Recording Morning Glory

[Note: this article was written by Owen Morris for the first and only issue of the Official Oasis Magazine, which was published in Winter 1996].

Owen Morris is the maverick producer who recorded Morning Glory. For the first time, here is his account of that fateful fortnight.

Oasis: the best band I’ve ever recorded…or ever will record. A year ago Noel and I were in Orinoco studios in South London, mixing their second album. As of today it’s sold nearly 10 million copies worldwide. It’s insane. It’s changed all our lives. I was giving up working in the music industry until Oasis came along. Work had become a chore: boring and unfulfilling. They made it exciting again, worthwhile, fun. The first week I recorded all the band was one of the most outrageous weeks of my life, I’ll never forget it. I’d recorded Noel and Liam individually when we were finishing Definitely Maybe, but this was something else. We were recording their next single, Whatever. I had just come out of five years of working for the same person and felt so free, buzzing again. I met the band head on. It was fantastic. The stuff that happened that first week should’ve been filmed. It was the first time I’d seen Bonehead in full flow…fuck me…what a superstar. And the song we were recording “I’m free to be whatever…”. Fuck sake, we also recorded Listen Up. I was the happiest man on the planet (copyright B. Cannon Esq.). Oasis changed my life. Anyway, the aforementioned Mr Cannon has asked me to write something about recording Morning Glory. Unfortunately I’m no Paolo Hewitt, but I said I’d give it a crack. Here goes.

Recording Oasis is easy. You stick some microphones in the room and they perform, not always at the same time, or with the same timing, but they always perform.

At the start of the session, my thoughts were something along the lines of: Don’t fuck it up! Noel brings all these songs, 90 percent of the time the arrangements are spot-on, the songs work, the melodies are superb, the words are cool. Liam can sing his arse off. All we have to do is get stuff down on tape that’s not wrong and we’ve won. Don’t fuck it up. You’re a dickhead if you fuck it up.

The strangest thing happened the night before we started. I live in a village called Crickhowell, in Wales. My wife, Penny, and I had lived here about six months and were still settling in, getting to know people. At about six o’clock our next-door neighbour, Liz, called round and suggested going up to the pub for a drink and some food, as she had an old friend of hers staying for the weekend. Rocking. So we went up the pub, and in walks her friend with her boyfriend, who was also staying next door for the weekend. I’d never met this bloke before in my life, although funnily enough I’d heard quite a bit about him. It was Alan McGee. Yep, that one. I took this to be a good omen.

One hangover later, Oasis and myself and Jason Rhodes and Roger Newell turn up at Rockfield studios to start recording. Well most of us show up…Noel’s missing – apparently he’d been up all night and was still partying somewhere in London. So we start setting up the drums and backline. Oh yeah, this was Alan White’s first day recording with the band – should be interesting. Met him in rehearsals the week before. Seemed like a nice bloke, even if he does blink a lot. Not a bad drummer too, although what an ancient kit he seems to play…something out of the dark ages. He likes it though, and the group were buzzing their tits off from actually playing with someone who knows more than two beats and can string a sentence together.

So we get set up. Alan in one room, Noel, Bonehead and Guigs in different booths (Noel’s still not here at this point, so Jason’s standing in) and Liam’s mic smack in the middle. All the sounds seem to be okay. All we’re missing is the chief.

At about three o’clock he bundles in, Jack Daniels in hand, note up nostril. Shouts the odds for ten minutes and passes out. A star performance. At about five o’clock he comes round. The football’s on at six so we decide to have a run through of Roll With It, to sort out headphone levels/sounds etc. The band run through. It’s mayhem. Nobody can hear themselves, Liam’s effing and blinding, Noel’s swaying, Alan’s wondering what he’s let himself in for. We do another two of three takes before sacking it. Football’s on anyway. By now Noel’s sobered up enough to realise where he is, so he corners Alan and they do a few takes without the rest of the band before fucking off. These takes weren’t good, but maybe I could edit one together. So I sit there for a while, listening back to these takes. It’s not looking good. Just for a laugh, before I go and tell them we’ll have to go again, I have a quick listen to the first run-through, just the drums and Noel’s guitar (whatever we’re doing, when Oasis play, we record everything)…Fuck me, we’ve got it. Alan is superb. We’re rocking. The session has started.

