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Glen Campbell: 1936 − 2017 August 12, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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In comments during the week crocodileshoes, Michael Carley and 6to5against noted in relation to the death this week of Glen Campbell the following…

crocodileshoes – August 9, 2017
Someone called ‘The Wichita Lineman’ ‘the first existentialist number one’. SonofStan would know who.
When I was 11, Glen Campbell was just another of those MOR Americans on tv, like Andy Williams. Now those Jimmy Webb songs, in particular, shine out when they crop up on oldies radio. Same goes for Bacharach.

Michael Carley – August 9, 2017
The equivalent of those great songs and artists who were lost in the genre of the day (a lot of disco, say) and were really only appreciated when they survived to be heard properly in their own right.

6to5against – August 9, 2017
Sometimes I like to lecture young people and tell them to admit to themselves right now that country music is great, and save themselves 20 year soft denial. They never listen. But it entertains me, so that’s ok…..
On the other hand, having accepted this truth in my own life, and having listened to some Johnny Cash, I went back to listen to his earlier stuff – the big, big hits – and couldn’t get past the crap arrangements. Maybe it wasn’t just modern listeners who were sticking country music in a narrow genre-shaped box.
But the Glen Campbell/Jimmy Web songs aren’t like that. They were really well produced with great arrangements, that stand up today. Wonderful stuff.
Incidentally, are there many more examples of a singer depending so much on one songwriter, in relatively modern times? I bet there are, unbeknownst to many of us. Or me at least.

I think all three sum up just what was great about Campbell. There was always a sniffiness about country, particularly in rock circles, which perhaps – not forgetting honourable exceptions in the 80s and certain country inflected indie groups, including one or two Irish ones – began to die out in the 1990s. But country is such a broad genre or genres with so much to explore, and for those more rock oriented it has a vast hinterland of crossover into other areas. Those who haven’t made the effort to listen to Gram Parsons or Emmy Lou Harris or Willie Nelson or whoever are missing out.

Like many I suspect my first introduction to Campbell was Rhinestone Cowboy in the 70s, and it was infuriatingly catchy (albeit not written by him). That it had that strand of melancholy and self-reflectivity that country often manages to nail down took me years to recognise.

But when I heard Wichita Lineman I was blown away. This was a song that even today stands up as perfect. Melodically, lyrically, the delivery of the vocals and the arrangement. Jimmy Webb, of course wrote it and it is the ability of Webb and Campbell to work together that makes it timeless.

But Campbell worked with a huge range of artists – for example I’d forgotten until scanning wiki that he’d provided guitar on Pet Sounds. It’s difficult to quite grasp that by the 70s he was already in his fifties and at the height of a very diverse career. And in a way, as noted in the first paragraph above, he reflects the nature of country itself. Fire ahead with favourites but here’s Wichita Lineman.

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Comments»

1. 6to5against - August 12, 2017

Not Glen Campbell moments, but two singers in particular drew me out of my indie-rock bubble and convinced me that country music could be great.

One was Paul Cleary who did a duet with Ray Lynam in the 80s.

And before that, I don’t think Elvis Costello ever gets enough credit for how brave it was to go off and do a country album at the height of his cool:

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Dr. X - August 14, 2017

It had a sticker that read something like “contains country music. may cause adverse reaction in narrow minded people”.

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2. EWI - August 12, 2017

Growing up in a semi-rural, country’n’western FF household where Foster and Allan, Daniel O’Donnell etc. were the only allowed music, Glen Campbell was a godsend as good music that could be put on the turntable without causing uproar.

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EWI - August 12, 2017

(seriously, there’s a ‘Deliverance’-style horror movie to be made of such a time and place)

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3. crocodileshoes - August 12, 2017

The quality control problem is part of it. Some of the schmalz on the Johnny Cash and Glen Campbell albums and tv shows in the 60s and 70s would make your toes curl. It wasn’t all Folsom Prison Blues and Wichita Lineman. Country as a genre has too wide a constituency and is too collaborative in nature to produce artists who make only masterpieces.

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WorldbyStorm - August 12, 2017

That’s true but in a way isn’t it also a strength that it allows for I don’t know a sort of openness, though agreed it can mess up big time.

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4. Geraldus Galwensis - August 13, 2017

When country singer Jim Reeves died in a plane crash on his way to Nashville in July 1964 there were some villages in Central Africa where people wept openly for three days, and prayers were said in churches. Most country singing is white, down-home schmalz, but it has a melodic and thematic ‘openness’ that spreads it worldwide among all races and ethnos.

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5. 6to5against - August 13, 2017

BBC6 just playing this now, doing a lot of Glen Campbell stuff this morning. Didn’t realise how influential he was. Apparently he played guitar here…

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6. roddy - August 13, 2017

“Gentle on my mind ” was Campbell’s best effort. As for Ray Lynam ,Shane McGowan bestowed “cool” on him by referencing him – “while Ray and Philomena sang of my elusive dreams”

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