I’ll be doing a proper blog post in a couple of hours, but just wanted to acknowledge the death of the great singer and guitarist Glen Campbell.
It’s not necessarily a sad thing that he has finally died — by all accounts for the last year or two there was nothing of him left, as a particularly nasty form of Alzheimer’s had taken away all his functioning, and indeed when I saw his friend Jimmy Webb live last year, the tour was explicitly positioned as a tribute to Campbell, and he spoke of him in the past tense. But whether “he” died today or a couple of years back, it’s still a great loss.
Campbell was deeply involved in some of my favourite music. Everyone knows, of course, the great string of hits written for him by Webb in the late sixties — “Wichita Lineman”, “Galveston”, “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” and more — and there are very few voices in popular music that have had the sheer beauty of his. Maybe Roy Orbison, maybe Tim Buckley. A handful at most.
But he also sang on two of the greatest soft pop singles ever recorded, “Guess I’m Dumb” (written for him by Brian Wilson and Russ Titelman in 1965), which is frankly better than most of Pet Sounds, and “My World Fell Down” by Saggitarius, which manages to outdo the Beach Boys at their own game.
And, indeed, he played with the Beach Boys for a short period, replacing Brian Wilson. They called him in because he’d played on many of their records so knew the parts — he was a top session guitarist before becoming a star in his own right, and played on records like “Surf City” by Jan and Dean, “Mary Mary” by the Monkees, “Hey Little Cobra” by the Rip Chords, and many, many more records I love dearly.
It’s a sad loss.
By coincidence, I’d just been learning Witchita Lineman on guitar — a surprisingly sophisticated song that achieves its apparent naturalness by pulling a whole bag of tricks. It is, by some distance, the most romantic song ever written about telephone repair.