By the end of that night we’ve recorded Guigs, Bonehead, and most of Noel’s guitars. Liam sang it the next afternoon, in three takes. He was on fire. Totally charged up by Alan’s performance. Most singers will do loads of takes before getting enough good bits to compile a complete vocal, some go into hundreds. Liam wasn’t having any of that. Apart from Champagne Supernova, which he tried when his voice was shot, Liam never did more than three takes on the entire album. He was singing his heart and soul out. Liam Gallagher is by fucking miles the most passionate singer I’ve ever known. Liam doesn’t need to practise: Liam just lives.[1]

After we’ve finished Roll With It (Tuesday evening), we start Hello. Noel and I discuss how we are going to proceed, and talk about how T Rex used to record. Basically Marc Bolan would put a guide acoustic guitar part down by himself, to a click track, then the drummer would do his bit, bass on top and so on. After yesterday’s experience (and endless tormented hours recording with Tony McCarroll) we decide it sounds like a good technique. So Noel bungs down his acoustic down and a guide vocal. Onto Alan. He blows us away. He doesn’t even listen to the click track, just Noel’s guitar and voice. What astounds me even further is that when Noel and I wanted to change a few bits (like the odd fill or whatever) we could drop him in and out (go in and out of record) and the joins were seamless. This may sound boring, but I’ve never been able to do that with drummers before. Most drummers, on different run-throughs, will hit things slightly differently and the end result will sound cack. Not Alan. We were well chuffed. He was a find and a half. Hello was finished by the same time the next day.[2]

Tuesday night, after everyone else had fucked off, Noel played me a new song of his, Wonderwall. We started recording Wonderwall the next day. At one stage we had Noel sat on a wall (geddit?) to do his acoustic (bits of this you can hear at the start of the album). Having got the drums down, Noel decided to play bass on this one, ‘cos it was quicker than teaching Guigs what he had in his head. While he was playing, Liam strolls in from the pub, and kicks off. Something along the lines of “What the fuck do you think you’re doing, dickhead? Oasis aren’t a funk band etc…” The session fell apart. Now I have to be honest and say I kind of agreed with Liam; I thought Noel’s bassline was too fussy. The next day I tried with Guigs a simpler bassline. Noel heard it and said he couldn’t hear much difference, so sack Guigs’s and keep his. As ever the Chief was right. Even Liam thought so. Strange character, Noel Gallagher. He’s always right. But then, so is Liam. It’s probably why they argue so much.

Finishing Wonderwall was fun. Liam’s vocal was his best yet. Rasping blues. He sounded like he’d smoked a hundred cigarettes. Noel was blown away. Originally he’d wanted to sing Wonderwall and Liam to sing Don’t Look Back in Anger, but when Liam heard Wonderwall he insisted on singing it. OK said Noel, as long as he realised he then couldn’t sing Don’t Look Back in Anger. Liam wasn’t happy but got used to the idea. What the fuck.[3]

Champagne Supernova was started on Thursday evening. On Friday Liam tried singing it, but the other three vocals had taken their toll.[4] So we left it and took the rest of the night off. Brian Cannon had arrived the night before, so tonight was party night. At midnight it was my twenty-seventh birthday and I was rocking. I’ve got a tape that was recorded that night of Noel singing us his songs for the next album. Fucking hell. Stand By Me, Don’t Go Away, and All Around the World. We were buzzing. At about five o’clock, just Brian, Noel and myself were still up. I gave in at about ten o’clock. Noel and Brian didn’t go to bed. We did fuck-all work on Saturday.

On Sunday we recorded Don’t Look Back in Anger. As Liam wasn’t singing on this he headed straight for the pub. He came back at closing time with some people from Monmouth and into an argument (too mild a word – more war) with Noel about inviting them back. The next morning Noel had left. The band was over. The album dead.

We all went home. Rockfield was booked for another five weeks, but there was no point in hanging around. Noel had spoken to Marcus and was going away for a while. No-one knew if he was coming back. We were all gutted.

After a week I returned to Rockfield and started mixing what we had already, but there was no vibe. The mixes were shit. It was pointless.

Then we got the call. Noel was back, everybody get their shit together. All the band turned up at the weekend, but we were still waiting for Noel; again he was late. This time though, he’d been stuck on the train under the River Severn for two hours. Just him and his acoustic. He wrote Cast No Shadow. When he strolled in at dinner time Liam got up and hugged him. Everybody laughed. It’s good to be back.

That night we recorded Cast No Shadow. Liam recorded his vocal in one take, with Noel stood beside him in the studio, stopping him and changing the lyric as he went along. This was another great vocal from Liam (possibly my favourite on the album). Brian engineered part of the session. It was legendary stuff.

