31 Things You Didn’t Know About Oasis’s "Definitely Maybe"

The classic album turns 20 today.

Ingram Publishing / Thinkstock / Martyn Goodacre / Getty

1. Noel Gallagher says that many of the references in the album’s second single, “Shakermaker”, came from TV adverts. The character of Mr Soft, for instance, comes from an ad for Trebor Softmints in the 1980s and 1990s that used a re-recording of Cockney Rebel’s hit 1974 tune of the same name.

2. The song’s title, meanwhile, came from a toy that Noel had in the 1970s and 1980s which involved mixing water and some powder into a mould to make a rubbery toy figure that eventually set hard.

3. There is an entire verse of “Shakermaker” that mentions Coca-Cola but didn’t make the final version. Noel and Liam Gallagher instead wrote another verse at Johnny Marr’s studio.

4. The reference to Mr Sifter in the song’s final verse came about because the pair drove past a record shop called Sifters in Didsbury, Manchester, on the way to the studio.

5. For the cover artwork for “Shakermaker”, a range of household objects were made “wobbly” by being attacked with a blowtorch, in a reference to the Mr Soft character.

6. Noel wrote much of the album while working for a company subcontracted to British Gas. He hurt his foot when a heavy gas valve fell on him and was given a job in a cabin signing company equipment in and out.

7. Liam wanted the opening line of “Live Forever”, the album’s third single, to be “baby”, but Noel was adamant it should be the more mysterious “maybe”.

8. The solo in “Live Forever” was originally twice as long. Producer/mixer Owen Morris cut it down because, as he says in the documentary marking the album’s 10-year anniversary, “I thought it was a bit like fucking Slash from Guns N’ Roses.”

9. The video for the song was filmed on the top of a building near Kings Cross. The director suggested the band buried a drum kit, but Noel suggested burying the drummer, Tony McCarroll, instead. Noel says in his hilarious commentary of the shoot: “I was like, wow, is that how easy this is? You just randomly suggest nonsense and people go and film it?”

10. The cover of “Live Forever” is a photo of John Lennon’s childhood home, taken by Michael Spencer Jones. He says: “The photograph seemed to work on two levels: First, it was a picture of an ordinary suburban semi, which reflected some of the song’s lyrical content, and secondly, when you considered that the greatest artist of the 20th century had grown up in the house, the picture took on a far more powerful quality.”

11. During recording sessions for the album at Monnow Valley, on the Welsh-English border, The Stone Roses were making the long-awaited Second Coming at nearby Rockfield Studios in Monmouth. The two bands spent some time together, mostly indulging in drink and/or drugs.

12. On one occasion, having consumed booze and magic mushrooms, Roses bass player Mani managed to start a tractor and made his way to where Oasis were staying to see if they had any more booze.

13. An earlier version of “Up in the Sky” was far more psychedelic, with Beatlesesque backwards guitars, but these didn’t survive Morris’s mastering.

14. There were several abortive attempts to record the album, including stints recording in Chiswick, Cornwall, and Monmouth. The band weren’t happy with the lack of attack in early versions.

15. “Columbia” is named after the Columbia Hotel in near Hyde Park in London, where the band stayed in London before they were banned for rock’n’roll behaviour.

16. Morris says the band got kicked out of the hotel during the sessions for “Whatever”, which was released just before Christmas 1994 as a standalone single, when they started throwing furniture out of windows at 6am and something landed on the hotel owner’s Mercedes. The police were called, but by the time they arrived the band had already packed their bags and checked into the nearby Hilton, “which frankly was a much better hotel,” says Morris.

17. While recording an early version of “Columbia” that got early radio plays before the band had even properly released a single, LSD was a major influence, according to Noel. “We ended up making the demo that got 50 plays on Radio 1, all cabbaged beyond fucking belief,” he says.

18. During the video shoot for “Whatever”, Noel wore the clothes he went out in the previous night and is visibly drunk. As he puts it: “I can’t begin to tell you how pissed I was. I was shitfaced.” He later fell asleep at a bus stop.

19. Noel says the first single, “Supersonic”, which was recorded before the rest of the album, is probably his favourite Oasis song, “because we didn’t invest a lot of time in it, in neither mixing it, writing it, or fucking playing it”. It was written and recorded in a single day at The Pink Museum studio in Liverpool with Chris and Tony Griffiths of The Real People.

20. The Elsa mentioned in the song was not a girl but a rottweiler with a flatulence problem who sat through the session.

21. The front cover of Definitely Maybe, which depicts the band in the front room of guitarist Paul “Bonehead” Arthurs’ house in Manchester, was inspired by the back cover of 60s Beatles comp A Collection of Beatles Oldies, on which the Fab Four are sat around a table in a Japanese hotel room.

22. Jones, the photographer, had just been to see an exhibition on Egyptology at Manchester Science Museum. The visit inspired the decision to have Liam lying on the floor, like a preserved mummy.

Creation Records

23. Morris claims to have invented “brick-walling” when he mixed the record. A technique of mixing where the volume is at the very limit of what a CD can produce without distorting, the process made Definitely Maybe noticeably louder than other bands’ records at the time.

24. Noel claims that the success of fourth single “Cigarettes & Alcohol”, which features the lyric “you might as well do the white line”, made Oasis the “only band to get a record into the Top 10 by advocating cocaine use”.

25. Always open with the sources of his musical inspiration, Noel says he’s been “sued a few times” for copyright infringement (including a successful suit by The Rutles’ Neil Innes over the similarity of “Whatever” to his “How Sweet to Be an Idiot”). Noel says he’s never sued anyone else, however, despite lawyers at Sony suggesting he should.

26. Liam once claimed he would sing any Oasis song live, except “Digsy’s Dinner”.

27. Creation boss Alan McGee once said that “Digsy’s Dinner” was a “pisstake” of Blur and the nascent Britpop sound.

28. Liam claims that he’s never held a microphone in his life, and that his slouching singing style is so he can “get more power” from his voice.

29. The first time Liam pronounced sunshine as “sun-shiiiine” in his famous Mancunian drawl was during a live radio recording of “Cigarettes & Alcohol”. According to Noel, Liam didn’t like it on hearing it back, but Alan McGee was quickly on the phone to tell him to keep it.

30. “Married With Children” was recorded in producer Mark Coyle’s bedroom on a Gretsch guitar owned by The Stone Roses’ John Squire. It took about half an hour.

31. Definitely Maybe sold 86,000 copies in its first week, sending it to No. 1 and making it the UK’s fastest-selling debut album up to that point.

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