Someday far in the future, when a memory box of the 20th century reaches some extraterrestrial species, they’ll probably unearth the relics of our culture: fast food wrappers, Y2K paranoia, neon scrunchies, and the Oasis hit “Wonderwall”.
For all its ubiquity and cultural resonance, what does it actually, like, mean? Hate it, love it, avoid it, or embrace it – one thing unites us all.
We know less about what the heck a wonderwall is than the hapless aliens unearthing our box sometimes in a future light year.
So with our collective confusion established – what does “Wonderwall” mean?
“Wonderwall” is more than just the trite karaoke option after “Bohemian Rhapsody”’s already been sung; it’s a veritable totem of our collective obsession with popular culture and with the Britpop movement itself.
Although the stroppy vocalist Liam Gallagher said of the song “Every time I have to sing it I want to gag,” we believe that the song has merit, and a message, however opaque that might be.
For his part, writer Noel Gallagher had this to say about the tune, “Outside of England, it’s the one we’re famous for all over the world, and it annoys the fuck out of me.” Harsh words from the mind behind the iconic hit.
The Meaning of “Wonderwall”
Noel admitted in a 1996 interview, the song was about his girlfriend at the time- and future ex-wife – Meg Matthews.
However, Noel redacted this interpretation during a BBC Radio 2 interview in 2002. He even accused the media of usurping the meaning of the song and warping the truth. Here’s an excerpt from the interview:
“The meaning of that song was taken away from me by the media who jumped on it, and how do you tell your Mrs it’s not about her once she’s read it is?”
He then proceeded to clarify some of the lingering mystery. The reality is much more ephemeral and decidedly cryptic.
He said that the song was actually about an imaginary friend, one who has the capacity to save you from yourself. An angel on the ol’ shoulder kinda arrangement?
Whether you believe Noel’s imaginary friend tale, it’s easy to see why the song is interpreted as an “us against the world”/”you’re my everything” garden variety love song.
“By now you should’ve somehow realized what you gotta do/ I don’t believe that anybody feels the way I do about you now”
These lyrics seem to suggest that there is an unspoken bond between the singer and the subject. Perhaps the singer is offering a token of support, empathy, and allegiance in the subject’s time of need.
“Because maybe/ You’re gonna be the one that saves me. And after all/ You’re my wonderwall.”
But the drawn-out, languid chorus seems to suggest that the subject is actually the one who has the ability to ‘rescue’ the singer from his inner turmoil.
It suggests that the subject is the calm in the storm, the solace in the chaos, and the beauty in the cold, hard world.
That sounds like a rather dreamy, romantic take, doesn’t it? A wonderwall, perhaps, is the source of comfort, curiosity, and bliss – a defense against the treachery and alienation of life.
Noel’s lyrical canon was heavy on emotive ballads with a healthy dose of pathos and the occasional touch of the histrionic. As comfortable exploring intransigent, defiant themes as he was with heart-sore raptures, his range is hard to discount.
A nod to the songwriting chops of The Beatles’ foursome can be discerned in the earnest, plaintive notes in any Oasis ballad.
Indeed, The Beatles might be the key to unearthing the origin of this unlikely song title. George Harrison himself composed an instrumental album in 1968 titled Wonderwall Music, the first solo release to come out of the band’s breakup.
Take From it What You Will
The consensus among fans to this day is that the song is about love, loyalty, and mutual resilience in the face of disappointments and challenges.
Whether it is about an imaginary friend, an ex-girlfriend, or a more abstract interpretation of romantic support, it is one enduring little gem.
And knowing you can thank George Harrison himself for the mysterious title? The cherry on top, or the wonder in the wall, if you will.