Certain Songs #1368: Oasis – “D’You Know What I Mean?”

Album: Be Here Now
Year: 1997

While it was well-received at the time, 1997’s Be Here Now — the last album recorded with the original lineup — eventually became to be seen as a misfire after the twin salvos of Definitely Maybe and (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?

In one of my all-time favorite disses of any album, Rob Sheffield referred to it in the 2004’s Rolling Stone Record Guide as “a concept album about how long the songs are,” but of course what it really is is a classic cocaine album, the 1990’s equivalent to Aerosmith’s Draw The Line.

Sadly, I didn’t write about any of the songs from Draw The Line because Aerosmith came up so early in the Certain Songs project that the only songs I wrote about were “Sweet Emotion” and “Sick as a Dog,” when nowadays, I’d spend a couple of weeks on them, but when that album came out in 1977, it was clear that while it tried to be as good as Toys in the Attic or Rocks, but just wasn’t. Because it was a cocaine album.

Here’s the thing: the cocaine album is never ever the first album a band makes where the creative process is aided by cocaine. But it is the album where the band thinks “well if coke helped us make the last album so great, than more coke will make this new one that much better.” And that’s where shit goes wrong: because cocaine can really fuck with the decision-making process, and in the case of Noel Gallagher, it made him want to make every single song 15 minutes long.

OK, that’s an exaggeration, but I just sorted my entire Oasis iTunes collection by song length, and five out of the six longest songs were from Be Here Now (the other was “Champagne Supernova“, which probably inspired this whole thing), and here’s the thing: none of them needed to be that long. Perfectly good psychedelic pop songs like “Magic Pie” and “All Around The World” got totally lost in massive string sections, choral backing vocals, long guitar solos, modulations, and endless repetitions of the chorus. Unlike before, it was nearly impossible to find the center of those songs, the reason for them to exist in the first place.

That’s a bit harsh, of course, as there were bits in nearly all of the songs that I truly loved, and in a couple of cases, like the lead-off track and initial single, “D’You Know What I Mean?” it all came together for me.

Anchored by a Led Zep-ish drumbeat (now there’s a band who knew a bit about both cocaine and long songs), “D’You Know What I Mean?” kicked off Be Here Now with an ever-churning melange of overdubbed vocals and massive guitars (apparently Noel had gone out and bought a truckload of wah-wah pedals), always circling back to a chorus that asked an nearly unanswerable question.

All my people right here, right now
D’you know what I mean? (yeah, yeah)
All my people right here, right now
D’you know what I mean? (yeah, yeah)
All my people right here, right now
D’you know what I mean? (yeah, yeah)
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Because of course, we had no idea what they meant. Mostly because they didn’t either: “d’ya know what I mean?” is basically a verbal tic people use when they’ve finished making their point but haven’t finished talking. And in fact, when I watched the Oasis: Supersonic documentary, the Gallagher brothers said it at least 64 times throughout. The whole thing was like a runaway steamroller, though: if you didn’t get out of the way, it was going to flatten you if it didn’t run into a wall first.

In the case of “D’You Know What I Mean?” both things happened: you got flattened and then it ran into a wall.

And while here in the states, casual music fans never could wrap their head that this was the same band that had done “Wonderwall,” in the U.K. “D’Ya Know What I Mean” was a #1 hit single and Be Here Now topped the charts in the U.K., and — to be fair — made it to #2 here in the U.S., though it hasn’t nearly the legs of its predecessors, topping out at 9,000,000 sales worldwide, which is pretty good, to be sure, but compared to Definitely Maybe (15,000,000) and (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? (22,000,000), a definite comedown. And there are few things worse than a coke comedown.

“D’ya Know What I Mean?”

“D’You Know What I Mean?” performed live in 1997

“D’You Know What I Mean? performed live in 2002

The Certain Songs Database
A filterable, searchable & sortable somewhat up to date database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page

Comments are closed.