Over the next few days we recorded Hey Now!, Morning Glory, Rocking Chair, Step Out, and She’s Electric. At the end of the week we put down Bonehead’s Bank Holiday. It was the funniest night of the whole session. Noel wanted Bonehead to sing it, and, obviously Bonehead was mad for it. But he needed a little Dutch courage, so his mate Liam took him to the pub while we were recording the backing track. Poor old Bonehead was such a drunken bastard, he couldn’t see the words let alone sing them. Liam (also plastered) insisted on staying in the studio to help his friend out. It was a total mess, twenty takes of drunken slobbering and joke telling. It was no surprise when Noel decided to sing it.

Recording Noel’s guitars is far easier than I should probably admit to, considering I’m trying to get a reputation as a top international producer. On this album the equipment he used was: guitars – his trusty Epiphone semi, a Firebird, a Les Paul, a vintage Strat and a couple of Epiphone acoustics: amps – his stupidly loud Marshall stack, a Marshall Bluesbreaker combo, an Orange and an early sixties Vox AC30. After Guigs and Bonehead had put their rhythm parts down (Guigs di’ing a Fender Telecaster bass, usually after a couple of strong spliffs to calm his nerves, and Bonehead on his Epiphone through either a Marshall Bluesbreaker or Noel’s AC30. (I use the word “his” loosely, as from what I can tell, Bonehead doesn’t own anything – it all belongs to Noel), Noel would also put a basic rhythm part down (Noel playing open chords – he’s a lazy bastard and can’t be bothered moving his hand – and Bonehead only being allowed to play bar chords). And then the fun would start. Noel worries constantly that he’s not a “great” guitarist, that he can’t play all the fiddly John Squire-esque lines. But he doesn’t need to. You see, Noel plays parts that make a record, that make music. Like on Hello, before he got his hands on it, the track was fairly boring, but with two guitar overdubs he transformed it. The storming wah-wah part that brought the track to life, then the single-line glam parts that added harmony and depth. This sort of inspiration happened throughout the recording. The freakiest thing was that, unlike most guitarists who rely on “capturing the moment” and “getting in the vibe”, Noel can just turn it on, stone-cold sober in the middle of the afternoon. He doesn’t need to get off his head and wait for the magic to happen, he just does it. He can turn it on. It comes seemingly without him trying too hard. I’m reminded of something that Neil Tennant said – yes, piss off Noel, I know you’ll laugh – something about the hardest thing to do is to make it appear effortless. That’s Noel.

For most of the recording, Noel would play most of his parts sat in the back of the control room, with leads going to various amps in the studio. Just sat there. Bothered. On stuff like Hey Now!, we’d be saying, let’s just run the tape, see what happens. Noel would start fiddling about, and all these lines would start coming out. Most of my job involved getting him to play less, or organising what he was doing. Most guitarists would kill to be able to do what he does. If Noel didn’t write Oasis’s songs and was just the lead guitarist, everybody would be saying how fucking amazing he is; “Wow maaaan, he can really play.” As it is, because there’s so much else about the man to take in, his playing gets overlooked. Champagne Supernova was a good one to do. First he put his acoustics down, then a basic electric on all the big bits. Then he did two tracks of the bluesy/Stonesy picking stuff throughout the song. That stuff was beautiful. Then he got bored of sitting in the control room and went and sat next to his amps. That’s when all the feedback started happening. We must have put down half a dozen tracks of him sat in there. If someone had said he was E’ing his tits off, you’d’ve believed them. Then he got his E-bow out and did all of those beautiful harmonised lines. It was fucking amazing. What was more incredible is that he only took about two hours for the whole lot.

During the fifth week, all we did was put a version of The Swamp Song down. But everyone wanted to fuck off and get home. It ended up about five times too fast. We ended up using the drums from the Glastonbury concert and overdubbing on them while we were mixing. This in itself was wild, because it was only Alan White’s second gig with Oasis (the first being a warm-up in Bath the night before) and it was the first song of the set. Alan’s playing was immaculate.

The only other memory I have of that week was that it was someone’s birthday (Guigs’s?) and Bonehead organised a fireworks display as a celebration. It was fucking shite. He’d spent two hours setting it up on one of the lawns, bottles and Catherine wheels, the whole lot. Everyone was pissing themselves as he ran around trying to light two boxes of Standard Fireworks in one go, and then standing back proudly proclaiming it a top show.

In the sixth week, just Noel, Liam, Brian and myself were there. We did the odd guitar, Liam sang Champagne Supernova and we went down the pub. Brian, funnily enough, was in the studio on Morning Glory for more days than anyone apart from me and Noel. Apparently he was doing “research” for the album cover. Sticking his head in the speakers and dancing on the mixing desk is closer to the mark. He saw the album out to the bitter end, in his pursuit for inspiration, and on the very last morning of mastering was still to be seen refusing to go home until he’d had the album on one last time.

