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How a misunderstanding helped Oasis write 'Don't Look Back In Anger'


Oasis’ song ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ is their defining moment in the sun, and it was the great minds of the two Gallagher brothers colliding that led to its prosperous creation. Now, the track has taken on a life of its own, wildly celebrated at sporting events, mass gatherings and any old knees up you may stumble across in the witching hour. But it was all born out of a hilarious mix-up.

The track appeared on their second album, What’s The Story? (Morning Glory), and Noel Gallagher wrote it while they were on the road touring their debut. At that time, Gallagher was on the mother of all hot streaks, and everything he touched turned to gold, but with ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’, Noel needed a helping hand.

Initially, Noel was just messing around during soundcheck before a concert in Paris with The Verve and playing around with different ideas. He had the nucleus of ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’, but the song was far from fully formed.

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Noel Gallagher’s writing process began with a chord sequence. However, the lyrics were more difficult for Noel to master. He told Uncut in 2007: “We were due to play two days later. Our first-ever big arena gig, it’s called Sheffield Arena now.

“At the sound check, I was strumming away on the acoustic guitar, and our kid (Liam Gallagher) said, ‘What’s that you’re singin?’ I wasn’t singing anyway, I was just making it up. And our kid said, ‘Are you singing ‘So Sally can wait?’ And I was like – that’s genius! So I started singing, ‘So Sally can wait.'”

That one line was all Noel needed to hear, and it gave him the inspiration which led to the rest of the track being written. After Liam’s input, his older brother formed the character of Sally in his head and once the story arc was formed, Gallagher now had a classic on his hands.

He continued: “I remember going back to the dressing room and writing it out. It all came really quickly after that. (The title) ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ just popped out. We wrote the words out in the dressing room, and we actually played it that night, in front of 18,000 other people. On acoustic guitar. Sat on a stool. Like an idiot. I never do that now.”

It’s a powerful, optimistic track, like most Oasis songs, is about nothing but everything simultaneously. It leaves the listener free to interpret his hopeful lyrics in whichever way they want and not chase yesterday.

Undeniably, it’s one of Noel’s finest moments in Oasis and also one of the first times the older brother proved he could sing. Additionally, it changed the dynamic between the Gallaghers as they vied for the limelight, and, ironically, Liam was the catalyst for the song most intrinsically linked to Noel.