“Supersonic” is one of the most fitting songs for director Mat Whitecross to name the Oasis documentary after. Recorded and mixed in one night, it’s abrasive, fast, loud and lyrically ambiguous — everything the Mancunian five-piece was from 1993-1996, when they dominated British music and revived rock. Of course, their impact was less so in the States, as you probably only know them for “Wonderwall.”
The Gallagher brothers, Noel and Liam, were the face of Oasis. Noel had the vision, he was the leader as the guitarist and songwriter. Nearly every decision about the band went through him. Liam was the fiery lead singer who didn’t care. They did not get along. The English tabloids, that fetishize all celebrities, lapped it up. Envy is an odd emotion. Noel wanted Liam’s showmanship (and maybe his looks) and Liam wanted Noel’s creativity and musical knowledge.
Oasis would never top their best work, Definitely Maybe (1993) and What’s the Story? (Morning Glory) (1995) due to Gallaghers’ destructive sibling rivalry. Surprisingly, the band managed to keep things together for 13 years, until they disbanded in 2009.
“Supersonic” captures Oasis from their rise to their height. We start with Noel Gallagher as a drum technician for a band nobody knows and Liam in a mediocre band he started with his mates. Four years later, the film ends with Oasis playing in front of 125,000 people in the middle of nowhere.
“Supersonic” is a glossy documentary with the right mix of interviews, new footage and narration (Noel and Liam are executive producers) without sanitizing the entire affair.
Meth ≠ cocaine
The best anecdote follows Oasis in Los Angeles. Now Oasis did a lot of drugs — pills, heroin, cocaine, weed … it didn’t matter. But a little mixup can make a big difference. The band starts doing line of coke before a show at Whiskey A Go-Go, one of the most famous concert venues in the U.S., and they stay up for several days. Turns out it’s actually meth.
The show is a complete disaster. They try to play a song, fail and redo — they’re just so strung out on meth. The band are playing five different songs. The Gallaghers fight after Liam throws a tambourine at Noel. A complete disaster.
Noel is the better singer
Liam Gallagher is a bad singer, there’s no denying that. The scratchy Mancunian drawl is distinct and endearing, but your dog could do it. The only reason he’s the vocalist is because Noel was too shy. Noel lone song from the first two albums, “Don’t Look Back in Anger” is tremendous. He also sings a series of covers and B-sides. At times, Liam would leave the stage, just left, for 10 minutes at a time. So, Noel improvised and started singing. He’s far better. Listen to his acoustic version of “Up in the Sky.” In the studio, Noel would sing the songs for Liam, and Liam would record the vocals. When Noel sings the songs, all of which he wrote, you felt like he wrote them.
Noel and Liam’s dad was an asshole
“My dad kind of beat it into me,” Noel said. The brothers don’t bond much, but on one thing they share common ground — they hate their dad.
Tommy Gallagher abused Noel and Liam’s mother Peggy and abandoned when the boys were young. Worse, he tried to cash in on the brothers’ fame. A tense moment occurs when Noel has to restrain Liam from fighting his dad in a Dublin bar. “The News of The World,” a shitty Rupert Murdoch tabloid that was closed because of hacking scandals in 2008, set up a Gallagher on a call with Liam, who threatens to break Tommy’s legs if he contacts them again. Tommy was abusive and negligent, channeling the worst of parents of young celebrities like Joe Jackson and Mitch Winehouse.
It’s not so great if you’re not Noel, Liam or Bonehead
The brothers were the driving force, no questions asked. Rhythm guitarist Paul “Bonehead” Arthurs (a childhood friend of Liam’s) was safe. Most of members didn’t want to be in it.
Bassist Paul “Guigsy” McGuigan temporarily left during the America tour for “nervous exhaustion.” The backup bassist left too, because he missed his girlfriend. In interviews and narration, Noel and Liam scathingly mock both.
Drummer Tony McCarroll was incompetent — Noel and Liam don’t help by criticizing drumming as a profession, telling the press that a monkey could do it. McCarroll left the band in 1995, and didn’t particularly endear himself when he sued Oasis later.
The behind-the-scenes operators are the real heroes here
Owen Morris (producer) Mark Coyle (sound engineer) and Alan McGee (manager/record label owner) deserve a ton of credit for keeping the band together during their roughest periods. Oasis were terrible in the studio, but Morris and Coyle are the reason the first two albums sold over 37 million copies. McGee let the band breathe, where another record executive might have tightened the leash. After Oasis missed a tour date due to a bar brawl on a ferry, McGee laughed it off, “That’s how I want my rock stars.”
Noel and Liam still don’t speak
They don’t speak anymore, but Noel and Liam take their shots at each other in “Supersonic.” There’s too many moments where you can sense the admonition and perhaps a little regret. Then you have Liam cursing Noel for skipping the screening of “Supersonic” and calling him “a potato.”
So, that’s a no on the reunion then?
Oasis were the last huge band before the internet was widely used
Oasis didn’t want to do anything differently, they wanted to be the Beatles or The Rolling Stones.
They hated the popular “Disco-s—” Noel calls it. “If Phil Collins’ head isn’t on a plate, we’ll have failed at this.”
Knebworth, 1996. 2.5 million people requested tickets for the two concerts. They sold out two nights, but they could have sold out seven. “That couldn’t happen today,” Noel said. Rock has tapered off a bit since then overtaken by hip-hop and electronic. The Stroke’s Is This It is the only album that has as much an impact as (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?. Thanks Al Gore.
Oasis was more of an experience than a talented band
Oasis isn’t a very good. They don’t have the depth or experimentation of Radiohead. They can’t lampoon a culture like Blur did. They don’t have the emotional complexity of The Verve. Noel Gallagher isn’t a genius, as all the lyrics could’ve been written when he was drunk or by your 13-year-old nephew. I often asked myself, “Why the hell do I listen to this band?”
Coyle wraps it up pretty well. “There’s something very different about this band, they have a devilish, belligerent, filthy little sound to it … no I didn’t understand what feeling supersonic meant, but I’m with ya’ whatever it is, I’ll die for you right now. That’s how I felt about Oasis.”
Oasis is good walking music — you can tune everything out. Here we have working-class lads that drink all the beer, do all the drugs and really have no point to their music other than being rock stars for the sake of being rock stars.