guitar parts, in an effort to create a sonic volume. Alan McGee, owner of Oasis's label Creation Records, visited the studio during the mixing stage; he said, "I used to go down to the studio, and there was so much cocaine getting done at that point ... Owen was out of control, and he was the one in charge of it. The music was just fucking loud."
However, the extent that Ignition were willing to go to control access to the album generated more hype than could normally have been expected, and served to alienate members of both the print and broadcast media, as well as most Creation staff members. When "D'You Know What I Mean?" was planned as the first single, Ignition decided on a late release to radio so as to avoid too much advance exposure. However, three stations broke the embargo, and Ignition panicked. According to Greengrass: "we’d been in these bloody bunker meetings for six months or something, and our plot was blown. 'Shit, it's a nightmare'." BBC Radio 1 received a CD containing three songs ten days before the album's release, on condition that disc jockey Steve Lamacq talked over the tracks to prevent illegal copies being made by listeners. The day after Lamacq previewed the album on his show, he received a phone call from Ignition informing him that he would not be able to preview further tracks because he didn't speak enough over the songs. Lamacq said, "I had to go on the air the next night and say, 'Sorry, but we're not getting any more tracks.' It was just absurd. According to Creation's head of marketing John Andrews, "[The campaign] made people despise Oasis within Creation. You had this Oasis camp that was like 'I'm sorry, you're not allowed come into the office between the following hours. You're not allowed mention the word Oasis.' It was like a fascist state." One employee recalled an incident "when somebody came round to check our phones because they thought The Sun had tapped them."
When Hopkins began to circulate cassette copies of the album to the music press a few weeks later, he required that each journalist sign a contract containing a clause requiring that the cassette recipient, according to Select journalist Mark Perry, "not discuss the album with anyone — including your partner at home. It basically said don't talk to your girlfriend about it when you're at home in bed." The Mail on Sunday wrote of Russell "[He] has a mind like a steel trap and the organisational skills of Winston Churchill." Reflecting in 1999, Greengrass admitted: "In retrospect a lot of the things we did were ridiculous. We sit in [Oasis] meetings today and we're like 'It's on the Internet. It's in Camden Market. Whatever'. I think we've learned our lesson." According to Perry: "It seemed, particularly once you heard the album, that this was cocaine grandeur of just the most ludicrous degree. I remember listening to "All Around the World" and laughing — actually quite pleasurably — because it seemed so ridiculous. You just thought: Christ, there is so much coke being done here."
It's the sound of ... a bunch of guys, on coke, in the studio, not giving a fuck. There's no bass to it at all; I don't know what happened to that ... And all the songs are really long and all the lyrics are shit and for every millisecond Liam is not saying a word, there's a guitar riff in there in a Wayne's World style.Contemporaneous reviews of Be Here Now were, in John Harris's words, unanimous with "truly amazing praise." According to Harris, "To find an album that had attracted gushing notices in such profusion, one had to go back thirty years, to the release of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. While Q magazine described the album as "cocaine set to music", most early reviews praised the record's length, volume and ambition. Reviews in the British music press for Oasis' previous album (What's the Story) Morning Glory? had been generally negative. When it went on to become, in the words of Select editor Alexis Petridis, "this huge kind of Zeitgeist defining record" the music press was "baffled". Realising they had gotten it wrong the last time, Petridis believes the initial glowing reviews were a concession to public opinion.
— Noel Gallagher reflecting on Be Here Now
By the end of 1997, Be Here Now had sold eight million units worldwide. However, the sales volume was largely gained in the first two weeks of release, and once the album was released to UK radio stations the turnover tapered off. Buyers realised that the album was not another (What's the Story) Morning Glory?, and by 1999, Melody Maker reported that it was the album most sold to second-hand record stores. In the 2003 John Dower-directed documentary Live Forever: The Rise and Fall of Brit Pop, music critic Jon Savage pinpointed Be Here Now as the moment where the Britpop movement ended. Savage said that while the album "isn't the great disaster that everybody says," he noted that "[i]t was supposed to be the big, big triumphal record" of the period. Q expressed similar sentiments, writing, "So colossally did Be Here Now fall short of expectations that it killed Britpop and ushered in an era of more ambitious, less overblown music". Irish Times journalist Brian Boyd wrote: "Bloated and over-heated (much like the band themselves at the time), the album has all that dreadful braggadocio that is so characteristic of a cocaine user. Reflecting in 2007, Garry Mulholland admitted, "the fact that nothing could have lived up to the fevered expectations that surrounded its release doesn't change the facts. The third Oasis album is a loud, lumbering noise signifying nothing." In contrast, in 2008 the album ranked number 22 in a joint HMV and Q poll to find the best British album.
