Stress-Busters, “Superstar” and the Mellifluous Voice of Karen Carpenter

Well, it’s safe to say that stress levels are running at an all-time high in my workplace. The conversion to a LEAN working environment is making the carrying out of normal duties nigh impossible as on an hourly basis, the tools of our trade, namely desks, shelving, files and stationery are being shipped out to that mythical warehouse, where items that do not fit the modern day workplace, end their days. Considering I am having to re-apply for my own job in this brave new world, I’m starting to worry that I am also going to end up in that mythical warehouse – Mr WIAA may well have to send out a search party. But, being serious, it will probably be great when it’s all finished, it’s just that I’m not a great handler of stress and yesterday’s migraine (of the ziggy-zaggy variety) proved it.

stress head

Very recently I admitted on these pages that I seem to have now found myself addicted to blogging. The feedback was very much of the opinion however that it can also be seen as a great stress-buster – Last night, at 10pm, I decided to test that theory out. I am happy to say that after an hour of visiting my favourite blogs and leaving a few comments (although a mere nano-second after posting something I always wish I’d worded it better or corrected the grammar – I hope I’m not alone in this), I was indeed feeling a lot less stressed. I had the best nights sleep I’ve had all week and thus handled today’s chaos of moving to a LEAN and orderly workplace, a lot better. Thank you then fellow-bloggers, the stress-busting theory does seem to work.

Music of course is another great stress-buster and for me, in my current situation, it had to come from the world of – as the Americans call it – Adult Contemporary. On the way home from work I needed a bit of Karen Carpenter to smooth my furrowed brow. She had the most wonderfully soothing singing voice as she was a contralto, the lowest female voice type. I must also be a contralto then, as whenever I tried to sing chart hits when growing up, those Carpenter songs were the ones I seemed to master best – I could even do that twiddly key changing bit that sounds like yodelling (although there is probably a technical term for it). On the odd occasion a karaoke machine appears at an event, I always start off by refusing point blank to sing, BUT, after a few drinks I end up having to have the mic forcibly removed from my hand once my Karen Carpenter repertoire kicks in. (Although my versions of her songs are a pale imitation of course.)

thAKM9ARXG

The only downside to listening to The Carpenters back catalogue is that the lyrics are all just so damn melancholy – There was Goodbye To Love, Rainy Days and Mondays, Yesterday Once More and Solitaire. Even the jaunty upbeat songs somehow ended up sounding sad at the hands of Karen and brother Richard (Top of the World, Please Mr Postman). As a fan I do enjoy a wallow in all of that sadness from time to time but not to be recommended as a regular pastime.

I have still not really come to terms with how she lost her grasp on life at the very young age of 32 due to complications arising from the illness anorexia nervosa. I was still a child when The Carpenters first started appearing on television but over the years even I noticed the dramatic change in her appearance and wondered what on earth was going on. We knew so little about that particular illness back then and the solution offered up by her management was that she wear a jacket on stage – It now beggars belief but those of course were far less enlightened times although even today, with an early diagnosis, there is not always a positive outcome.

Superstar by The Carpenters:

This afternoon however I just wanted to hear a little bit of that mellifluous singing voice and of late, the Carpenters‘ song I am drawn to most is Superstar from 1971 – It is about a brief liaison with a rock star who has now moved on to the next town. The girl is sad, lonely and yearning for him to return but it still sounds just so beautiful at the hands of the singing maestro that was Karen Carpenter.

So, “What’s It All About?” – As a stress-buster, blogging certainly does seem to have its place but so does listening to music and thankfully we all have our own particular favourites for that function. The Carpenters were never seen as “cool” but no-one could deny their talent and Karen’s voice certainly eases my stress. Grammy Award winners The Starland Vocal Band were never seen as “cool” either, but their 1976 solution for stress was adopted by the Taco Bell people who of course realised that all the LEAN office needs is the occasional opportunity to head out for a tasty snack! I give you, Afternoon Delight.

