It’s almost eighteen months since I reposted any of my Popular comments here, mainly because there haven’t been many; Tom Ewing’s pace slowed as he slogged through 1993 and 1994, hardly the finest years of UK number ones. My few comments were usually on songs I’d never heard before, which more often than not had been a blessing. (One example: “Now that I’ve voted on it, seeing ‘You say: 1’ feels like words are being put into my mouth, to the tune of 1.”)

But a few entries yielded longer thoughts, most recently as we’ve entered a chart era that promises to get me commenting more again...

Meat Loaf, “I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)”, 23 October 1993

Bat Out of Hell was one of those landmark records when I was a teenager in early ’80s Oz—wherever you turned, there it was, like Cold Chisel or The Eagles’ Greatest Hits. Meat Loaf was also well-known for his Rocky Horror appearance; the movie was already a cultural touchstone, having been shown pretty much continuously at drive-ins since its release. In later years, when the drive-ins had all closed, it was an independent cinema late-night staple, with fans dressing up for their ritual viewings.

He didn’t bother the Australian charts much during his Steinman-free years, but when IWDAFLBIWDT rolled around it was rewarded by his latent Aussie fanbase with eight weeks at number one—unusually coming before its UK run, rather than after—and ended up as the highest selling single in the country that year.

I didn’t buy it myself, though. I never owned Bat Out of Hell, either, and to this day still haven’t seen The Rocky Horror Picture Show. But Mr Loaf, as some newspapers so delightfully call him, has always been an inoffensive presence in my own musical hinterland (I think I said as much in the thread for the Meat Loaf number one that got away), and that pretty much sums up my feelings about this song too: an inoffensive 5.

Stiltskin, “Inside”, 14 May 1994

I was in Stiltskin-oblivious Australia in 1994, but as this was Popular’s grunge thread I added my two cents (the one with the frill-necked lizard, which was withdrawn from circulation right after Nirvana broke). Not that there were many grunge number ones in Australia; in fact, there was only one, the home-grown “Tomorrow” by Silverchair in late 1994, a band of Aussie teenagers (aged 14 when the song won a TV competition) who absorbed the work of Kurt and Eddie et al. and fashioned their own faithful imitation. I wasn’t much of a fan of that either, but if you’re going to have a single grunge number one that isn’t “Teen Spirit” I’d take “Tomorrow” over “Inside”. In fact I’d take pretty much anything over “Inside”—I tried to get through the video twice but bailed halfway through each time.

It seems anomalous now, but I was a grunge fan, at least in part—those parts being Nevermind, a couple of Soundgarden tracks, and a lot of Pearl Jam (despite Rolling Stone’s supposedly scandalous exposé of Eddie Vedder’s foray into funk rock in the late 1980s, Pearl Jam were my favourite). I had the whole Nirvana catalogue, but on checking iTunes find that only two albums have made it into my digital life, Nevermind and In Utero. The rest are mouldering away on cassette, unheard for years. But those two go pretty much unheard now, as well: I never took to In Utero, and know Nevermind so well from my initial year of listening that I never feel the need to return to it... I see the title, hear the tracks on fast-forward in my head, and lose any desire to press play.

The same is true of a lot of other albums I own from the time. I listen to Pearl Jam more often than Nirvana (though nowadays rarely), but mostly their post-grunge stuff, like No Code. If I counted the Smashing Pumpkins as grunge, which I don’t really, Siamese Dream would be another stayer. And Adore, but that’s even further from grunge.

Grunge just never really stuck with me. It could have: I wore flannelette shirts in the 1980s (like a lot of Tasmanian teenagers; they were warm), had long hair when it was definitely out but was about to come back in with grunge, was almost the same age as Cobain and got his Gen X vibe, liked hard rock but hadn’t found what I was looking for in hair metal or Guns ’n’ Roses... it all could have worked.

But it didn’t, and I think it was because I’d been inoculated by spending 1991-92 in Britain and listening to shoegaze. Not much of that has stuck with me long-term either (Ride’s Going Blank Again and Chapterhouse’s Blood Music being the main exceptions), but as I’d already found some noisy indie rock there was less room in my heart-shaped box for grunge, despite fervent efforts circa 1992-94 to cram it in there. And before long, some different indie rock came along, again from Britain... but that’s a comment for the song I’ve heard before, and the one I genuinely love.

[The thread prompted me to listen to Nevermind for the first time in ages. A mix of fantastic moments—Teen Spirit, Come as You Are, On a Plain—and wearisome shouting.]

Oasis, “Some Might Say”, 6 May 1995

In the few years after I’d spent a year studying in England, my main source of exposure to new UK indie music was via tapes from a friend who’d kept in touch, containing esoteric stuff like the Jennifers and Popdropper. In 1994 one of these contained Definitely Maybe, by a band he assured me was going to be even bigger than Suede; and so I became one of the minority of Aussies who paid Oasis much attention before Morning Glory.

