Be Here Now
June 17, 2018
Todd: Well folks, today, it's time.
Footage of Oasis live in concertTodd (VO): Time to do a full look at one of the most storied and gigantic bands of the '90s. A band who took the world by storm in ways that...it seems like no other band has ever come close to doing since. They filled stadiums, went on world tours, conquered America, and were perhaps the last band to truly embody "sex, drugs and rock & roll" as they built their legendary reputation for volatility and excess, all while blasting out classic song after classic song.
Todd: [sigh] Well anyway, here's "Wonderwall".
Clip of "Wonderwall"
Liam Gallagher: Today is gonna be the day...Todd (VO): Today is gonna be the day that we talk about the British rock band of the '90s, [speaks in a Northern English accent while the band's image appears] Oasis. [normal] In this country, I don't think we really have much of a grip on how big they were. And they were very, very big in this country.
Todd: But in the UK, they were gods.
More concert footageTodd (VO): Their two dueling stars; lead singer Liam Gallagher and his big brother and lead songwriter Noel, became larger-than-life figures. They were just constantly making headlines with their arrogant self-regard, bad behavior, and hatred of each other.
Todd: In 1995, a record label issued [single cover for "Wibbling Rivalry"] a single that was just audio of Liam and Noel, having a violent argument during an interview. [audio excerpt plays of said argument] And it charted. That's how big they were.
Video for "Live Forever"Todd (VO): And they deserved to be that big because back-to-back in a couple short years, they released two of the greatest albums in rock history.
Todd: And no, I don't think that's exaggerating; Oasis's first two records, really are just that damn good.
Clip of Oasis performing liveTodd (VO): Once might be a fluke, but for your first two records to kick that much ass, you'd think they'd go down in history as one of the all-time greats...
Todd: And then, they blew it.
Clip of MTV performance of "D'ya Know What I Mean?"'Todd (VO): In 1997, Oasis released their bloated disaster of a third album, Be Here Now.
Clip of "Storyville-Live Forever: The Story of Brit-Pop" with Noel Gallagher
Noel Gallagher: I don't know, what, what happened to that. It's all [makes static sounds]. I know all the songs are really long, and all the lyrics are shit.Todd (VO): It didn't kill their careers. After those first two albums, there's a good chance nothing could kill their careers and, certainly nothing ever has. But what it did kill, was their relevance. And arguably the relevance of their entire genre. It wasn't apparent at first but, in hindsight, this was the moment where it all went wrong. They were just...
Todd: ...never good again.
Video for "Stand By Me"Todd (VO): They spent the rest of their careers straining to reach that past greatness. But though they tried, they would never release a "Wonderwall," or a "Live Forever," or even a "Roll With It" ever again.
Todd: Even the title seemed like a warning. [album cover for...] "'Be Here Now', 'cause we'll be gone tomorrow." What happened?
Todd (VO): What the hell went wrong? What's the story, morning glory? What was that squabbling group of mono-browed idiots thinking?!
Todd: Well, let's find out. This is Trainwreckords.
Trainwreckords intro, followed by album cover for "Be Here Now"Todd: OK, full disclosure: This episode was one of the [screen capture of...] requests I got when I was selling those off. It was the only Trainwreckords request I got, but I was already planning this one anyway. [shrugs] See, I come into the Oasis story right around this time.
Video for "Don't Go Away"Todd (VO): I was a teenager, I was just getting into music, and "Wonderwall" was already permanently etched into the cultural DNA. Oasis were still one of the hottest, must-listen bands around. [clips of "Morning Glory"...] I picked up (What's the Story) Morning Glory? from the used CD store, and it blew my mind. [...and "Supersonic"] I found a copy of their first album, Definitely Maybe, a short time afterward, and it blew my mind again. But despite "Be Here Now" being the current record at the time, I have never listened to it before this year. I was just never encouraged to. The singles all disappeared from rock radio fairly quickly; and slowly over time in this country, all their hits except "Wonderwall" kind of faded from public memory.
Todd: This album really is a trainwreck in almost every sense, but especially how it...
Clip of another MTV performanceTodd (VO): ...was a band moving way too fast until their momentum just suddenly stopped in a massive rubber-necker-attracting catastrophe. They had just released [album covers for...] Definitely Maybe and (What's the Story) Morning Glory, and they follow that with this half-assed disappointment?
Todd: Yeah, you can imagine how the critics responded at the time. Yeah, that's right. They responded with rapturous, overwhelming praise.
