This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #177: Don’t Look Back in Anger by Oasis.
“Don’t Look Back in Anger” by Oasis came from an album called, “What’s the Story, Morning Glory?” which was one of the biggest selling albums in recent (the last 30 years) UK music history. From that album came hit songs such as “Roll With It”, “Morning Glory”, “Champagne Supernova”, “Wonderwall” and today’s song, “Don’t Look back in Anger”. As of the writing of this post, “What’s the Story, Morning Glory?” is the fifth biggest selling UK album of all-time, selling more than 18 million copies worldwide. But the story of this particular song, “Don’t Look Back in Anger” is not one that is told in sales figures or album chart positions (it did reach #1, btw), it is a story of how music can heal wounds, stiffen the resolve of an entire nation and unite people in times of hardship and strife. “Don’t Look Back in Anger” was not written with the intention that it become an anthem but, through circumstances beyond the band’s control, that is exactly what happened. Here is the story of “Don’t Look Back in Anger” by Oasis.
Oasis have been a force in the UK music scene for over three decades now. They were formed and fronted by the Gallagher Brothers, Noel and Liam. Noel wrote many of the bands hit songs and Liam usually acted as the lead singer on stage. Both brothers were famous for engaging in antagonistic behaviour toward each other but, in the end, they managed to produce some of the finest and most successful music of the BritPop era in the 1990s. Many of their songs have transcended that time and, as a result, Oasis continue to be among the biggest selling bands in the world, despite the fact that the band broke up over a decade ago.
The song, “Don’t Look Back in Anger” was written by Noel Gallagher before Oasis became famous. The story goes that the band had finished playing for the night in a seedy bar in their hometown of Manchester and the guys had retired to their rooms. Apparently, Noel had noticed the way some of the regulars at the bar carried themselves; proudly, defiantly, despite their circumstances that would cause others to view them as drunkards. He felt that their attitude of having no regrets, regardless of how many blows Life may have delivered, mirrored his own philosophy so, he sat down and wrote, “Don’t Look Back in Anger”, more or less, in one sitting.
There are two things that make “Don’t Look Back in Anger” such a standout song, in its’ own right. First of all, the song has a tremendously catchy chorus. The Gallagher Brothers were quite familiar with Football (soccer) as it is played in Europe and around the world. It is quite common to have entire stadiums erupt in song in support of their home side during a match. So, the idea of how to construct a chorus that would play like a stadium sing-a-long came quite naturally to Noel. Thus, “Don’t Look Back in Anger” has become known as one of the greatest sing-a-long live songs in modern music history. Quite often, Noel Gallagher will merely play his guitar and will let the audience sing all or most of the song.
The second element of this song that really resonated with fans was the affinity with which Oasis hold The Beatles. It is quite common for Oasis to include Beatles references in their songs, to play them in a style that reminds people of The Fab Four and, as well, to even don the same mop top haircuts or John Lennon “granny glasses” while performing. In the case of “Don’t Look Back in Anger”, the song contains a line that is borrowed directly from John Lennon which states, “I’m gonna start a revolution from my bed.” Anyone who knows the history of The Beatles and, in particular, John Lennon, recognizes that line as referring to his famous “Bed-in For Peace” that he shared with Yoko Ono. Because The Beatles are still revered in Britain to this day, any time Oasis made mention of them, as they did in “Don’t Look Back in Anger”, it was well-received by the public.
While tipping one’s musical hat to the legendary Beatles, as well as, having a catchy chorus helped to make “Don’t Look Back in Anger” a #1 song on the charts, it is not what helped to make it one of the top songs of all-time. That happened quite by accident and, if you were ever to talk to Noel Gallagher about it, he would say he would have preferred what happened next to have never happened at all. What happened next happened just a few years ago, in 2017, in Manchester. You may remember that singer Ariana Grande was performing in Manchester as part of her world tour when a suicide bomber denoted a shrapenal laden bomb mid-concert, killing over twenty concert goers and injuring over one thousand others. Needless to say, the entire community of Manchester went into a period of shock and mourning. At one point (and you will see this in the news story I will post below), there was a vigil held in the centre of Manchester. A large crowd gathered to pay their respects. Tragedy tends to bring people together and, as was the case in 2017, many turned out to grieve together and to lean on each other for support. At this vigil, a moment of silence was requested. The crowd fell silent. After about thirty seconds had gone by, a lone woman (a very brave woman, if you ask me) began to sing the lyrics to “Don’t Look Back in Anger” by Oasis. As she sang, the rest of the crowd remained silent but, when she got to the famous sing-a-long chorus, people began to slowly join in. In a matter of a few seconds, most of the crowd was singing the words about living a life of no regrets and, in doing so, the community began to heal.
As this scene was unfolding live on television in Manchester, Noel Gallagher happened to be watching. He is a man who is normally never at a loss of something to say but, in this case, he was very moved that a song he wrote in a room at the back of a seedy bar would be a factor in helping his community to heal. When he was able to comment, he said something that I have always firmly believed in and that was, in times of trouble, it isn’t the politicians or priests that tend to lead the way, it is the poets and artists and singers who shine the light and help lead the way forward.
In addition, in the news clip I will post, there will be a short mention of a live benefit concert that was held a few weeks later. Ariana Grande returned to Manchester, surrounded by an all-star cast of music stars. The benefit concert created was to help raise money for the families of those who lost their lives at her original cocnert and for those recovering from their injuries. But, more than that, it was to show the world that Manchester would not give into fear. That Peace would triumph over Hate and that the people of Manchester would gather together to sing aloud again. The highlight, among many highlights, of the benefit concert was the playing of “Don’t Look Back in Anger” which was, this time, covered by Coldplay’s Chris Martin. Needless to say, the cathartic act of belting out the words to “Don’t Look Back in Anger” helped to heal so many wounds and, as such, has woven itself into the national fabric of an entire nation. Quite a feat for a rock n’ roll song.
So, in the videos below, I will begin with a live concert performance from Argentina which shows Noel Gallagher playing the song and how a regular crowd sings along. It is pretty cool to see. Then, I will post the news video about how the song was used to heal Manchester after the bombing there. You can hear Noel Gallagher’s reactions to having watched it all live, too. Overall, “Don’t Look back in Anger” is quite the song. I hope you all enjoy it. If you have borne witness to any instances where a song has brought people together in the face of sadness and/or tragedy, feel free to share your stories in the comment boxes below. It is always interesting to hear what you have to say.
For now, here is “Don’t Look Back in Anger” by Oasis. Enjoy.
The link to the video for the song, “Don’t Look Back in Anger” by Oasis, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Oasis, can be found here.
The link to the video containing the news story about how the song, “Don’t Look Back in Anger” was sung during a vigil for the victims of the Manchester Bombing, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.