It’s 2015. I’ve just dropped my daughter off at her preschool in the annex of an old white house with ghosts in the windows. Twice a week I walk her to the gate and watch her disappear into someone else’s world. A single palpitation every time.
In my car in the parking lot I slide (What’s the Story) Morning Glory into the CD player so that I can write this story about it. I let it play. It’s one of those perfect corduroy mornings and my mind begins to unspool itself. Across the street, the Miami Community Federal Credit Union is just about to open; a group of farmers in their work clothes mill around outside the front door holding cups of coffee. And then the sun shifts and erases every single thing, and I am not listening to anything at all.
I’m thinking instead about the Clientele, who seem a distant heir to Oasis (or Felt or the Shop Assistants or the Mighty Lemon Drops)—a fifth cousin, maybe, or an estranged nephew. I’m thinking about “Losing Haringey,” about a man who wanders down an unfamiliar street and finds himself sitting in an old photograph, and how melancholy a sound they made, and then it’s 2011 and we’re driving to our fertility treatments and there’s not much to say between the two of us and so we fill the empty space with this music, wispy and pale, inoffensive in the best possible way. Our prospects here are looking bleak and it’s taking its secret toll on each of us. The sound—regretful in reverse, like nostalgia for the future—ameliorates some part of our shared sense of dread. Or maybe it’s the discovery of it—the newness—that is a comfort to us.
And now it’s 2006. My stepdad is dying and I spend a lot of time alone in my head. I go for long walks. I take a drive. There is the cemetery where a portion of his ashes will soon be buried. There’s the white house with the ghosts in the windows where my daughter, who does not yet exist, will one day go to school. Across the street is an empty lot. What does all this have to do with Oasis? Nothing, I suspect. Oasis is irrelevant.
But let’s talk about it. We can talk about “Wonderwall” if you like, but can we talk about Ryan Adams first? It’s 2004 and he’s breathing life into a mummy in a tomb. There’s still a beating heart in that song but he’s excavated its soul and he’s recited an incantation and he’s somehow managed to re-animate the thing, bring it back from the dead. It coughs up dust and opens its eyes.
By 2004, Oasis has more or less disappeared. They’ve made three albums since Morning Glory (and would make two more after that), but can you name any songs from them? Ryan Adams has done them a great favor and even Noel Gallagher has to admit that Adams got the song right, but now it’s 1998 and I’m in the backseat of my friend’s car listening to OK Computer and thinking about the crunch of those guitars—about that spastic shaker in the closing seconds of “Paranoid Android”—and how the whole thing has risen up from the ground like a monster made of garbage technology and human skin and how it has just stomped the absolute fuck out of the nineties and everything from it. This thought finds me there, sitting in the backseat, still riding the apogee of some pretty okay mushrooms, going from a concert in Columbus to my friend’s parents’ house in Cincinnati, and the thought has such weight that it sits down next to me, buckles in and says hello.
(What’s the Story) Morning Glory is released on October 2, 1995 and I don’t know where I am in this. I’m in college; I’m playing music in a band and listening to things I won’t admit to here. I’m in a parking lot in 2015 and trying to remember but it’s like opening your eyes in the sea and Oasis is bringing back nothing, but what I do remember is a radio station that I’m just beginning to love, called 97X. They broadcast from a shack in one corner of my tiny hometown—their signal hits the ears of all the kids that need it, and then drifts out over cornfields and into the ether. This is where I first hear Joy Division, first hear the Smiths, first hear the Cure. I hear XTC. I hear Blur. This is where something amorphous in me begins to solidify. And maybe Oasis fails to register because when I listen to their music all I hear are the echoes of these other voices, and maybe it’s only the purest sounds that ring out the longest.
As pure as it is, 97X—like all beautiful sounds—eventually winks out into silence. Their studio is razed; it sits as an empty lot, and on that empty lot some forward-thinking committee builds the Miami Community Federal Credit Union, and now there are ghosts in the windows of that house too.
But let’s talk about Oasis. Let’s talk about the guitars, I guess, but can we talk about Catherine Wheel instead? Can we talk about “Black Metallic?” Because those guitars are the sound of sex and that song is the soundtrack to the drive home after shoving our hands down each others’ pants while pretending to watch Saturday Night Live on the couch in my mom and stepdad’s basement and it’s 1992 and nothing has disappeared and everything is out ahead of us and this is the beginning of all the things that will be fun and complicated from this point forward, and I am astonished to imagine (though how could I imagine it?) that this same girl I’m fooling around with now will one day, years from now, bear the weight of our infertility and will one day, not long after, produce from her body a tiny perfect human, who will one day, yesterday, play a toy piano with her foot.
Do we need to talk about all this? Maybe we don’t. Maybe I should have just stuck to the album, or to “Champagne Supernova,” but this is the album and this is “Champagne Supernova” because everything has its origins and everything lies on a continuum. We probably could have talked about the Happy Mondays, about the Charlatans, about the motherfucking Stone Roses, but all we really need to talk about are the Beatles—because all rivers eventually lead back to the ocean—and all you really need to know about me is this: It’s nineteen-eighty-something and I am a kid. My world is only what I can see, and even less than that. I know nothing—about music, about pain, about sex or drugs, about dreamy nostalgia, about dread, about love. My parents have split and it’s not so bad as you might imagine, but our house is filled with ghosts and those ghosts are us. My brother sits me down. He has a Panasonic tape player and Rubber Soul on cassette, and the beginning of everything occurs when he slides in the tape, puts his finger on play, looks me in the eye and says, Listen to this.
—Joe P. Squance