Clip of live performance of "Wonderwall"Todd (VO): Y-You see, the press was completely caught off-guard by Morning Glory. No one saw it coming. No one recognized it for what it was. [clip of "Stand By Me"] So when this album came out, the critics over-corrected, and they just fell over themselves raving about this album.
Todd: That was not an impression that lasted.
Todd (VO): In fact, let me read some of the critics at the time, versus the critics ten years later.
Cut to black background with white lettering showing two columns, one saying "Critics in 1997", the other saying "Critics ten years later"."Four stars! Just great rock 'n' roll!" -The Chicago Sun-Times
"A rock folly, a coke-fuelled monument to '90s excess." -NME
"A triumph... the album that makes Oasis into a global force." -The Observer
"The kind of studio monstrosity that just can't happen without a rare cosmic convergence of money, ego, hostility, and guitar overdubs." -Rolling Stone
"A great rock record. Certainly the greatest Oasis album ever made." -The Telegraph
"Overwrought, soupy, completely meaningless." -The Guardian
"Five stars! A bundle of delights... You have to go back to the Beatles' "Revolver" for a set whose every constituent could be spun off into the singles chart." -Q
"One of the most agonizing listening experiences in pop music." -Pitchfork
Todd: So where did it all go wrong? Well, why don't we look at the first single, and the album opener, "D'Ya Know What I Mean?"
Video for "D'ya Know What I Mean?" startsTodd (VO): Yeah, we're starting off big. Helicopters, crowd noise, guitars. Then the song kicks in.
Liam: Step off the train all alone at dawn
Back into the hole where I was born
The sun in the sky never raised an eye to meTodd: [shrugs] Sounds like Oasis.
Todd (VO): We're in new territory for this show because unlike previous albums I've covered, this wasn't a change in direction at all. It's still definitely Oasis.
Liam: I met my makerTodd (VO): Same colossal arrogance, same overbearingly loud guitars...
Liam: Yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeahTodd: ... and yet...this is just not working for me.
Liam: Yeah, yeahTodd (VO): What's going on here? Well, maybe it's the chorus.
Todd: Here it is in full.
Liam: All my people right here, right now
D'ya know what I mean?
All my people right here right now
D'ya know what I mean?Todd: This is meaningless. The title is meaningless. [single cover for "D'ya Know What I Mean?"] It's just a filler phrase that the British use, very commonly used in England. Especially commonly used by the Gallaghers, they toss it in at the end of every goddamn sentence.
Snippets of both Noel and Liam saying "D'ya know what I mean?" in various interviews
Clip of "D'ya Know What I Mean?"
Liam: D'ya know what I mean?Todd (VO): It's just lazy, empty songwriting from Noel. I assume the other drafts were named after all their other tossed off catchphrases like...
Todd: "Roight?," and "Intnit?," and "Oi, Liam, you wanker!"
Todd (VO): But mostly, I just hate this kind of single in general. I've talked about this before. It's the same kind of dumb, overbearing, empty lead-off single you release when you're too big to care or try anymore. It's not about anything, there's no hook. It just sounds big and loud 'cause you're big and famous. It's claiming a hit by birthright.
Todd: Oasis were always about arrogance, but at least they'd try to demonstrate why, usually.
Todd (VO): Here, they're just resting on their thrones so that they and everyone else rooting for [image of die-hard Oasis fans] Team Oasis can bask in their victory, [English accent] y'know wot I mean?
Todd: [impersonating an Oasis fan] Yeah, you know what I mean, right? Y'know what I'm sayin!
Liam: All my people right here, right now
They know what I meanTodd: This guy gets it, am I right?
Liam: Yeah, yeahTodd (VO): The production is just smothering, just layers upon layers of guitars, and a string section too. I can't even hear the bass. In fact, can you guys even hear me?! Turn it down! Turn it down! TURN IT DOWN!
Todd rubs his face, clearly having a headache
Todd (VO): There is one thing most critics have pointed to as the fatal flaw in this album, and that its interminable, crushing length.
Todd: Which...you look at the running time, [screen capture of Be Here Now Wikipedia page showing...] 72 minutes. That's-that's pretty lengthy. That's-that's on the longish side, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the songs themselves.
Todd (VO): [image of track listing for Be Here Now] Look at the track listing here: Seven minutes, five minutes, seven minutes, five, four-and-a-half, almost six, nine (!!!) Not...
Todd: ...one short, or even medium-length song. Except for one [last track is circled with smiley emoji] blessedly tight two-minuter right at the end.
