Q Magazine

On This Day In Music… April 11, 1994: Oasis Release Debut Single, 'Supersonic'

Noel Gallagher wrote the song in half an hour – within two years the Mancunian rockers would be the biggest band in the world.

oasis liam supersonic
Source: mega

'Supersonic' heralded the arrival of a brash, upfront, uncompromising new sound.

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When Oasis released their first single on April 11, 1994, few people had even heard of them.

Formed by Liam Gallagher in 1991 as The Rain, the band had languished on the less-glamorous fringes of Manchester’s music scene – at that time still reeling from the fallout of the Madchester phenomenon (the Stone Roses were taking an age to record second LP The Second Coming, Happy Mondays’ fourth album Yes Please! was a commercial failure defined mostly by Shaun Ryder’s blossoming crack addiction, and Factory Records, for so long the heartbeat of the city, had filed for bankruptcy in 1992).

That all changed after Liam’s brother Noel saw the band at a gig at Manchester’s Boardwalk, where they played bottom of the bill below the Catchmen and Sweet Jesus. Although he was working as a roadie for The Inspiral Carpets at the time, Noel offered to join the group, on the strict proviso that he wrote all the songs.

In John Harris’s book Britpop!: Cool Britannia and the Spectacular Demise of English Rock, guitarist Paul “Bonehead” Arthurs remembered: “When he walked in, we were a band making a racket with four tunes. All of a sudden, there were loads of ideas.”

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oasis liam noel
Source: mega

Oasis was Liam's band... until it was Noel's band.

Under Noel’s guidance – and courtesy of a name change to Oasis – the band began to rehearse in earnest, but although what gigs they could score began to gather a minor following in Manchester, outside the city, they remained unheard-of: “No one even said we were s--t,” Noel recalled in the Oasis documentary film Supersonic, “completely and utterly f---ing ignored”.

All of that changed on May 31, 1993. Fellow Mancunian band The Sister Lovers had been booked to play a support slot at Glasgow’s King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, and Oasis decided to come along for the ride… and get themselves on the bill too.

Speaking in 1997, Noel recalled: “We hired a van, put loads of people in it, charged them money for petrol and told them ‘we'll get you into the gig for free and have a good night’.

“They said, fine. We got to the gig after driving all day, but the promoter said he’d never heard of us and refused to let us play.

“So we pointed out there were only two security guards and 17 of us. I said to him ‘what are you going to do about that then?’

“And he thought about it and replied, ‘if you put it like that, you can do a few songs’.”

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oasis noel
Source: mega

So we pointed out there were only two security guards and 17 of us. I said to him ‘what are you going to do about that then?’

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In the audience that night was Creation Records boss Alan McGee… and despite not being officially billed to play at all that night, he was enraptured – and Oasis were signed.

McGee set Oasis up in a Liverpool recording studio with the intention of releasing their song “Bring It On Down” as the first single. But as the sessions progressed, Noel became increasingly unhappy with the sound.

In Lee Henshaw’s 1996 book Oasis, producer Tony Griffiths recalled pulling Noel aside to tell him: “Look, you’re paying £300 a day here to record a pile of s--te you’re not going to be happy with, why don’t you do something really worthwhile, write a song, make a song out of it.”

Speaking to Q in 2014, Bonehead said: “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.”

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Noel himself corroborated the unlikely story. “A lot of bands’ first singles, they’re kind of finding their feet. We hit the ground running with that one,” he said in 2006. “It was written and recorded in one night in Liverpool. We went in to do a demo of ‘Bring It on Down’, and we couldn't get it right. And we had to have something. I went in to the back room and wrote ‘Supersonic’ in about half an hour. Recorded it the rest of the night. That’s the rough mix and it was never remixed. Magical night.”

“Supersonic” did not exactly launch Oasis into instant superstardom – it entered the U.K. charts at No. 31, but dropped out of the Top 40 the following week, and out of the Top 100 by mid-May – but it did herald the arrival of a brash, upfront, uncompromising new sound. Bonehead’s power barre chords, Noel’s squealing, treble-heavy lead riffs and Liam’s distinctive swaggering vocal were so wholly unlike either the grunge sounds or dance rhythms that dominated the charts that people couldn’t help but take notice. In July follow-up single “Shakermaker” reached No. 11, and on August 20, “Live Forever” gave Oasis their first Top 10. The following week debut album Definitely Maybe was released: it rocketed into the charts at No. 1, becoming (at that time) the fastest selling debut ever for a British band.

Two years later, on August 10 and 11, 1996, Oasis played to a total of 250,000 fans at Knebworth. Two and a half million people applied for tickets – the largest demand for a rock ‘n’ roll show in British history. Not bad for a band that had started with a song written in half an hour.


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