Have you heard? – (9) “Wonderwall” by Ryan Adams

“Wonderwall”, as the entire universe knows, is a brilliant song by Oasis. One of their greatest anthems.  Maybe the best of all. At my 50th party, three years ago, we ended on a musical trip which went “Wonderwall”, “Angels” by Robbie Williams and “Come On Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners. Two massive anthems and then the one which gets everyone to kick their feet in the air. All three in a circle,  arms round shoulders… celebration.

There have been all sorts of versions of “Wonderwall”.  I even bought a CD single that turned it into “lounge” music.  A bit of a travesty, looking back. But one artist, Ryan Adams, took the song and made it something special. So special that sometimes I think I like it even more than the original. And that is pretty much heresy, even to think such a thought, so good is the original.

Ryan Adams is a great American folky, rocky, even jazzy singer. Incredibly prolific – it is hard to keep up with all the albums. My favourite is “Gold” from 2001, an album full of great American tunes, encompassing the blues, folk, rock’n’roll and the big sound of Bruce Springsteen.

He’s something of a tortured artist, judging by what one reads.  That came through a bit when I saw him perform live at the Barbican last year. It was just him and his favourite, battered guitar. But he wasn’t happy with that guitar.  Constantly re-tuning it, cursing it… loving it.  A man who cared so much about his music that it hurt. It was a wonderful concert.

And his cover of “Wonderwall” continues in that  jumpy, anxious vein.  It’s off an album called “Love Is Hell”, which doesn’t have too many highlights. I think I bought the album just to get “Wonderwall”.  The rest was a bonus… of sorts. But it was worth buying just for “Wonderwall”. What a beautiful rendition of the song.  Stripped to its essence, drawing out the the sadness, drifting along with a simple, echoey, plucked guitar. Ryan’s aching vocals delivering the melody,  a yearning chorus.  Just so touching.

Here’s the song in its recorded version.

I like this live version too, where Ryan gets going with the electric guitar.

And really, how can we not finish with a glimpse of the original Oasis song?  Who knows what it was about.  But it hit the spot in so many ways.  One of the great pop songs, great indie songs, great rock songs. One of the great songs.

And after all

About John S

I'm blogging about the things I love: music, sport, culture, London, with some photos to illustrate aspects of our wonderful city. I’ve written a novel called “The Decision”, a futuristic political thriller, and first of a trilogy. I’m also the author of a book on music since the 1970s called “ I Was There - A Musical Journey” and a volume of poetry about youth, “Growin’ Up - Snapshots/ Fragments”. All available on Amazon and Kindle.
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8 Responses to Have you heard? – (9) “Wonderwall” by Ryan Adams

  1. TLS says:

    I’m one of the few people on this planet who actually doesnt like the song Wonderwall.. I get horrible shudders every time it comes one. I dont have anything personal against Oasis, but I have memories I’d rather forget attached to the song. Don’t you hate it when that happens? When something bad happens in your life, and you listen to a beautiful song lots of times to cheer yourself up.. And then every time after that you hear the song, it takes you back to those moments. That’s not really what happened with me, but I just can’t listen to the song now.
    HOWEVER.. I must say that version was beautiful.
    The name Ryan Adams rings a bell, must check if I have some of his music on the old iTunes library..
    I’m not a Springsteen fan myself though. I tried with him, but we didn’t get on.

  2. John S says:

    Sorry to hear “Wonderwall” has bad vibes for you. Maybe Ryan’s version can be separated from that. “Gold’ is definitely the Ryan Adams album to start with. A lot of the others are a bit patchy. Some great stuff and some … not great.

    Bruce is my main man, but I can understand why it’s not for everyone. Try “Born To Run” and “Darkness On The Edge Of Town”. To the believers (including me) they are the greatest. If they don’t work then the rest probably isn’t worth bothering with.

    • TLS says:

      I’ve only got one of Springsteen’s albums, Magic. I don’t really mind him, it’s just I find his voice a little irritating after a while. I can appreciate he’s a very good singer though.
      I think he’s the kinda music I don’t mind hearing on the radio, turning up to full volume and rocking out for a couple of tracks, but not think kinda music I’d sit down and listen to.
      I’ll take a listen to those albums and see how I get on. (If I remember that is – I never did get round to trying those beers!!)

      • TLS says:

        Turns out I was thinking of BRYAN Adams! (I Wanna Be Your Underwear). Haha, close.. He kinda has the Springsteen sound..

  3. John S says:

    Do try those two – they are the essence of Springsteen. Does seem to appeal to the boys mostly rather than the girls. But music is like that. No rights or wrongs, just whatever turns you on.

    • John S says:

      Well, the Bryan/ Ryan mistake is easy to make – until you hear the music. Ryan has the cred, Bryan the record sales. Both have hints of Bruce, but neither come close, for me. Bruce really is the Boss. I do quite like Bryan’s stuff – “Summer of ’69” is a great pop/rock song. And you can’t really knock a man who was No1 for 12 weeks or whatever it was with “Everything I Do, I Do It For You”. Well you can, but I won’t. Respect is due.

  4. Jeremy Gould says:

    I recommend Heartbreaker, the album before Gold. Apart from track one, which I can live without, and the prelude chat in the studio, its an album of fantastic songs – easily his best. Stand outs are My Sweet Carolina and Come Pick Me Up. Truly great. The latest one, Ashes and Fire, is a pretty good return to form. Its a shame he’s so “difficult” a character. I once saw him storm off the stage at the Brixton Academy after an electric gig (Gold tour I think) because he got the biggest cheer of the night after performing Last Night by the Strokes. He was miffed the cover got a better reception than his own songs. Mind you, it was worth it to see an amazing version of Harder Now That It’s Over complete with pedal steel.

  5. John S says:

    Yes, a temperamental boy. I like “Heartbreaker’ too.

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