Definitely Maybe went straight to number one in the UK Albums Chart on initial release. It was the fastest selling debut album of all time in the UK when it was released and went on to be certified 7× Platinum (2.1 million+ sales) by the BPI.Definitely Maybe marked the beginning of Oasis' success in America, selling over one million copies there, despite only peaking at 58 on the Billboard 200. The album went on to sell over 15 million copies worldwide and brought widespread critical acclaim.
The album, along with Blur's Parklife, helped to spur a revitalisation in British pop music in the nineties and was embraced by critics for its optimistic themes and supposed rebuttal of the downtrodden fatalism evident in the dominant grunge music of the time. Today, Definitely Maybe is regarded as a seminal record of the Britpop scene, and has appeared in many publications' 'best of' lists. The album is also popular among audiences: in June 2006, NME magazine conducted a readers' poll in which it was voted the greatest album of all time.
Formerly called The Rain, Oasis formed in 1991. Originally consisting of Liam Gallagher, Paul Arthurs, Paul McGuigan, and Tony McCarroll, the group was soon joined by Liam's older brother Noel. The elder Gallagher insisted that if he were to join, the group would give him complete control and they would work towards superstardom. Noel had been writing songs for years, and replaced the group's repertoire with his compositions.
Oasis signed to independent record labelCreation Records in 1993. The limited-edition 12" single "Columbia" was released in late 1993 as a primer for the band for journalists and radio programmers. Unexpectedly, BBC Radio 1 picked up the single and played it 19 times in the fortnight after its release. The band's first commercial single "Supersonic" was released on 11 April 1994. The following week it debuted at number 31 on the British singles chart. The single was followed by "Shakermaker" in June 1994, which debuted at number 11 and earned the group an appearance on Top of the Pops.
Oasis booked Monnow Valley Studio, near Monmouth, at the start of 1994 to record their debut album. Their producer was Dave Batchelor, whom Noel Gallagher knew from his days working as a roadie for the Inspiral Carpets. The sessions were unsatisfactory. "It wasn't happening," Arthurs recalled. "He was the wrong person for the job ... We'd play in this great big room, buzzing to be in this studio, playing like we always played. He'd say, 'Come in and have a listen.' And we'd be like, 'That doesn't sound like it sounded in that room. What's that?' It was thin. Weak. Too clean."
The sessions at Monnow Valley were costing £800 a day. As the sessions proved increasingly fruitless, the group began to panic. Arthurs said, "Noel was frantically on the phone to the management, going, 'This ain't working.' For it not to be happening was a bit frightening." Batchelor was let go, and Gallagher tried to make use of the music already recorded by taking the tapes to a number of London studios. Tim Abbot of Creation Records said while visiting the band in Chiswick, "McGee, Noel, me and various people had a great sesh, and we listened to it over and over again. And all I could think was, 'It ain't got the attack.' There was no immediacy."
In February the group returned from an ill-fated trip to Amsterdam and set about re-recording the album at Sawmills Studio in Cornwall. This time the sessions were produced by Noel Gallagher and Mark Coyle. The group decided the only way to replicate their live sound on record was to record together without soundproofing between individual instruments. Over the tracks, Gallagher overdubbed numerous guitars. Arthurs said, "That was Noel's favourite trick: get the drums, bass and rhythm guitar down, and then he'd cane it. 'Less is more' didn't really work then."
The results were still deemed unsatisfactory, and there was little chance of another attempt at recording the album. The recordings already made had to be used. In desperation, Creation's Marcus Russell contacted engineer-turned-producer Owen Morris. "I just thought, 'They've messed up here,'" Morris recalled after hearing the Sawmills recordings. "I guessed at that stage Noel was completely fucked off. Marcus was like, 'You can do what you like – literally, whatever you want." Among Morris's first tasks was to strip away the layers of guitar overdubs Gallagher had added. Morris completed his final mix of the record on the bank holiday weekend in May. Music journalist John Harris noted, "The miracle was that music that had passed through so many hands sounded so dynamic: the guitar-heavy stew that Morris had inherited had been remoulded into something positively pile-driving."
The release of Definitely Maybe was preceded by a third single, "Live Forever", which was released on 8 August 1994. "Live Forever" was the group's first top ten single. The continuing success of Oasis partially allowed Creation to ride out a period of tough financial straits. The label was still £2 million in debt, so Tim Abbot was given only £60,000 to promote the upcoming album. Abbot tried to determine how best to use his small budget. "I'd go back to the Midlands every couple of weeks," Abbot said, "and people I knew would say, 'Oasis are great. This is what we listen to.' And I'd be thinking, "Well, you lot don't buy singles. You don't read the NME. You don't read Q. How do we get the people to like you?'" Abbot decided to place ads in publications that had never been approached by Creation before, such as football magazines, match programmes and UK dance music periodicals. Abbot's suspicions that Oasis would appeal to these non-traditional audiences were confirmed when the dance music magazine Mixmag, which usually ignored guitar-based music, gave Definitely Maybe a five-star review.
Definitely Maybe was released on 29 August 1994. The album sold 86,000 in its first week. On 4 September the album debuted at number one on the British charts. It outsold the second-highest album (The Three Tenors in Concert 1994, which had been favoured to be the chart-topper that week), by a factor of 50%. The first-week sales earned Definitely Maybe the record of the fastest-selling debut album in British history. The album received almost unanimous critical acclaim along with commercial success, with many critics and listeners welcoming the album's fearless optimism, particularly in an era of rock which was dominated by American grunge which seemed at odds with the album, while also praising Noel Gallagher's songwriting and melodic skills along with younger brother Liam's vocals. Neil Strauss wrote of the songs; "On its own, each one sounds like a classic, rippling with hard guitar hooks, strong dance beats and memorable choruses." "Cigarettes & Alcohol" was released as the fourth single from the album in October, peaking at number seven in the UK, then a career high for the band. Noel Gallagher said "Slide Away" was considered as a fifth single, but he ultimately refused, arguing, "You can't have five [singles] off a debut album."
The photograph on the front cover of the album was taken, by rock photographer Michael Spencer Jones, in guitarist Paul 'Bonehead' Arthurs' house (he later claimed to have done all the plastering in the room himself). A picture of Rodney Marsh can be seen on the cover and a television showing a scene from the film The Good, the Bad and the Ugly with actors Eli Wallach and Antonio Casale. A still of Gian Maria Volontè from the film A Fistful of Dollars is visible on the television on the back cover. A poster of Burt Bacharach (one of Noel Gallagher's idols) is also shown on the lower-left-hand side of the cover. Some writers believe that Oasis were trying to pay homage to Pink Floyd's Ummagumma by placing it there in the same prominent position that Pink Floyd reserved for the soundtrack of Vincente Minnelli's film Gigi.
The album cover has many similarities to Chic's C'est Chic album cover.
The massive critical and commercial success of the album has left Definitely Maybe with a legacy in which it has been cited as resurrecting interest in British guitar bands. It has since frequently appeared in many 'greatest' polls.
In a 2008 poll by Q and HMV in 2008, Definitely Maybe was ranked first on a list of the greatest British albums of all time. The album was ranked number 42 on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 Best Debut Albums of All Time. The American edition of Rolling Stone ranks the album at number 78 in its list of "The 100 Best Albums of the Nineties". The German edition of Rolling Stone ranks the album at number 156 in its list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". On AcclaimedMusic.net, a website which calculates the most favorably reviewed songs and albums, Definitely Maybe was listed as the 14th most critically acclaimed album of the 90s, as well as the 105th most critically acclaimed album of all time. A study of the album by the writer Alex Niven was published in Bloomsbury's33⅓ series.
In July 2014, Guitar World ranked Definitely Maybe at number 19 in their "Superunknown: 50 Iconic Albums That Defined 1994" list. The album was ranked at number 160 on Spin's "The 300 Best Albums of the Past 30 Years (1985–2014)" list.
As part of a promotional campaign entitled "Chasing the Sun", the album – planned to also include the band's subsequent two albums – was released on 19 May 2014. A deluxe edition featured the remastered original album packaged with two additional discs of material. Additionally, a limited edition reproduction of the band's original 1993 demo cassette was also made available to purchase.
Definitely Maybe was released on DVD in September 2004 to mark the tenth anniversary of its original release. It went triple platinum in the UK. The DVD featured an hour-long documentary about the recording of the album featuring interviews with the band and its associates. Also included was the album in its entirety, at 48 kHz, which included "Sad Song", which was originally only released on the UK vinyl version of the album and also on the Japanese CD edition. Other content included live and TV performances of the album's twelve tracks, and the promo videos to "Supersonic" (UK & US versions), "Shakermaker", "Live Forever" (UK & US versions), "Cigarettes & Alcohol" and "Rock 'n' Roll Star". A limited-edition release in the UK and Ireland included a bonus DVD containing more live footage and anecdotes.
There was also an accompanying made-for-TV documentary, entitled There We Were, Now Here We Are...: The Making Of Oasis. This was broadcast on Channel 4 in the UK at 11:30pm on Friday, 3 September, three days before the release of the Definitely Maybe DVD. The programme combined existing and unused interview footage from the DVD documentary and focused on the origins of the band, and the four singles from Definitely Maybe. It also included a clip of "All Around the World" performed live at a rehearsal session in the Boardwalk in 1992, five years before it was eventually recorded and released on Be Here Now. The DVD received the NME award for Best Music DVD. The DVD earned Gold status in Australia.