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  • Writer's pictureBarney Townsend

The 5 Greatest Oasis B-Sides

Updated: Nov 4, 2023

Far from being inferior to the singles they backed, many of B-sides from Oasis' seminal singles have become as cherished as their A-side counterparts. On the day that the band release the 25th Anniversary edition of their iconic B-sides compilation The Masterplan (Remastered Edition), we pick our definite top 5 of these enduring hidden gems.

Noel and Liam Gallagher by Jill Furmanovsky
 

From 1994 to 1997, Oasis dominated the British music scene, transforming two brothers and their three friends from Burnage, Manchester from rock 'n' roll wannabes to global superstars in the space of three world-beating albums: Definitely Maybe (1994), (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? (1995), and Be Here Now (1997). During this extraordinarily creative time (which also included epic non-album single 'Whatever'), Noel Gallagher's songwriting was as prolific as it was exceptional. We've chosen our five favourite B-sides, every bit as ace and accomplished as the A-sides of the classic singles from which they're taken.


5) Talk Tonight


Beginning with an intimate muttering of "I'll just take me watch off" and the plaintive strumming of a close-mic'd acoustic guitar, followed by a splutter of coughing, the raw, unvarnished ambience of 'Talk Tonight' is its strength. One of several tracks from the period featuring Noel on acoustic guitar and vocals, the track trades Oasis' gargantuan power-chord wall of sound for a gentle, private performance where all the power of his songwriting shines to the surface.

According to the sleeve notes of The Masterplan, 'Talk Tonight' is written about a night that Noel stayed at a female friend's house after a legendarily challenging show at the Whiskey A Go Go in Los Angeles in the autumn of 1994. The story goes that the girl talked a defeated Noel "off the ledge" and convinced him to give the band another chance. Perhaps it's the fact that the lyric, unlike many other more metaphorical and thematically open Oasis tracks, is so specifically about a time and place that gives the track its charm; there's a sincerity in the song that rings disarmingly authentic.

Originally released on 24 April 1995 as the B-side of UK number one single 'Some Might Say', 'Talk Tonight' rubbed shoulders with 'Acquiesce' and 'Headshrinker' on the 4-track CD single.

Bonus Fact: 'Talk Tonight' was featured in an episode of popular British soap EastEnders at Jase Dyer's funeral.

4) Round Are Way

An absolute barnstormer of a song - one could easily imagine it slipped in between tracks on (What's The Story) Morning Glory? - 'Round Are Way' celebrates Noel and Liam's youthful shenanigans and rough-and-tumble upbringing on the streets of South Manchester. Delivering an upbeat glam-rock stomp not heard since the heyday of Wizzard, complete with buoyant brass and harmonica, the song is as joyous as it is uproarious.


On HereComesTheSong.com, Richard Bowes, author of Some Might Say – The Definitive Story of Oasis, opines that the song is "joyously naive but, rather than lamenting his upbringing, Noel was revelling in the simplicity of his home town youth life." With a misspelt title often considered as a tribute to his heroes' Slade's legendary disregard for the laws of orthography, 'Round Are Way' appropriates the term "round our way", Mancunian slang to describe one's neighbourhood.

Along with 'The Swamp Song' and 'The Masterplan', 'Round Are Way' is one of three B-sides taken from the world-conquering 'Wonderwall' single of 1995.


3) Half The World Away

Another of Noel's bittersweet ballads (complete with the proclamation "Yeah, we're on" at the start of the track') 'Half The World Away' has taken on a life of its own as the theme tune to Caroline Aherne’s beloved TV comedy The Royle Family. With a gorgeous Hammond organ accompaniment, arpeggiated lead guitar details and a brushed shuffle beat on the drums, 'Half The World Away' gently intimates the protagonist's desire to "leave this city" in a tasteful arrangement that ranks among Noel's most bittersweet.

The genesis of the song began with Oasis' sound engineer Mark Coyle, who introduced the band to Herb Alpert & Burt Bacharach's 'This Guy's In Love With You' during one of Coyle's regular on-tour music mixes. Noel was taken by the track, and borrowed the organ pattern and drum shuffle for his own classic song, returning the favour at The London Festival Hall in 1996 by singing 'This Guy's in Love with You' while Bacharach accompanied him on piano.

Recorded at The Congress House Studio, Austin, Texas, in October 1994, 'Half the World Away' was first released as a B-side to 'Whatever' on 18 December 1994, reaching number 3 in the UK charts.

Bonus Fact: Noel now claims not to think of 'Half the World Away' as an Oasis song, but rather as the theme tune to The Royle Family.

2) Acquiesce


Quintessential Oasis, 'Acquiesce' sees Liam take the verses and Noel the choruses for this driving, tambourine-shaking anthem in the tradition of 'Rock 'N' Roll Star'. 'Acquiesce' earns its place as a fan-favourite, set-opener and #2 on this list, with the power of its rousing singalong chorus, echoed by thousands singing at the top of their lungs at the band's spate of huge outdoor gigs in the mid-nineties.

In Paul D Noyer's The Masterplan sleeve notes, Paul reveals "the song is about friendship in the widest sense and not, as often speculated, about the Gallagher brothers themselves". But it's tricky to hear the lyric and the interplay of voices and not reflect on the energy and passion of this turbulent partnership. Legend has it that when Alan McGee (Creation Records head) heard the track, he tried to convince Noel to release it as a single rather than A-side 'Some Might Say', but it remained on the flip side, a soaring testament to the confidence of his songwriting of this period.

'Acquiesce' originally appeared as the B-side to Oasis' first UK number-one single, 'Some Might Say', in 1995.

Bonus Fact: In 1997, 'Acquiesce' was performed by Oasis when they were the musical guest to host Matthew Perry on the U.S.' Saturday Night Live.

1) The Masterplan

Was it ever in doubt? 'The Masterplan' gave Oasis's iconic B-sides compilation its title for good reason; the song isn't just one of the best B-sides ever, it's one of the best tracks of the 90s. Alongside an orchestral accompaniment, whose grandeur feels fully justified, Noel explores the philosophical quandaries of "life's endless corridors" on one of his most masterly and impactful recordings.


Fully aware of the track's place in the Oasis cannon, in 2020, Noel told Music Week: "I'd write 'The Masterplan', 'Talk Tonight' or 'Half The World Away' and nobody would say, 'Do you want to hold that back?' It's only as the years have gone along that I've realised that was mental. But we were all mad in the '90s!" Fortuitously, the track gave its name and its backbone to The Masterplan compilation, adopted by the fans as an album in itself and often quoted as among Oasis's best releases.

'The Masterplan' was written and sung by Noel Gallagher and originally released on 30 October 1995 as a B-side to the single 'Wonderwall'.

 

In 1998, upon reviewing the compilation in the Los Angeles Times, Robert Hilburn declared: "Virtually all the tunes on The Masterplan are appealing enough to have deserved a spot on one of Oasis' regular albums, and the best rank with the group's finest moments."

Featuring remastered audio, taken from the Chasing The Sun reissues - available for the first time as one collection - The Masterplan (Remastered Edition) is an extraordinary collection of B-sides. The 25th Anniversary edition is out now on Oasis Store-Exclusive Green/Black Marble Double Vinyl and Cream Cassette alongside CD, Black Double Vinyl and T-Shirts, plus Limited Edition Silver Double Vinyl from the Townsend Music Store.



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