Happy Birthday Liam Gallagher: An Oasis Top 5

Liam Gallagher (AP Photo/Joel Ryan)

Say what you like about the boutique magpie retro of Oasis’s recording career, but you can’t deny that in Liam Gallagher they boasted one of the best singers the UK has produced since… always. A snarling mongrel mix of Lennon’s towering self-confidence and Johnny Rotten’s spite, Liam’s voice is the steel girder upon which brother Noel’s psychedelic shack is built. And the owner of that voice is 40 years old today.

So, in lieu of an actual gift, or card, or friendly message on Twitter, or flashing blimp with Happy Birthday spelled out in LEDs along the side, here’s a roundup of some of Liam’s best – but least celebrated – moments in song, because we all already know about “Live Forever,” “Wonderwall” etc:

“Slide Away”

From those early days before Liam’s throat got roughed up by a thousand gigs and twice as many late nights, this is one of those stirring maudlin/celebratory Oasis songs, the sort that get called “anthemic” because they appear to carry the emotive weight of tragedy in the verses and the redemption of hope (or the hope of redemption) in the choruses.

“Whatever”

The boundary line between the very Slade-ish early Oasis songs and the more deliberately Beatley later ones, “Whatever” is the best example of two odd things about Oasis in general and Liam in particular: 1) it doesn’t seem to matter how daft or lightweight the lyrics are, Liam can give them emotive mass just by applying the gravity of his voice and general sullen demeanor, and 2) optimism is quite hard to do well, musically speaking.

“Cast No Shadow”

Noel Gallagher is a curious songwriter, in that his fast rock songs are slow, and his slow ballads are fast. This is an example of the latter, an alternative “Wonderwall” written about Richard Ashcroft, singer in the Verve. However, Liam’s delivery gives the character in the song a mythic quality that Richard Ashcroft the person could not possibly match up to, even on a good day.

“Stop Crying Your Heart Out”

OK, so some of the ballads are slow. This is the kind of tender lament you’d normally expect Noel to sing, and he would have done a lovely job of it too. But give it to Our Kid, and it changes from a friendly hug at the end of a rough day to a wake, a shared devastation. Yes, it’s the same sad/happy formula as “Slide Away” (and the same chorus), but this time the stakes are higher and the loss is greater, thanks to the older, wiser Liam’s grizzled delivery.

“The Shock of the Lightning”

The latter Oasis albums were all blessed with one super-rockin’ lead single (“The Hindu Times,” “Lyla”), designed to add credence to the constantly regurgitated soundbite that this, finally, was an album fit to file alongside “Definitely Maybe” and “What’s The Story…,” and that yes, some of the mid-period albums were a bit ropey. This is the last and the best, a motorik groove with Liam giving it the full “Tomorrow Never Knows” blank mystical sandpaper Lennon drone.

What’s your favorite unsung Liam Gallagher song?

Fraser McAlpine

Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 13 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Music.

He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.

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