No Beatles, No Oasis: The Best Joke in ‘Yesterday’
One of the funniest moments in Yesterday – the new movie that explores a world where everyone has forgotten the Beatles ever existed – is when lead character Jack Malik (played by Himesh Patel) mentions “Wonderwall” to someone, who doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
That leads Jack to discover that the British band Oasis never existed. After finding the only online entry for "oasis" refers to “an isolated area of vegetation in a desert,” Jack isn’t surprised. No Beatles, no Oasis – obvious, no?
Back in the real world – though it’s sometimes surprising to think so – there was a moment in the mid ‘90s when the proposition that Oasis were better than the Beatles was taken seriously and given major media coverage. It was mainly in the U.K., and mainly because there was a press battle going on between the Gallagher brothers and their Britpop rivals Blur, but nevertheless, it happened.
Fortunately, it’s all in the past; but how close is the relationship between the Liverpool icons of the ‘60s and their Manchester counterparts from three decades later?
Oasis songwriter Noel Gallagher didn’t attempt to hide the Fab Four’s influence in his work – well, he couldn’t, could he? He regularly asserted that he never set out to deliberately copy or plagiarize anyone, but once stated that "if you don’t want to be as big as the Beatles, then it’s just a hobby.” Among the many references rather than borrowings you’ll find in the Oasis catalog are “Yellow Submarine” in “Supersonic,” “Let It Be” in “Be Here Now” and “Helter Skelter” in “Fade in Out.”
Gallagher did, however, own up to direct copying from other artists. In 1997 he referred to David Bowie’s “All the Young Dudes," noting that he's "had two songs out of that now: 'Don't Look Back in Anger' and 'Stand by Me'. And he's still not sued me yet.” That admission came after he’d been sued by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band’s Neil Innes over the Oasis song “Whatever,” which resulted in Innes receiving a songwriting credit on the track.
Away from the rock star swagger, the interaction between Oasis and the Beatles was much more complex. The fact that Paul McCartney and Gallagher were both members of a short-lived supergroup proves that. In 1995 they formed the Smokin’ Mojo Filters along with Paul Weller and others to record a version of the Beatles’ “Come Together” for a charity album.
Watch the Smokin' Mojo Filters Perform ‘Come Together’
Meanwhile, Oasis singer Liam Gallagher had no intention of keeping away from the rock-star attitude. In 1996, George Harrison was asked what he thought of the Britpop band and turned his ire on Liam, saying, “It’s silly. Silly. I feel a bit sorry for him really because I think he’s totally missed the bus. … It’s cooler when you hear the band without him singing. He’s just excess baggage, I think.” The following year, Liam responded, “I still love the Beatles and I still love George Harrison as a songwriter in the Beatles, but as a person I think he’s a fucking nipple."
Liam once said he believed he was in the reincarnation of John Lennon – which would be difficult since he was eight years old when Lennon died – and then in 2010 insisted that, had he lived, the Liverpudlian would have covered an Oasis song. “I reckon ‘I’m Outta Time,’” he said when asked which track would be used. “Because it’s the bollocks.”
In 2012 he said Lennon “means everything to me,” adding that he preferred Lennon’s writing to McCartney’s because “it’s a bit more beautiful, and it’s more mad.” He argued that “you get bored of Lennon and you get bored of yourself. … I ain’t getting bored of me.”
Let’s not forget Noel’s attempt to emulate Lennon’s infamous “more popular than Jesus” comment in 1996 by claiming Oasis were bigger than the Beatles – oh, and Jesus. “Yeah, I might have been high,” he laughingly admitted in 2015. The following year, his old chum McCartney described it as a serious error.
“Oasis were young, fresh and writing good tunes,”he said. “I thought the biggest mistake they made was when they said ‘We’re going to be bigger than The Beatles.’ I thought, ‘So many people have said that, and it’s the kiss of death.’ Be bigger than the Beatles, but don’t say it. The minute you say it, everything you do from then on is going to be looked at in the light of that statement.”
In recent years there’s been nothing but lightness between McCartney and both Gallaghers – even though the siblings' relationship with each other has been anything but since Oasis' split in 2009. Two years ago, Liam described Macca as “absolutely a dream,” recounting the story of a recent meeting at the Royal Albert Hall.
"He goes, ‘Why are you always in a rush? Sit down, sit down,’" Liam recalled. "I sit down and he goes, ‘Do you like margaritas?’ I said, ‘Yeah, but I had something before I come out, I don’t eat at this time of night.’ He said, ‘They’re fuckin’ drinks, you stupid prick.’ I thought he was offering me a pizza.”
While there’s less direct interaction between Ringo Starr and Oasis, there’s a very direct connection: Starr’s son Zak Starkey was Oasis' drummer from 2004 until the year before their split. “It was just as difficult playing in Oasis as it is with the Who,” he said in 2009, citing the Manchester group’s attention to musical detail. “Liam, Noel, Gem [Archer] and Andy [Bell] are some of the smartest musicians I've ever met. In fact, they're the most inspiring band I've ever worked with. I played with Oasis for four years and literally spent every day crying with laughter. Those lads are on it and that's why they're fucking massive.”
When the Gallaghers’ sibling rivalry led to the band’s implosion four months after that interview, it offered an opportunity to reflect on the real impact Oasis made. While it’s undeniable they were massive in the ‘90s, many critics felt they had run out of steam the following decade, and there was no further talk of a direct comparison to the Beatles’ impact – except to dismiss the idea.
But that’s not all. Giles Martin, the son of “fifth Beatle” George Martin – whose production work helped define the group's studio approach – asserted in 2018 that Oasis had gone some way to repaying their debt. “It upsets [people] when I tell them Oasis helped the Beatles to be cool again in the ‘90s,” he noted. “It’s almost like blasphemy, but that’s what happened.”
There could even be one more turnabout as the 10th anniversary of Oasis' breakup approaches. In 2015, McCartney urged the Gallaghers to settle their differences. "Just get together and make some good music!" he said. "They are pretty cool guys!” Noel responded with a challenge: "If he writes our comeback single, it’s on. Tell him to write an Oasis track and then we’ll talk." There's still time, while members of both bands still exist.