On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.
My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.
I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.
So long as I post everyday (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be…
Glen Campbell – Wichita Lineman (1968)
It was an enjoyable visit to Jamaica, dear reader, but we’re heading back to the US today. Our guest was originally from Arkansas and would go on to enjoy a career as a musician and on television. We are talking about Glen Campbell and 1001 Songs is focusing on his collaboration with songwriter, Jimmy Webb, who wrote some of Campbell’s biggest hits. Our focus today is on a song that falls somewhere between country and pop, an unusual hybrid you might say, by the name of Wichita Lineman.
Wichita Lineman was written by Webb and inspired by a monotonous drive he took in Washita County in Oklahoma. Passing an endless array of telephone poles, Webb suddenly spotted a lineman high up one of the poles doing maintenance work and the song suddenly came to him. Wichita Lineman takes such an individual as its narrator and the song conveys the dedication they have to their job but also the endless loneliness that such work entails. They hear a voice through the lines they maintain, having a need for this person but not an overwhelming desire for anything substantial, just a means to rid themselves of their solitude. The prospect of a holiday sounds tempting but the lineman tells us he worries about the impact of particular weather on the telephone poles he works on. This is his life and a lonely one it is at that.
My musical ignorance was in full flow here again, I have to say. I wasn’t familiar with Glen Campbell and had certainly never heard Wichita Lineman. I enjoyed the back story to this one though. It’s one of those fortuitous occurrences that Jimmy Webb saw that particular lineman during a drive; proof that inspiration comes to many in the most unlikely of places. As for the song itself, it’s beautifully sung by Campbell but it sounds unusual, not really country, not really pop, more its own musical entity which only adds to the appeal.
Favourite songs so far:
Ben E. King – Stand By Me (1961)
The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)
Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)
The Who – Substitute (1966)
The Rolling Stones – Paint It Black (1966)
The Beach Boys – God Only Knows (1966)
The Doors – The End (1967)
The Kinks – Waterloo Sunset (1967)
The Beatles – A Day in the Life (1967)
Procol Harum – A Whiter Shade of Pale (1967)