In 1994, Oasis had already seemed to have shaped a generation with the release of their debut album Definitely Maybe. The record launched the group into stardom and offered financial repair for Alan McGee’s Creation Records after the debts ensued in the wake of the expensive and meticulous recording of My Bloody Valentine’s less commercially successful masterpiece, Loveless, released on the label three years before.
From day one, the Gallagher brothers had struck a chord, not only with their beloved hometown of Manchester but the whole of the UK. Their accessible recipe blended Liam Gallagher’s iconic vocals with brother Noel’s catchy and anthemic lyrics and simple yet effective chord sequences. As they began work on their second album, they set their sights higher with ambitions of conquering the world.
With the release of (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? in 1995, Oasis followed this plan to a tee. Noel refined his songwriting to produce an album of rock ballads focussing on “huge” choruses, as he described them, that lingered in mind long after the listen. The album marked the peak of Oasis’ success and propped them up on a wave that they would ride through a series of increasingly mediocre albums before their breakup in 2009. Love them or loathe them, the Gallagher brothers managed to create music that re-energised the 1990s during the Britpop surge.
Among the anthems in the (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? locker, there are some particularly poignant lyrics from Noel. For me, one of the most interesting songs on the album from a lyrical point of view is ‘Cast No Shadow’. Noel wrote the song about The Verve frontman Richard Ashcroft, whom Oasis had been close with since both groups had risen to fame in the mid-90s.
In an interview with Select magazine, Noel explained the track’s connection to Ashcroft: “He always seemed to me to not be very happy about what was going on around him, almost trying too hard. That’s why it goes, ‘He was bound with the weight of all the words he tried to say.’ I always felt he was born at the wrong place, and in the wrong place, and he was always trying to say the right things, but they came out wrong.”
“I played him the song, and he nearly started crying,” Noel continued. “I was like, ‘Come on, hold yourself together, son! Easy now. In a way, it’s about all my friends who were in groups,” he concluded. “We are bound with the weight of all the words we have to say. We’re always looking for more.”
In a separate interview with Q Magazine, Richard Ashcroft recounted when he first realised that the song was about him. “I think Brian [Cannon, designer] who does the sleeves told me about it. I think it’s one of the best tunes that he’s [Noel Gallagher] ever written as well. It’s a great honour to be part of that and then when the album exploded like that it’s great. I was just really buzzing. I think it was almost an afterthought [for Noel], but there was so many gags at the time because I was so thin – ‘Is it because he’s so thin that he casts no shadow, is that what it’s about?’ I did say to him, ‘Am I a vampire what are you trying to say man?’”.