(Credits: Far Out / Anton Corbijn)
Most of the Britpop scene wasn’t all that concerned with playing flashy solos every time they got behind the fretboard. While many artists liked to incorporate flashy lead work into their songs, it was always about adding something tasteful rather than showing off one’s technical skills. Even though Noel Gallagher may have been one of the exceptions to the guitar hero rule, he did single out one song as the best guitar break he ever laid down.
When looking at his style, though, it’s easy to see where Gallagher gets most of his tricks. Throughout his time with Oasis, Gallagher has been known to favour the essential pentatonic boxes that most aspiring guitarists start with, turning the most simple phrases into melodic masterpieces like the solo in ‘Champagne Supernova’ or the various lead breaks in between ‘Some Might Say’.
Then again, his lead breaks may have also been hard to part with. Throughout the recording of Definitely Maybe, Gallagher would complain time and time again that the sound of the record didn’t measure up to what he heard in his head, leading to the entire project being recorded three times before striking gold with producer Owen Morris.
Since Morris wasn’t as concerned about band member politics, he would often have free reign over the mix, frequently turning rhythm guitarist Bonehead up instead of Gallagher. While the levels may have been an issue, Morris also ran into trouble with Gallagher’s solos, including having to parse out how the guitar would weave in and out of the outro of ‘Columbia’.
While Gallagher was looking to showcase his skill, he also knew how to write the perfect pop arrangements, usually starting with the drums before the rest of the band came crashing in on tracks like ‘Supersonic’. When writing the song ‘Live Forever’, though, Gallagher knew that he had struck gold when he played the song’s guitar solo.
Despite staying within the same pentatonic framework, Gallagher thought the solo the closest that he has come to measuring up to the titans of rock music, saying, “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”.
The solo might serve the song perfectly, but the original version of the track was initially going to have half of the solo wiped out. When talking about mixing the album, Morris would go on to say that he didn’t think that the back half of the solo was necessary because it sounded far too similar to Slash from Guns N’ Roses, preferring to have straight chords in its place.
Although Gallagher would hold high esteem for ‘Live Forever’, his skills as a lead guitarist were just getting started, turning in solos that were as catchy as they were complex across the album Be Here Now a few years later. Coming at the height of the grunge movement, ‘Live Forever’ also marked the first major announcement of Britpop, injecting optimism back into rock and roll through a thick Manchester accent. Gallagher may have been a little bit flashy on his lead guitar debut, but in just a few seconds, he delivered one of the most skilful displays of tasteful playing of his entire career.