Noel Gallagher is a (mostly) well-respected voice within British music. The mastermind behind Oasis’ generation-defining success penned the majority of the Mancunian legends’ most iconic tracks. Since Oasis split in 2009, he has gone on to create three albums with his ephemeral outfit Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. It is a testament to his standing as a musician that the Beatles’ lauded producer George Martin once labelled him “the finest songwriter of his generation.”
Throughout his career, Noel Gallagher has come to be defined as one of Britain’s most prominent cultural landmarks and has become known as somewhat of a national treasure, held in the same regard as fish and chips and Dame Vera Lynn… in no particular order.
When talking about his musical journey, the ex-Oasis axeman once said: “Where I come from, people didn’t become rock stars. That happened to other people.” From a working-class background in Manchester, Gallagher, brother Liam and the other Oasis members managed to go against the grain and become rock stars.
In terms of going against the grain and earning life experience, Gallagher has done it all. After cementing his legacy with Oasis, his efforts turned to the High Flying Birds, of which he has scored number one albums whilst also gaining widespread critical acclaim. It is fair to say his solo career has been more successful than that of his brother’s.
One of the most significant points of Gallagher’s post-Oasis career has been self-awareness. He knows who he is as an artist, and also embraces his age. While not old by any stretch, Gallagher has matured with his music, which makes his solo career, an ever-changing and exciting prospect.
His last album, Who Built The Moon? released in 2017, was also well received. Showing that the ex-Oasis man has carried on delivering, whilst continuing to push his boundaries, the album was nominated for the prestigious 2018 Mercury Music Prize.
The last music Gallagher blessed us with was the Black Star Dancing EP in 2019. As of yet, Gallagher’s future plans are unknown, although we are sure not to be disappointed when they do make themselves clear.
As today (29th May), is his 54th birthday, it made us think about all things Noel Gallagher. He has blessed us with countless songs that have soundtracked our lives. He is classed as a great songwriter and somewhat of a guitar hero (opinions aside), but little discussion is ever given of his lyrics. So join us as we list Noel Gallagher’s ten best lyrics.
Noel Gallagher’s ten best lyrics:
‘While The Song Remains The Same’ – Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds (2015)
“It’s a shame how a memory fades to grey, we let love get lost in anger chasing yesterday.”
Allegedly, this mature and retrospective lyric gave Gallagher’s second album, Chasing Yesterday, its title. Speaking during the album’s announcement in October 2014, Gallagher said of the title that he “literally came up with it (a week earlier)”, adding that “if (he) could change it (he) would change it”.
in 2013, Gallagher told Talksport: “I’ve got tons of songs leftover from the last one. I’m writing, putting stuff together. Yeah, I’ll definitely make another (album), that’s for sure.” When he came to record the album, he had 60 tracks that friend and Oasis producer Mark Coyle said needed “whittling down into an album”.
Given the melancholy laden music, it comes as no surprise that the lyrics are inspired by returning to the place where you grew up, and reminiscing about childhood haunts. Ultimately, Gallagher’s impactful lyric deals with being caught up in the past to the detriment of your present self.
‘Where Did It All Go Wrong?’ – Oasis (2000)
“Do you keep the receipts for the friends that you buy?”
Gallagher took the vocal reigns on this one as “Liam just couldn’t get that one. The melody shifts quite a lot… Liam hasn’t got that dynamism in his voice.”
In 2000, around the time of release, Gallagher noted that the lyrics are semi-autobiographical. Half of the inspiration for them came from a circle of friends Gallagher once had at a time. The song represents Gallagher warning his younger self of the tribulations of adulthood and fame.
The line is a concise and damaging take on the music industry and sycophants in general. The song stemmed from the period where drug abuse had gotten to Gallagher, and he had to quit given the amount of narcotic-induced panic attacks he was suffering.
‘Half The World Away’ – Oasis (1994)
“You can’t give me a dream that was mine anyway.”
The theme tune of the iconic BBC sitcom The Royle Family, although a B-side, ‘Half The World Away’ is one of Oasis and Noel Gallagher’s most enduring tunes. A slower, more relaxed song than the Oasis chart-toppers of the day, the song’s source of inspiration came from a surprising source; Burt Bacharach.
While on tour, Oasis’ sound engineer Mark Coyle introduced the band to ‘This Guy’s in Love with You’ by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Gallagher has since said, “It sounds exactly the same. I’m surprised he hasn’t sued me yet!”
The line, “You can’t give me a dream that was mine anyway”, is effective in the defying nature of the song, delineating that dreams are our own to follow and that no one should tell us what path to follow but ourselves.
‘Supersonic’ – Oasis (1994)
“You can have it all but how much do you want it?”
Oasis’ debut single and standout from debut album Definitely Maybe, ‘Supersonic’ remains a triumphant call to arms for those wanting self-determination.
The classic anthem was written and recorded during the same day at The Pink Museum recording studio in Liverpool. The original plan was to record ‘Bring It On Down’ and, as is customary, as a warm-up, the band had a jam. Before too long, Noel Gallagher was humming a melody over the music. The jam would be cut short though, as the time came to start recording.
Thankfully for us, the ‘Bring It On Down’ session didn’t go well, so Oasis scrapped their plans and decided to work on a new song, based on the jam they had had in the morning. The recording process took 11 hours.
Noel has since alleged that the bulk of the song’s writing took place while the rest of Oasis were on a break from the studio eating a Chinese takeaway. Noel decided to stay back at the studio to develop the riff and had written the entirety of the song upon their return.
