Noel Gallagher is part of a long tradition of songwriters for whom speed is key. For the Oasis guitarist, the longer spent pondering a song the duller it was bound to be. This counterintuitive attitude saw groups like The Beatles (‘Yesterday’), The Rolling Stones (‘I Can’t Get No Satisfaction’) and The Jam (‘That’s Entertainment) craft some of their most enduring hits, all of which Gallagher absorbed into his own songcraft, just as he did the high-speed swirl of punk.
I’m tempted to believe Gallagher’s ability to write era-defining hits at record speed was a product of necessity. Pink Floyd were only able to spend months in the studio working on Dark Side Of The Moon because they had the money to make it happen. When Noel Gallagher wrote Oasis’s breakthrough single ‘Supersonic’ they were not what you would call moneyed. But they had their eyes set on greatness, and that single would buy them the world.
Slack, baggy and undeniably cool, ‘Supersonic’ has come to typify everything Oasis represented. The track, which served as the lead single for Oasis’ stonking 1994 debut Definitely Maybe, feels like riding a motorcycle at 100mph, parking up and then walking with shaky legs along a dark garden path. Decorated with Liam’s nightingale vocals and Gallagher’s descending guitar lines ‘Supersonic’ trundles along with the swagger of a person seven pints in and struggling to find their way home.
The sense of intoxication running through the single is less surprising when you consider Noel Gallagher wrote it in – for want of a better phrase – a cocaine-addled frenzy. As he later explained: “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.”
For Gallagher, drugs were an essential part of the songwriting process before he got clean in the late ’90s. “That’s why they’re so good. And that pisses me off,” he said. “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.” In a way, it’s surprising Gallagher remembers anything from the early 1990s at all, but his memory is remarkably unmuddied. He even remembers writing ‘Supersonic’ as a sort of challenge to himself: “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’.”
On release, ‘Supersonic’ marked the beginning of the Britpop era, a period in which drug-fuelled hedonism was still a fundamental part of the music industry and, indeed, the nation’s relationship to music culture. In the 1990s, LCD use among young people was at its highest record since the late 1960s, and just a few years before the release of Definitely Maybe, the ecstasy explosion had galvanised an entire generation of ravers. ‘Supersonic’ was the perfect soundtrack to a nation wobbling their way through clubland with a strident sense that things could only get better.