Showing posts with label jimmy webb. Show all posts
Showing posts with label jimmy webb. Show all posts

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Don't Buy This Book

Writing a memoir is a tricky endeavor. There's the right (interesting) way and the wrong ("WTF") way. I think I wrote my memoir the right way, and I'm not even a professional.

I'd always heard that Jimmy Webb was a master songwriter, and as a songwriter myself, I was naturally interested in reading his story. Let me expand on that a bit: Truthfully, I never thought Webb was a "master" songwriter, but everybody says he is. I hated "Wichita Lineman" when it was first released in 1968. I like it now and I appreciate the writer's craft. "Galveston" wasn't as good, but it was good. Webb obviously thought he was good. One doesn't really know much about that, however, in this memoir. One does learn a lot about the properties of various street drugs. I guess I could write a history of my love of nicotine, but you really had to be there.

It's kind of sad if one's legacy consists of naked orchestral concerts performed after swallowing random little white pills. Let's just say the anecdote doesn't heighten my admiration.

"The Cake And The Rain" is a drug book.

I'm no prude. I'm a live and let live kind of gal. But again, I prefer not to define my life by my cigarette addiction. Jimmy revels in his pharmaceutical dependence. At his (advanced) age, one would expect a bit of clearheaded wisdom.

Here's a synopsis of the book (so you don't have to buy it): he had affairs with various married women and one of his concubines inspired one of the goofiest songs of all time:

I think Webb mentioned that he brought the song to the Association at one of their recording sessions, and their combined reaction to it was, WTF?? Kind of a universal sentiment.

Also, balloons.

I mean, come on... 

I think I borrowed the book from my library (I thankfully didn't purchase it) because Glen Campbell had recently passed away and I was feeling sentimental. This book just made me feel icky.

The author comes across as glib and severely out of touch. But he did buy drugs for Nillson and John Lennon, so there's that...

I don't know why I read the book the whole way through. I was perhaps hoping for a morsel of hard-fought wisdom. I didn't find it.

There's one thing I found admirable about Jimmy's songwriting -- and it was only found in the index -- apparently not worth but a cursory mention:

I'm told this book was only Chapter One. 

Good luck there, Jimmy. I don't know what else is left to say, but I won't be finding out. 

You should read mine sometime. It's actually interesting, and I'm not even famous.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Still On The Line

In the late sixties, FM radio suddenly appeared out of nowhere. It's hard to fathom now, but back then, AM radio ruled, static and all. AM radio was Top 40 -- if one waited a few brief minutes, she would be sure to hear "Kicks" by Paul Revere and the Raiders or even better, "The Letter" by the Box Tops. It was guaranteed. The Top Ten Countdown was the highlight of a preteen's Saturday night.

FM was "experimental". Sure, it had a nice deep bass sound, but no one knew quite what to do with it. Nobody was actually listening. Local disc jockeys, as was their wont, didn't particularly care for the genre of music they'd been hired to spin. Thus (since no one was listening anyway) the "country" DJ's chose to skirt the outer rims of country music. I was thirteen and ensconced in a closet-sized bedroom I shared with my little brother and sister, who were thankfully never there, so in the evenings I'd click the button on my newfangled AM/FM radio to the FM band and be subjected to "country" such as "Me and Paul" by a guy whose voice I hated -- Willie Nelson -- and to the sugary-sweet strings of "By The Time I Get To Phoenix"; one of the worst songs ever written (thanks, Jimmy Webb!). Because I despised that song so much, I developed a burning hatred for Glen Campbell. I refused to even admit to myself that "Wichita Lineman" and "Galveston" were tunes worthy of a cursory listen. I knew nothing of Glen Campbell, other than that he'd suddenly appeared out of nowhere and that he recorded crappy songs.  Honestly, hearing a Glen Campbell song caused me to grind my teeth.

Then he had that summer fill-in show for the Smothers Brothers. He was hokily earnest. "Hi!! I'm Glen CAMPBELL!" Well, yee-haw. His chubby cheeks had a rubish pink hue. He was far too enthusiastic for someone who could croon drivel like "By The Time I Get To Phoenix". Naturally, I watched the show. We had the Big Three networks; that's it. It was either watch the crumbs of "country" music or turn the TV off; and we couldn't turn the TV off -- we were children of the sixties, after all.