He has since noticed how the remarkable experience of hearing fans sing back to a song he had written at 3am. In addition to the song’s origin story, the lyrics make the song even more iconic. The line “you can have it all but how much do you want it?” is a brilliant question, begging the listener to drop the boredom of everyday life and to follow their dreams.
The Importance Of Being Idle – Oasis (2005)
“I can’t get a life if my heart’s not in it.”
The 2005 single from Oasis is one of their later tracks but remains one of our favourites. The second single from their sixth album, Don’t Believe the Truth, debuted at number one on the UK Singles Chart and stayed there for a week. It would be Oasis’ last number one before their break-up in 2009.
Since its release, Noel Gallagher has acknowledged the song’s similarity to two British guitar bands The Kinks and The La’s. Gallagher has also noted that the song’s attitude is in keeping with that of The Kinks’ ‘Sunny Afternoon’ and ‘Dead End Street’.
The song is full of classic Gallagher insights and was inspired by his own laziness and his former cocaine addiction. “I can’t get a life if my heart’s not in it”, is brilliantly captured in the kitchen sink drama of the music video, where Rhys Ifans plays the protagonist.
‘The Dying of the Light’ – Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds (2015)
“And I was told that the streets were made of gold, and there’d be no time for getting old when we were young.”
The title track off Gallagher’s sophomore album, The Dying of the Light, is one of the standouts from his best solo record. The ex-Oasis puppet master plays on the old trope of “the grass isn’t always greener”, cue Dorothy and The Wizard of Oz.
Although this theme is as old as time, particularly from a wiser person’s perspective, given the themes of the album, and the meaning of its title, Gallagher effectively addresses the trials of getting older. In addition to the melancholy music, this line rings loud and clear.
‘Champagne Supernova’ – Oasis (1996)
“How many special people change?”
Possibly Oasis’ most iconic track, ‘Champagne Supernova’ stands out for the music and lyrics. The closing track off their magnum opus (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, even features Noel’s hero and guitar inspiration Paul Weller on the six-string and backing vocals.
In 2005, Gallagher shed light on the ever-changing meaning of the song’s lyrics: “It means different things when I’m in different moods,” he said. “When I’m in a bad mood, being caught beneath a landslide is like being suffocated. The song is a bit of an epic. It’s about when you’re young and you see people in groups and you think about what they did for you and they did nothing. As a kid, you always believed the Sex Pistols were going to conquer the world and kill everybody in the process. Bands like the Clash just petered out. Punk rock was supposed to be the revolution but what did it do? Fuck all. The Manchester thing was going to be the greatest movement on earth but it was fuck all.”
In 2009, Gallagher further explained, the tangible yet opaque meaning of the song’s lyrics: “This writer, he was going on about the lyrics to ‘Champagne Supernova’, and he actually said to me, ‘You know, the one thing that’s stopping it being a classic is the ridiculous lyrics’. And I went, ‘What do you mean by that?’ And he said, ‘Well, Slowly walking down the hall, faster than a cannonball — what’s that mean?’ And I went, ‘I don’t know. But are you telling me, when you’ve got 60,000 people singing it, they don’t know what it means? It means something different to every one of them’.”
‘Cigarettes and Alcohol’ – Oasis (1994)
“Is it worth the aggravation to find yourself a job when there’s nothing worth working for?”
Released as the fourth single from Oasis’ debut album, ‘Cigarettes and Alcohol’, upon the first inspection, seems as if it is the anthem for the cringe, now outdated lad-culture of the ’90s and all the wrong things Oasis embodied.
However, this line is acutely political, delineating the struggles of Generation X and their apathetic mood towards working a dead-end job, and the awareness of the shortage of possibilities. The shock horror, but virtue of the line is that, sadly, it is still relevant today.
‘Ballad Of The Mighty I’ – Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds (2015)
“The colours around me are fading away, but I’ll be waiting, come what may.”
Released in January 2015, ‘The Ballad of the Might I’ is the second single of Gallagher and High Flying Birds’ second album, Chasing Yesterday. It features none other than Johnny Marr on the axe.
In 2014, Gallagher spoke of the collaboration with Marr: “Tried to get him to play on the last album but it never happened”. He then added that Johnny Marr hadn’t heard the track until the day of recording. Subsequently, Gallagher claimed that Marr “helped make (Ballad of the) Mighty I one of the best songs I’ve ever written”.
The lyrics deal with the post-Oasis theme of death and ageing that Gallagher seems to discuss so often. Either way, the open-ended mystique of the line compliment the surreal, orchestral feel of the music.
‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ – Oasis (1996)
“Please don’t put your life in the hands of a rock n’ roll band, who’ll throw it all away.”
Where would any Noel Gallagher list be without the inclusion of this iconic track? The fourth single of Oasis’ second album, ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ has filled dancefloors, weddings et al with glorious, drunken abandon since its release in 1996.
Gallagher has said of the song, “It reminds me of a cross between ‘All the Young Dudes’ and something the Beatles might have done.” Of the famous ‘Sally’ mentioned in the song’s chorus, he added: “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.”
In 2016, Gallagher explained the meaning of the song, adding: “It’s about not being upset about the things you might have said or done yesterday, which is quite appropriate at the moment. It’s about looking forward rather than looking back. I hate people who look back on the past or talk about what might have been.”
Such an existential and defiant song, it is also tinged with the self-awareness that made Oasis so great. “Please don’t put your life in the hand of rock and roll band, who’ll throw it all away,” is a direct reference to the tumultuous and rock and roll nature inherent to Oasis.
The song is teeming with some of Gallagher’s best lines. According to Gallagher, the line about starting a revolution from a bed was lifted directly from John Lennon.