76. Oasis - Wonderwall

The acoustic guitar refrain that starts this song seemed comfortable and familiar the very first time I heard this song, but I mean that in a good way. It's simple in the way that so many songs from the 60's were. There was just a guitar and vocals, with nothing else to get in the way, but also nothing more to hide behind, so you'd better be good. As the song progresses, the song adds layer after layer. There's a single cello weaving in and out of the melody. Then that almost hip-hop drum beat that might detract from the song, but I think adds a welcome layer of unpredictability and complexity to the song.

"Wonderwall" really does have that sound that you think The Beatles might have had in the 90's. The comparisons to The Beatles were abundant back in the 90's, especially in the UK and the band itself, especially guitarist Noel Gallagher, did nothing to diminish them. He even said that he was obsessed with The Beatles and compared every song he wrote to The Beatles standard of excellence. Liam even named his son Lennon. There are a couple of problems with those comparisons. Firstly, and obviously, Oasis isn't as talented as The Beatles were (but then again, who is? But most of the others don't go comparing themselves to The Beatles). Secondly, Noel Gallagher wrote almost every single Oasis song, so there was no McCartney to his Lennon (or vice versa, depending on whether you're a John guy or a Paul guy). Thirdly, Oasis, however popular they were in Britain, had only one Top 10 US hit, and this was it. One similarity, though, is that the two leaders of the band, Noel and his brother, lead singer Liam, hate each other, which mirrors Paul & John's out of the spotlight relationship. There are so many examples (and so many of them public) of their fractious relationship that I couldn't even begin to do it justice here.

But contentious relationship aside, they have put out some great records and songs, with "Wonderwall" being, in my opinion, their best. Holding yourself up to comparison to The Beatles may be a fool's folly, but they are definitely a talented band. I love songs that have different layers of musical complexity in them, and this song executes that at an extremely high level. There's the drum beat I mentioned earlier and also the piano that plays its refrain through the last part of the song, adding a musical partner to the earlier cello phrasing. The bass line does what bass lines do best, give the song a foundation to weave other song elements around. Bassist Paul McGuigan does get to have a little fun with the bass line, though, and it adds yet another layer of interest to pay attention to. And don't forget the tamborine!

Lyrically, the song's brilliance lies in the fact that the lyrics are open to the interpretation of the person who listens to it. Now most songs are like that, but this one, in particular, covers two of life's most precious relationships, your best friend and your significant other. Depending on how you're feeling at the time, the song can be seen as one about how much you care for someone else and want the best for them. It's a love song that never mentions the word. The lyrics are fraught with insecurity, with the singer wondering if his love is matched on the other side. The confusion shows in these lyrics:

And all the roads we have to walk along are winding
And all the lights that lead us there are blinding
There are many things that I would
Like to say to you
I don't know how

"Wonderwall" does a great job of having the lyrics play to your life. Like most great songs, it feels as if it were written about your or a specific relationship in your life. Great songs are relatable, and "Wonderwall" has so many interpretations that its lyrics have almost universal appeal. When you feel so strong about your emotions in a relationship, who hasn't felt like this?

I don't believe that anybody
Feels the way I do
About you now

Emotions can run so strong that all of us at some point have probably felt that way about someone.

So even if they fall short of the ridiculously high bar of The Beatles, Noel has written a fantastic song that engages you both musically and lyrically, which is quite a feat. Even I, who still doesn't pay much attention to lyrics, can realize that doing both at an extremely high level is an accomplishment that needs recognition. So that's why "Wonderwall" is, without a doubt, one of the greatest songs of my lifetime.

(Fun Fact #635: There are so many examples of the Gallagher brothers' hate/hate relationship that you can Google, but here's a nice little blurb from ninemsn.au:

The rat-bag Manchester brothers who ruled the '90s Britpop scene. Each had one talent: Noel could write brilliant Beatles-inspired anthemic pop songs. Liam could sing them. Brit Pop was all about big hits, big egos and big opinions — three things the Gallaghers had no trouble delivering.

The pair transformed the music scene through touching and eloquent songs such as 'Wonderwall' and 'Champagne Supernova'.

They also managed to capture the public's imagination through their colourful social commentary, for example Noel's delicate assertion that: "People ****ing hate ****s like Phil Collins, and if they don't they ****ing should."

Family feud
The Gallaghers are the yardstick to which all rock sibling relationships are measured. Their disagreements and feuds have become legendary, at times being included as tracks on bootleg albums.

In the early days of the band, during a US tour, Liam decided to ad-lib the lyrics to the songs in order to both offend the audience and Noel. While the audience got over the insult, Noel was not as impressed and a post-gig discussion worthy of a Jerry Springer Show episode ensued, with a chair thrown and everything. Noel walked out on the tour, though rejoined the group later.

Liam may have learnt an important lesson from this incident, but it wasn't evident. During a European tour six years later, Liam had an interesting theory about Noel not actually being the biological father of his daughter, Anais. Noel, in homage to the world of professional wrestling, punched Liam and knocked him down. Once again Noel walked out on the tour, only to return again later.

Fame hog
It would be difficult to say one brother is more famous than the other, primarily due to fear of one of them finding out they're considered less famous and taking violent head-butty retribution. While they are a set, each of them has their own niche. UK music mag NME has claimed Noel is the wisest man in Rock, which, considering the monumentally stupid things rock stars do, may not be the biggest accolade. Meanwhile Liam is part of another rock sibling couple, the Appletons, having had a child with his partner All Saint Nicole Appleton. )

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