Sunday, 23 March 2008

Guilty Pleasures Pt3

In post-war Britain, members of the armed forces often found themselves stationed in countries like West Germany or other global pinch points as our contribution to the cold war. In order to provide servicemen and women with a link home to Blighty, the BBC broadcast ‘Two-Way Family Favourites’ every Sunday lunchtime on Radio 2 and the World Service, a programme designed to allow families to request songs to be played for those in far flung places.

This preamble leads me to my own experience of listening to this programme as a child during the 1960s. Perhaps ‘listening to’ is a bit too strong. ‘Being vaguely aware of’ would be a better description but stuff was absorbed nevertheless. It is only now that I realise that many of the tunes I know so well actually emanated from these broadcasts – show tunes (West Side Story, My Fair Lady), pop classics of the day, novelty songs ('Goodness Gracious Me', 'My Brother!') and war-time nostalgia ('We’ll Meet Again'). In particular, it imbued my soul with one particular song from the late 1960s; ‘Wichita Lineman’.

The problem with ‘Wichita Lineman’ is that it is sung by Glen Campbell, an artist that anyone into Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple would automatically hold at arm’s length. OK, I know he was briefly a member of the Beach Boys but even knowing that doesn’t help. This is why, for me, ‘Wichita Lineman is such a guilty pleasure, but what a guilty pleasure it is. It is one of the most magnificently melancholic songs I know. If push came to shove, it could well be my favourite song of all time. It’s just that Country connotation.

The lyric tells of a maintenance lineman working in the desolate isolation of America’s great outdoors whilst he yearns for his distant lover.
‘I hear you singing in the wire’
Everything conspires to paint the impression of sheer loneliness in the vast expanse of uninhabited plains. The lyrics are heartbreaking, the vocal performance beautifully judged and the orchestral string arrangement suitably emotional. Writer Jimmy Web has never matched this creation, even with the leaving-cake-in-rain weirdness of MacArthur Park.
‘I can hear you thru the whine’

Here’s another confession. In the days before single song downloads, I actually bought an entire double album (Glen Campbell: The Capitol Years), the majority of which I have never played, just to own ‘Wichita Lineman’. This is where music obsession starts to get a little scary but it is, in my humble opinion, a must have song.
‘And the Wichita Lineman
Is still on the line’


TR1-Guy said...

‘Wichita Lineman'!! Wow, that takes me back! I grew up in southern Illinois and as far from the true "deep south" as we are in Illinois, we mostly are rednecks and MAN do we rednecks like Glen Campbell. Now, I can't really stand him, but this song is truly a great hit. Homer Simpson does a great take on the song in episode not that long ago, so we're not alone.

Yes, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple were groups I preferred back in the day (still listen to Deep Purple's "Fireball" album) but this song was one of those songs you picked up as a single and "hid" from your friends. That and Bobby Goldsboro's "Honey." People cringe when you mention that song, but I bet in a car, all alone, they listen!

Keep on with the Guilty Pleasures, we enjoy them and really don't make fun of you (well, so you could tell!) :)

musicobsessive said...

Thanks for those encouraging, I think! I have a few more guilty pleasures in the pipeline so watch this space!

Must look into the Homer version, it sounds like it could be a classic...

Jennifer K said...

When my sister and I were little, we were obsessed with Glen Campbell's "Rhinestone Cowboy." Our parents bought us the 45 for Christmas, and we played it until the grooves melted together. Good times.

musicobsessive said...

This doesn't surprise me in the slightest. What is it about songs and memories...and in particular, vinyl records and memories? It must be their tactile nature!