The Gallagher brothers hold differing opinions about the album. As early as July 1997, Noel was "talking down" Be Here Now in the music press, describing the production as "bland", and remarking that some of the tracks were "fucking shit". In Live Forever: The Rise and Fall of Brit Pop, he dismissed the album, and blamed its faults on drugs and the band's indifference during recording. He suggested that the people unsatisfied with the record simply sell it. In contrast, Noel noted that his brother "thinks it fucking rocks." In the same documentary, Liam defended the record, and said that "at that time we thought it was fucking great, and I still think it's great. It just wasn't Morning Glory." In 2006, Liam Gallagher added, "If he [Noel] didn't like the record that much, he shouldn't have put the fucking record out in the first place...I don't know what's up with him, but it's a top record, man, and I'm proud of it — it's just a little bit long."
Despite the media's critiscism of Be Here Now, it has begun to see some appreciation in recent years. Many fans cite the album as one of their favourites, and in a 2008 poll conducted by Q Magazine to decide the Greatest British Albums of the last 50 Years, Be Here Now found its way into the list, coming in at #22.
The vocal melodies continue Noel's preference for "massed-rank sing-alongs", although Du Noyer concedes that not all are of the "pub-trashing idiot kind" of previous releases. At the time of release, Q's Phil Sutcliffe summarised the lyrics of Be Here Now as a mixture of "hookline optimism, a swarm of Beatles and other ’60s references, a gruff love song to Meg, and further tangled expressions of his inability/unwillingness to express profound emotions." The lyrics were elsewhere described as "[running] the gamut from insightful to insipid", although Du Noyer admitted that Noel is "[to go by his lyrics] something of a closet philosopher...and often romantic to the point of big girl's blousedom." While the tracks "Don't Go Away" and "The Girl In The Dirty Shirt" were described as unabashedly sentimental, Du Noyer went on to observe that "there is compassion and sensitivity in these tracks that is not the work of oafs." Du Noyer conceded that Noel often tied himself up in "cosmic knots", but added that Gallagher had "written words that sound simple and true, and are therefore poetic without trying to be." Lester read song titles such as "Stand By Me" and "Don't Go Away" as a series of demands, both to members of his private life and his public audience.
Du Noyer praised Liam's vocal contributions and described his "Northern punk whine" as "the most distinctive individual style of our time." Lester alluded to Liam as Noel's "mouthpiece", although he qualified that Liam is the "voice of every working-class boy with half a yen to break out and make it big."
|1997||Australian Album Chart (ARIA)||1|
|1997||Austrian Album Chart||3|
|1997||Belgium Album Chart (Flanders)||1|
|1997||Belgium Album Chart (Wallonia)||2|
|1997||Canadian Album Chart||1|
|1997||Dutch Album Chart||1|
|1997||Finnish Album Chart||1|
|1997||French Album Chart||1|
|1997||German Album Chart||2|
|1997||New Zealands Album Chart||1|
|1997||Norwegian Album Chart||1|
|1997||Swedish Album Chart||1|
|1997||Swiss Album Chart||2|
|1997||UK Album Chart||1|
|1997||US Billboard 200||2|
|United Kingdom||6x Platinum||1,800,000|
|United States||Gold||800, 000|
|Japan||21 August, 1997||Sony Music Japan||CD||ESCA 6767|
|UK||21 August, 1997||Creation Records|
|USA||26 August, 1997||Epic Records||CD||EK 68530|
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