Wonderwall is the title of a movie by then first-time director Joe Massot that starred Jack MacGowran, Jane Birkin, Richard Wattis, Irene Handl, and Iain Quarrier, and featured cameos by Anita Pallenberg and Dutch designers The Fool (who were also set designers for the movie).
The story of the film revolves around the reclusive, eccentric scientist Oscar Collins (MacGowran), whose next-door neighbours are a pop photographer (Quarrier) and his girlfriend/model (Birkin), named Penny Lane. Discovering a beam of light streaming through a hole in the wall between them, Collins follows the light and spots Penny modelling for a photo shoot. Intrigued, he begins to make more holes, as days go by and they do more photo sessions. Oscar gradually becomes infatuated with the girl, and feels a part of the couple's lives, even forsaking work to observe them. When they quarrel and the couple split, Penny takes an overdose of pills and passes out, but Oscar comes to her rescue.
The soundtrack was composed by Beatle George Harrison, whom Massot approached specially for the project. Harrison had never done a movie soundtrack, and told Massot he didn't know how, but when Massot promised to use whatever Harrison created, Harrison took the job.
Deciding to make the soundtrack a kind of introduction to Indian music, Harrison recorded a series of short ragas at EMI's recording studio in Bombay in January 1968, then a selection of rock and other musical styles, at De Lane Lea Studios in London, England. Timing the segments with a stopwatch as he watched the unfinished movie, Harrison built up a healthy, varied musical program. The soundtrack album (Wonderwall Music), the first "solo" Beatles record, was released by Apple Records in November 1968. It also appeared on compact disc in 1992, during reissues of the Apple catalogue.
The movie premiered at the Cannes Film Festival that year, and won an award, but did not gain a proper distribution deal, and its showings were limited, leading some writers to mistakenly state that the movie "was so poor, it was never seen by anyone". A print did finally appear on the American midnight movies circuit in the 1970s, and on home video in the 1980s and 1990s, all of rather low technical quality.
In 1998, thirty years later and with Massot an established film director, he decided to restore and re-release his first movie. George Harrison's search for master recordings turned up a lyrical song, "In The First Place", which he hadn't submitted the first time around, believing Massot only wanted instrumental music. "In The First Place" was released as a single in 1999. Harrison is believed to have not only produced it, but to sing and play on it, although he asked to be only credited as producer. Massot was happy to include the song in the restored movie, which was released to critical acclaim the second time around, and got a distribution deal.
Wonderwall Music is George Harrison's first solo album and the soundtrack to the film Wonderwall. The songs are virtually all instrumental, except for some non-English vocals and a slowed-down spoken word track. The songs were recorded in December 1967 in England, and the rest in January 1968 in Bombay, India. Wonderwall Music is notable for being the first official solo album by one of the Beatles.
The recordings for the album were started in December 1967 in England. The rest was recorded in January 1968 in Bombay, India. Also recorded during the Indian sessions was the backing track to "The Inner Light", which became the B-side to "Lady Madonna", the final Beatles single on Parlophone Records.
Some of the musician's credits are pseudonyms for George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Ringo Starr. Harrison is listed merely as producer, arranger and writer for the album. Peter Tork of The Monkees also played banjo, but was not credited.
All of the tracks were composed by Harrison, and it was the first official solo album by one of The Beatles. It was the first album release on the newly formed Apple Records, released in November 1968, a few weeks before The Beatles. It would also be the first Apple record to be deleted, though it was remastered and reissued on CD in 1992.
In the CD liner notes, Harrison's description of the recording done in England is revealing: "I had a regular wind-up stopwatch and I watched the film to 'spot-in' the music with the watch. I wrote the timings down in my book, then I'd go to Abbey Road, make up a piece, record it." While the tracks recorded in England were made on multitrack recording machines and remixed, the Indian portions were recorded live to two-track stereo.
Wonderwall Music did not chart at all in the UK, but incredibly reached #49 in the U.S. in the early part of 1969, probably just because it was by a Beatles member.
Britpop band Oasis, well-known for their Beatles influences and motifs, had a major hit with a song called "Wonderwall" in the 1990s, whose title refers to this album.