Song of the Day: Oasis, "Underneath the Sky"
When I am by myself, I am most comfortable wearing headphones. Even when I'm home, where there are a multitude of listening options, I tend to want to throw on the cans and let them sit there. When I lived in New York, I put headphones on when I left work and did not take them off until I arrived by at my apartment, and I rarely ran an errand or went for a walk without them as well. Here in Los Angeles, I put them on when I park my car and don't take them off until I get into the studio.
It probably seems anti-social (and there's probably a part of it that is), but it's mostly about my own personal comfort. I've been like this for a long time—in fact, before I shared a bed with somebody, I would fall asleep wearing headphones most nights, dating back to when I was 12 or so. In the beginning, it was more about cramming in as much listening to my albums as I could over the course of a day; when I got a new CD, it was mostly about getting to know that piece of work from front to back. Later, in my post-college years, I would fall asleep at night listening to stand-up albums, which I guess I found comforting—after all, if I could hear someone else talking, how could I be alone?
I still spend most of my day wearing headphones, and now do a job that basically requires them. I no longer sleep with them, which I consider a victory, but back when I couldn't sleep without them, one of my go-to sleep albums was a compilation of Oasis b-sides that was one of my prized possessions circa '96 or so. In that era, there was a certain type of music store that dealt in bootlegs—typically live captures of concerts or homemade rarities compilations. Some came from (mostly foreign) indie labels, but looking back a lot of them seemed to be the results of a dude getting his hands on a CD burner.
There were a couple of stores that I could rely on for these types of releases, and I relished finding them. Some of my favorite recordings in history came from these not-quite-legal releases. I had a Pearl Jam live compilation that featured a lot of acoustic rarities, the entirety of Nine Inch Nails' Woodstock '94 performance, and a Foo Fighters live disc from their first world tour that also tacked on some of Dave Grohl's Pocketwatch demo and some in-progress versions of songs that ended up appearing on The Colour and the Shape (and a live cover of Angry Samoans' "Gas Chamber," which Grohl introduced as "one all you boys can bang around to," which remains a favorite phrase of mine). Some releases in the bootleg world took on a life of their own and are kinda-sorta considered canon in the discographies of some bands, like the Outcesticide series of Nirvana bootlegs that surfaced in the wake of Kurt Cobain's death. (Some research reveals that the Foos disc I had was called Fighting the "N" Factor and remains an oft-passed-around piece of ephemera for Grohl completists, particularly because it adds high-quality versions of some Nirvana SNL rehearsals.) These types of releases are pointless now, but in the time before Napster and iTunes and Spotify and YouTube, the only way to bring together rare tracks from your favorite bands was to either purchase a bunch of expensive CD singles or find a taper to trade with on a creepy message board or parking lot.
My favorite of these releases was a group of Oasis b-sides from the Definitely Maybe and (What's the Story) Morning Glory? era (and if my memory serves me correctly, there was also one recording from Oasis' entry of MTV Unplugged, which featured Noel on lead vocals). I really loved Morning Glory, and after hearing this group of tracks I came to a conclusion: Noel Gallagher must be the greatest songwriter in the world, because the songs he threw away were better than most anything else on the radio.
A bunch of these songs ended up getting released on the compilation The Masterplan in 1998, but I was pretty proud of the fact that by the time most of the world heard them, I was already intimate with their little details (the cough at the beginning of "Talk Tonight," the weird inconsistencies in the echo of "Rockin' Chair"). It always seemed like most of the tracks on The Masterplan were put there as-was, but I'm convinced that the version of "Underneath the Sky" I had was slightly different than the version that ended up officially released. I like that it sounds a little muddy while still shimmering, and the falsetto on the chorus often helped me drift off to sleep.