Oh, I can hear the groans from here. “So obvious.” “What a surprise”. The way I see it, there’s no point in bullshitting with these ‘…changed my life’ posts. You have to be honest.
If you even have to think about whether a song really changed your life or not, then sorry, but it didn’t. It’s a big ask for a few chords and some singing, and there ain’t too many of them, ever, but ‘Live Forever’ is one.
‘Live Forever’ is the main reason why every single time I post on NME.com, there are comments underneath that say, “You’re just an Oasis dickhead” or whatever. Because it’s the sort of song that makes you buy in – the sort of song you define yourself by, by the sort of band that you define yourself by.
It was the first CD I ever bought. Before then, we didn’t have a CD player in my house. But when I heard ‘Bring It On Down’ – the CD only B-side of Oasis’s second single, ‘Shakermaker’ – round a friend’s house, I realised that if I didn’t have one, I was gonna be missing out.
I had a version of ‘Live Forever’, the next single, taped from a live Radio 1 Sound City gig in Glasgow. Bear in mind this is a broadcast from April 1994, before Oasis had released anything (except a demo of ‘Cigarettes & Alcohol, on a free NME/Creation tape). I used to play that tape to death.
I can picture it now, my handwriting on the sleeve, listing the five songs in their first-on set supporting The Charlatans. ‘Shakermaker’, ‘Digsy’s Dinner’, ‘Live Forever’, ‘Cigarettes & Alcohol’ and ‘Supersonic’. It was the third song which stood out most. On it, Liam’s vocal is not great, and the solo is low in the mix, but the magic still came across. In fact, here it is:
In those pre-internet days, before every live debut of every new song by every new band was available on Youtube at the touch of a button, taped radio gigs, Peel sessions and the rest were a godsend. I taped dozens of sets by dozens of new bands, cursing when Jo Whiley talked over an intro or an outro. Most of them I didn’t keep. I couldn’t, because tapes were expensive for a 15-year-old, and so you had to keep taping over stuff all the time. But this one I never did. And never will. In 2012, it’s one of about five cassettes I still have.
And then, for my fifteenth birthday, my folks got me one of those mini stack system things, with a double tape deck, and a radio, and a CD player (I still have it). I went to ‘Woolworths’, and bought the CD single of ‘Live Forever’ (the fact it was in Woolworths makes me feel old. The fact they were still selling seven-inch vinyls in Woolworths at this time makes me feel even older).
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I was already completely obsessed with this song, but hearing it in the privacy of my own room, on my own proper stereo, at maximum volume (that was soon banned, but for this maiden voyage, I was permitted by my parents to turn the dial right up), was joyous.
Now I agree with people who say vinyl sounds better. It does, no question. But Oasis were part of the first generation of bands whose music was mastered specifically with digital and CD sound in mind. And there is no better example of that than ‘Live Forever’. In comparison to my home tape, on which the sound was sludgy and messy, here the guitars were glistening. The drums sounded cavernous.
I stood there in between the two speakers with this song blasting into my ears, never having experienced such crystal clear sound. And the lyrics – “I think you’re the same as me / We see things they’ll never see” – spoke to a fifteen-year-old in search of identity like no other song. I’d dug Nirvana, but this was different. This was my ticket.
Within a week, I was stretching my fingers across the battered old fretboard of the nylon stringed guitar downstairs, trying to play the F-chord that ushers in the end of the “you and I are gonna live forever” bit. When I could finally play and sing ‘Live Forever’ on guitar, it felt so simple. All I or anyone else would have to do is stick five chords together like this, and sing some words over the top, and we’d be there. It made it seem so easy, so effortless. Which, of course, is the genius of it.
From there on in, like so many others, I lived and breathed Oasis for the rest of my teens. So many good memories, of listening to the chart rundown, waiting to see where their singles went in at, of queueing up in the freezing cold or frantically pressing the ‘redial’ button for hours to buy gig tickets. But mainly just getting pissed, getting high, and just feeling alive with true friends who I came to know (and still do) through a shared feeling about this music, the constant soundtrack to all of our lives.
And finally: I got my start at NME when I wrote in to the Letters page, about Oasis, and the then-editor wrote back saying he liked the passion in my writing. I never would have dreamed of being “a writer” or whatever, but they – and ‘Live Forever’ – had ignited something. “Maybe I will never be / All the things that I want to be / Now is not the time to cry / Now’s the time to find out why”, and all that.
All of which I would say counts as a song changing my life, wouldn’t you?