At the end of the session, Alan McGee and Dick Green from Creation turned up to have a listen to our efforts. Why they bothered, I don’t know, as no-one took a blind bit of notice what they had to say. But they bought a few rounds of drinks, so they had some use. Oasis are the only band I’ve ever known who don’t have any A&R’ing. That is, they have complete control over every aspect of their career. Most bands have dickhead record company wankers sticking their oars in at every opportunity. Demanding remixes, controlling what songs get released, stuff like that. Making them feel like they’re actually doing something to justify their BMWs and fat salaries. It’s total bullshit. Creation are cool for having the sense to sit back and let the group and their management run the show.

The final bit of recording at Rockfield was Liam and Noel’s backing vocals on Champagne Supernova. Liam had been itching to do some backing vocals now he’d finished all his lead stuff. We got totally Beatled up. And that was the end of Rockfield. So Oasis did Glastonbury and I had a week off. Then we went to Orinoco to finish off the mix.

When we got there Paul Weller turned up to do his solo on Champagne Supernova and his bits on The Swamp Song. I just remember being in a mess when he and Noel were playing on that tune, as I’d been up all night with Brian. I think we’d been scaring Swedish tourists with our versions of Cigarettes and Alcohol and stuff like that, on a hotel piano. Weller didn’t seem to care though – he just did a Cannon and stuck his head in the speakers. He was a wild man. Totally into what he was doing. I remember when he was doing (still more!) backing vocals on Champagne Supernova, in a little vocal booth, freaking out playing air guitar while he was singing. What’s it called?…Soul?…Passion? And then his harmonica playing on The Swamp Song (which funnily enough had a working title of “The Jam”), he was outrageous. Noel was made up. When they were both playing on The Swamp Song, Weller was on one side of me, Noel the other, and Weller’s giving it some, most of the time Noel was just looking at him, grinning his tits off, not bothering to play.

Mixing with Oasis is pretty straightforward. I start at about midday, and get the track happening by early evening. Noel turns up. Makes some suggestions. We go for some food and drink. Put the fucker down by about midnight.

In my dreams I think my mixing is influenced by Phil Spector and Tony Visconti. My reasoning behind this ludicrous claim is that I love heavily compressed, roomy drum sounds (Spector) and my stuff sounds like no-one else (Visconti). Whatever, the band seem to like it. The greatest thing about Oasis records (apart from the songs and the singing, obviously) is that they sound like everybody’s having a proper good time. I hate records that are so polished that all the life is taken out. Of course some of the greatest records ever made are produced to fuck. But these days so many producers seem to think that having the fanciest-sounding reverb, the most earwanking effects, anything really to cover up the fact they’ve got nothing to say and nothing to feel, means they’re making top records. Well, bollocks. They can all fuck off. People know when something is real and they can smell bullshit a mile off. Oasis make real music, for real people to enjoy. And that’s all it comes down to at the end of the day. I can’t be arsed explaining the ins and outs of our mixing. I think I’ve said enough.

So there we have it. We finished mixing by the end of July. Noel and I worked out the running order and (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? was done. It was released on 2 October and my son, Robbie, was born on the third. It’s a hell of a life.

(Owen Morris, Winter ’96).

Top of Page

Footnotes: 
The following notes are intended to provide additional information on the Morning Glory sessions not included in the above article. They are cited and summarised from the November 2012 issue of Sound on Sound magazine, which features an excellent edition of their Classic Tracks column on Wonderwall. Added 2012.

Recording Roll With It 
1. (Back to article) Owen Morris recalled in the November 2012 issue of Sound on Sound magazine that the track was largely complete at this point, save for a few overdubs on the guitar solo that would be added later. The Morning Glory sessions were recorded on 24-track analogue tape in Rockfield’s Coach House studio, which was equipped with a Neve VR console, two Studer A820 multitrack tape recorders, JBL monitors, and standard outboard gear. Morris remembers that ‘Alan was on a riser in the drum room playing a very basic little Gretsch kit that I wasn’t very fond of but which he loved’ and that the mic setup was very straightforward for both drums, guitars, and vocals (see elsewhere on this site for a list of the instruments and equipment used in the sessions – Ed).

