Over Analyzing The Lyrics To Wreckless Eric's "Whole Wide World" by Andrea Grassi

Apart from Roberta Flack’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” and Townes Van Zandt’s “Be Here to Love Me”, Wreckless Eric’s 1977 single “Whole Wide World” is, in my eyes, the most romantic song in existence. It is simple and to the point. So simple in fact, both in its lyricism and its arrangement, that I was able to teach myself an acoustic version of it without even knowing any chords or really being able to play the guitar at all (and also, with a string broken). So it is really a straightforward song if you’ve never heard it (click video embedded below immediately). I like it for this simplicity. I think its style mirrors the way love is – lucid. It’s either there or it isn’t – either black and blue or brilliant and glowing and warm. In the fashion of Hemingway, its words are sparse and true, and truth always hits us hard in ways we can’t explain. Truth cuts to our core, and so does this song.

The lyrics I have most affection for come in the second verse:

Why am I hanging around in the rain out here
Tryin’ to think of a girl?
Why are my eyes fillin’ up with these lonely tears
When there’s girls all over the world?

BUT, before I launch into a discussion of the lyrics above I would like to note a distinction to the reader probably saying to themselves, “what is she talking about love being simple? It’s so complicated!”. To this reader I say, let us not confuse love with relationship. Relationships are love in practice, and are always difficult. But love itself, as a thing that everyone and no one really knows well, is simple because it is a basic human feeling (perhaps function). Think about it. You know you are hungry (love), so you get a sandwich but have difficulty eating it because it is one of those crazy wraps with stringy lettuce and as you bite down all your sauces drip down your arm and your olives fall out of the bottom (relationship). OH, and UH, ONE MORE THING. I know in the first installation of S vs. Q, I argued that there was no “one”. That wasn’t to say that those were my beliefs, I just (albeit incorrectly) thought if Cher believed that, it was an ingenious dance song because it had more depth than the regular lot. Eric’s song argues for a “one”, and to that I’ll just draw a joker instead of revealing my beliefs by saying a latin phrase: arium et mutabile semper femina (Woman is always a changeable and capricious thing).

So now that we’re hanging out on the same page, let’s rub our hands together and really enjoy this next little bit of analysis. The song is a romantic love song, without being an epic wailing thing that talks about people on trains (sorry, Steve Perry). So far it is winning the race of cool love songs in the way that Billy Bragg does – you feel like you are talking to the musician. I love these kinds of songs, because they feel like a story and the writer in me loves this approach (I’ll get around to a post about Pulp’s “Common People” soon). The despair the singer feels at being alone is likened to tears or a rainstorm which is a pretty classic use of pathetic fallacy (I have to use my English degree sometimes on this thing, OK). I love also that is the sensitive male perspective. Feeling alone in a crowded room. Hoping for his soul mate. I’d like to think men believe this, but most of the men I meet claim they could never picture themselves with just one person their whole lives. I like that Eric believes in a girl that he doesn’t even know, but knows is out there somewhere. Great hope for love coming from a mangy hard-lipped rocker. This song is full of delicious contrast.

HOLD UP. As I sit here and type I hear this song on the TV. I run to the set to see which program has optioned my beloved and it is… McDonald’s. Yes, those damn golden arches (horns?) have taken the most romantic song in the whole wide world to peddle meat and sugary buns. Damn you, North America. I shall type no more…(Also, I am lazy.)


Andrea Grassi is a writer and blogger based in Toronto. For more musings, click: agrassi.com 

This post originally appeared on agrassi.com as part of a series called "Sound vs. Quill: An Exercise In Over Analyzing Song Lyrics"


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