When it comes to writing about the music I love, the music that consumes me every day of my life, I don’t often give much time to re-releases / greatest hits. Not that I think there is anything wrong with that format, it is just that I find it hard to keep up with all the incredible new music that is released every week to have the time to spend writing about remastered editions of old albums. The list of albums I want to write about is almost as long as the albums that I have written about in 2023. Honestly it has been a great year for music. That said, this week I feel the need to spend a bit of time writing about my love for a different time, the glory of the B-Sides and The Masterplan which has recently been remastered.
The period 1994 – 1997 is without a doubt the time when Noel Gallagher was at his absolute best when it came to song writing. Yes, he can still put together songs that most of us can only dream of writing yet there was something so exciting and so magical about that period where these songs came one after another and completely changed the world. The Masterplan originally released in 1998 is a collection of songs that didn’t make it onto the first two Oasis albums. At the time I was obsessed with buying every single that Oasis released and I remember fondly how much love there was for the B-Sides to each of the singles. We all knew how great these songs were, I remember conversations around how could Talk Tonight just be a B-Side to Some Might Say, and you could apply that sentence to every song on The Masterplan.
Writing about this twenty-five years later, where everything is so instant, makes me long for a time gone by. If you want to listen to a song now you can play it on one of the streaming services but by doing that the magic has been lost. The format of B-Sides has been lost which in my view is a tragedy. There is a whole generation out there who will not have had the excitement of picking up a single from Our Price and sharing their excitement with their mates around how a song like Going Nowhere, or Half The World Away can be tucked away as a B-Side.
Listening back to The Masterplan I often think that Noel must have known how amazing these songs were, why were they kept back as B-Sides? Everyone of these songs could have been a lead single. As we know Noel has never been one to be shy about his belief in himself, he must have thought I will always write songs as great as Stay Young and Rockin’ Chair so why hold them back. I also think if these songs had been held back and released as Oasis’ third album would things have been different? Be Here Now was not a flop, I don’t think an album that had sales of around 8 million can be regarded as being a flop but it did in a way fast track the end of Oasis. If The Masterplan followed Morning Glory would the party have lasted longer? It’s easy to look back and say that now but I can’t help but think things would have been different especially as The Masterplan came out a year after Be Here Now it highlighted what could have been.
The other thing to remember about these songs and this time is that Definitely Maybe and Morning Glory were predominantly dominated by Liam’s vocals. Noel knew that he could not match Liam's vocals when it came to grit, swagger and confidence. The B-sides were Noel's way of showing he could take lead vocals, introducing a softer, tender side to the band and perhaps that’s why he put these incredible B-Sides out rather than hold them back, as he felt the need to prove to the world that he could take the lead and offer something different.
What makes The Masterplan stand out more than other compilation albums, re-issues, greatest hits etc is that this is a perfectly compiled album. It’s not alternative versions and lost tracks that have been found, it's a collection of fourteen songs that have been put together in a way that makes it flow like a standalone album, I Am The Walrus aside possibly, although this is an amazing cover if this was substituted with Round Our Way then we would have an album full of originals which would further add to the argument that The Masterplan could easily be regarded as an album in its own right. The album opens with Acquiesce further making the case for this being the perfectly curated album. Acquiesce is arguably one of the greatest Oasis songs, if an alien arrived on planet Earth and you wanted to explain what Oasis are all about in one song Acquiesce would be the song you would play them. The way Liam and Noel share vocals is a thing of beauty, and the line “Because we need each other / We Believe in one another” perfectly captures the relationship of the Gallagher brothers and the reason why Oasis became the band of their generation.
Yes, when I write about music I do so in such a gushing way, use superlatives and talk about song writers as being geniuses. However, given the state of the world right now, when there can be so much hatred on social media I truly believe there is nothing wrong with being positive and sharing nice thoughts. Spending time this week listening to The Masterplan has provided me with a portal back to a different world, a time when all of this mattered not just to me but to society and British culture. There is nothing but good things to be said about these songs. Talk Tonight in particular honestly is genius, it is a beautiful song, full of emotion that could easily have been a number 1 single. We don’t often get much from Noel in terms of meanings behind songs but he has talked in the past about the girl who saved his life. Noel went missing during the band's gig at the Whiskey A Go Go in 1994 and threatened to leave the band, he spent time in San Fransisco with Melissa Lim who told him he had to continue and in so doing saved his life “I wanna talk tonight / Until the morning light / ‘bout how you saved my life”.
Before leaving you all to take trip down memory lane I want to spend a moment sharing my love for Half The World Away, a song which Paul Weller has spoken of as being his favourite Oasis song. The song with the most famous handclaps in music history, come on we all try and do it when listening to the song. For me I remember listening to this song at the age where you are transitioning from childhood to adulthood, feeling older than you actually are, not sure where you are going in life and feeling that you might be outgrowing your home town “I would like to leave this city / This old town don’t smell too pretty”. That feeling of being older than you are is also wonderfully captured in Rockin’ Chair. At the time it felt Noel was speaking directly for us all “I’m older than I wish to be / This town holds no more for me”.
It is hard to believe that twenty-five years have passed since The Masterplan was originally released. It is true what they say that time speeds up as you grow older. But what does remain is that thirst for life, that belief that anything is possible, and the memories also live on. Listening to The Masterplan I am instantly back in my teenage bedroom, I am hanging out with my mates at the time talking about how great these B-Sides are, those mates that had more musical talent than me playing these songs on guitar and just enjoying being young.
If you weren’t there at the time and don’t have the same relationship with these songs that I do, I hope these words have given you some insight into those times, how these songs had such an impact on our lives, and the greatness and magic of a B-Side. I urge each and every one of you to either pick up a copy of The Masterplan for the first time and have your world changed, or put it on twenty five years later and take a magical trip back to the past.