Superstar Lyrics
(Song by Leon Russell/Bonnie Bramlett)

Long ago, and, oh, so far away
I fell in love with you before the second show
Your guitar, it sounds so sweet and clear
But you’re not really here, it’s just the radio

Don’t you remember, you told me you loved me baby?
You said you’d be coming back this way again baby
Baby, baby, baby, baby, oh baby
I love you, I really do

Loneliness is such a sad affair
And I can hardly wait to be with you again
What to say to make you come again?
Come back to me again and play your sad guitar

Don’t you remember, you told me you loved me baby?
You said you’d be coming back this way again baby
Baby, baby, baby, baby, oh baby
I love you, I really do

The Eagles, Relationship Trouble and “I Can’t Tell You Why”

I always wondered how I would fit this song into the blog but today seems to be the day. Without giving too much away, someone very close to us is going through heavy duty relationship stuff at the moment and of course it ends up affecting us all.

Until we uploaded all our CDs onto the computer a few years ago I don’t think I would have remembered this song by The Eagles from their 1979 album “The Long Run”, but after rediscovering it, I think it has become the one I gravitate to most from their vast back catalogue – I Can’t Tell You Why is about a broken relationship, and what is to be done about it. Those opening few bars of music followed by the first few lines of lyric, still sends shivers up my spine every time I hear it.

Look at us baby
Up all night
Tearin’ our love apart
Aren’t we the same two people
Who lived through years in the dark
Every time I try to walk away
Somethin’ makes me turn and stay
I can’t tell you why

I Can’t Tell You Why by The Eagles:

Unless you have been really lucky in love you will no doubt recognise what the couple in the song are going through. When all is not going well in a relationship, and the two of you have reached breaking point, there can be these emotional “all-nighters” of discussion and argument which invariably never lead to a satisfactory conclusion. Of course staying up all night to “tear your love apart” is not the wisest choice – As Mama Cass sang, “The darkest hour is just before dawn” and not the time to make life-changing decisions.

The song itself ends up having no real conclusion and leaves the listener with an intentional melancholy (it certainly has that effect on me). The couple in the song are neither reconciled nor torn apart, and the song fades out on this point of uncertainty.

As someone who shared a flat with five other girls as a student, then with three other girls in my twenties, we had our fair share of “relationship-trouble” and there were many emotional all-night sessions like the one in the song. Wouldn’t change any of it however as I think it is a necessary part of the journey to finding “the one” (as per Bridget Jones). Doesn’t mean to say it makes it any easier however to watch your young people suffer as you did in your younger days – Cross fingers all will sort itself out soon as I don’t have the constitution for all this any more, even vicariously.

I have written about The Eagles before and of how their albums were a staple of my high school years, often listened to whilst hanging out at friends’ houses. Their line-up changed several times over the years but in 1977 bass player Timothy B. Schmit replaced Randy Meisner. When he joined the band, he brought a portion of the song I Can’t Tell You Why with him (loosely based on his own experiences). He then worked on it with Don Henley and Glenn Frey who were credited as co-writers. Timothy, he of the enviably long, dark locks, performed lead vocals on it and Glenn Frey (RIP) was once quoted as saying that “I Can’t Tell You Why” and “One Of These Nights” were the two Eagles songs he would put into a time capsule to represent their best work. Sounds fair to me.

So, “What’s It All About?” – This love stuff ain’t always easy and even at my age, I still can’t tell you why…..

I Can’t Tell You Why Lyrics
(Song by Don Henley/Timothy B Schmit/Glenn Frey)

Look at us baby
Up all night
Tearin’ our love apart
Aren’t we the same two people
Who lived through years in the dark

Every time I try to walk away
Somethin’ makes me turn and stay

I can’t tell you why

When we get crazy
It just ain’t right
(Try to keep your head on, girl)
‘Cause girl I get lonely too
You don’t have to worry
Just hold on tight
(Don’t get caught in your little world)
‘Cause I love you

Nothin’s wrong as far as I can see
We make it harder than it has to be

I can’t tell you why
No, baby, I can’t tell you why
I can’t tell you why

Every time I try to walk away
Somethin’ makes me turn around and stay

I can’t tell you why
No, baby, I can’t tell you why
I can’t tell you why
I can’t tell you why, yeah

