What’s a wonderwall anyway? What an excellent question! (Especially since spellcheck, the wonderful invention students now worship, doesn’t even recognize “wonderwall”…or “spellcheck” for that matter. Is it “spell-check” or “spell check”?!)

But ANYWAY, “What’s a wonderwall anyway?” is a line in the Travis song, “Writing to Reach You”, and it seems to be poking fun at Oasis in the same way Travis sings “There’s no devil’s haircut in my mind” (Yes, that would be a Beck reference). But this is not the question… Besides a classic Oasis song, what is a wonderwall??

“Wonderwall” is also an erotic and trippy movie made in the 60’s. The professor, Oscar Collins, becomes literally obsessed with Penny Lane, a model that lives next door to him. He drills holes in her wall (the wonderwall) to watch her and the beauty she radiates. However, Oscar’s obsession is not disgusting in any way. It’s beautiful in an unexplainable way, maybe in a “Lolita”, “Carmen”, or “Harold and Maude” way. It’s a cult classic for those that care, and a handy phrase for others to throw around because of the score by George Harrison. As Monica Sullivan writes, “Even the biggest Beatles fans in the world know the title, but nothing else about ‘Wonderwall’.” Although Monica may be correct, the fan base will surely improve due to the new box set version of “Wonderwall”. Very recently, this film has been re-edited and the sound quality has been improved to DVD standards. The box set includes all kinds of goodies, like George Harrison’s soundtrack, a guitar track by Eric Clapton, and some production stills. Is it worth the investment? You decide… there have been many positive reviews but even more negative reviews of the film.

So, inspired by The Beatles, Oasis created the song “Wonderwall”. Or are they just thieves? This is also a debatable question. There are many anti-Oasis critics that call Oasis “Beatles wannabes”. But let’s face it, the Beatles have influenced the world more than any other band. They were bigger than The King. They were bigger than the King of Pop. They were bigger than anything, and for many, they still are. I think Oasis knows they owe much of their success to The Beatles. Let’s remember, Oasis re-made “I am the Walrus”, a song few Beatles fans know all of the words to but even fewer understand. I think the Oasis version of “Wonderwall” is merely an interpretation and a tribute to George Harrison.

What’s that leave us with? It’s obvious that we can only think of Travis as a tertiary source. “What’s a wonderwall anyway?” It’s a tricky question because a wonderwall could be a number of things for many different people. It could be the mystical gate between reality and fantasy. It could be that impermeable wall that makes the impossible dream so impossible. It could be a mere soundtrack title or a trippy movie as well… or even a stolen song title. It’s all a matter of opinion and interpretation, as all art should be.

Joe Massot's 1968 piece of psychedelia involves a stuffy professor (Jack MacGowran) in a cluttered apartment who discovers a hole in the wall. It permits him to peep into the life of his counterculture neighbour, a model named Penny Lane (Jane Birkin), and her various friends. His response? He becomes obsessed, makes more holes, and feigns illness in order to stay home and continue watching. The strange film features wondrous production design (by the Fool) some good bits, and an interesting ending. It moves slowly, however, and the self-consciously trippy sequences may further try the patience of many viewers. Others might wonder about a film which transforms an obsessive Peeping Tom into a conventional hero.

The film's greatest claim to fame is the experimental soundtrack by George Harrison. Who else, in '68, scored a Beatle to score their movie? Harrison even convinced Eric Clapton to contribute guitar work. Wonderwall Music-- the first solo album by a Beatle-- remains a musical curiosity. The cult film received mostly poor reviews and has receded.

Oasis took the title for their 1995 hit song from the album.1 It's not known if they'd seen the movie.

It's a difficult movie to recommend. If you're really into the era, it's worth seeing, though parts of it likely will bore you. It's the sort of thing that gets called a time capsule.

On that score, it's better than I Love You, Alice B. Toklas, but not as good as Monterey Pop.

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1. France Kindon. "Liam Gallagher's foul-mouthed reaction to Oasis' Wonderwall – and why he still hates it." Daily Mirror October 30, 2019.

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