Q: What did you think about Ryan Adams’ version of “Wonderwall”?
A: It’s shit to me, man. I like Ryan Adams and I like some of his songs. But I hated what he did with “Wonderwall.”
That quote comes from a recent interview Liam Gallagher did with MTV, largely discussing his new band Beady Eye before conversation inevitably turned toward the cultural landmark that is Oasis. Looking back, it’s a bit telling of how big Oasis truly was that we’re still intrigued by songs that have long since become overused, overplayed and overly dissected. “Wonderwall” peaked at #2 on the UK singles chart back in November of 1995, but what still resonates as one of the most significant moments in the song’s history ultimately had less to do with Oasis and more to do with a band that had formed a mere two years earlier on the platform of reinterpreting “universally popular songs.”
While the Mike Flowers Pops’ cover of “Wonderwall” still stands as one of the most bizarre versions of the song, it achieved such shocking success that it nonetheless solidified its place in pop culture history. On December 30, 1995, while Oasis’ version of “Wonderwall” sat firmly at the #7 position on the UK’s singles chart, the Mike Flowers Pops’ rendition of the track debuted at the exact same position that the original had peaked at mere seven weeks earlier. Just let that settle in for a moment: while “Wonderwall” failed to top the singles charts in either the US or UK, it was so widely adored that even while the original remained a relevant single, a cover was initially able to match its commercial success. For two weeks “Wonderwall” locked down two top 10 positions on the singles chart, a feat which seems unbelievable in retrospect. That being said, the story of the Mike Flowers Pops’ “Wonderwall” runs a little bit deeper than simply being a timely cover of a wildly acclaimed single.
Earlier in the year Flowers (born Mike Roberts) was recruited by BBC Radio 1’s Kevin Greening to cover modern singles for the DJ’s show. The project was set to feature a new cover every week and for the first installment in the new series the collective decided that there’d be no better bet than to stick with “Wonderwall,” as it was still near the peak of its popularity. After recording and releasing the song on Greening’s radio show, English radio host and personality Chris Evans caught wind of it, falsely believing it to be an uncredited original released decades before Oasis had even formed as a band. That week Evans dubbed the track the “single of the week” on his Radio 1 breakfast show, wrongly informing listeners that it was indeed the original version and that the brothers Gallagher were artistic squatters. Once the dust settled and controversy was put to rest, the Gallaghers eventually gave permission for the cover’s release and, as they say, the rest is history.
Though the Mike Flowers Pops never matched the success of that first single, the group found scattered achievements following its release including a groovy version of the Doors’ “Light My Fire” which cracked the top 40 in August of 1996.
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