Oasis managed to do with Live Forever in the U.K. what Nirvana’s Smells like teen spirit had done for Nirvana earlier in the decade. It changed the musical landscape overnight. And, they only needed some angsty lyrics and a couple of burrowed guitar riffs to it too.
Here’s a quick story of how Live Forever by Oasis came to be.
Writing Live Forever with a little help from Jagger/Richard
The fact that Oasis were destined for greatness and commercial glory wasn’t always apparent. The band was formed when Noel joined his younger brother’s band and rechristened it Oasis. The group played local Manchester clubs for its first couple of years.
A chance meeting with Creation records’ founder Alan McGee brought them the opportunity to record an album. Noel Gallagher is said to have exaggerated the number of songs that he already had written. Live Forever was not one of the existing songs on the basis of which McGee signed the group to Creation.
Supposedly though, the seeds of the song had already been sown. Parts of Live Forever were written by Noel Gallagher when he was a roadie with The Inspiral Carpets. It helped convince his brother Liam that he should join Oasis.
The melody is inspired by Shine A Light by The Rolling Stones. The song can be found Exile on Main St. and is, most likely, written in reference to Brian Jones’ struggles. Noel drew inspiration from the chorus part: “May The good Lord Shine A Light on You.”
Allegedly, Noel Gallagher composed parts of the song using John Squire’s Gretsch G6122. The Stone Roses guitarist. Producer Mark Coyle was a roadie for The Stone Roses and lent the guitar to Gallagher.
The songwriter later told Q Magazine that he was convinced he’d written a classic from the time that the song was finished. Noel Gallagher presented a fully composed Live Forever to the band for the first time in early 1993 during rehearsals. The band was in awe of it. Guitarist Paul “Bonehead” Arthurs reportedly confronted Gallagher about the song being an original composition. “Maybe I just wanna fly” remains one of the most enduring phrases in pop music.
Oasis reaching the musical mainstream
Noel Gallagher later said that writing Live Forever finally gave him a life goal. The group would soon achieve great commercial and critical success. Oasis, particularly brothers Liam and Noel, would earn a reputation for their confidence and outspokenness.
Part of the iconic music video was shot in New York’s Central Park. The cover of the CD single shows John Lennon’s childhood home, 251 Menlove Avenue. It was bought by Yoko Ono who donated it to the National Trust.
The song has had an enduring legacy. In a poll conducted on Oasis’s official website, this song was voted Oasis’s best song. Also, in Q magazine, in October 2008, Liam Gallagher stated that this song is his favorite Oasis song. In a 2018 Radio X poll, Live Forever was voted as the best British song of all time. To claim the title, Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, and Oasis’ won Don’t Look Back In Anger were beaten by this epic track.
It was a time when Gallagher could seemingly do no wrong. Non-albums singles like Acquiesce or Whatever would chart highly. The band was playing Britain’s biggest arenas. And, even Oasis bootlegs of the brothers’ bickering, could elicit the public’s attention. The rise and fall of Britpop, maybe, can be charted through the Manchester group’s evolution.
And, its writer, Noel Gallagher has not yet tired of hearing the song. In 2011 he talked about how the song measures up to music’s greatest compositions.
With every song that I write, I compare it to The Beatles. I’ve got semi-close once or twice, with Live Forever for example… the solo on that is one of the greatest things in rock music.