"Live Forever" is a song by the English rock band Oasis. Written by Noel Gallagher, the song was released as the third single from their debut album Definitely Maybe (1994) on 8 August 1994, just prior to that album's release.
Gallagher wrote the song in 1991, before he joined Oasis. Inspired by the Rolling Stones' "Shine a Light", "Live Forever" features a basic song structure and lyrics with an optimistic outlook that contrasted with the attitude of the grunge bands popular at the time. The song was the first Oasis single to enter the top ten in the United Kingdom, and garnered critical acclaim.
|Single by Oasis|
|from the album Definitely Maybe|
|B-side||"Up in the Sky" (acoustic)
|Released||8 August 1994|
|Recorded||March 1994 at Clear Studios, Manchester, England|
|Oasis singles chronology|
|Definitely Maybe track listing|
Noel Gallagher began working on "Live Forever" in 1991, while working for a building company in his hometown of Manchester. After his foot was crushed by a pipe in an accident, he was given a less-strenuous job working in the storeroom, allowing him more time to write songs. One night, he was listening to the Rolling Stones' album Exile on Main St.; while playing one of his own chord progressions, Gallagher noted that it sounded good against one of the vocal melodies from the album: "It was the bit from "Shine a Light" that goes [sings], "May the good Lord shine a light on you"", Gallagher recalled. Gallagher incorporated the melody, changing the line to "Maybe I don't really want to know". For a period afterwards, that was the only part of the song Gallagher had completed.
Noel Gallagher presented a fully composed "Live Forever" to the band for the first time in early 1993 during rehearsals. According to drummer Tony McCarroll, the band were admittedly awed by it. The song was later instrumental in helping the band secure their record deal with Creation Records. Reflecting on when he first heard the song, Creation boss Alan McGee recalled, "It was probably the single greatest moment I've ever experienced with them".
The demo version of "Live Forever" begins with an acoustic guitar intro. While recording the album version, the record's producer Owen Morris cut out this intro and replaced it with a drumbeat played by McCarroll. Morris further cut a second section in Gallagher's guitar solo. Gallagher was bemused by Morris' decision, and jokingly asked him through manager Marcus Russell to "not cut it in half again on the final mix". Morris said that the removed part made him think of "Slash in leather keks with a wind machine on the Grand Canyon".
"Live Forever" is in the key of G major (varispeeded up by less than half a semitone during mixing) and is based on a G–D–Am7–C–D chord progression, with the G chord becoming an Em during the pre-chorus, though the key changes to A minor following the last chorus. The song has no proper distinction between the verses or chorus section (with only a falsetto refrain of "You and I are gonna live forever" marking off sections), and the vocal melody only consists of a few notes. The simplistic arrangement of the song "meant the song never resolved". Guitarist Paul Arthurs said, "for me that song could keep going."
The song begins with a voice whistling briefly and saying "Oh yeah", followed by a drum beat that plays unaccompanied for a few measures. An intermingling of the main guitar line, piano notes, and Liam Gallagher's vocals then enter. Each verse begins with Liam singing the phrase "Maybe/I don't really wanna know/How your garden grows/'Cause I just wanna fly", and each verse ends with the falsetto refrain. A guitar solo appears after the second refrain of "You and I are gonna live forever". After the third verse and refrain section, Liam Gallagher repeats the line "Gonna live forever!" four times with 'ache in his voice', followed by one final guitar solo.
