(What's the Story) Morning Glory? is the second studio album by the English rock band Oasis, released on 2 October 1995 by Creation Records. It was produced by Owen Morris and the group's guitarist Noel Gallagher. The structure and arrangement style of the album were a significant departure from the group's previous record Definitely Maybe. Gallagher's compositions were more focused in balladry and placed more emphasis on huge choruses, with the string arrangements and more varied instrumentation on the record contrasting with the rawness of the group's debut album. (What's the Story) Morning Glory? was the group's first album with drummer Alan White, who replaced Tony McCarroll.
The record propelled Oasis from being a crossover indie act to a worldwide rock phenomenon, and according to various critics, was a significant record in the timeline of British indie music. The band's most commercially successful release, (What's the Story) Morning Glory? sold a record-breaking 347,000 copies in its first week on sale, spent 10 weeks at number one on the UK Albums Chart, and reached number four in the US Billboard 200. Singles from the album were successful in Britain, America and Australia: "Some Might Say" and "Don't Look Back in Anger" reached number one in the UK; "Champagne Supernova" and "Wonderwall" reached number one on the US Modern Rock Tracks chart; and "Wonderwall" topped the Australian and New Zealand singles charts.
Although a commercial smash, the record received initially lukewarm reviews from mainstream music critics; many contemporary reviewers deemed it inferior to Definitely Maybe, with the songwriting and production particular points of criticism. In the ensuing years, however, critical opinion towards the album reversed, and it is now generally considered a seminal record of both the Britpop era, and the 1990s in general. Over several months in 1995 and 1996, the band performed an extensive world tour in support of the album. The most notable of the concerts were two Knebworth House performances in August to a combined crowd of 250,000 people. At the 1996 Brit Awards, the album won Best British Album.
At the 2010 Brit Awards, (What's the Story) Morning Glory? was named the greatest British album since 1980. It has sold over 22 million copies worldwide, and appears on several lists of the greatest albums in rock music. As of July 2016, it is the UK's fifth best-selling album of all time, having sold over 4.7 million copies.
In May 1995, in the wake of the critical and commercial success of their 1994 debut album, Definitely Maybe, Oasis began recording Morning Glory at Rockfield Studios in Wales, with Owen Morris and Noel Gallagher producing. By the time they were finished in June 1995, Oasis were on the brink of becoming one of the most popular bands in the UK: the August 1995 Battle of Britpop incident in which Oasis and Blur had a chart battle over their singles "Roll with It", and "Country House", would propel them to mainstream awareness.
The band recorded the album quickly: early on, averaging almost one song every twenty-four hours. However, tension arose between songwriter Noel Gallagher and his younger brother, lead singer Liam, when Noel wanted to sing lead vocals on either "Wonderwall" or "Don't Look Back in Anger". The younger Gallagher considered this tantamount to a temporary exile from his own group. The issue dissipated momentarily as Noel was pleased with Liam's vocal take of "Wonderwall". However, tension returned due to Liam's strained attempts to sing the high notes on "Champagne Supernova". When Noel subsequently took his turn to record his vocals for "Don't Look Back in Anger", Liam went to a local pub and came back accompanied by a crowd of people, including music journalist John Robb who was producing the band Cable in nearby studio Monnow Valley whilst recording was still underway. After an altercation with Cable that infuriated his brother, the siblings then began fighting viciously, the session was abandoned and recording was suspended.
When the Gallagher brothers were reconciled three weeks later, the group spent another two weeks working on the album, followed by post-production work in London. Despite the friction involved between the Gallagher brothers, Owen Morris reflected in 2010 that: "The sessions were the best, easiest, least fraught, most happily creative time I've ever had in a recording studio. I believe people can feel and hear when music is dishonest and motivated by the wrong reasons. Morning Glory, for all its imperfection and flaws, is dripping with love and happiness." Paul Weller joined them in the studio and provided lead guitar and backing vocals for "Champagne Supernova", and harmonica for the two untitled tracks known as "The Swamp Song". Noel wrote the last song for the album, "Cast No Shadow", on the train as he returned to the studio. Morris claimed the album was recorded in 15 days; when it was finished he said it would "wipe the field with any competition ... It's astonishing. It's the Bollocks for this decade."
The brickwall mastering technique utilised during the recording of the album has led to some journalists claiming that it was responsible for initiating the loudness war, as its heavy use of compression, first widely used by Morris on Definitely Maybe, was leaps and bounds beyond what any other album up until then had attempted. Music journalist Nick Southall, who has written extensively on the loudness war, commented, "If there's a jump-the-shark moment as far as CD mastering goes then it's probably Oasis." In Britpop and the English Music Tradition Andy Bennet and John Stratton noted that as a result of this technique "the songs were especially loud. [Liam] Gallagher's voice is foregrounded to the point that it appears to grow out of the mixes of the songs, exposing itself to execute a pseudo-live quality."
