“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…