I begrudgingly admitted I liked this one (written by John Hartford):

It wasn't until decades later that I learned Glen had been a stellar member of the Wrecking Crew, and had played on all the sixties songs I worshiped.  Who knew? This guy? This geeky hayseed?

The sixties rolled on into the seventies. Glen Campbell turned into another "oldies" act in my mind. I'd moved on from my bunk-bedded bedroom and was all "grown up"; married and desperate for decent music that I scratched and clawed to unearth.  There were stories about Glen and Tanya Tucker. Tabloid stories. It was all tawdry -- the teenage country princess and the dirty old man. Glen was someone whose time had come and gone. It was the mid-seventies when this next single hit the airwaves. It was a curious song; sort of bittersweet, but possessed of a voice that conjured something deep in the recesses of my brain; a voice sweetly familiar:

Suddenly Glen Campbell was everywhere:

Suddenly I was remembering things I liked about Glen Campbell, like this:

Then I forgot about him.

Life goes on and we get older. We shed the things that once mattered, because there are new things.

My dad died from Alzheimer's Disease in 2001. I lived miles away and I didn't see my dad except for that one last time when he was still speaking -- albeit to his imaginary friend -- but that was okay with me. I wish now that I'd had the chance to rub his arm when he was bedridden in the nursing home, at the end. He wouldn't have known me, but I would have known him. My dad didn't have any muscle-memory skills except the ability to speak French. He wasn't a guitar virtuoso. Learning that Glen Campbell had Alzheimer's hit me harder than I expected. I wanted to feel that the essence of Glen still remained, if only for a little while, so I bought "Ghost On The Canvas" and it made me cry, as I thought it would -- although the album was far better than the sorrow I wanted to wallow in.

If I could travel back in time, I would sit with my dad every day, for every one of his last days. I wouldn't care that he didn't know me -- I knew him. In the last dream I had of my dad, he was young - fifty-ish maybe; vigorous; traversing a long hallway wearing his ubiquitous short-sleeved white dress shirt, on his way to a hotel banquet room to find his friends and acquaintances. He passed right by me; didn't see me. I called out to him but he didn't even take a backward glance. My dad didn't have any backward glances at the end. There were no backward glances to take.

I watched the documentary, I'll Be Me, again the other night. I'll probably watch it again.

Oh, and by the way, thanks, Jimmy Webb. I actually do like these songs: 

Bye, Glen.

Say "hi" to my dad.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Glen Campbell ~ Ghost on the Canvas

If one remembers back to the late nineteen sixties, the emergence of Glen Campbell as a superstar was not the most welcome news to hard-core country fans.

Most people were listening to Merle and Waylon, and maybe Charley Pride; when along came this syrupy heavily-string-laden stuff, that bore really no resemblance to country music at all. Sort of like today (without the strings).

One can look back now, with rose-colored glasses, and bemoan the loss of this so-called golden age of country music; this year of 1967. Poppycock. There were some great releases, no doubt. But the tide was beginning turn. Ray Price popped up with "Danny Boy". Eddy Arnold was in string heaven, with releases such as, "Misty Blue". Sonny James, who I admit, I never quite got, was still hitting the charts. That creepy song, "Ode to Billy Joe" was huge. I like a song with an obscure meaning as much as the next guy, but was there actually a point to this song? He could have been throwing anything off that bridge. For all I know, it was an Eddy Arnold album. Which would explain a lot (no offense, Eddy, rest your soul).

So, amidst Branded Man, I Don't Wanna Play House, and Pop a Top, along came By The Time I Get To Phoenix. That song sounded dated even when it was current. I know that Jimmy Webb wrote the bible for songwriters, but I absolutely hated that song. And I still do. Maybe the song was okay, but the production.....Maybe if the producer had stuck a beat on the thing, it wouldn't have induced me into a coma.

Glen has always been a consummate musician. He was part of the Wrecking Crew, for God's sake. I don't think it was his fault. I just think that whoever was producing him (and I'm not looking it up) carried too much clout, and Glen carried little to none. I'm guessing the producer cut his teeth on Mantovani albums.

Glen did better with Gentle on My Mind, the song with two thousand verses and no chorus. But I liked it. A John Hartford song. And a John Hartford banjo.

And he had perhaps the best track of his career with Wichita Lineman (yes, Jimmy Webb did better this time around).

And then Glen had some lost years, which is neither here nor there. In 1975 (what is it about years that have "7" in them?), he had a huge hit with Rhinestone Cowboy. You like that one? Really? I realize Larry Weiss (and yea, I did have to look that up) has had a bunch of cuts, and I have had zero, but life isn't really fair, now, is it?

