Bands being taken to court for the origins of a song is nothing new. However, a group facing legal action at the hands of a multinational corporation is a rarer entity — and one that feels slightly uncomfortable. Although in this case, Oasis had no leg to stand on.
When Oasis created their 1994 debut album Definitely Maybe, the band hoped it would hand them the platform to stardom, successfully making them the band of a generation. While they might have boasted the swagger and attitude to be the most crucial group on the planet, Oasis lacked the business acumen to deal with legal matters that come calling when you rise to the top.
Their 1994 track ‘Shakermaker’, which was selected as the second release from their debut album, narrowly failed to land in the top ten UK Singles Chart but has subsequently sold over 200,000 copies to date. However, much of the royalties haven’t landed at the feet of the Gallagher brothers.
Immediately as the song was released, fans began to clock the not-so-subtle similarities between the material and The New Seekers track ‘I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing’, which became a worldwide hit decades earlier after it was included in an advertisement for Coca-Cola.
‘I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing’ originally appeared in a radio jingle for the soft drink giant. After the advert’s success, Coca-Cola turned it into a commercial and full-length song later in 1971, topping the UK Chart.
Originally, Oasis even opened ‘Shakermaker’ with the lyric “I’d like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony”, which is a direct nab from The New Seekers’ version. However, the Mancunians were forced to change this line to “I’d like to be somebody else, and not know where I’ve been” because they didn’t have permission to use the copyrighted lyrics.
However, changing the words was not enough for Coca-Cola, who also sought compensation from the group, which resulted in Creation Records settling the issue for an eye-watering reported sum of $500,000 (Australian dollars).
In the song’s context, the reference to the famous advert makes sense, as the lyrics also refer to other cultural entities from Noel Gallagher’s childhood. In fact, the title was the name of a popular toy from the 1970s, and the character of ‘Mr Soft’ in ‘Shakermaker’ was from a Trebor Soft Mints commercial. However, that defence wasn’t going to stand up in court, and even though Gallagher’s intentions were pure, that didn’t matter to a juggernaut like Coca-Cola.
Bonehead later held his hands up over the incident and said: “We ripped it off, so they had the right to sue us. Fair enough. People will steal from other bands but change the lyrics. We just did the same thing but kept some of the same lyrics in. We drink Pepsi now”.
Ironically, Oasis’ relationship with the drinks brand has now gone full-circle after they were presumably paid handsomely in 2012 by Coca-Cola to use their song ‘Whatever’ in an advertising campaign to celebrate their 125th anniversary.