The Meaning of Oasis’ “Wonderwall”

Oasis live at Knebworth Park in 1996.

Oasis’ smash hit “Wonderwall” is the song that the British rock band are best known for, with its insanely catchy vocals and that earworm of a chorus that goes “Maybe, you’re gonna be the one that saves me.” Released in October 1995 as the third single from their second album (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?, “Wonderwall” was an immediate hit, reaching number 2 in the UK and number 8 on the U.S. Billboard charts, their first single to chart in the States.

“Wonderwall” would have been a #1 hit, except Oasis were beaten out by the popular television cover band Robson & Jerome, whose take on “I Believe” by Frankie Laine occupied the position at the time.

It doesn’t matter, at this point, whether or not the song took number 1 upon its release, because it has already proven its longevity many times over since then. “Wonderwall” is one of the most popular rock songs of all time, and is still in rotation on rock radio stations and college parties everywhere.

Noel Gallagher wrote the lyrics to “Wonderwall” and co-produced the track along with Owen Morris. The meaning of “Wonderwall” is about having someone who serves as a pillar in your life, who offers a sturdy place to lean in times of trouble. The choice of the phrase “Wonderwall” to describe this person seems to suggest that they’re more of a fantasy than a reality.

In this way, the song is about somebody who would like to avoid their problems and perhaps have them solved by someone else. As we all learn, this mythical person who will come and rescue us does not exist, and we alone are responsible for solving the problems in our lives. Still, as Oasis muse upon in “Wonderwall”, it’s nice to fantasize about being saved.

At first many assumed that “Wonderwall” was written about Meg Matthews, whom Noel Gallagher was dating at the time and who he has since married and divorced. Gallagher himself even said this in early interviews regarding the song, although he later said something entirely different.

“The meaning of that song was taken away from me by the media who jumped on it,” Gallagher explains in a 2002 interview with the BBC. “And how do you tell your Mrs it’s not about her once she’s read it is? It’s a song about an imaginary friend who’s gonna come and save you from yourself.”

Oasis live at Knebworth Park in 1996.

Connection with The Beatles

Oasis have often spoke on the massive influence that the Beatles had on their sound, and sporadically covered Beatles songs. They even compared themselves to the Beatles, with Noel Gallagher famously saying on MTV in 1996 that Oasis were bigger than the Beatles after having played for 250,000 people at Knebworth Park, surpassing the Beatle’s Shea Stadium concert 30 years earlier.

With all this in mind, it’s no surprise that “Wonderwall”, too, was influenced by the Beatles.

In 1968, George Harrison wrote original music for the soundtrack of a film called Wonderwall, titled Wonderwall Music. It was the first-ever solo album from a member of the Beatles.

The film was about a scientist named Oscar Collins who spies on neighbors, Penny Lane the model along with her photographer boyfriend. Collins becomes infatuated with Penny Lane and imagines an entire fantasy in which he is deeply involved in her life.

Now you might imagine the narrator in “Wonderwall” by Oasis in the place of this scientist Oscar Collins, imagining a relationship between the two of them. This is a prime example of the love that Noel and Liam Gallagher have for the Beatles, even going this deep to imagine a concept for what became their most famous song.

Anyway, Here’s “Wonderwall”

It is said that when Noel first brought this song to Oasis practice, Liam said “What do you think you’re doing, dickhead?”. Then, in 2008, Liam said in an interview with NME, “Every time I have to sing it I want to gag.” Oasis unfortunately broke up in 2009 due to the hothead brothers being unable to get along, and the popularity of “Wonderwall” certainly didn’t help.

Even Noel, who wrote the song himself, is getting sick of it. He said told NME in another interview:

Outside of England, it’s the one song we’re famous for all over the world, and it annoys the fuck out of me. It’s not a fucking rock’n’roll tune. There’s quite a vulnerable statement to it. When people come up to me and say it’s one of the greatest tunes ever written, I think, ‘fucking hell, have you heard ‘Live Forever’’?

Noel Gallagher on “Wonderwall”

“Wonderwall” is even popular enough to have achieved meme status in the age of the internet, with the joke being that the song is overplayed and not that cool. This came about thanks to the song’s prominence among amateur guitar players who commonly perform the song and parties to try and impress people.

The joke has another layer of meaning as poking fun at the noted hothead divas who are the Gallagher brothers, as I’m sure they’ve heard the joke and they probably don’t think it’s funny.

Regardless of whether you love it or hate it, “Wonderwall” has woven itself into the cultural membrane and it’s not going away anytime soon. I’ll still call it for what it is, too — an absolute banger. Watch the music video below.

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