So, I've had a like/hate relationship with Glen Campbell's music for about what......44 years?? What?? No way am I that old!

But when I read that he'd been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, it made me very sad. My dad had Alzheimer's. It's a cruel, heartless disease.

Then, later, I read that he was embarking on one last tour. Good idea? I don't know ~ time will tell, I guess.

Finally, I found that he had recorded an album. His last. "Ghost on the Canvas". I was naturally curious. I clicked on some samples on Amazon, and I really liked what I heard. Really liked.

So, I downloaded the CD today. I actually went out to purchase the CD, but alas. I wasn't about to drive all over town today, so I went to my neighborhood Target store, in the futile hope that they would be carrying it. Ha! I did see some offerings by people named Dierks and Billy (oh, probably a bunch of Billys), and Trace and Chance and Community Chest. However, I didn't pass "GO", since there were no Glen Campbell CD's in the "C" section. (And I'm sure that Trace and Billy(s) have all made stellar CD's, ones that will stand the test of time, if the test of time is approximately three minutes long).

Call me old (fashioned), but when there is a CD I really want, I like to own it in physical form. I'm thinking, believe it or not, that if I can find the CD anywhere, I still might buy it!

Because this is: THE BEST ALBUM OF THE YEAR.

It might be just me, but I always viewed Glen Campbell as sort of flip. When he was strutting onstage, doing Rhinestone Cowboy, I thought, he doesn't really believe in this song. It's a joke to him. (And to us.)

When he was weighted down with heavy strings on those early songs, I thought, well, he's finally got a career going, so he's going to pretend like the songs actually mean something to him.

This album, I will just say it now, made me cry.

There are no pauses between tracks. It's as if Glen had important things to say, and he had to say them in a hurry.

And he wrote or co-wrote the majority of the tracks.

Be forewarned. This is not a CD to play when you're looking for some light, fluffy entertainment.

Glen is not flip.

Glen is serious, philosophical, loving, warm, and reflective.

My favorite track was written by Robert Pollard, called, "Hold On Hope" (and I do know ~ now ~ that this was previously recorded by another artist, but it is so appropriate here):

Every street is dark
And folding out mysteriously
Where lies the chance we take to be
Always working
Reaching out for a hand that we
can't see
Everybody's got a hold on hope
It's the last thing that's holding me

Invitation to the last dance
Then it's time to leave
But that's the price we pay
when we deceive
One another/animal mother
She opens up for free
Everybody's got a hold on hope
It's the last thing that's
holding me

Look at the talk box in mute
At the station
There hides the cowboy
His campfire flickering
on the landscape

That nothing grows on
But time still goes on
And through each life of misery
Everybody's got a hold on hope
It's the last thing that's holding me

And I've gotta hand it to him: Jimmy Webb wrote a great one. It's called, "Wish You Were Here". And "I Wish You Were Here" is so heartbreaking, in light of the circumstances.

Dear friend of mine, the weather's fine
Today I saw some ruins of the Roman world's decline
And I climbed all those Spanish steps, you've heard of them no doubt
But Rome has lost its glory, I don't know what it's about

I wish you were here
(when the shadows fall and all the rushing traffic stills)
I wish you were here
(and the bells are ringing on the seven hills)
I make my way to a small cafe
I wonder what you did today
Wish you were here

Dear one at home, i just flew in from Rome
And Paris is a postcard all decked in color chrome
And so I climbed the Eiffel Tower and prayed at Notre Dame
But I just can't find the romance and I wonder why I came

I wish you were here
(on the Champs Elysees, lovers walking hand in hand)
I wish you were here
(they take one look at me and seem to understand)
This city of light is a lovely sight
The first bright star I see tonight
Wish you were here

Now I write this from the plane
Drinking cheap champagne
Wonderin' why two people got so far apart

I wish you were here
(here in London where the rain is pouring down)
I wish you were here
(on this airplane headed back to New York town)
I'll never leave you alone again
I'm coming home, but until then
Wish you were here
Wish you were here
Wish you were here

I don't know what to say, other than, buy this CD.

I don't know if I will want to cheer....or cry......when this is named album of the year. A little of both, I guess. Deliriously happy, but sad.

Here are some clips of Glen singing, and then talking about Ghost on the Canvas

My. Oh my.