Al’s Top 30 Albums Of All Time – No. 17

17. Oasis – This Is History – Live At Knebworth

oasis knebworth

A short disclaimer: This album is a bootleg of a Radio 1 show that was broadcast sometime in August 1996. I know that, strictly speaking, it isn’t a real album, but somewhere, in a parallel universe, some geek is sat with a pad and pencil, tallying up every time I play each album I own. This will be number one. And it’s my website, so I’ll do as I bloody well like. Yeah.

The popular backlash towards Oasis these days is something that completely baffles me. Look at the state of music as it is now, on its arse, in 2013. Mumford and Sons are headlining Glastonbury and a group of wimps who name their children after fruit, got bullied at school and called themselves Coldplay are the biggest band in the world. If you were told that you could preside over the peak of one of the ten best rock bands ever, with a motor-mouth frontman who had the stage presence of a Moss Side Marlon Brando and a guitarist who is the single greatest exponent of the rock and roll song that britain has ever produced, would you really slag them off for running out of ideas a few years later? Would you shite.

This record is a document of one of the very zeniths of British music. As we look back over our shoulders nearly twenty years later and sneer at the horrific things Britpop spawned (Shed Seven, basically) it is worth mentioning that the five acts at the core of the genre, Oasis, Blur, Suede, Pulp and Supergrass, still have catalogues that hold up today and haven’t dated as much as you think they might have done. As I’m sure my fellow SOTS writer, Mr Featherstone will also attest to, it is difficult to describe the sheer visceral thrill of discovering Oasis; personally I first heard them on a Sky Sports season review show in which Live Forever and Some Might Say were used as background tracks, and I instantly loved them. This was massive music that played to the lowest common instinct, you didn’t have to think too hard about it, you just put the CD in the drive and pressed play.

Despite the fact that Noel incorporates Octopus’s Garden into the end of Whatever, and the album ends with a colossal amping up of I Am The Walrus, here Oasis are more The Who than The Beatles, all slashing guitars and enormous anthemic choruses. The chorus to Acquiesce, after Liam rants in the verse that he doesn’t know what keeps him going but he knows there is something, somewhere, then Noel bellows “We neeeeeeeeed each other, we belieeeeeeeeeeve in one another.” It is one of the most obvious statements of co-dependence in all of music, and if you look at the way the Gallagher brothers careers re heading post-Oasis, it is still painfully prevalent.

The magic moments on this album are too numerous to detail. The bridge to the second chorus of Morning Glory, where Liam snarls the umpteenth f-word of the night; the outro of Some Might Say, with both brothers screaming over the top of each other; exciting new linguistic developments such as “Sunsheeeeeeiiineeah!” Alan White’s heart stopping drum break after the guitar solo in Don’t Look Back In Anger, prelude to the third reading of The Greatest Chorus Of All Time; the sheer explosiveness of the vocal to Slide Away; the little extra flourish in the solo on Live Forever; and special guest star John Squire’s unbelievable axe-work during the penultimate song, Champagne Supernova.

Daft old Robbie Williams aside, we will not see a band or artist who can put on this type of spectacle ever again, the era of the truly massive band is over now. But every facet of that era is over. Think back to 1996, just for a moment. Remember The Fast Show and Nelson Mandela coming to England and Stuart Pearce’s penalty and Adidas Gazelle and Crash Bandicoot and Father Ted and Beckham’s goal from halfway and the euphoria drawn from the fact that John Major was a dead-man walking. Oasis were your soundtrack to all of that. And now, as we watch David Cameron get porky while our society contracts anaemia and Coldplay wank on about making trade fair, we wonder what this country is lacking.

Rock and Roll.

And Oasis were real good at Rock and Roll.

Best Tracks: Morning Glory, Slide Away, The Masterplan

Best Moment: The to-and-fro between Liam and Noel as they walk on stage:
Noel: This is history! Right here! Right now! History!
Liam: I thought it was Knebworth!
(Cue the sound of 150,000 slapped thighs.)

Like this? Try: From Here To Eternity by The Clash, 1999

profile b and wAllen Miles is 33 years old and lives in Hull. He is married and has a 3 year-old daughter who thinks she’s Elsa from Disney’s Frozen. He is a staunch supporter of Sheffield Wednesday FC and drinks far too much wine. He spends most of his spare time watching old football videos on youtube and watching 1940s film noir. He is the author of This Is How You Disappear, which is widely recognized to be the best book ever written. It is available here. http://tinyurl.com/disappear2014

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Al’s Top 30 Albums Of All Time – No. 18

18. The Beatles – Revolver (1966)

The-Beatles-–-Revolver

 

As a young buck of about fourteen, fifteen years old. I hated Manchester United. They were by a street the best team in the country yet I just wouldn’t accept it, I was utterly convinced in my own mind that they were completely overrated, fluky and undisciplined. And similarly, as a young punk fan at the idiotically naive age of eighteen, I took no notice of The Beatles. The line I always used to come out with was, “If they hadn’t have done it, someone else would.” I didn’t dislike them, I just hated the general consensus that they were the greatest thing since processed loaves. Surely the rawness and attitude of Iggy, Sid, and Joe was better than the pretty melodies of John and Paul? Fast forward to my early twenties, when I grew  a brain, I obviously accepted that Eric Cantona was a genius, in both box office and professional terms, and also that every single note of music played since 1966 can be traced back, in some way, to Revolver.