No, baby
Ooooh, I can’t tell you why

Alexander O’Neal, “Saturday Love” and Mix-Tapes

As is wont to happen, you sometimes start with a plan but then veer off in a different direction to what was originally intended. I started this blog right at the start of the year on the momentous day that David Bowie died. As my day job involves working pretty much exclusively with numbers, I felt in need of some writing practice and with a blog you have a good chance of sticking to the discipline of writing regularly.

david b

But what to write about? Well for a long time I had thought it would be a good idea to write about those memories conjured up by a random piece of music heard in the course of the day. Like most of us, I have ended up letting my grandparents and even my own dad pass away without ever getting their stories down on paper and as I live what I would call an ordinary life, no-one was ever going to ask me to write an autobiography. Even ordinary lives have extra-ordinary moments however and it has been a bit of a joy recalling some of my special moments.

Mans Zermerlow

So for seven months now I have been merrily tapping away on whatever device is available and have found that it does become quite addictive. There is also the temptation to continually check on your “stats” only to find them disappointingly low considering you have just published something you think is pretty damned good. Feedback is a gift they say, and even if you are working on a pet project mainly for your own benefit, it can still make your day. But as time goes by, you can become a bit too focussed on the desire to get followers, likes and views and lose sight of why you started the thing in the first place!

Time to get back to what was originally intended therefore and not write for any particular audience other than myself – If anyone does read my posts and enjoys them that’s a bonus but not why I’m doing it. I have discovered some excellent blogs written by real music buffs and enjoy them a lot but the music I write about is really just an anchor for the memory and I would not profess to being an expert on any of it.

So if I were to go back to basics and pick a random piece of music to write about, what would that be right now? Well I have just switched on my iPhone which is sitting here beside me, and the song that randomly started playing on the music app was Saturday Love by American R&B star Alexander O’Neal. It was a hit in 1985 and was written by that incredibly successful songwriting team Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis who also wrote for Janet Jackson, Usher, Boyz ll Men, TLC and many more.

Saturday Love by Alexander O’Neal & Cherelle:

And that is why I think I stopped writing randomly – There is very little I have to say about this track other than that it was one of these smooth night-clubby numbers that I probably heard a lot whilst out with the girls in the mid-eighties (sporting big hair and earrings). I was never a particular fan of the ’80s night club however as it was all smoke and mirrors (literally) and not enough room for the serious business of dancing which is one of my passions. But then again it is a long time since dancehalls and night clubs have been for the sole purpose of dancing – No they have survived for decades for a very different purpose and I think we all know what that would be.

I think this is common to all girls but I do remember having quite a collection of mix-tapes made for me in the mid ’80s by potential beaus! Some of these tapes had fantastic collections of music on them and one had quite a few very seductive Alexander O’Neal tracks. Needless to say, when I met my future husband he was quite jealous of these “love letters in song” and tried to compete by making his own. Sadly he had sold most of his record collection to pay for essentials (like food) when he was a student so didn’t have a great base to work from. His answer was to use my record collection and although it was a really lovely thought, it’s just not the same when a mix-tape is compiled from your own well-loved, but well-worn, tracks. As it turns out we are still together all these years later and I hear him working away on his latest DIY project as I type, so the secret of a long-lasting marriage is obviously not the quality of the mix-tape, just perhaps, it’s the quality of the DIY!

Saturday Love lyrics
(Song by Jimmy Jam/Terry Lewis)

It’s been a long time

I didn’t think I was
Going to see you again

See you haven’t changed
It’s good to see you anyway

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday
Thursday, Friday, Saturday love
Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday
Thursday, Friday, Saturday love

When I think about you
My feelings can’t explain
Why after all this time
My heart still feels pain

When I look at you
Memories of love
Like no one before
You’ll stay on my mind

Always so special
(I was yours and you were mine)
Made for each other
(All the good I won’t forget)
You will stay on my mind
(Saturday, the day we met)

The Double Deckers, Aswad and “Don’t Turn Around”

Last time I wrote about the film Summer Holiday but of course there was another Double Decker London bus that is etched on the memory of most people my age – The one used by that eclectic bunch of youngsters called, not surprisingly, “The Double Deckers”. The kids television sitcom, Here Come the Double Deckers, ran for 17 episodes between 1970-71 and was must watch telly for pre-teens of my generation.

