This song was inspired by an Amnesty International pamphlet Gabriel read that dealt with political prisoners in Latin America. "It was written with Amnesty International in mind, prisoners of conscience, people being tortured," he said in a 2011 video interview posted on his website.
The title doesn't appear in the lyric, which paints a picture of a prisoner trapped in a small cell, in danger of being forgotten. A "wallflower" is a person who shies away from others at social gatherings, typically staying by a wall and blending in with the scenery. Gabriel uses the term to describe someone who doesn't have the option of interacting with others.
Running 6:30, this song gradually builds as Gabriel offers words of encouragement, exhorting, "hold on, hold on." The song has a specific inspiration, but many fans find it relates to their own personal struggles.
Gabriel recorded an orchestral version for his 2011 album New Blood. That year, he used the song to lend support to International Bridges To Justice (IBJ), an organization dedicated to the protection of human rights.
Gabriel covered Radiohead's "Street Spirit (Fade out)
" for a covers album called Scratch My Back
in 2010 and expected the band to cover "Wallflower" from the companion album "And I'll Scratch Yours," but they never did.