This past Thanksgiving when in Kansas City I took in a movie with my family; a surprisingly good and quirky romantic comedy of sorts with Will Ferrell called “Stranger Than Fiction.” The offbeat, Charlie Kauffman-esque, fourth wall-breaking plot told the story of a straight-laced and boring man (Will Ferrell) who began to hear a voice narrating his very ordinary and uninspiring life. As he slowly began to realize the narrator was an author writing his story he begins to unravel and find ways to instill new things into his plot line to prevent his ultimate fate.
In one particular scene, Ferrell sits nervously on the couch of Maggie Gyllenhaal’s apartment trying to show his romantic sincerity. Revealing that a secret dream of his was to play guitar, he picks up an all-too-coincidentally placed acoustic next to him and plays the one song he knows.
The whole film up to that point was backed by the music of the boozy indie-pop of Spoon, so I figured this song was by them. Eventually Ferrell’s version fades out and a Clash-like version (the original) fades in. It was such a catchy, simple pop punk perfection I left the theatre humming the song so I wouldn’t forget.
Afterwards I spent a good part of the afternoon figuring out the song was titled “Whole Wide World” by an artist named Wreckless Eric, something of a 70s Brit Punk outfit that had a few albums and faded away.
You know how it seems that once you find something, it then becomes more apparent that that it was in front of your eyes the entire time? The other day I found an old live performance of Elvis Costello and the Attractions from 1977. Buried about eight songs deep into the setlist? “Whole Wide World.”
Take a listen to that great performance:[audio:https://hellocomein.com/soundbox/ElvisCostello_WholeWideWorld.mp3]
I always love when a film introduces me to some old obscure song or artist I had previously overlooked and use it in a great cinematic way. So treat this as a lesson in romance… to impress, pull out old your rickety acoustic guitar and strum out that long lost classic tune and their hearts will melt.
UPDATE: Here is the Wreckless Eric’s version of the song: