Oasis – The Stories Behind Their Cryptic Album And Single Sleeve Art

What’s the first thing you think of when you think of Oasis? No, apart from drugs and fighting. No, not Knebworth or Britpop or massive ’90s anthems or slagging off other acts or whatever else you’re thinking. Yes, that’s right, classic record sleeves. Oasis covers, often designed by Brian Cannon’s Microdot, were amongst the most striking of the past 20 years, full of clues, red herrings and tributes to a certain Liverpudlian band of yore – and always with a colourful story attached. Here’s 15 of the best.

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Definitely Maybe Inspired by the sleeve of ‘A Collection Of Beatles Oldies’, the band were shot in Bonehead’s front room surrounded by significant objects: pictures of Burt Bacharach and Rodney Marsh, a spinning globe and glasses filled with Ribena. The idea of Liam ‘lying in state’ came from photographer Michael Spencer Jones visiting the Egyptology section of the Manchester Science Museum.

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(What’s The Story) Morning Glory? Shot at dawn on Berwick Street in Soho, then home to London's coolest record shops, the snap of DJ Sean Rowley and Oasis designer Brian Cannon walking past each other (producer Owen Morris holds the album’s master tapes in the background) was deliberately ambiguous. “We don’t know if the characters... are good or bad, friendly or hostile,” said Spencer Jones.

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Be Here Now The shoot at the former home of a Playboy club chief was a boozy affair that, according to Spencer Jones, turned into “Alice In Wonderland meets Apocalypse Now”. The ‘clues’, featuring a calendar showing the release date, a moped, a clock with no hands and a Rolls Royce in a swimming pool (Bonehead’s suggestion) were mostly chosen at random from a BBC props store.

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Dig Out Your Soul This explosion of imagery – waterfalls, charging cavalry, a bitten apple (because The Beatles?) – centred on a musical atomic blast you could hold in your hands, looked like it was created by a scissor-adept toddler in a fit. It was actually the work of Julian House, who’d designed Primal Scream’s ‘XTRMNTR’. Noel called him “the most expensive graphic designer in London”.

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Some Might Say “Noel gave me a sheet of the lyrics," said Brian Cannon, "he wanted an image that depicted them all!” So, at Cromford Station near Matlock, he gathered a sink full of fish, a woman with "dishes on the brain" (actually a barmaid Brian fancied) and a tramp "in need of education". Spencer Jones shot the sleeve in black and white then spent a week painting it for a surreal effect.

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Supersonic The ultimate Oasis ‘action shot’ for their debut single was taken during the recording sessions for ‘Definitely Maybe’ in Monnow Valley studios in Wales. Spencer Jones, shooting them from the very beginning, decided to put the tungsten lights in the frame “to put Oasis firmly in the spotlight for their debut single”.

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Roll With It The day before Glastonbury '95, Oasis hit a sweltering Weston-super-Mare to watch tvs on the beach, much to the amusement of the locals, who found them somewhat overdressed for the weather. “It was absolutely red hot and the band were sat in duffle coats,” said Cannon, “much to the interest of hundreds of onlookers out of shot."

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Sophie Jarry
Wonderwall Brian Cannon: "Shot on Primrose Hill in north-west London, this features ex-Creation Records employee Anita Heryet. The image is directly influenced by the work of Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte. It’s my hand holding the picture frame, and we took so long getting it right I had to put a stool under my elbow to hold my arm up."

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Sophie Jarry
Don’t Look Back In Anger It might look like they've gone postal in Interflora, but this was another Beatles tribute, as Cannon explained. "This was based on the story of Ringo Starr leaving The Beatles and returning to recording sessions to see his drum kit smothered in flowers. We had 10,000 carnations imported from Holland for the shoot then dyed 3,000 of them blue by dipping them in ink."

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D’You Know What I Mean? Shrouded in secrecy to prevent a riot, in 1997 Oasis turned up to shoot the sleeve for ‘D’You Know What I Mean?’ on the Blind Steps in an alleyway in Wigan near a boxing club. The image of a crowd gawping upwards was intended to reflect the shifting political scene as Labour were about to sweep to power for the first time in almost two decades.

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Don’t Go Away Oasis sleeve bingo! Not only is there a plane mentioned in the lyrics to ‘Don’t Go Away’, but this is also the Liverpool airport where The Beatles were greeted by screaming fans at the peak of Beatlemania. All it needs is Brian Cannon, in a duffel coat, to be flying it pissed and this would be the most Oasis sleeve ever…

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Live Forever Just a house? Come now, have you learnt nothing this far? The house on the ‘Live Forever’ sleeve is actually the childhood home of John Lennon, which Spencer Jones had photographed several years earlier and which he thought had “an ethereal and mysterious quality". Gallagher sleeve catnip.
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