Video for "Champagne Supernova"Todd (VO): This isn't new, exactly. They'd recorded songs like this before. "Champagne Supernova" was eight minutes. "Rock 'n' Roll Star" spends its last two minutes just blasting away. But it's one thing to do it on one great song on a classic album...
Todd: ...and another to expect your fans to have spent seven minutes listening to something called [sheet music for...] "Magic Pie".
Clip of live performance of "My Big Mouth"
Liam: My big mouthTodd (VO): The second song on the album is much better. "My Big Mouth" is about how the Gallaghers are constantly saying funny and stupid things, and they don't really care.
Liam: Who'll put on my shoes while they're walking
Slowly down the hall of fame?Todd (VO): See, I can see how critics could have been fooled by the overwhelming grandiosity of "D'Ya Know What I Mean?", followed by a fairly decent second song in "My Big Mouth"...
Todd: ... but then we hit "Magic Pie".
Clip of live performance of "Magic Pie"
Noel: I dig his friends
I dig his shoesTodd (VO): Look, this song sucks. In fact, I would call this the point where the album just wrecks for good and never recovers. It's literally called "Magic Pie"!
Todd: And if you think they're gonna take that nonsense phrase and do something cool or interesting with it, no. It's-it's just about how he has his magic pie...
Noel: Cos you see me I got my magic pieTodd (VO):... and it goes for fucking ever.
Video for...The second single, "Stand By Me" comes after that. It also just goes on for fucking ever.
Liam: Stand by meTodd (VO): We're not talking like prog rock multi-part suites with different sections or anything.
Liam: Stand by meEvery song on here does the same trick. It just blasts and blasts the chorus over and over. And it's not even a good chorus most of the time!
Brief montage of Liam repeating the song titleTodd: Oh, blessedly short two-and-a-half minute song, you can't come fast enough.
Todd (VO): It's hard to tell exactly what Oasis is doing wrong here 'cause...well it was hard to tell what they were doing right the first time. [image of definition for "Wonderwall" with a bunch of question marks] Their lyrics never made any sense. Noel has tried to figure out what went wrong many times. The short answer is one; Oasis were Spinal Tap levels of dysfunctional at that point. Noel really hated Liam and he was kind of thinking about just getting rid of him entirely. Two; no one even wanted to make a record but they did want to keep making boatloads of money. And three; everyone was high out of their minds on coke and/or meth.
Another clip from "Storyville-Live Forever: The Story of Brit-Pop"
Noel: It's the sound of...a bunch of guys...on coke, in the studio...not giving a fuck.The producer should have kept them in line, but he failed because he was also coked out of his mind. And this whole record sounds like it. They were trying to be bigger and louder, but Oasis was already big and loud.
Todd: They are literally mixed to be the loudest possible volume before sound compression.
Todd (VO): They'd hit the ceiling. This wasn't like Matchbox-Twenty deciding to turn it up a notch, there was nowhere higher to go! I've heard this record called a hangover album, but...
Todd: ...it's more like the last hour of a party that's raging long after the fun stopped and everyone should have gone home.
Video for "Don't Go Away"Todd (VO): The entire middle of this album is flabby as hell. There's one good song in there: "Don't Go Away", and that was the big one I remember.
Liam: So don't go away
Say what you say
Say that you'll stayTodd (VO): But I kind of feel like it's a little too obvious, like...too direct.
Todd: Don't go away. [shrugs] Simple enough.
Todd (VO): Part of what made Oasis great was that their lyrics felt huge, but you couldn't ever pin down exactly what it meant. It was very poetic. And this is....
Todd: ...well, it's-it's just not.
Todd (VO): It's not the worst thing ever, but it's considerably less special.
Todd: So there's one other thing I want to mention. You ever heard of this band called The Beatles?
Clip of infamous Beatles rooftop concert
The Beatles: Don't let me downTodd (VO): You know that the band Oasis was frequently compared to The Beatles? Apparently Oasis did...
Todd: ...'cause Noel filled the entire album with Beatles references!
Brief montage of all of The Beatles references on various songs from the album
Liam: A fool on the hill, and I feel fine
Let it be
The long and winding roadTodd: I don't know why he did that. It's almost like a joke.
Todd (VO): But it's not just name-checks either. It's the production. [clip of...] Like, you know the really dense parts of "Strawberry Fields Forever" or "A Day in the Life" where they just kept layering new sounds over each other? [clip of "D'Ya Know What I Mean?"] Well, Be Here Now is like that on steroids. Just noise. More noise.
Todd: It just doesn't feel new anymore. They went from being inspired by the Beatles to just rotely copying them.
