Why Noel Gallagher dedicated Cast No Shadow to Richard Ashcroft
18 April 2022, 13:00
The story behind the classic Oasis (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? track is a tale of bands, brotherhood and beefs.
“Here's a thought for every man, who tries to understand what is in his hands.”
Cast No Shadow - nestled harmlessly between the band’s first Number 1 single Some Might Say and the storming She’s Electric - is a gentle ballad that hinted at a more philisophical side to songwriter Noel Gallagher.
“Bound with all the weight of all the words he tried to say... As he faced the sun he cast no shadow.”
Noel freely admitted that Cast No Shadow was about Richard Ashcroft, frontman with Wigan’s own epic guitar collective The Verve. Oasis had supported the band (when they were known simply as Verve) as far back as December 1993.
Verve had released one album of shoegazing rock that summer called A Storm In Heaven, but by the time they followed it up, Oasis had issued their debut Definitely Maybe and changed the face of British music.
The Verve's second album, A Northern Soul was released in June 1995. It was produced by Owen Morris, who had worked on Definitely Maybe and featuring one Liam Gallagher providing handclaps on the minor hit History. Despite some success with the album, it was felt by many that The Verve hadn’t achieved their potential - and Noel Gallagher was one such person.
Gallagher told Select magazine how he felt about Ashcroft: “He always seemed to me to not be very happy about what was going on around him, almost trying too hard. I always felt he was born in the wrong place, and he was always trying to say the right things, but they came out wrong.”
The Oasis man’s feelings about his old comrade found their way into the lyrics of Cast No Shadow on the then-new Oasis album, which appeared fourth months after A Northern Soul. However, some of the song could apply equally to Noel himself, as he told Q magazine in February 1996: “‘He was bound with the weight of all the words he tried to say’ - that's me. I'm not Morrissey. I'm not Bob Dylan. I'm not Brett Anderson. They are better lyricists than I'll ever be.”
Ashcroft later explained that he felt honoured to be part of the song, the album and the subsequent huge success that Oasis enjoyed, but later told The Guardian: “I can't work out if he means I'm a witch, vampire or just incredibly emaciated and thin cos, you know, I haven't really got enough body mass to cast a shadow?”
Things came good for Richard Ashcroft and The Verve with their third album, Urban Hymns, released a month after Oasis dropped their Be Here Now album in August 1997. Noel Gallagher was ecstatic about their success - both Urban Hymns and its single The Drugs Don’t Work made it to Number 1 in the UK charts and Noel claimed he was “the happiest man in the world”.
During a notoriously foul-mouthed interview on the Evening Session with Steve Lamacq on Radio 1 in October 1997, Noel said emphatically: “Richard is a genius. Nick McCabe is one of the best guitar players I’ve ever seen. Even when we supported them years and years and years ago, they were a great band then. Circumstances worked against them.”
He went on: “I don’t write songs about many people - I’ve written songs about him [Liam], I’ve written songs about me mam, I’ve written songs about my wife, I’ve written songs about Richard Ashcroft.
“That man is a genius and I tell you what, man, he ain’t doing it for himself, he’s doing it for me. He has got to be a better songwriter than me and in return, I’ve got to write better songs than him. That’s what it’s about.
“People are going to build up this thing about The Verve and Oasis, but we go back SO far, from Manchester and Wigan, that they will never be able to touch the bond and the friendship that we have.”
But rivalries and alliances come and go in the turbulent world of rock music. In January 2018, Noel Gallagher was asked about songwriting teams and had a few choice words to say about artists that used them.
Speaking on the Sodajerker podcast, Gallagher said: "I'm offended by singer-songwriters who when you scratch the surface don't do any f***ing songwriting. I’m offended by that. As far as I'm aware if you scratch the surface of any solo artist in Britain and they've all got a team of songwriters behind them apart from me, Paul Weller and Johnny Marr. I'm struggling to think of anybody else.”
He went on: “Richard Ashcroft, Our Kid, all the way to f***ing Ed Sheeran and the little fella from One Direction… they've all got an army of songwriters behind them. I think it’s good that as a solo artist, it’s coming from you.”
This comment drew a dry response from Ashcroft. Taking to Twitter, the former Verve frontman wrote: "I don’t write my own songs? You want to qualify that NG?”
I don’t write my own songs? You want to qualify that NG— Richard Ashcroft (@richardashcroft) January 12, 2018
So, it seems at least for now, Richard Ashcroft is on Team Liam...