Where did Oasis get the title Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants from?

29 February 2020, 13:00 | Updated: 29 February 2020, 13:01

Oasis band members Liam and Noel Gallagher at a press conference to announce the departure of the band's two founding member Guigsy and Bonehead. august 1999
Oasis band members Liam and Noel Gallagher at a press conference to announce the departure of the band's two founding member Guigsy and Bonehead. august 1999. Picture: Gareth Davies/Getty Images

It's 20 years since Oasis dropped the first album on their own label Big Brother - but do you know the story of how Noel Gallagher came up with the title?

1999 was a transitional year for Oasis. The release of their third album, Be Here Now, in 1997 was a milestone in the career of the Gallagher brothers. It sold a huge amount, but the general feeling was that it hadn't lived up to the standard of its predecessors Definitely Maybe and (What's The Story) Morning Glory?

Other factors played a part: as work continued on the fourth album, the band lost two of their founding members. Both Paul "Bonehead" Arthurs and Paul "Guigsy" McGuigan announced that they would be leaving Oasis in August 1999.

Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher plays live on stage at FEASTival in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on December 3 1999.
Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher plays live on stage at FEASTival in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on December 3 1999. Picture: Dave Hogan/Getty Images

Not only that, but Alan McGee, who signed Oasis to Creation in 1993, announced in December 1999 that he was leaving the label. While the imprint had been part of the huge Sony Music empire for a number of years, it meant the end of the real "indie" era for Oasis. Their next release would be on their own Big Brother label, via Sony of course.

Oasis - Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants album cover
Oasis - Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants album cover. Picture: Press

None of this dented the confidence of Noel and Liam Gallagher. They told Rolling Stone: "The future of Oasis is secure. The story and the glory will go on." They announced two new members - Gem Archer (formerly of Creation band Heavy Stereo) on guitar and Andy Bell (formerly of another Creation band, Ride) on bass.

Neither of these members would appear on the album, however. Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants would feature only Noel, Liam, drummer Alan White, plus a number of session musicians. The video for first single Go Let It Out doesn't even feature Andy Bell.

So where did the title Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants come from?

According to writer Sheryl Garratt, Noel was marking the end of recording with a pub lock-in and several pints of Guinness. He noticed the brand new £2 coin that had come into circulation the previous year. Around the rim of the coin is the phrase" "STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS".

The £2 coin, just before its release on Monday 15 June, 1998
The £2 coin, just before its release on Monday 15 June, 1998. Picture: PNR/PA Archive/PA Images

Noel liked the phrase and wrote it down on a cigarette packet he had to hand. Except he copied it down incorrectly and used the word "shoulder" instead of "shoulders". He also noted that this would be the "A bum title" - it was obviously the end of a long night.

"People said it was too long," said Noel later. "But then they said that about (What's the Story) Morning Glory?"

But what does the phrase mean?

Isaac Newton, portrait by J. Vanderbank.
Isaac Newton, portrait by J. Vanderbank. Picture: Culture Club/Getty Images

Its appearance on the £2 coin is down to the fact that the great scientist Sir Isaac Newton used the phrase in a letter to his friend and colleague Robert Hooke, back in February 1676: "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."

Newton, who famously developed world-changing theories of physics by coming up with laws of motion and gravity, was commenting that his achievements would not have been possible without the work of those who had come before him. The phrase actually dates back as far as the 12th Century, but Newton's is the most famous quote.

; Liam Gallagher and Noel Gallagher performing live onstage at Ancienne Belgique, March 2000
; Liam Gallagher and Noel Gallagher performing live onstage at Ancienne Belgique, March 2000. Picture: Paul Bergen/Redferns/Getty Images

In a way, it's an apt title for an Oasis album - Noel Gallagher freely admits the influence of the great rock artists such as The Beatles, T-Rex and many others, so in a way, Oasis are standing on the shoulders of their own giants.

The phrase has bene used a number of times in pop culture: R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe quotes it in the song King Of Birds from their 1987 album Document, and in the original novel of Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton, Dr Ian Malcolm says of John Hammond says of his research into dinosaur cloning: "You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could."