The song is interpreted to be an ode to Noel and Liam Gallagher's mother Peggy. In general the lyrics of the song stress an optimistic outlook. Noel Gallagher explained that "At the time . . . it was written in the middle of grunge and all that, and I remember Nirvana had a tune called 'I Hate Myself and Want to Die', and I was like . . . 'Well, I'm not fucking having that.' As much as I fucking like him [Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain] and all that shit, I'm not having that. I can't have people like that coming over here, on smack, fucking saying that they hate themselves and they wanna die. That's fucking rubbish. Kids don't need to be hearing that nonsense." While Gallagher has stated he did not intend "Live Forever" as a direct retort to Nirvana or their music (being a professed fan of the band), he contrasted the lives of Cobain and his band at that point, saying, "Seems to me that here was a guy who had everything, and was miserable about it. And we had fuck-all, and I still thought that getting up in the morning was the greatest fuckin' thing ever, 'cause you didn't know where you'd end up at night. And we didn't have a pot to piss in, but it was fucking great, man". Gallagher considers the line "We see things they'll never see" the most important line of the song, explaining that old friends tend to laugh at jokes and stories that "no one else gets".
"Live Forever" was released on 8 August 1994 as the band's third single, a month before the release of their debut album Definitely Maybe. The song had been part of the band's set for longer than a year at that point, and had amassed so many mentions in reviews of the group that "its release [as a single] had long seemed inevitable." In its review of the single, NME found "Live Forever" to be an improvement over Oasis' previous singles, concluding, "Basically, what thus far looked like obnoxious Manc arrogance suddenly looks like sheer effortlessness. A terrific record."
While Oasis' first two singles, "Supersonic" and "Shakermaker", were modestly received, it was "Live Forever" that "got the world's attention". "Live Forever" became Oasis' first top ten hit, reaching number ten on the British singles charts in 1994. In 1995, the song became the band's first chart success in the United States, reaching number two and ten on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks and Mainstream Rock Tracks charts, respectively. Noel Gallagher commented on the praise given to the song: "People said to me after 'Live Forever', 'Where are you gonna go after that?' And I was like, I don't think it's that good. I think it's a fucking good song, but I think I can do better."
"Live Forever" has garnered additional acclaim years after its release. In 2006, "Live Forever" was named the greatest song of all-time in a poll released by Q; the song had ranked ninth in a similar Q poll three years prior. In 2007, "Live Forever" placed number one in the NME and XFM poll of the 50 "Greatest Indie Anthems Ever". Pitchfork labeled the song as Oasis' best ever track and said of the song; "It's an honest, aspirational sentiment just as the photo of John Lennon's childhood home on the single's sleeve is an honest, tasteful exhibition of fandom." The music site went on to praise the song for its 'fearless optimism'.
Two music videos were made for "Live Forever" for British and American airplay. The original video, shot on 8 May 1994, was directed by Carlos Grasso and features unusual imagery such as Liam Gallagher sitting on a chair affixed to a wall, and a number of scenes are devoted to the band burying drummer Tony McCarroll alive. Some of the UK version of the promotional video was filmed at the Strawberry Fields memorial, the area of New York City's Central Park dedicated to John Lennon—the single cover features 251 Menlove Avenue, the childhood home of Lennon. The American video, directed by Nick Egan features the band playing in an office with pictures of Sid Vicious, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, John Lennon, Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Marc Bolan, and Bobby Moore on the wall. Both videos are included on the 2004 Definitely Maybe DVD.
"Live Forever" is a crowd favorite to play at concerts. In some concerts, most notably Manchester in 1996, a slideshow of famous deceased musicians Oasis admired—such as Elvis Presley, Bob Marley, and Sid Vicious—would be displayed behind the band, with a picture of John Lennon always at the end of the slideshow. During the early years, Liam Gallagher would personally sing the falsetto part, "You and I, we're gonna live forever." Noel Gallagher eventually picked up the role of singing the falsetto, as "Liam thought it was a bit gay." On 4 June 2017, Liam performed the song with Coldplay frontman Chris Martin and guitarist Jonny Buckland at the One Love Manchester benefit concert for the victims of the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing.
|Canadian RPM Singles Chart||70|
|Scottish Singles Chart||4|
|UK Singles Chart||10|
|US Billboard Hot 100 Airplay||39|
|US Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks||10|
|US Billboard Modern Rock Tracks||2|