double deckers

It all makes sense now in that it appears to have been made jointly by American 20th Century Fox and a British independent film company, obviously to appeal to both markets. It had a very different look to it at the time from most of our home-grown shows made by the BBC, Granada or Thames Television. Most of the child actors in it were however British and they included gang leader Scooper (sorry but even in those days I’m sure the writers should have been able to come up with a cooler name than that), Spring, Billie, Brains, Doughnut (you can imagine the furore nowadays over that one), Sticks (the token American) and little Tiger. All stereotypes were covered but of course in reality it is highly unlikely that such a bunch would have ended up hanging out together at all, as right through life we do tend to gravitate towards people most like ourselves but no matter, you didn’t really think about things like that at age 10, you just really enjoyed the show.

Something that has surprised me, it turns out that Scooper and Spring (whom I will write about more in a minute) were both aged around 17/18 when this was aired so like Ant and Dec, who got too old to hang around the youth club at Byker Grove, this pair were well past the age of playing in an old disused junk yard in 1971 – Wouldn’t have done for the little ‘uns  to see Scooper and Spring head off for a “swift half” however in the midst of building a gun that shoots chocolate candy so all good, wholesome, family fun.

Anyway back to our two heroes, the ones who obviously got a taste for life in the entertainment industry at a young age and kept going. Peter Firth, who played Scooper, has gone on to have a lengthy career in film, theatre and television and is currently masquerading as “Head Spook” Sir Harry Pearce in the long-running BBC drama set in the offices of MI5.

Looking back at the young Peter, he is a good-looking lad with a fine head of hair but I remember as a student watching him play the time-traveller Dominick Hide and although only in his 20s he definitely had thinning hair and a receding hairline – Nothing wrong with that at all but probably led him down a different path from that of becoming leading man material, and one which has served him well.

So now we come to Spring, the lovely Brinsley Forde who quite soon after his days as a Double Decker formed the reggae band Aswad. I don’t remember there being many home-grown reggae bands in the UK in the late ’70s and early ’80s but Aswad, although they never appeared on mainstream shows like Top Of The Pops, seemed to continually tour the Student Union circuit so were pretty well known for a long time before making the leap to chart success, reaching No. 1 in 1988 with Don’t Turn Around. Hadn’t realised that this break-up song had been recorded by so many people before Aswad gave it the full-blown reggae treatment, but it certainly worked well for them. Also hadn’t realised it was a Diane Warren composition, that lady lyricist, who along with Bernie Taupin could walk down a street unrecognised but must be one of the highest paid individuals, ever, in the music industry.

So, “What’s It All About?” – Being a child star seems to have mixed blessings as many haven’t had a smooth ride to adulthood at all. It seems however that once you find your particular niche, best to just keep your head down and work hard at it. Like Diane Warren, better to have a fairly anonymous life and enjoy what you do than experience the stress, strain and fleeting success of teen idolatry. Looking forward to seeing much more from Peter Firth and Brinsley Forde MBE in the future but for those of us who watched kids telly in the early ’70s, they will always be, Double Deckers!

Don’t Turn Around Lyrics
(Song by Albert Hammond/Diane Warren)

If you wanna leave, baby
I won’t beg you to stay
And if you wanna go, darlin’
Maybe it’s better that way

I’m gonna be strong, I’m gonna be fine
Don’t worry about this heart of mine
Walk out the door, see if I care?
Go on and go now but

Don’t turn around
‘Cause you’re gonna see my heart breakin’
Don’t turn around
I don’t want you seein’ me cryin’
Just walk away
It’s tearin’ me apart that you’re leavin’
I’m lettin’ you go and I won’t let you know
Baby, I won’t let you know

I won’t miss your arms around me
Holdin’ me tight
And if you ever think about me
Just know that I’m gonna be alright

I’m gonna be strong, I’m gonna be fine
Don’t worry about this heart of mine
I know I’ll survive it, I’ll make it through
And I’ll learn to live without you but

Don’t turn around
‘Cause you’re gonna see my heart breakin’
Don’t turn around
I don’t want you seein’ me cryin’
Just walk away
It’s tearin’ me apart that you’re leavin’
I’m lettin’ you go and I won’t let you know