Recording Hello 
2. (Back to article) After recording Roll With It, Owen Morris explained that, as the band hadn’t rehearsed most of the other album tracks, it would be quicker for Noel to record a vocal and acoustic guide to a click track, over which the rest of the band would dub their individual parts. Noel agreed and the first track to be recorded in this way was Hello. Alan White overdubbed his drums to the acoustic guitar take with guide vocal whilst Noel sat in the same room wearing headphones, indicating where fills were coming up. The drum track was completed within approximately half an hour. Noel played bass on this and several other tracks, with a few drop-ins related to timing. The drums and bass were down by midday, after which Morris recorded about two tracks of Bonehead’s electric guitar parts and between three to five electric guitar parts played by Noel. This became the standard recording technique for the remainder of the sessions (summarised from Sound on Sound, November 2012)

Recording Wonderwall and Don’t Look Back in Anger 
3. (Back to article) In the November 2012 issue of Sound on Sound magazine Owen Morris explained that he and Noel quickly decided not to use a slightly more complex arrangement of Wonderwall in favour of the one heard on the record. The drums and bass were recorded by midday on the third day of the session, after which Noel overdubbed three acoustic guitar parts; Liam then sang four takes of his lead vocal for Morris to compile. Any minor tuning errors were corrected with an Eventide DSP4000 pitch quantiser. Cubase was also used throughout the sessions. As it had been decided that Bonehead was not going to play “his usual strum-along bar chords” on Wonderwall, Morris got him to play the root notes of each chord with the cello sound on a Mellotron. The track was largely complete after they had picked out a harmony for the bridge and chorus to build the part. A few weeks later Noel provided the piano line at the end of the song and Morris added Kurzweil strings during the mix (Morris, 2012). Don’t Look Back in Anger was recorded in much the same way, save for its larger number of guitar and string parts (cited and summarised from Sound on Sound magazine, November 2012).

Recording Champagne Supernova 
4. (Back to article) On Friday the guide vocal, acoustic guitars, drums, bass, and Bonehead’s electric guitars were recorded before Liam tried singing it; Morris then recorded some of Noel’s guitar overdubs before finishing for the day. Later on in the session (during either the fourth or fifth week) Noel recorded the remainder of his guitar overdubs for the song in around two hours, playing his e-bow and picking parts sitting in the studio next to his amps. During the sixth week Liam sang the Beatle-esque ‘aaahs’ that would be layered over the guitar solo, to which Morris added some Mellotron parts.

During another session Liam attempted to sing Champagne Supernova but was audibly straining to reach the song’s high notes. Morris compiled several takes from this performance but was dissatisfied with the results; the vocal heard on the finished mix was re-recorded right at the end of the session; Morris recalled that he ‘got [Liam] to re-sing it… we did the first verse half a dozen times and the ending half a dozen times. Then, once he’d completed all the soft bits, Liam did the first chorus half a dozen times, followed by the same number of takes for the second verse and the other choruses, until he tackled the high part last’ (Morris, 2012).

Paul Weller recorded his lead guitar part for the song at Orinoco Studios in late June, playing a Gibson SG guitar though a Vox amplifier with the volume on 3, miked with an SM57. Weller played four solos from which Noel and Morris selected those heard on the record. He also contributed a whistle and ‘ooh’ backing vocals to Champagne Supernova, as well as harmonica and lead guitar to The Swamp Song. (Summarised from Sound on Sound, November 2012).

References for footnotes: 
Hewitt, Paolo. 1997. Getting High: The Adventures of Oasis.
Mathur, Paul. 1996. Take Me There: Oasis The Story.
Morris, Owen. 2012. Classic Tracks – Wonderwall. Sound on Sound Magazine. November 2012.

Top of Page

Tape inlay cards reproduced at the end of the original article:

Tape 1

DAT cassette: Oasis – Session Tape #1

Track

Title

Date

Time

1

Roll With It (Monitor Mix) 09/05/1995

2

Wonderwall (Monitor Mix) 10/05/1995

3

Hello (Monitor Mix) 11/05/1995

4

12.10 ->

5

Champagne Supernova

6

Don’t Look Back in Anger

7

Cast No Shadow

Tape 2

DAT cassette: Oasis – “Roll With It” + “Wonderwall” Final Mix Masters

Track

Title

Date

Time

1

Roll With It – Remix 1 (Owen’s preferred master)

2

Roll With It – Remix 1 (copied off 1/2″)

5.00 –>

3

Roll With It – Remix 2

4

Roll With It – Remix 2 (copied off 1/2″)

13.50

5

Roll With It – TV mix of mix 2 (remix 2 has louder high “aahs” in solo)

18.10

6

Wonderwall – Remix 1

7

Wonderwall – Remix 2 (Quieter vocal) MASTER

27.10

8

Wonderwall – TV mix

32.04

9

Wonderwall – Remix 2 (Copied off 1/2″) MASTER

36.36

Note: A footnote to the original article states that track 7 was the released version of Wonderwall. The different mix of the song heard on the Stop the Clocks and Time Flies CDs could be Remix 1 (track 6 on the above tape). Owen Morris comments on the differences between these mixes here