Revolver is one of those rare albums, like Screamadelica and London Calling, in that it is definitive of a time and place yet has not dated at all. Liberated by the retirement from live performances, The Beatles became the first band to really use the studio to great effect. And LSD to great effect. And cannabis to great effect. And whatever the fuck else was available down Carnaby Street in 66 to great effect…

You’ve got songs on here that people still haven’t replicated. They pretty much invented dance music with Tomorrow Never Knows, post-punk before punk with Taxman, and in And Your Bird Can SIng, one of the greatest guitar songs ever, yet one that is never mentioned alongside the likes of Layla and Whole Lotta Love.

She Said She Said is probably the best song on the album, and it is Lennon’s, but McCartney is playing an absolute blinder all the way through. He is a phenomenal bass player, and it could be argued that his single greatest contribution to the medium of pop music was the idea that bass could be used as a melodic engine, listen to Doctor Robert on a decent stereo and you can understand how much Mani and Andy Rourke, to name but two, owe to him. He was also majorly responsible for Eleanor Rigby, Here There and Everywhere and For No One. Only one song on the album goes over three minutes, and that’s only by a second. This is what pop music used to be. Tunes, tunes, tunes.

Yes, it’s weird, even now. I’m Only Sleeping sounds literally like a song that has been written in his sleep and the afore-mentioned Tomorrow Never Knows must have sounded like a communiqué from another planet in 1966, and the world only caught up with it when The Chemical Brothers sampled it in 1997. “Listen to the colour of your dreams.” They say drugs were involved…

 

Best Tracks: Here, There and Everywhere, She Said She Said, For No One

Best Moment: Ringo’s brilliant shuffles on She Said She Said. People who say Ringo was a crap drummer are the same as people who say Bob Dylan was a crap singer. They’re imbeciles.

Like this? Try: Fifth Dimension by The Byrds, 1966

Al’s Top 30 Albums Of All Time – No. 20

achtung

U2 – Achtung Baby (1991)

A few weeks ago, one of my best friends told me that he overheard the following sentence in a pub: “Obviously Coldplay are the U2 of this generation.” Sadly, he couldn’t get the name and address of this person, but I have made it my life’s work to hunt him down, restrain and sedate him and tattoo across his forehead the following; “Please disregard everything you ever hear me say, for I am an idiot. I have no valid opinion about anything, and my only true value in life is to donate organs to those who will make better use of them than I ever will.” I’d also like to tell this imbecile that the U2 of this generation are, in fact, U2. They are the biggest band in the world and show no signs of slowing down.

It wasn’t always like this though. Achtung Baby arrived four years after U2’s previous offering, The Joshua Tree, had broke them in America and put them on the front of Time Magazine. Relentless touring and recording had knackered them and they needed some time to “dream it all up again.” It is also rumoured that Bono had been advised to disappear for a while after his amazingly brave/naive IRA-baiting speech during 1988’s Rattle and Hum tour and left him and his family in a unbelievably vulnerable position. So disappear they did, and having conquered the world with the earnest, chest beating gospel rock of Where The Streets Have No Name and Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, they decided to potentially commit career suicide and head in exactly the opposite direction.

Achtung Baby-era Bono is one of the most iconic rock stars ever. Gone were the vests, mullets and flag waving, in came the massive shades, black leathers and jet black greasy backcomb. The U2 of The Joshua Tree made music that had open spaces, fresh air and chiming melodies. This U2 produced a claustrophobic, smothering kaleidoscope of twisted metal, neon lights and poisonous fumes. The first single off the album, The Fly, is one of the abrasive songs ever released by a mainstream rock band, the aural equivalent of zapping through fifty TV channels in four minutes, with the volume on full. Elsewhere, Zoo Station is a pitch-perfect opener, ushering in the new FX-laden, vocoder-and-delay U2 sound;  So Cruel is one of Bono’s greatest ever vocals and Acrobat, with The Edge’s screaming guitar and the feedback-heavy production, is one of the few times this band sound genuinely intimidating.

And then… One.

I said on the last part of this series that in my opinion that There Is A Light… by The Smiths is the best song ever written, and I believe that. But One by U2 is something more than a song, it is almost a hymn. Like Bridge Over Troubled Water and Let It Be, it just seems beyond music somehow, especially the Popmart performance were The Edge goes up to the octave at the end and they do the extra verse. If this song doesn’t connect with you on some emotional level, you’re either a bailiff or an insurance salesman called Tristan.

There are people, mainly NME journalists and sixth form college students, who claim not to like U2. These are the same people who don’t like REM, Bruce Springsteen and Oasis. They are either trying to be cool, or have no taste. Either way, disregard everything you ever hear them say, for they are idiots. They have no valid opinion about anything.

Best Tracks: One, The Fly, Acrobat

Best Moment: The frantic outro of The Fly, when it seems as if a city is falling over.

Like this? Try: Violator by Depeche Mode, 1990

profile b and wAllen Miles is 31 years old and lives in Hull. He is married and has a 20 month-old daughter who is into The Ramones. He is a staunch supporter of Sheffield Wednesday FC and drinks far too much wine. He spends most of his spare time watching old football videos on youtube and watching 1940s film noir. He is the author of 18 Days, which is widely recognized to be the best book ever written. It is available here. http://tinyurl.com/8d2pysx