I wish, I could scream out loud
That I love you
I wish, I could say to you
Don’t go, don’t go, don’t go

Don’t turn around
Don’t turn around
I don’t want you seein’ me crying
Just walk away
It’s tearin’ me apart that you’re leavin’
I’m lettin’ you go

The Clash, Big Decisions and Girlfriend Trouble

Short post, but with only a day to go, there should be no-one in the UK who doesn’t understand the significance of today’s clip. If the EU was our girlfriend this is how it would be playing out right now but despite the 24/7 debate and news coverage from both sides (all very balanced so as not to show any bias of course) many of us are still none the wiser as to which way to vote.

Should I Stay Or Should I Go by The Clash:

Not entirely sure why Angela Merkel and Co. haven’t been getting involved in the debate but it seems that they don’t want to affect the outcome one way or another, so are leaving it to the people of the UK themselves.

So, no tearful last minute pleadings – “It’s not you, it’s me”, “I think we just need a break” and “You’re too good for me” – It’s all down to us and us alone.

brexit-eu-uk-flags-text-europe-unoin-united-kingdom-70935073

As for The Clash, they were part of the first wave of British punk bands that emerged in the late ’70s. I was a 17-year-old then, and even we girls couldn’t help but get excited about this new style of music. Lots of energy and a cosmic leap away from everything else that had been around for most of the decade (glam rock, country, soul and disco). They wrote politically-charged songs that meant something to young, white, disaffected youth and became one of the most respected bands from that era influencing many bands that were to follow. This song, Should I Stay Or Should I Go, was re-issued several times but it first charted in September 1982 which was just at the tail-end of their heyday as a band.

clash

I have just made an interesting discovery however, the band’s co-founder Joe Strummer (John Graham Mellor) was born in Turkey to a Scottish mother who hailed from a village not far from me in the Highlands. Also, his diplomat father was born in India and had part-Armenian, part-German parentage. The young Joe spent a lot of his early life living in both Mexico and Germany so although I thought of him as being quintessentially English, and a Londoner at that, I couldn’t have been more wrong. A great choice of song therefore to have used on this last day of campaigning featuring one of music’s most significant contributors.  As it turns out this late discovery about Joe, and the fact that he delivers the song’s backing vocals in Spanish, has made my voting decision even easier.

joe strummer

Should I Stay Or Should I Go
(Song by Mick Jones/Joe Strummer)

Darling you got to let me know
Should I stay or should I go?
If you say that you are mine
I’ll be here till the end of time
So you got to let me know
Should I stay or should I go?

It’s always tease tease tease
You’re happy when I’m on my knees
One day is fine, and next is black
So if you want me off your back
Well come on and let me know
Should I Stay or should I go?

Should I stay or should I go now?
Should I stay or should I go now?
If I go there will be trouble
And if I stay it will be double
So come on and let me know

Changes, Referendums and its “Raining In My Heart”

Well, it’s the day I usually put together a post featuring a song from my past, but not in the best frame of mind for it for several reasons. I finally bit the bullet this week and replaced my trusty old steed (my ten year old PC) for an all-singing and dancing wireless version (a stallion amongst PCs) but needless to say it is taking me a while to navigate all the set-up routines, transfer over data and get used to how different it all is. I don’t do well with change and this one is frustrating me.

This song, Changes by David Bowie, is not really relevant to my particular problem but it inevitably came to mind when writing about change. From the “Hunky Dory” album, it became one of his most popular recordings ever but not a hit when it was first released in 1972 – Ironically it charted for the first time this year, just after his death.

Changes by David Bowie:

On top of the domestic upheaval with new computers, we have this momentous decision to make on Thursday which could possibly take us out of the EU and it very much seems as if people are going to the ballot box loaded with highly dubious facts, figures and scaremongering. Not a great way forward for any democratic nation. This may sound flippant but if we had a greater affinity with Europe in terms of music and film, the decision would probably have been far easier. Despite the fact that the rest of Europe puts us to shame with their excellent grasp of English, there is still that cultural barrier that sets us apart and makes us different.

