Liam Gallagher, the enigmatic lead singer of Oasis and the other half of The Brothers Gallagher, may take a lot of plaudits for the band’s tone— he is, after all, the band’s (sometimes unwelcomed) mouthpiece. But it was Noel Gallagher who took the lead on one of their best tunes. The guitarist and songwriting powerhouse behind the band’s success took over vocals on a few Oasis songs but none as iconic as ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’, well, except maybe ‘Wonderwall’, but let’s not do that.
It’s been 25 years since the band released ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ and the song’s power hasn’t diminished. In fact, the strength of the song seems to only giant more and more momentum. Found now the furthest reaches of the planet, the song has taken on an anthemic status; one which would likely see the song become the British national anthem, if given the opportunity of a public vote.
On this day in 1996, Mancunian legends and britpop royalty, Oasis released the single ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’. It was the band’s second UK number one and the first Oasis single to feature Noel on vocals, having previously only taken over singing duties on B-sides. It was the final single from the band’s seminal record (What’s The Story Morning Glory and confirmed them not only as Lords of the Manchester manor but the whole damn country. With this song, Oasis confirmed their place in the history books.
Noel once said of the song’s mammoth stature: “It reminds me of a cross between ‘All the Young Dudes’ and ‘Something’ might have done.” Speaking of the character ‘Sally’ referred to in the song he insisted: “I don’t actually know anybody called Sally. It’s just a word that fit, y’know, might as well throw a girl’s name in there.”
Noel Gallagher even said at a later date that Liam was to thank for the name in the lyric (from Uncut magazine August 2007): “We were in Paris playing with The Verve, and I had the chords for that song and started writing it. We were due to play two days later. Our first-ever big arena gig, it’s called Sheffield Arena now.”
Noel continues: “At the sound check, I was strumming away on the acoustic guitar, and our kid (Liam) 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.’ I remember going back to the dressing room and writing it out. It all came really quickly after that.”
It’s a song that was a mainstay of the band’s live outings from its release until they parted ways in acrimonious fashion back in 2009. But while some songs could’ve died after that, left to wilt and rot in the recesses of our collective minds, this track has found its way on to both Noel and Liam’s setlists as solo artists, highlighting the song’s true power.
The track hinges on the powerful chorus, a run of lines which, despite not being the most logical or narrative, provide both the musos and football fans of the world with something to belt out with all their hearts.
While the chorus and verse are best heard when sung as loudly as possible by thousands of people, it takes on a brand new sound when you listen to Noel’s isolated vocal. The track is given extra gravitas, and Noel’s vocal is allowed to breathe and resonate, unlike we’ve heard it done before.
It’s actually worth noting the quality of Noel’s voice here. Far away from the nasal screech that Liam could sometimes produce, this vocal feels genuine and gilded with the nuance of a working-class hero, happy to let his work do the talking.
So, without a doubt, take a listen to Noel Gallagher’s isolated vocal on Oasis’ ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ below.