Without any of the hindrance of hindsight, or the contemporary UK critical context apart from my friend’s reports of it, I took the music on its merits, and... quite liked it. I didn’t rate it as highly as The Stone Roses (another album I came to almost context-free when I heard it during my UK year, and loved), or even as highly as Going Blank Again (by my friend’s favourite band), but it had some good tracks.

So when Morning Glory came out, I became one of the first of the 22 million people who bought it worldwide—and this one I did love, unreservedly. The Beatles influences didn’t bother me; a lot of my favourite bands were overtly influenced by the Beatles, and while I was listening to it I was also in the grip of Anthology 1. Liam wasn’t my favourite rock vocalist, but I warmed to him in the context of the music as a whole.

It was enough to carry me onto their next album, and eventually—despite that one—to all of them; even to Noel’s next band, although not Liam’s. It’s been in part down to lingering interest, in part curiosity, in part the remorseless logic of musical completism, and in part thanks to Fopp knocking them out for a few quid each in the 2000s after half their audience had moved on. But it’s all been with a much clearer awareness of their UK reputation, which has sucked a lot of the fun out of it. It’s been impossible to listen to any of those later albums with fresh 1994-95 ears, and hence to any of them more than a few times. Maybe I’ll revisit them when Popular reaches their hits.

The thuggish reputation (deserved or not) of the band and/or some of their fans gives me pause for thought, mainly about why that never deterred me, a standard-issue quiet nerdy/geeky type, from buying their music. A couple of reasons have occurred to me.

One is that the first bands I was exposed to in any depth were Australian pub rock bands in the early 1980s, and many of those had a solid ocker fanbase (“ockers” and their cultural successors being pretty much the direct Australian equivalent of the Loaded/lad culture discussed above). A band like Cold Chisel filled much the same space in Australian music as Oasis seems to have done here, the main difference being that they quit while they were ahead (though there have been a couple of reunions). Even an overtly left-wing band like Midnight Oil (essentially our Manics, but from the late 1970s through early 2000s), with a thoughtful lead singer who ended up as a federal government minister, had fans from the ocker end of the spectrum—because they rocked hard, and said lead singer had a shaven head back when that was well-hard. If you wanted to be a fan of such music as a quiet geeky/nerdy type, you just got on with it; worrying too much about your fellow travellers was pointless.

Then there were the reports of brotherly bickering that started making the news not long after Oasis made it big. These didn’t bother me either, because brotherly bickering was all I knew growing up. The Gallaghers’ relationship strikes me as no worse than my brother’s and mine would have been had we spent three or four decades in close proximity instead of two. (Which says nothing about how thuggish or laddish either of us were, because we weren’t.) So that was no reason for me to dismiss the music, either.

As to the music—and to turn finally to the track at hand—“Some Might Say” is a good Oasis track, but not their greatest, not even on its parent album. In the context of the album, I could even go with a 6... but listening to it again in isolation reminds me of what I did like about them, so it’s a 7.


With the Britpop years well underway, Popular has been voting on associated bands that were “any good at all”.

I voted for Pulp, Blur, Suede, Supergrass, Elastica, Super Furry Animals, Ash, The Divine Comedy, Oasis, Lush, Bluetones, Catatonia, Mansun, Lightning Seeds, Longpigs, Space, and would have voted for Kula Shaker if I’d noticed them (for their first album). Scarily, I own the entire back catalogue of all of them apart from the Super Furry Animals’ last few albums and Mansun and Kula Shaker past their first (Grey Lanterns is brilliant, but their follow-up left me flat; one album of Kula Shaker seemed sufficient).

I tried Kenickie once and didn’t like ’em much, despite loving Lauren Laverne’s vocals on Mint Royale’s “Don’t Falter”. Bought Menswear’s album and sold it. Bought the Seahorses’ and sold it at the earliest possible opportunity. Heard the Boo Radleys’ early stuff and never bothered with their Britpop phase. Liked a few Sleeper singles but for some reason never investigated further; I probably should have voted for them anyway for “Sale of the Century”. Not a big fan of Shaun Ryder’s sound. Not sure if I’ve ever heard Gene, Ocean Colour Scene, Echobelly, Cast (despite liking The La’s), My Life Story or Northern Uproar. A few tracks by Shed Seven seem to have snuck into my MP3 collection via a friend’s mix CD, and have now been pruned. I forgot to vote for Marion, my Great Lost Britpop discovery of a few years ago...

I guess what I’m saying is, This Is My Music.

30 June 2013 · Music