Ever since Oasis led the charge for the 90’s Britpop invasion, the first thing, which turned into the most common thing people did was compare Oasis to The Beatles. I don’t know if it just became the cool thing to say, or the easy way out of a drunken pub debate. It’s probably safe to say that by now, the cloth that Oasis has contributed into the rock n roll fabric of time is currently and may forever be completely stitched. Which gives us the chance to finally put this debate to rest. Take out your scorecards gents, Lets review the facts..
THE MUSIC. Early on.
The Beatles first few albums were a mix of cover songs and originals. All the songs were pretty much songs about girls which were written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon. Some collaborative, some separate. No more than 3 min long usually. They were mostly fast. Had punchy beats, pumpy basslines, and twangy George Harrison lead. The slow ones were epic gems.
Oasis’ first few albums were all written by Noel Gallagher. The tempo and drumbeats seemed to always stay the same in its own brilliant way. The only love song that is clearly a plain old fashion love song in the way the Beatles used to write them where they are fawning over a girl is “Digsy’s Dinner”, “Slide Away”, and possibly “Wonderwall.” But I’m not sure if Wonderwall is even about a girl. Then on their 3rd album, “Be Here Now”, there’s only “Don’t Go Away” and “The Girl In The Dirty Shirt.”
The Beatles popularized the “mop-top”. They wore matching outfits. They had suits, black ties and boyish smiles down to a science. But so did a lot of the other rock n roll groups from that era. Then it gradually got casual into the 60’s. Bell bottoms, weird beards, creep daddy moustaches matched with shiny marching band attire.
Only Noel and Liam had similar Beatlesque bowl cuts. Bonehead kept the non comparison strong with a balding top. No creeper moustaches found here, but they did glamorize the “uni-brow” for a while. Well only the two Gallaghers did anyway. Oasis’ style was more casual and sophisticated. Checkered button downs which graduated to sporty jean and sleek leather jackets. Never did they wear matching outfits.
The Beatles were cheery, funny, and animated in their movies and interviews. Their confidence was more cool and subdued with only certain bursts of blimpish egos such as the time they famously claimed to be “bigger than Jesus.” Besides that, the Liverpool lads always knew how to wave, smile, and run like unathletic academic kids.
Oasis were the underdog bad boys from Manchester. Inflated egos. Stone faced stares which hid behind shades indoors. Athletic looking with only a few soccer kicks in the Morning Glory video to validate the claim. They were hilarious in interviews mostly for talking smack about other rock stars.
THE MUSIC. Later on.
The Beatles had father figure type producer George Martin who introduced them to such innovative production tricks such as reverse recording, different instrumentation, and overdubbing sound effects. George Harrison brought in the Indian spices and began to write his own compositions against the Lennon/McCartney government. Songs were all original after a few albums in. All the songs weren’t only about girls now, but a theme of love still draped over them. Now fictitious songs about 3rd person characters started to surface. As well as drug inspired imagery spilled their way into songs such as “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”, “Penny Lane”, etc..
On the other hand, its arguable that the first 15 seconds of any Oasis song could possibly be tough to pick out until the words come in. (Try listening to “The Dreams We Have As Children” acoustic concert and picking out the songs as they begin without looking at the track listing). Then after a few albums in, Noel Gallagher finally let go of all the writing reigns and allowed songs by Liam and newer members Andy Bell, and Gem Archer to be featured. Still, love songs were a rare find. If you were lucky you would get one on an album. Instead you got songs about how to deal with what life throws at you. How to kick up a storm from the day that you were born. Confidence songs. Solo flights to Vegas and meet a strange woman songs. Mid-age affirmation songs born from waiting in line at the grocery store. Escape songs. Sad songs.
Just because Oasis covered a lot of Beatles songs in their live set and rare b-side compilations, “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away”, “Strawberry Fields Forever”, “I Am The Walrus” , etc.. doesn’t make them copycats. Oasis have also referenced the Beatles in their own songs lyrics like “Love is a litany. A magical mystery..” from the song “The Shock Of The Lighting” as well as other songs with Beatles song references such as “Morning Glory”, “Be Here Now”, and “Roll With It” to name a few. The fact that they have paid that homage to them doesn’t hold water to the argument that they sound just like them really. Even if you compared the dynamic of The Beatles which was built around the writing team of John and Paul to the dynamic Oasis had with Noel’s totalitarianistic style then you would wonder why people thought they were even similar. I mean Glenn Fry and Don Henley of The Eagles were more Lennon/McCartney than the Gallaghers. Heck, even Panic! At The Disco before they broke off after their 2nd album “Pretty Odd”, which oddly enough is the closest homage to “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club” band I’ve ever heard. Oasis never even went near that themed album route. Oasis in my opinion were kind of like a lovechild of The Stone Roses and The Rolling Stones. But If you really want to talk about a band who tried to emulate another band so hard but failed to compare even down to the vocal delivery and snarl that its just shameful to watch and call shenanigans on it, then look at Green Day and their attempt to be The Clash. But I’ll save that for a later debate.