John Harris commented in his music history Britpop!: Cool Britannia and the Spectacular Demise of English Rock that much of the music on (What's the Story) Morning Glory? seemed to be "little more inspired than a string of musical hand-me-downs". Among the musical cues Harris noted on the album were Gary Glitter's "Hello, Hello I'm Back Again" ("Hello", Glitter was an influence on Britpop), the theme to the 1970s children's programme You and Me and The Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" ("She's Electric"), and the influence of R.E.M's "The One I Love" on "Morning Glory". One song, "Step Out", bore such a close resemblance to the song "Uptight (Everything's Alright)" by Stevie Wonder that it was removed from the album shortly before release due to the threat of legal action. In Britpop..., Bennet and Stratton analysed Liam Gallagher's vocal style in significant detail, stressing its importance to the songs of the album; "[Liam's] Mancunian accent blends into a register and timbre that works the gestural contours of the melody and lyrics." Bennet and Stratton went on to conclude that Liam's 'over-personalized' style on songs such as "Wonderwall" resulted in "a beautiful sense of sentimentality that bespeaks the despondency of a generation. This occurs through the narrative structure of the song, vocal production, and the conventions of the singer's cultural context."
Noel Gallagher summed up his own perspective on the album's aesthetic in an interview with Rolling Stone in 1995; "Whilst [Definitely Maybe] is about dreaming of being a pop star in a band, What's the Story is about actually being a pop star in a band." The album has a notable anthemic theme to its songs, differing from the rawness and edged rock of Definitely Maybe. The use of string arrangements and more varied instrumentation in songs such as "Don't Look Back in Anger" and "Champagne Supernova" was a significant departure from the band's debut. This style had first been implemented by the band on their fifth single, "Whatever", released in December 1994. It was produced in conjunction with the London Symphony Orchestra, resulting in a much more pop-oriented and mellower sound; this would be the template that would come to define many of the songs on What's the Story. In the BBC documentary Seven Ages of Rock, former NME chief editor Steve Sutherland noted that "with Morning Glory, [Noel] began to take seriously the notion of being the voice of a generation".
The cover is a picture of two men passing each other on Berwick Street in London. The two men are London DJ Sean Rowley and album sleeve designer Brian Cannon (back to the camera). The album's producer Owen Morris can be seen in the background, on the left footpath, holding the album's master tape in front of his face. The location was chosen because the street was a popular location for record shops at the time. The cover cost £25,000 to produce.
Whilst "Some Might Say", a number one hit, had been released in April, the single chosen to directly precede the album's release was "Roll with It", planned for release on 14 August, six weeks before the album was due to hit the shelves. This was an unorthodox method for the time, contrasting the standard industry procedure of releasing the lead single three weeks before its parent album. Blur's management had become worried that this would hinder the chances of the group's forthcoming "Country House" single reaching number one the following week. As a reaction, Food Records pushed the release of "Country House" back a week and thus started what became known as 'The Battle of Britpop'.
The event triggered an unprecedented amount of exposure for both bands in national newspapers and on television news bulletins, supposedly symbolising the battle between the middle class of the south and the working class of the north. In the midst of the battle a Guardian newspaper headline proclaimed "Working Class Heroes Lead Art School Trendies". In the event "Country House" outsold "Roll with It" by 54,000, and topped the singles chart for a fortnight. Overall singles sales that week were up by 41 percent. In 2005, John Harris reflected on the importance of the event in popularising Britpop; "(as) Blur's "Country House" raced Oasis' "Roll with It" to the top of the charts, just about every voice in the media felt compelled to express an opinion on the freshly inaugurated age of Britpop."
During a promotional interview in September, the month before the album was released, Noel spoke about the rivalry with Damon Albarn and Alex James from Blur, and was quoted in the 17 September edition of The Observer saying he hoped "the pair of them would catch AIDS and die because I fucking hate them two." The quote caused a storm of controversy, with Noel having to write a letter of apology; he later confessed that "my whole world came crashing down in on me then". However, in an interview with The Guardian in 2005, Blur's guitarist Graham Coxon explained that he bore no malice towards Oasis. "At least they were outright about it. They weren't pretending to like us and then slagging us off, which is what we'd been used to. In that way, I quite appreciated them."
What's the Story was released on 2 October 1995. The album sold quickly; the Daily Mirror reported the day after release that central London HMV stores were selling copies of the album at a rate of two per minute. At the end of the first week of sales, the album had sold a record-breaking 347,000 copies, making it (at the time) the second-fastest-selling album in British history, behind Michael Jackson's Bad. After initially entering the UK charts at number one, it hovered around the top three for the rest of the year before initiating a six-week stay at the top in mid January, followed by a further three weeks at number one in March. In total, the album didn't leave the top three for an astonishing seven months.
After the fourth single from the album, "Wonderwall", hit the top ten in several countries, including stays at number one in Australia, New Zealand and Spain, and a peak at number eight in the US, the album began to enjoy prolonged international success. Eventually the album had a five-week run at the top of the Australian albums chart and an eight-week run at the top of the New Zealand albums chart before topping charts in Canada, Ireland, Sweden and Switzerland. The album was also making significant waves in the US market as well, thanks in part to the success of the "Wonderwall" and "Champagne Supernova" singles on American modern rock radio. Both songs reached number one on the Modern Rock Chart and stayed there for ten and five weeks respectively. By early 1996, What's the Story was selling 200,000 copies a week, eventually peaking at number four and being certified four times platinum by the end of the year for shipments of over four million units.
The band embarked on what would become a 103 show world tour in support of the album over a period of several months in 1995 and 1996. The tour started on 22 June 1995 with a pre-Glastonbury festival warm up gig at the 1,400 capacity Bath Pavilion, which featured the debut of new drummer Alan White and several new songs off the album, and ended on 4 December 1996 at the 11,800 capacity Mayo Civic Centre in Rochester, Minnesota, USA, and included concerts at Earls Court in November 1995 and Cardiff International Arena in March 1996. The tour had many disruptions and cancellations due to Noel twice walking out of the group, and Liam pulling out of a US leg.
In September 1995, bass player Paul McGuigan walked out on the group after a flurry of verbal abuse from Liam whilst doing interviews in Paris. 'Guigsy' cited nervous exhaustion as the reason for his departure. Scott Mcleod of The Ya-Yas was brought in as his replacement; though, despite playing a string of gigs with the band and appearing in the video for the "Wonderwall" single, Mcleod was unable to adapt to the frenetic celebrity lifestyle, duly returning to Manchester halfway through an American promotional tour for the album. The band played a few dates, including an appearance on Late Show with David Letterman, as a four piece, before McGuigan was convinced to return for the group's Earls Court shows in early November. When the band broke up for a brief time in late 1996, several US tour dates and the entire Australia and New Zealand leg had to be cancelled.
As the band began to reach the peak of their popularity, several large open-air concerts were organized in the UK during 1996, including two gigs at Manchester City football stadium Maine Road, two nights at Loch Lomond in Scotland, and two nights at Knebworth House in front of a record 125,000 people each night; an event that would come to be acknowledged as the height of the Britpop phenomenon, with one journalist commenting; "(Knebworth) could be seen as the last great Britpop performance; nothing after would match its scale." At the time, the concerts were the biggest gigs ever held for a single band on UK soil, and to date remain the largest demand ever for a British concert; with reportedly over 2,500,000 applications for tickets. The Earl's Court and Maine Road gigs were filmed and later released as the Oasis VHS/DVD ...There and Then.
What's the Story was released to lukewarm reviews from the mainstream music press. Many contemporary reviewers expressed disappointment at the album's perceived inferiority to Definitely Maybe, taking aim at the 'banal lyrics' and the unoriginal nature of the compositions. David Cavanagh of Q magazine said of the lyrics "They scan; they fill a hole; end of story. They [say] nothing much about anything." Andy Gill of The Independent commented that "She's Electric" is laddism of a tiresomely generic kind [whilst] "Roll With It" is drab and chummy." Perhaps the most damning review came from David Stubbs of the now-defunct Melody Maker. Despite stating that "Some Might Say" was "the best single of the year", Stubbs went on to be critical of the album as a whole; "What's the Story [sounds] laboured and lazy. On this evidence, Oasis are a limited band ... they sound knackered."
In a positive review, Rolling Stone's Jon Weiderhorn wrote that "What's the Story is more than a natural progression, it's a bold leap forward that displays significant musical and personal growth." Weiderhorn went on to note that the 'stormy' relationship between Liam and Noel proved to be one of the album's strengths; "tension and instability have been inherent traits of great rock teams ... for Oasis, the addition of shared genes gives their songs extra impact and dimension." NME said that the album shows Oasis pursuing "an altogether different direction; away from the conscience-free overloaded hedonism towards an understanding of its consequences". The album finished 10th in the voting for The Village Voice's annual Pazz & Jop critics poll.
