When I was 13 years old, my neighborhood girlfriend and I used to watch MTV every morning until we had to walk to school. For whatever reason, the channel seemed to play Oasis at 7:25 AM every morning, right before we had to leave the house. I have vivid memories of the video being played at this time — it was “Don’t Look Back in Anger.”
Now, at 32, when I saw that Noel Gallagher — who penned and sings the song — was playing at my favorite venue in the world, The Pabst Theater in Milwaukee, I knew I had to be there with my middle school friends. When I went to buy tickets to the show, I was stunned to find out that it was not sold out! I believe it sold out eventually, but to me, a living legend was gracing Wisconsin with his presence, and we should all be so grateful.
Once the show began, the audience became a family — of Brits, of Milwaukeeans, of fans from Japan who were attending every show on the global tour. Noel ended the show with the song that generates such profound memories of time spent with my girlfriends in 8th grade, the song that took on the same meaning 20 years later as I saw it being performed with people that I still — and will always — feel a deep-rooted connection with.
Noel’s lyrics are generally quite simple. After all, he has often said that writing lyrics is not the part of songwriting he feels he is best at. Yet the idea of getting out of his tough part of town, his broken home, and his abusive childhood resonates on a unified front as many of us wish of faraway places as teenagers.
I didn’t grow up in a tough part of town or in a broken and abusive home, but I certainly wanted to start a revolution from my bed. I wanted to get out of my town, to never stop seeking or creating, and to never look back. Or at least to look back on my life in a peaceful manner.
Noel Gallagher is possibly rock’s last great rock star, at least in the classic rock realm. He is the musical son of the ‘60s and his music is admittedly derivative. At his shows now, I see sons and fathers who are trying to pass the music on, and who knows how long that will last as genres continue to evolve and change.
One of my favorite things about traveling the world is that pop music can be a grounding and uniting force no matter where you are. I have heard “Don’t Look Back in Anger” played in many settings throughout the years, from airports to restaurants abroad. Yet the simple melody and lyrics will always bring me back to my friends in middle school and the importance that Noel’s music and this song played in our lives. The simple yet powerful lyrics are strikingly memorable on multiple levels. Which was extra powerful considering Oasis was and still is my favorite modern band. The Beatles are ultimately my favorite artist ever, yet amazingly I still don’t hear the musical comparison between the two, despite Noel admitting that he stole songwriting elements from his beloved ultimate band.
People always say, “Don’t meet your heroes.” I feel forever fortunate for that statement to be wrong in my case. When I did finally meet Noel, over a decade after his music influenced me to pursue a career in the music industry, he was incredibly kind. He was so kind that after his set, he said, “Did you hear me dedicate ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ to you?” I actually didn’t, as I had been enjoying the show at the side of the stage with friends at that time despite the muddy side-stage sound. But luckily, with the magic of the YouTube, I can rekindle the memories of the power of this song as well as the songwriter’s kindness at a moment’s notice.
I will forever look back on my youth, my career in music, my friendships, and my life experiences with peace thanks to this song. It’s meaning ties together memories of Noel’s storied childhood intertwined with my own memories as a young person. I always have Noel to remind me not to look back in anger, no matter the circumstances.
Emily White is the co-founder of the New York and Los Angeles management and consulting firm Whitesmith Entertainment. Through White’s varied background in the music industry, Whitesmith’s approach in their work with musicians, comedians, and athletes has always been to take the artists’ perspective while simultaneously taking care of the fans. She also co-founded Dreamfuel with Justin Kalifowitz, bringing her modern music work to the sports industry and beyond.