Edited by Dave Maxwell
While the group’s debut Definitely Maybe and the single-packed (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? are highly regarded as two of the most important records of the ’90s, Be Here Now never quite earned anywhere near the same critical and popular affection. You could argue this was due (in part) to the records’ length or the ridiculously high expectations for the album. Nevertheless, there are still many (myself included) who view it as one of the best rock records of the ’90s.
In honor of the re-issue for Be Here Now, here are ten of the most odd and infamous facts and stories from one of the most tumultuous eras for the band.
10. The Album Cover Photoshoot
The iconic album cover for Be Here Now was taken at Stocks House, a mansion built in 1773 (and formerly home to Playboy executive Victor Lownes).
After an attempt to photograph each band member in various locations around the world proved too costly, guitarist Paul “Bonehead” Arthurs’ idea of having a Rolls Royce half-submerged in a swimming pool was chosen as the best idea of the four. Photographer Michael Spencer Jones commented that the Rolls Royce on the cover was an homage to Keith Moon (who frequented Stocks House when it was a hotel), though Noel Gallagher has since disputed that claim. In an interview with an Oasis fan site, Jones admitted the photo shoot did not go smoothly, as the hotel quickly came under siege from fans and paparazzi alike. As the shoot dragged on, those working on the set became more and more drunk – leading to utter chaos. To top things off, one of the generators blew.
The sleeve itself reportedly cost around $99,000 to produce. “You can’t just turn up at a hotel and put a Rolls Royce in a swimming pool for nothing,” record sleeve designer Brian Cannon commented in a 2014 interview. “The mad thing about that sleeve is it looks photoshopped, because the Rolls Royce looks too small. In actual fact, that Rolls Royce really is in that pool – it took us two days to put it in. We could have photoshopped it, but it was the creative thing, that’s what turned me on. If you see some of the outtakes, it looks amazing, it looks serene, like it’s drowning.”
9. Getting Into A War Of Words With George Harrison
It’s no secret that Oasis always loved and admired The Beatles as musicians and songwriters. They paid tribute to George Harrison more than once, naming their biggest hit after Harrison’s 1968 album Wonderwall Music, and Be Here Now after Harrison’s 1973 track. Harrison did not return the love.
Around the time of Be Here Now’s release he called Oasis “rubbish” and “not very interesting,” even suggesting Oasis would be better off without Liam. Harrison also insinuated that Oasis only wrote music for teens. Noel responded in early 1998, claiming “George Harrison was always the silent Beatle. Personally, I think he should keep that image up, but I guess he’s right.” Liam, on the other hand, took it a little more personally, telling MTV “I still love the Beatles and I still love George Harrison as a songwriter in the Beatles, but as a person I think he’s a fucking nipple.”
8. Oasis Was Asked To Contribute To The Diana, Princess Of Wales Tribute Album But Declined
While Oasis had the media in a frenzy for months leading up to the release of Be Here Now, it was largely overshadowed by the tragic death of Princess Diana ten days later. A tribute album to her was released in December of 1997 and featured a host of popular artists, ranging from R.E.M. to Whitney Houston. One of those artists was almost Oasis.
When asked what his thoughts were on the tribute album, Noel responded “Well, I would imagine it’s appalling. I do believe that somebody phoned our management to ask if Oasis would play on the record,” he explained. “By the time we stopped laughing, the phone had gone dead. In this country, the media — the powers that be, the establishment — they hate Oasis for what we stand for. It’s just loud rock ‘n roll for young people to get drunk to. But then again, as soon as they want to shift some records, it’s like ‘Oh, we’ll get Oasis on it!'”
7. They Did A Lot Of Cocaine. A Lot.
It’s pretty well-documented that this is one of the most cocaine-influenced records in history. Gallagher has described the record as “the sound of a bunch of guys, on coke, in the studio, not giving a fuck.” While Noel certainly held a higher opinion of the record at the time of its release — often stating the lyrics were far superior to their first two albums — back then, he echoed his more recent statements of the band’s drug use during that time period.
In terms of impact on making the record, producer Owen Morris once said “In the first week, someone tried to score an ounce of weed, but instead got an ounce of cocaine. Which kind of summed it up.” Creation Records (Oasis’ label) owner Alan McGee famously said of the sessions “I used to go down to the studio, and there was so much cocaine getting done at that point … Owen was out of control, and he was the one in charge of it. The music was just fucking loud.” Morris has since disputed McGee’s involvement in the making of the record.
