Described as Liam Gallagher’s favourite Oasis song of all time, ‘Supersonic’ is a track that has gone on to typify everything the Mancunian rulers of Britpop stood for. The duelling brothers at the centre of the band may well offer up polarised viewpoints, but one thing we can all agree on, the group exude a rock ‘n’ roll spirit that many thought was lost to the ages.
Taken from their debut album, Definitely Maybe, ‘Supersonic’, as a word, epitomises the walk-on-water abilities that the band possessed during their early years. As debut singles go, they don’t get much more emphatic than ‘Supersonic’, which immediately perked up people’s ears and, within twelve months, everybody knew who Oasis were. They were bonafide superstars, whether the world knew it or not.
Typical of their spontaneous explosion into stardom, Noel Gallagher says he wrote ‘Supersonic’ in just one day. Judging by some of the nonsensical lyrics, this may well be true. No matter how you cut it, the track was massively influenced by the drugs the band were all taking. Behaving as rock stars before they ever became them, Noel Gallagher once said, “Before 1997, I hadn’t written a song without the aid of the old Colombian marching gear (cocaine). Don’t forget, I was on drugs before I was even in a band. The whole of the first three albums were written on drugs.”
Gallagher added that he felt the drugs actually helped his songwriting: “That’s why they’re so good. And that pisses me off. I think, ‘Maybe I should get back into taking drugs, and then it would be brilliant again.’ But that thought lasts less than a second.” The guitarist even recalled specifically writing this song: “I remember being off my nut and going into the back room and setting the goal of writing a song in 10 minutes — that was ‘Supersonic’.”
There’s an easy way to tell that the song is heavily influenced by the cocaine Gallagher was taking — the lyrics. “I know a girl called Elsa, she’s into Alka Seltzer…She done it with a doctor/On a helicopter,” is just about one of the worst lines ever to be shared by the band. Funnily enough, the song would also be one of Lima Gallagher’s favourite, owing to those strange lyrics.
After being asked about his favourite lyrics of all time, he answered: “I need to be myself, I can’t be no one else, I’m feeling supersonic, Give me gin and tonic,” in a not-so-subtle reference to the song. No surprises then that ‘Supersonic’ ranks among his favourites. Speaking about the track, Gallagher said: “I like the words, I like the guitars in it and I still find it an odd tune,” in an old interview with Absolute Radio. “It’s not like your normal rock and roll tune and still enjoy singing it.”
‘Supersonic’ would become their trademark debut single and signal the beginning of an impressive career.
The track became an anthem almost overnight. While radio play had seen the news of the band filter through those in the know, it would take a typically debauched performance on Channel 4’s late-night youth TV program The Word for the song, and in turn, the band, establish itself. Paul ‘Bonehead’ Arthurs recalled to Mojo magazine in 2014: “There were a lot of nerves. Certainly on my part. We weren’t miming, we were playing for real. I remember worrying about what shirt to wear. Noel had a great green cord jacket, which I borrowed. When we got on, I hit the opening chord of ‘Supersonic’, and we were fine.”
‘Supersonic’ would be the band’s debut single but it wasn’t meant to be. Bonehead recalled to Q in 2014: “We were recording, ‘Bring It On Down’ and halfway through Noel disappeared into the control room. When he came out, he said, ‘Stop the session, I’ve written a new song.’ Within a couple of hours we’d finished ‘Supersonic.’ That’s Noel for you. Put him in a room for 10 minutes, and he’ll come out with a classic.”
Noel Gallagher may have had a certain band in mind when writing the track. The Beatles have always been considered a huge influence on Oasis, and the song references the Fab Four with the line: “Can I ride with you in your BMW? You can sail with me in my yellow submarine.” The video also features Oasis on the rooftop performing the song a la Let It Be (Johnny Marr’s guitar also makes an appearance), with many suggesting it isn’t the final reference to the band. Some fans have pointed to George Harrison’s song ‘My Sweet Lord’ as a direct inspiration for the song’s melody. But, in reality, these are all reaches. The Beatles were a huge influence on Oasis but, at that time, the band were flying forward so fast they didn’t really have time to look back.
The reality of Oasis’ song ‘Sup[ersonic’ is that it may well be the Gallagher brothers’ favourite track, but it’s also one of the entire nation’s. The song represents the starting pistol for the Britpop revolution. Once this song began making a name for Oasis, the group were only ever destined for the top. The band are a polarising outfit, they shed fans as quickly as they gain them for their macho-rock ‘n’ roll rowdiness, and ‘Supersonic’ is the typification of their unwavering iconography.