The dangers of romanticizing Wreckless Eric's “Whole Wide World”

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Wreckless Eric

In my most recent breakup I was told, more or less, I'm searching for someone who doesn't exist. My ex-girlfriend's final criticism was that my idea of someone better than her being out there was a fool's errand. Of the smiteful parting statements she could have delivered (the sort that burrow into the subconscious for months of questioning and regret), her insistence that I'd tossed aside my “one” didn't sting like she probably hoped it would. A month later, I'm sitting outside of a coffeeshop in San Francisco with a friend, talking relationship hardships and lessons accumulated, while watching the farmer's market crowd of yuppies and families. I said to him, “the next girl I date is going to require a search. I always go for the girl that's easy to get. I never challenge myself like I do elsewhere.”

It could be said, that I blame this personal philosophy—this quest—on an unhealthy admiration for Wreckless Eric's “Whole Wide World”. While I don't share Wreckless Eric's “the one” sentiment, I do believe in great lengths, extensive travel, and methodical patience in obtaining precisely what one wants over settling for the convenient. I've passed on second pressings and re-issues in record stores, like I've let decent women slip from my life on the grounds that a mint original is out there waiting for me to lift it from the stacks.

Does “Whole Wide World” have some existential grip on my understanding of love? Boy, I hope not. What sort of person allows the reckless simplicity of a pop-punk song comprised of two chords inform his life with such equally reckless altruism? To some degree, Wreckless Eric's “Whole Wide World” is a menace to the psyche. It's charming, as noted in the Nigel Dick documentary below, how Eric pronounces “Tahiti”, while the very notion that it would take traveling to Polynesia in order to locate a dream girl is chicken soup for the lovelorn sap. It suggests that if you align yourself to Eric's lyrics you are idyllic which triggers the sort of pheromones that encourages Maggie Gyllenhaal to makeout with Will Ferrell (Stranger Than Fiction). In some distant (see also, fantasy) existence, you could play “Whole Wide World” on a jukebox in a bar, return to the stool, and a girl will engage you with curosity. There are alternate planes of reality that began in 1978 and cut off around 1998 in which every mixtape a guy ever gave a gal contained Wreckless Eric near the end of side A. Carl Sagan would back me up on this.

Wreckless Eric eventually found her in Amy Rigby, an American singer-songwriter, which proves he was not bullshitting through a hit single. But it took him almost thirty years to find her. There's little chance of escaping the romanticism “Whole Wide World” when to some degree Eric lived it. Don't interpret that as grounds to believe in the power of “Whole Wide World”, there's just as many songs about the abundance of girls, but in times of drought Wreckless is there with the hand claps and Nick Lowe is there with the uplifting bass cords to assure you it's worth the search.

Stiff Records is re-issuing the 7″ along with nine other iconic singles and calling the boxset 10 Big Stiffs. The box set is available November 26 on Record Store Day, information for which you can find here.