In his book Britpop!, John Harris concluded that the initial negative reviews of the time missed the album's universal strengths. "Those who fussed about the music's more artful aspects were missing the point. The fact that [Noel's] songs contained so many musical echoes seemed to couch the album in an air of homely reassurance." Harris believed that the "ordinary" nature of some of the album's songs "turned out to be part of its deeply populist appeal". Rob Sheffield, writing in The Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), called the album "a triumph, full of bluster and bravado but also moments of surprising tenderness". Robert Christgau was less enthusiastic in his retrospective review and gave it a two-star honorable mention, indicating a "likable effort that consumers attuned to its overriding aesthetic or individual vision may well enjoy." He cited "She's Electric" and "Roll with It" as highlights and quipped "give them credit for wanting it all—and (yet another Beatles connection!) playing guitars".
As of today the tide of critical opinion has generally turned, and (What's the Story) Morning Glory? is considered to be a seminal record of the Britpop era and as one of the best albums of the nineties, and it appears in several charts as one of the greatest albums of all time. In 2010, Rolling Stone commented that "the album is a triumph, full of bluster, bravado and surprising tenderness. Morning Glory capped a true golden age for Britpop." The magazine ranked the album at 378 on its 2012 list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". The album's enduring popularity within the UK was reflected when it won the BRITs Album of 30 years at the 2010 BRIT Awards. The award was voted by the public to decide the greatest 'Best Album' winner in the history of the BRIT Awards. The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.
What's the Story went on to become the second-best-selling album of 1995 and 1996 in the UK, as well being the best-selling album of the decade. Its fourteen platinum certifications from the British Phonographic Industry were the highest ever awarded to a single record until Adele's 21, released in 2011. The success of the album resulted in Oasis becoming one of the biggest bands in the United Kingdom, with substantial and considerable press coverage in the mainstream music press and frequent comparisons to the Beatles in the media. Liam and Noel Gallagher both featured prominently in gossip columns and daily tabloids throughout 1996–97, their celebrity wives in Patsy Kensit and Meg Matthews only heightening their popularity with British paparazzi.
What's the Story propelled Oasis from being a crossover indie act to a worldwide rock phenomenon after the momentum gained by the critically acclaimed Definitely Maybe. It has been pinpointed by music critics as a significant record in the timeline of British indie music, demonstrating just how far into the mainstream independent music had ventured. In 2005, John Harris noted the significance of the album and "Wonderwall" in particular to Britpop's legacy. "When (Oasis) released Wonderwall, the rules of British music were decisively changed. From hereon in, the lighter-than-air ballad became obligatory, and the leather-trousers era of rock'n'roll was over." The success of the album in Britain resulted in Oasis becoming a cultural ubiquity for a brief period, featuring in tabloid newspapers on an almost daily basis and breaking sales records for live concerts.
On the other hand, while reviewing the most overrated albums of all time, where Morning Glory ranked number 16, writer Max Easton of FasterLouder wrote that the album is "full of anthems for the sake of anthems," and that "they're all variations on only a couple of good ideas." He concluded by saying, "What’s the Story's lasting place in ‘90s folklore is less about the quality of the album, and more about the celebrity status and faux imagery attached to it."
All songs written by Noel Gallagher, except where noted.
The (What's the Story) Morning Glory? box set was released on 4 November 1996, featuring four discs of singles, including B-sides, and one disc of interviews. The album charted at number 24 on the UK Albums Chart.
All songs written by Noel Gallagher, except "Cum On Feel the Noize" by Noddy Holder and Jim Lea; "Step Out" co-written by Stevie Wonder, Henry Cosby and Sylvia Moy.
As part of a promotional campaign entitled Chasing the Sun, the album was re-released on 29 September 2014. The 3-disc deluxe edition includes remastered versions of the album and its associated b-sides from the four UK singles. Bonus content includes 5 demo tracks, and live choices taken from the band's iconic gigs at Earls Court, Knebworth Park and Maine Road.
All songs written by Noel Gallagher, except "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" by Lennon/McCartney.Oasis
Liam Gallagher – lead vocals, tambourine
Noel Gallagher – lead and acoustic guitar, vocals (lead on "Don't Look Back in Anger" and "Bonehead's Bank Holiday"), bass guitar, piano, mellotron, e-bow, production
Paul "Bonehead" Arthurs – rhythm and acoustic guitar, piano, mellotron, drunk vocals on "Bonehead's Bank Holiday"
Paul McGuigan – bass guitar
Alan White – drums, percussion (except on "Some Might Say")
Tony McCarroll – drums on "Some Might Say"
Paul Weller – lead guitar and backing vocals on "Champagne Supernova" and harmonica on "Untitled" (excerpt 1 and 2).
Owen Morris – production
Neil Dorfsman – multichannel mixing (SACD version)
David Swope – assistant mixing (SACD version)
Barry Grint – original audio mastering at Abbey Road Studios (now at Alchemy Soho)
Vlado Meller – mastering (SACD version)
Michael Spencer Jones – photography
Brian Cannon – artwork, design
Mathew Sankey – assistant design