Despite the seemingly ludicrous amount of drugs being taken in studio and constant bickering between the brothers, both of them seemed to be very complimentary of one another’s talents around this time period. When Noel was asked about Liam’s singing on the record, he called it “Very good,” adding “he surprises me all the time, every day.” On Noel’s songwriting, Liam called it “What gets him out of bed every morning.”
The band’s drug use went beyond the recording studio. The Gallagher brothers drug use and their openness about it was a large part of Oasis’ fascinating cultural appeal. In a 1997 interview, Liam stated: “I never complain when people say I take drugs and I drink because it’s true.” In the same interview Noel called drugs a “major obsession since I was 14.” When asked about the idea of having children, he responded: “Yeah, I’m afraid of having children. I’ll never have, I don’t want to. Two dogs, a wife and I’ll be happy. I take too much drugs to assume such a responsibility.”
6. The Song Magic Pie Is Not Actually About Magic Pie
Though many fans (and even Noel himself) tend to overlook this song nowdays, at the time Gallagher praised the song as one of his favorites.
In a Q Magazine interview in 1997, he stated: “I sang this one. Of course, me and Liam had a row about it. ‘Why can’t I sing that?’ ‘OK, I’ll do Fade In/Out then.’ ‘No, you won’t.’ But it’s his favorite track now. The first line, ‘An extraordinary guy/Can never have an ordinary day’ comes from him asking me: “How come you never get into any of the situations I get into?” And I borrowed something from Tony Blair’s speech at the Labour Party conference last autumn (“There are but a thousand days preparing for a thousand years”).” Gallagher has more recently called the Tony Blair era “a great time in history”, though he does regret taking a now-famous photo with him. “I can still smell the cheese!” he exclaimed in a 2013 article.
The best part of the story of “Magic Pie” comes from how the name came about.
“The magic pie happened when I was pissed and looking in a rhyming dictionary for a word with an ‘I’ ending. I saw ‘magpie’ but I read it as ‘magic pie’. I thought That conjures up a few things.” Gallagher explained.
5. Overblown Anticipation
After the unbelievable success of 1995’s (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? and the mega-concerts the band performed in 1996, anticipation for the new record was out of control. In the months leading up to the release of Be Here Now there was a sense of paranoia about tracks leaking early, and some insiders indicated they were worried about the reception of the record before its release. To help quench fears of over-hype, Oasis’ management company Ignition wanted only promotional posters and things of that nature as opposed to television ads or billboards to keep it ‘low-key’.
Unfortunately for Ignition, the company’s overblown attempt at being low-key led to even more hype — much of it now centered around the unusual amount of secrecy behind the album release. Strange stories include BBC Radio One receiving a three track sampler of the album that could only be played under the condition that disc jockey Steve Lamacq talked over them. The day after airing them, Lamacq received a call from Ignition saying that he could no longer play the songs because he didn’t talk enough over them. Another odd instance occurred when an employee of Creation Records checked people’s phones over fears The Sun had tapped them. Promotional cassette copies even came with a contract clause that stated journalists could not discuss the album with anybody. In 1999, Marketing Executive of Creation Records, Emma Greengrass admitted that “a lot of the things that we did were ridiculous”.
Release day was treated like a historic event, with the date printed on the inner-sleeve of the record as a way for people to commemorate it. Some people who bought the album on release day were given a special receipt with the date on it. From a cultural perspective, it really was a historic date: it marked the end of an era; the end of Oasis being on top of the world, the end of the original lineup and (perhaps most importantly) the end of Britpop.
4. The Title Track Pays Homage To The Rolling Stones
Speaking of overlooked tracks, this straight-forward rocker on the back-end of the album provides a good balance between “Don’t Go Away” and “All Around The World,” and was a great opening song on the Be Here Now tour.
The song was written in the Caribbean, where many of the other tracks from the Be Here Now sessions also originated. Noel Gallagher was on vacation in May of 1996 with his ex-wife, Meg Matthews and Owen Morris. Johnny Depp and his wife Kate Moss — who Gallagher had previously worked with on the track “Fade Away” for the 1995 benefit release The Help Album — also happened to be vacationing on the island at the same time. Noel Gallagher explained: “In Mustique, Johnny Depp and Kate Moss stayed at Mick Jagger’s house. We were down on the beach and there was this toy plastic piano that belonged to one of Jagger’s kids. The opening’s played on that, slowed down. I was pressing that one key for about two hours, Meg going, ‘Will you fucking shut up!'”
The Rolling Stones influence on the track continued after Gallagher returned back home.
