Why Don’t Look Back In Anger Is Still Relevant
The older you get, the more tempting it becomes to reminisce on the past. Time has a scary way of creeping up on people, and sometimes, the present can feel awfully short and fleeting, particularly when you’re the wrong side of 20 like I am. I’m as guilty as anyone of reflecting on my earlier years with a sense of pining and frustration, and, whenever I do so, I’m reminded of the famous Oasis Song, Don’t Look Back In Anger, which beautifully captures this feeling of lost times and forgotten memories.
First released in 1996, Don’t Look Back In Anger was the second Oasis single to reach number one in the UK singles chart, before later going platinum. It was also the first Oasis single to featured Noel on lead vocals instead of Liam.
Taken at face value, it seems like a very straightforward song about a guy and girl letting go of their relationship together.
“And so, Sally can wait/ She knows it’s too late as we’re walking on by Her soul slides away/ But don’t look back in anger/ I heard you say”
Sally is clearly is trying patch things back together, but the boy in question isn’t having any of it. He’s moved on, and got a new girlfriend, leaving Sally with no choice but to accept fate. When she says, “don’t look back in anger”, what she’s actually asking is that they focus on the good times they had together rather than the bad ones.
But, when you dig a bit deeper you realise that it’s actually about a lot more than just Sally.
Take the opening line for example: “Slip inside the eye of your mind/ Don’t you know you might find/ A better place to play?” While not necessarily about the past, it appears to tap into this habit we all have of letting our imaginations run wild at the thought of happy memories which we can’t get back. The mind has a clever way of dressing up and distorting the past in a way that it shouldn’t, making yesterday look great and today look shite. This might go to explain why so many of us hold on to music of the past or bang on that films weren’t what they used to be.
Later in the song we get a glimpse into Noel’s childhood. The line “Stand up beside the fireplace/ Take that look from off your face” refers to the fireplace he grew up in front of as a kid. According to Noel, he and his brother Liam used to gather around the fire at Christmas, and whenever they looked down or grumpy, their mother Peggy would say, “would you take that stupid look off your face.” I never had a fireplace growing up, but my mum definitely used to say something similar to me as a kid.
I was never a massive fan of this track growing up, but, in recent months it’s really connected with me. It plays a lot on the radio at work and I often find myself bopping along to the chorus, as if I were a true Oasis fan. I was touched when I found out that Don’t Look Back In Anger played at the vigil for the Manchester Arena Bombing. Noel is Manchester born, and, in this instance, the song served as the perfect symbol of defiance. A fight back against the terrorism that is plaguing Western culture right now.
As you know, its name has formed the basis for our new exhibition which takes place next week at London’s Underdog Gallery. An event which aims to bring together art, live music, fashion and general retro nostalgia. It epitomises everything backwards looking about our exhibition, whilst emphasising British identity – our core theme.
But, what we do we mean by the expression “don’t look back in anger”? For us, it’s about embracing the past with a smile on your face. Of appreciating the great things which have taken place and made us who we are today. We want people to come to away from our event inspired by the journey they’ve taken down memory lane. Not bitter about what lies ahead.
While Noel may admit that he didn’t know what was going through his mind when he wrote, Don’t Look Back In Anger, we’re in doubt as to the central message it’s left us with. Here’s to looking ahead.