“Anyway, Here’s Wonderwall: The Article”
Never gonna give meme music up
Viewed as both a generational favourite and a performance faux-pas, “Wonderwall,” was released in 1995 by the band Oasis in their second album. This fall brings us to a major anniversary for this song – on October 2nd, it turned 25 years old – aging about as gracefully as us 90s babies who grew up with it.
Some heard this song on the radio, some in grocery stores, some through Xavier Dolan’s film “Mommy”, but possibly the most common reference to the song is found in the phrase “Anyway, here’s Wonderwall.” For those who don’t know, the statement is a bit of a jab at the frequency that the song is used for busking, or in the performances of beginning guitarists. The chords are pretty easy to master, there’s a leisurely pace, and you don’t need a crazy vocal range to be able to sing along, so it quickly gained popularity among those still learning guitar who wanted to try to perform.
The song has moved through three phases since it’s release. In the first phase during the late 90s, it was generally loved by the public and played frequently by radio shows and performers. There was a sharp swing to the other side in the early 2000s though, as people had begun to grow tired of hearing the same few chords in the same damn order at every busking corner or open mic night. Noel Gallagher, the band’s lead singer and songwriter, said in an interview with Guitar Magazine in 2002 that he had “went into this (Manchester) guitar shop and there was a sign banning people from playing Wonderwall. When I walked in, they all groaned.”
This brings us to the current phase that began around 2010 with a meme that said “I don’t know that one…here, let me play ‘Wonderwall’ again.” Since then the song has mainly been referenced through conversational jokes and jabs. College Humor even got in on the fun through releasing a video in 2009 called “Learning Guitar to Get Laid” where a man plays through “Wonderwall” and is slowly surrounded by nearly a dozen women who can’t keep their hands off him. In the video’s preamble the guitar player jokes that “There are literally thousands of chords, but only four of them are needed to play ‘Wonderwall’,” allegedly making it the perfect low-effort chick magnet.
So what’s the next phase for this song? We’ve already gone through love, loathe, and mock, so what’s left? Well I’ve got three wishes to follow those three phases with.
My first wish would be more versions like the one Jon Sudano did in 2016. The video is titled “OASIS: WONDERWALL VOCAL COVER 2016…” and I don’t want to spoil the surprise for you, but he starts singing a different popularly-memed song at around the 12 second mark, and it’s definitely a mash-up that’s worth trolling your friends with.
My second wish would be that if you really, truly, honestly think you’ve got a way to cover the song that no one has done in the 25 years it’s existed…GO FOR IT! Honestly, who knows what you could create? While it’s true that you only really need four chords for the song, you don’t actually have to stick to those four chords – you can mix them up or change the tone however you’d like, as long as you retain at least some parts of the melody. The cover of “Wonderwall” by Scary Pockets with Darren Criss is honestly one of my favourite covers of all time, and I’ll confess that I’ve had it on repeat for the entire time it took me to write this article (which has been like three hours straight so far, and I’m still jamming). They put a solid funk spin on the song that shouldn’t work but does, and the video’s worth watching just to see how enthusiastic the keyboardist and bass player are.
My third and final wish is that we bring busking and open mic nights to a karaoke-esque level by playing songs that have no business being played in that context but that people will sing along to, and one of the most fun ways to do that is to play with genre. Picture a busker covering “Pants On The Ground” by General Larry Platt with a banjo and harmonica. Imagine a barbershop quartet rickrolling the entire crowd at an open mic night. I want to be walking downtown and hear a mournful violin player serenade Scarth Street with “It’s Raining Men” by The Weather Girls.
What I’m trying to say here is there’s still places we haven’t ventured to yet, and discouraging people from trying to make new versions with the idea that it’s all been done before could stop us from missing out on some incredible compositions, or at the very least, some meme-worthy creations.