“Then back home, I was talking about drum loops with Owen Morris and he said one of the greatest was the opening to Honky Tonk Woman. We played it and it was in the same time signature as that piano, so I wrote the song from there. I liked the Stones involvement at the start and the finish of writing it.”
3. “All Around The World” Was One Of The First Songs Noel Gallagher Ever Wrote For Oasis
Yes, it’s true. There is even footage of the band rehearsing the track in 1992. Noel kept this track hidden from the masses until the band could afford the extravagant full vision of the song that he had in mind. By 1997, the band had more than enough money to fulfill Gallagher’s vision and thus, a 36-piece orchestra was enlisted to assist on what would become the longest track to ever chart at number one on the UK Singles Chart (the single version of the song clocks in at 9:38).
As early as 1994, Gallagher was discussing the track with the press:
“With “Supersonic”, I worried I was never going to write another song after that ‘cos I thought ‘It sounds that good.’ Two days later I superseded it by about 50 fuckin’ times. The reason we haven’t recorded that song is because there isn’t enough money in Creation Records’ bank balance to pay for the production of that record. When we do that record…”
He later shared his thoughts shortly after the track’s release in 1997:
“I wrote this one ages ago, before “Whatever”. It was twelve minutes long then. It was a matter of being able to afford to record it. But now we can get away with the 36-piece orchestra. And the longer the better as far as I’m concerned. If it’s good. I can see what people are going to say, but fuck ’em, basically. The lyrics are teeny-poppy. But there are three key changes towards the end. Imagine how much better Hey Jude would have been with three key changes towards the end.”
2. The Band Got Kicked Out Of Abbey Road Studios While Recording The Album
For a band that gets compared to The Beatles so often, you would think that Abbey Road would be a perfect spot for Oasis to record. This was far from the case, as noise complaints coupled with too much paparazzi access (particularly after Liam got arrested for cocaine possession in November of 1996) led the band to relocate to Ridge Farm Studios in Surrey – a much more rural setting.
In December of 1997, Noel commented on the experience, stating: “It was nice to be in the same room where some of the best songs ever were written. It was just nice to be there, you know? We recorded “Magic Pie” and “Stay Young” there. Then we left because there were complaints. Complaints about the noise – can you believe that? In a recording studio? But you know, it served its purpose.”
Just a month later, Gallagher was much more critical of his time at Abbey Road:
“…It was actually a miserable time for us there, really, because you can’t work all night — it opens at a certain time and closes at a certain time, and you’ve got to leave.” He continued his criticism later in the interview, commenting that: “It’s an absolute nightmare. The reason we left halfway through recording there was there was a fellow next door, and he knocked on the door and asked us ‘could we turn it down?’ It was a bit loud for him, because he was mixing some fucking classical band next door. By the time we stopped laughing, he’d left the room. It was the first time I’ve been in a recording studio where someone told us to turn it down.”
1. Johnny Depp Plays The Slide On “Fade In/Out”
Noel Gallagher often listed this track as one of his favorites from the record in interviews at the time, and even gave his brother a compliment for his work on the track, stating: “On ‘Fade In/Out’ the singing is so good, it’s quite scary. One take as well, which isn’t like him.”
Noel’s story on how the song came about is quite interesting:
“We were drunk one night (in the Caribbean), and I borrowed his (Depp’s) slide guitar and tried to play this solo, and it was absolutely dreadful,” Noel recalled. “So he (Depp) sat down and played it and got it in one take. He’s actually a really good guitar player.”
In another 1997 article, Gallagher offered some more insight on the track, stating: “The first part of the song is from the Mustique demo with Johnny Depp playing slide guitar. I like it because it’s the first blues song I’ve done and Liam does the best singing I’ve ever heard from him. I pushed him to the limit on that. I said, ‘Pretend you’re a black man from Memphis.’ He’s not got very good rhythm and we made him stamp his foot all through it. He couldn’t sing for a week after.”
The Be Here Now era in itself harbors more crazy stories than many bands can gather in their entire career. The re-issue of the album will be released on CD, Vinyl, and in the form of a deluxe box-set that will include a coffee table book, a vinyl of the Mustique demos, and Oasis merchandise. Along with that, it also will contain: a remaster of the original recording, a second disc containing b-sides, demos and rare live recordings and a third disc containing the “Mustique Sessions”, recorded in the Caribbean in 1996.
Noel Gallagher recently unveiled his “2016 Re-think” of “D’You Know What I Mean?”, which will be featured on the second bonus disc of the re-issue that is due to be released October 7th 2016.