The art of the b-side song may be lost in the modern age but some of the greatest bands of the '90s could be judged on the standard of their non-album tracks. And nobody could touch Oasis for that; Noel Gallagher's purple patch spread so wide he could have easily made their acclaimed 1998 collection The Masterplan a double album.
The b-sides continued long after that, and the band often made some questionable choices with the songs they chose to exclude from their 2000s albums in place of arguably stronger material. For the rest of us, they're out there to be discovered – along with an interesting unreleased curio or two…
1. Let's All Make Believe – Go Let It Out b-side, 2000
This isn't the first Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants-era song we're going to highlight here, and its inclusion would have helped raise Oasis's fourth album up above the patchy lows of songs like I Can See I Liar, Put and the widely maligned Liam Gallagher-penned Little James. Indeed, Let's All Make Believe is arguably better than anything that made the album and up there with Oasis's best work. A showcase of the darker side of Noel's songwriting sincerity.
It was reportedly the first song he wrote for what would become Oasis's fourth album and it followed a self-imposed break from songwriting after the Be Here Now world tour that nearly broke the band. 'Let's all make believe / That we're still friends and we like each other' – its lyrics and atmosphere reflect the disharmony in a fractured Oasis that would lose two founder members before their fourth album was completed. The dark, cinematic mood showcases one of Liam's strongest vocal performances.
It was definitely (maybe) a strange time when Noel songs like Full On and One Way Road were relegated to b-sides in place of the aforementioned Stands On The Should Of Giants albums cuts. But bands can be strage entities.
2. Lord Don't Slow Me Down – Liam Version, circa 2007
The Noel-sung version of this stomp was released to coincide with the Oasis tour film of the same name, but this is a rare instance where an alternate, unreleased studio version with Liam singing lead vocals also exists, albeit in leaked form. And we prefer the snarl he brings to it – it sounds like it was written for him by his brother.
It makes us wonder if there are any other alternate Liam versions in the vault somewhere – like the rumoured Don't Look Back In Anger demo. We know Liam was recorded singing Noel B-side Step Out in a studio as the clip below demonstrates…
3. Cloudburst (Live Forever b-side, 1994)
Early Oasis could get pretty psychedelic when they wanted to, with a guitar wall of sound to take them to the supersonic stratosphere – Columbia being an example. And like that song, Noel takes this underrated b-side into its final push with a squaling guitar solo.
This Tony McCarroll-era flipside to the Live Forever single remains a fave of old school fans, and Stone Roses admirers may also note a passing similarity to that band's song Standing Here. But of course Noel would never borrow from other artists in rock's great circle of life – and Standing Here's chords aren't far off Hendrix's Purple Haze anyway!
4. Going Nowhere – Stand By Me b-side, 1997
Noel's love of Burt Bacharach is clear here – high praise in itself. Understated, majestic and unsung, this song allegedly dates way back to the very early '90s (check out an early demo below and note Noel's youthful voice!) before the songwriter returned to it when the band signed to Creation Records in 1993. But Going Nowhere didn't emerge fully-formed until it became the b-side to Stand By Me from the Be Here Now album.
How the seven-minute Magic Pie made the cut on that album ahead of this is beyond us, but like Rock N' Roll Star, it finds Noel looking up at the stars before fame and fortune. Or as he said himself, "It’s about what we were going to do when we got a shitload of money off Creation."
5. Those Swollen Hand Blues (Falling Down b-side, 2009)
The lo-fi sixties feel, Lennon-esque melodies, psychedelic lyrics and smoky mellotron… the way Oasis weave the combination is uncanny. And in a curious twist, the outro of 2005 album Don't Believe The Truth track Mucky Fingers fits very well with it. And yet this was included as a b-side for Falling Down, from 2008's Dig Out Your Soul album.
6. (I Got) The Fever – Stand By Me b-side, 1997)
We all love the ridiculously layered wall of sound guitars all over Be Here Now, just admit it! And this song from that era starts that way while revealing a Liam-fronted belter with a big uplifting grade A Noel chorus that he joins in for to remind us why so many fans want to see the brothers play live together again – even if they have other ideas.
This is a real forgotten Oasis gem from an often maligned era, where Noel admitted to being "a bit lost" but actually produced strong b-sides with Stay Young, Angel Child, Flashbax, My Sister Lover… this whole list could have gone on for a while!