The real story behind Oasis anthem Don't Look Back In Anger

2 October 2020, 10:00

Noel Gallagher has dubbed the song his "Hey Jude". Why has this Oasis track become so meaningful to people?

Don't Look Back In Anger was already one of the most popular Oasis tracks of all time, but after the terrible Manchester Arena terrorist attack - which saw 22 killed at an Ariana Grande concert in May 2017 - the Noel Gallagher-penned and sung single became synonymous with the band's city more than ever before. 

2018 even saw the song taken over as an anthem of commiseration, with football fans singing it in Russia after England's defeat in the 2018 World Cup.

Watch the official video for Don't Look Back In Anger above.

QUIZ: Do you know the lyrics to Don't Look Back In Anger by Oasis?

Oasis' Don't Look Back In Anger single artwork
Oasis' Don't Look Back In Anger single artwork. Picture: Press

Since the horrific events of 22 May 2017, it's no secret that the track was used as a song of "defiance," with Noel Gallagher even referring to it as a "hymn".

Shortly after the attack, he told Radio X's John Kennedy: "That song is more important than I'll ever be."

Watch him discuss the single in the wake of the Manchester Arena bombing:

But when the song was first written in 1995, Noel had no idea of the tragic events it would come to represent.

Released on 19 February 1996, Don't Look Back In Anger was the fifth track to be taken from the band's 1995 (What's the Story) Morning Glory? album.

Evoking imagery of "rock 'n' roll band(s)" and John Lennon and Yoko's iconic bed protest, it tells the story of a woman called "Sally" who looks back on her life without regret. 

See its famous refrain below:

"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"

Speaking in an interview with NPR, the Oasis songsmith confirmed it was indeed about "defiance" even all those years ago.

The Manchester rocker revealed: "It started off as a song of defiance, about this woman: She's metaphorically seeing the diary of her life pass by, and she's thinking, 'You know what? I have no regrets.' She's raising a glass to it."

But is Sally real or just a figment of Gallagher's imagination? "I wrote it after I came out of a strip club," the rocker told the outlet. Perhaps Sally was the name of a stripper he encountered on that fateful night?

However, some fans believe that it was The Stone Roses' Sally Cinnamon track which truly gave Gallagher the inspiration for his character. 

READ MORE: What Is The Stone Roses' Sally Cinnamon About?

After all, it's no secret that he's previously credited Sally Cinnamon with being responsible for his entire career. 

In a throwback interview, Gallagher says: "When I heard Sally Cinnamon for the first time, I knew what my destiny was."

Speaking about the Fools Gold rockers, he mused: "We thought back in the day that you had to go to college or to be an art student to be in a band... Or be Paul Weller.

"And when I first went to see The Roses, they dressed the same. This is before the flares and all that. Nobody was cool in those days, they all wore drainpipe trousers and all that, but they looked exactly the same as we did in round about '88, '89 when it all went into colour..."

Watch the interview below:

Whether or not Sally was a stripper or simply saw Noel Gallagher paying homage to one of his favourite bands, it's clear that in 2018 the song has taken on a whole new meaning. 

The Holy Mountain singer told NPR: "So, it starts off as a song about no regrets, and then it's ended up as this anthem of defiance about not being dragged down to the level of terrorists."

Watch the moment a woman first sang Don't Look Back In Anger at the vigil at Manchester's St. Ann's Square:

In fact, the 1995 song became so powerful that even his estranged brother Liam decided to sing it for the first time ever at Glastonbury 2017.

Now, when it comes to performing the track, Noel can't imagine ever taking it off his setlist.

"When I see teenagers in the crowd — who were barely born when Oasis split up, far less when we were together — that makes me think, wow: We did something that was special and timeless, that generations have come along afterwards and they still get it."

"It is difficult putting together a set list, because you kind of think, 'Am I done with that song? How many more times am I gonna play it?'

"You're kind of obliged to at least give it a go. Don't Look Back in Anger - I don't think I'd be allowed out of the venue if I didn't play that. It's kind of like my Hey Jude."

Watch Noel Gallagher play the track at the re-opening of the Manchester Arena:

READ MORE: Is Songbird Liam Gallagher's most honest track?