Dream it while you can. Maybe someday I'll make you understand.
The "Don't Go Away" single was released in May 1998, 10 months after "D'You Know What I Mean?" had started the Be Here Now cycle. In that time, Oasis took one last definitive swipe at rock and roll excess on every front -- musically and chemically.
In that time alone, critics would perform an about face on the band's music of the period -- praising it upon release and then shredding it just weeks and months later as too much. Within the next year, Noel Gallagher would awake in the middle of the night to gripping chest pains and panic attacks that would force him to give up hard drugs cold turkey, and founding members Paul "Bonehead" Arthurs and Paul "Guigsy" McGuigan would find themselves out of the band.
Somewhat appropriate, then, that the curtain call for the period should not only be the album's most beautiful moment, but employ a potpourri of B-sides that highlighted the band's former glories.
Of course, it was only released in Japan.
The decision not to pursue a single in the UK could have come from any number of reasons -- obviously the boys had drained the tank of B-side material on the first three singles, and seemed unlikely to hole up in a studio to record three new songs on the spot. Be Here Now and its byproducts also placed a heavy stake in the heart of Creation Records, the indie label that provided a home not only to Oasis, but also the likes of Primal Scream and Ride. The label would go defunct within the next year, and while another Oasis single might have been a cash cow worth plucking, the sense by spring and summer 1998 -- after a headache inducing 10 month cycle -- was that the party might indeed be over.
"Don't Go Away" had found its way on to US radio and MTV the preceding fall, however, when the UK push for "Stand By Me" went ahead, and it was also the leadoff track the band performed on its sole appearance on Saturday Night Live.
Written by Noel after learning of his mother's cancer scare, the song tapped into that rare Gallagher emotional reserve that had previously shown itself in the likes of "Slide Away" and the lyrics of "Hey Now!" but never with as much emotional affront -- from the helpless pleas of the chorus to the frustration evident in lyrics like "Damn my education -- I can't find the words to say with all the things caught in my mind."
When Liam originally went to do vocals, he admitted he couldn't even get through the first take without bursting into tears, so the ordeal seemed to be taxing both brothers, but if pain does indeed produce beauty, herein lies the proof. While sounding as muscular as anything else on Be Here Now, the song also contains heavy orchestrational use and a tender acoustic outro.
And for all those living outside Japan, the B-sides were enticing enough to lure fans to cough up those importing fees...
Oasis - Cigarettes & Alcohol (Live at G-Mex)
Pulled from the boys' December 1997 homecoming shows in Manchester, this isn't the best version of the song -- live or otherwise -- but it does do a nice job in capturing the energy stirred by national heroes' homecoming ceremonies. This was a show that featured the ridiculous on stage props (phonebox, oversized clock, et. al), but the back-to-basics tunes like this should have served as fair instruction to both the band and audience that if you got great songs, you don't need all the other stuff.
Oasis - Sad Song
Easily one of Noel Gallagher's finest compositions, this track was only available to UK residents that bought the vinyl edition of Definitely Maybe, so its CD debut on this single was reason enough for fans to send money to the Land of the Rising Sun. An acoustic track that rivals (if not easily surpasses) the majesty of the likes of "Talk Tonight," "Sad Song" captured Noel in true bloom as a songwriter -- venting the frustrations of living in Manchester with little hope of ever getting out, but whereas it could've been a loud, punky, dare I say Be Here Now-certifiable beast, Noel instead turned it into a gentle ballad that seemed to make the point all the more salient.
Oasis - Fade Away (Warchild Version)
This was the band's contribution to the 1995 Help! charity album for war victims in Bosnia -- a collection that threw together Britpop's finest acts at the time, and was largely more renowned for it's contribution of "Come Together" by the Smokin' Mojo Filters (featuring Noel, Paul McCartney, and Paul Weller on lead vocals). This reading of "Fade Away" however, is still my favorite moment from the album -- sounding like a different song entirely by the punky, Liam-sung version that had surfaced a year earlier as a B-side to "Cigarettes & Alcohol." Instead, Noel takes lead and virtually turns it into a Lovin' Spoonful song with Liam relegated to backing vocals, Johnny Depp on guitar and Lisa Moorish (who would have a child with Liam) also on backing vox. Top to bottom, it's charming as hell.
The video for "Don't Go Away," like "All Around the World" was quite stylish and easy on the eye and was an MTV staple in the fall months of 1997. While it looks like plenty of money was spent on the production, it's surprisingly not as bombastic as any of the other Be Here Now videos and the coolest bit to watch out for is Noel playing a white Rickenbacker guitar -- a gift to him for his 30th birthday from Paul Weller. It's the exact guitar Weller wrote "Town Called Malice" on.
Hope you've enjoyed Be Here Now week and learned a thing or two... and an enjoyed a B-side or three... Have a great Labor Day weekend... back Tuesday with some stuff to soften up the ears and air out all this Oasisness that's taken over the blog!