Video for "All Around the World"Todd (VO): And of course, if we're talking about the Beatles...[sigh] well I guess we gotta get to it, so here we go.
Todd: Yes, their other big, giant single off the album, "All Around the World".
Liam: All around the world
You gotta spread the word
Ya tell 'em what you heard
We're gonna make a better dayTodd (VO): As you can tell by looking at the video, this is their Beatles-iest song yet. Specifically, it's Oasis' version of [clip of...] "Hey Jude" or "All You Need Is Love". You know, a big stadium anthem with a big chorus about how it's all gonna be okay.
Liam: You know it's gonna be okayThis is actually the first Oasis song Noel Gallagher ever wrote. But he held off on recording it until the band was famous enough that they had the budget and the leeway to make it as big as he wanted. And once he had it, he sure delivered.
Todd: He delivered the most bloated, unlistenable song of his entire career.
Liam: All around the world
You gotta spread the wordTodd (VO): For one thing, it's another nothing chorus. On its own, it's just hollow platitudes and sentiment.
Todd: But, "Hey Jude" and "All You Need is Love" are arguably both that from a certain point of view.
Clip of live performance of "All You Need Is Love"Todd (VO): But Paul and John absolutely sell it. I believe Jude's sadness will be made better, and love is all you need. Oasis, meanwhile...
Todd: ….well they have their sentimental side, absolutely. But....
Todd (VO): …big, warm feelings of peace and love for the entire world? Coming out of Liam's snotty, nasally whine?
Liam: Nya, nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nahTodd (VO): Jesus Christ, it sounds sarcastic! No, I don't buy it. And I think they knew people wouldn't buy it because they...
Todd: ...can't stop trying to sell it, as many ways as they can.
Liam: Nah-nah-nah, nah-nah-nah, nah-nah-nahTodd (VO): Nah-nah-nahs, trumpets, french horns, strings, key changes!
Liam: All around the world
You gotta spread the wordIf I really wanted to convey how hard this is to listen to, I'd just play the song...
Todd: ...in all its nine-and-a-half minute tedium.
Liam: It's all around the worldTodd (VO): It just keeps going, and going. And it just keeps getting bigger...
Todd: ...and bigger.
Liam: It's gonna be okay
It's gonna be okayTodd (VO): It's like climbing up a Mount Everest sized mountain of cocaine. It's a death march of peace and love.
Todd: All around the world. You gotta spread the word. Tell 'em what you heard.
Liam: All around the world
You gotta spread the word.Todd: Oh my god! It's like listening to them go to literally every single person in the world and sing the chorus at them!
Liam: Nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nahTodd: ...I hate this album.
Video for "It's Getting Better (Man!!)"
Liam: It's getting better man
Hey! What was that you said to me?Todd (VO): After that, one more too-long song, "It's Getting Better (Man!!)"
Todd: I like that because it's literally a [single cover for "Getting Better" by...] Beatles title with some bad attitude attached to it. They are on-brand.
Liam: Maybe the songs that we sing are wrongTodd (VO): And even though, just like all the rest of the album, it's way too much, I get it. I mean, I can see the good Oasis in there. I still feel it. The world conquering rock stars are in there.
Todd: The arc of history has done weird things to this album. And in fact it reminds me a lot of another overhyped '90s disaster...
Trailer for Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom MenaceTodd (VO): ...The Phantom Menace. Because it went from "The greatest thing ever!" to "Well OK, there were a couple bad parts, but it was mostly good" to "Oh my god, that was a turd from start to finish" to [shot of NME article: "Oasis' 'Be Here Now' - Was It Really That Bad?"] "OK, calm down it wasn't that bad."
Todd: And no, it's not the worst thing ever.
Todd (VO): But it has that reputation because Oasis could only do big things in that era. So if they failed, it must have been an epic failure just by logic. No it's not that bad, it's just not very good.
Todd: Oh right, and I almost forgot! The closing song! A glorious masterpiece to close us out!
Clip of Looney Tunes
Bugs Bunny: It's Magnificent!
Porky Pig: It's stupendous!
Daffy Duck. It's short!Todd: Two minutes and eight seconds. I love it already. So let's take a quick listen to...[shot of sheet music for...] "All Around the World (Reprise)".
Clip of ending to "All Around the World"Todd: [rubs face in disgust] Piss off, you wankers.
Video endsEnding music: Todd plays "All Around the World" on piano
"Be Here Now" is owned by Creation Records
This video is owned by me
THANK YOU TO THE LOYAL PATRONS!