Back in the days of vinyl when that was the main format for buying music, how many people listened to the B side of a record? Well, back in the 60s probably quite a lot, but as time went on I dare say it was fewer especially when a fair number of flip sides were an instrumental version of the A side. This week’s request comes from Mark who asked, “Not sure if it’s allowed as it’s a B side, but I would like to know the story of The Masterplan by Oasis please. A song that is 100 times better than the A side. ” Well Mark, technically The Masterplan was never a B side. On the 7″ vinyl of Wonderwall the B side was called Round Are Way, but on the CD single version of that track, The Masterplan was track four. But let’s not get pedantic. Anyway, it’s only a matter of opinion as many would say that Wonderwall was better, but let’s find out about your choice.
The good news, Mark, is that Noel Gallagher, who wrote the song, agrees with you because in an interview with Melody Maker he said, “That’s my favourite song I have ever written I think. I wrote that one in an hotel room in Japan and again it was that we needed some more songs for B-sides.” The lyrics were actually inspired by the long corridor in the aforementioned hotel with Noel describing it as a “good, relaxing smoke,” and when asked what the actual song meant to him, he replied, “To me this sums up your journey through life. All we know is that we don’t know.”
At the time, the line-up of Oasis was brothers Noel and Liam Gallagher, Paul ‘Bonehead’ Arthurs on rhythm guitar, Paul McGuigan on bass and Tony McCarroll on drums but on The Masterplan a number of other musicians were brought in namely, Phil Todd and Dave Bishop on tenor saxophone, trumpet players Derek Watkins, John Barclay and Steve Sidwell, violinists Perry Montague Mason, Vaughan Armon, Wilf Gibson and Gavyn Wright, Bill Hawkes and George Robertson on violas and cello players Paul Klegg and Tony Pleeth.
The brothers, in true style, had a row about the song. Liam liked it, Noel loved it so why did they row? well, according to an interview in the New musical Express, Noel said, “I was really f***ing proud of it and I still am, but I was gutted because Our Kid [Liam] – who loves it, it’s one of his favourites – but he was just walking around going, ‘You f***ing d***head! Why did you write that now? Why couldn’t you have waited for a year so it could go on the next album? Or why didn’t you write it for the last album, you f***ing d**k!'” Liam did have a point, but the record company preferred it as it was as it would have helped sales of the Wonderwall single. It would have given it longevity because people who bought the 7″ single, me included, then had to buy the CD single version to get The Masterplan. A possible master stroke especially as the record companies generally have a short-term view. Noel later confessed, “Alan McGee (their label owner) said it was too good to be a B-side.”
Noel, who took the lead vocal, explained at Oasisrecordinginfo, “I remember just sitting down with the guitar on a quiet night, maybe really early in the morning and I swear the things just came out. I like the sound of it. I like everybody’s playing on it. I like the singing as well. I don’t know why Liam didn’t sing that one. I love all the lyrics on that one. I think it’s the most complete sing I ever done in the studio. I don’t like playing the guitar solos on tour anymore; I used to like it at first but I don’t like it anymore cos I used to play the same thing sort of over and over on a different melody. It sounds different but it is the same. Owen suggested that we turn the tapes over and play it backwards and play just some series of random notes and then we’ll see if we could get some sort of solo out of it. We thought it was going to take hours. When we turned the tapes back over, that was it. And I think we maybe had to take a couple of notes out.”
Noel was happy enough with it being a B-side as the next album was a couple of years away, but looking back he continued in a Melody Maker interview, “I guess the masterplan was to be the biggest band in the world and we probably were for a good year and then it sort of levelled off since then. The first line, ‘Take the time to make some sense of what you want to say’, that’s probably me sitting down thinking about what I want to say I think, but that’s a good line and then, ‘Cast your words upon the waves’, means the air waves. I suppose it’s about people’s fear of growing old. Well you know, all we know is that we don’t know. You know if you wanna dance, dance. If you don’t, don’t. I suppose it’s saying that there is no masterplan.”
The Gallagher brothers were massive Beatles fans and many of the influences can be heard on various Oasis tracks, but John Lennon often felt that his stronger songs on the B-side were stronger than Paul McCartney’s A-side’s even though all their songs were credited to Lennon/McCartney, but look at Hey Jude with Revolution on the flip or Hello Goodbye with I Am the Walrus on the other side. Maybe Noel felt the same way?
Three years after the Masterplan appeared, a compilation album comprising of B-sides that had never previously been on an album up to that point and arguably the strongest song on there was The Masterplan which gave the album its title. Despite originally only intended for issue in the U.S.A. and Japan, it was released in the UK and reached number two.