Looking back over the “tracks of my years”, I can think of very few artists from the rest of Europe who have done well in the British charts. That dashing Frenchman Sasha Distel popped up in the early ’70s and the not-so-dashing Charles Aznavour a while later. There have also been a few Greeks (Demis Roussos, now forever associated with the Mike Leigh play Abigail’s Party), the phenomenon that was Abba, Boney M and A-Ha. In the late ’70s when punk kind of became mainstream, our favourite record at the local “youth club” (the only pub happy to admit 16 and 17-year-olds) was Ça Plane Pour Moi by Belgian Plastic Bertrand. A one-hit wonder, but thoroughly memorable even now.

This next one is a bit before my time but it still kind of sums up the difference between us Brits and our French neighbours – Je T’aime… Moi Non Plus by Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg was inevitably banned when it was released in 1969 due to its explicit lyrics and “sound effects” but of course this just led to it becoming an ever bigger hit. I’m sure the French find our prudishness very amusing and their sub-titled films shown on television in the ’70s were awash with casual disrobing, which caused much anguish for the parents of teenagers at the time.

Getting back to the whole referendum issue however, the campaigning has now been put on hold as one of our best-loved MPs was tragically shot dead a couple of days ago in Yorkshire. This, on top of the mass shooting earlier this week in a night club in Florida, has caused an outpouring of grief and questions are being asked as to the motive for such happenings – The work of lone gunmen or part of something bigger and more sinister.

A fellow blogger was writing yesterday about songs that refer to rain and how, in a song, that particular weather condition usually symbolises sadness and dark times – This week, the sadness felt in this 1959 Buddy Holly song, Raining In My Heart, sums up how I feel. Not about a lost love but about the loss of something in society that can’t easily be identified, but something that is definitely no longer with us.

On a very literal note, it really hasn’t helped either that we have had a pretty awful week of weather with rain every day. My favourite month is not panning out as expected this year. The tennis has been heavily disrupted and the poor ladies at Ascot were draped in waterproof ponchos, their beautiful hats and outfits in many cases ruined.

As for Buddy, the non-stop touring schedule that came about as a result of his meteoric rise to fame led to the plane crash that took his life in 1959. Rock ‘n’ roll was in its heyday and he was one of its brightest stars. Considering he died very young, aged only 22, he left many songs that most people of a certain age will be familiar with – Peggy Sue, It Doesn’t Matter Any More, Rave On, Oh Boy!, That’ll Be The Day, True Love Ways and many moreHe even made horn-rimmed glasses look cool – Great for the eyesight of 1950s teenagers.

As for me, I’ll try to rid myself of the black dog by this time next week when we’ll also know if we are still “in” or now “out”. Interesting times indeed.

Raining In My Heart
(Song by Bouleaux Bryant/Felice Bryant)

The sun is out, the sky is blue
There’s not a cloud to spoil the view
But it’s raining, raining in my heart

The weatherman says clear today
He doesn’t know you’ve gone away
And it’s raining, raining in my heart

Oh, misery, misery
What’s gonna become of me?

I tell my blues they mustn’t show
But soon the tears are bound to flow
‘Cause it’s raining, raining in my heart

It’s raining, raining in my heart

Oh, misery, misery
What’s gonna become of me

Raining in my heart!
Raining in my heart!

Glen Campbell, Jimmy Webb and an American Trilogy

I hope I haven’t caused confusion – Yes Elvis Presley recorded the song An American Trilogy in 1972 and it became a bit of a showstopper for him when performed during the massive event that was “Elvis—Aloha from Hawaii” broadcast in 1973. But no, the songs I want to revisit today are the three Jimmy Webb compositions recorded by Glen Campbell in the late ’60s.

pheonixIn the UK at that time London was “Swinging” and we were listening to Sandie Shaw, Cliff Richard and Lulu, but in the USA, the average “Easy-Listening” aficionado would have been enjoying Glen Campbell. He was now in his early thirties and had served his apprenticeship in the music industry working first with his uncle in Albuquerque and then by moving to LA to work as a Wrecking Crew session musician with some of the biggest artists of the day. He even became a Beach Boy for a short while, filling in for the man himself, Brian Wilson, on one particular tour. He definitely has the look of a Beach Boy about him and I can just imagine him in his twenties sporting the short-sleeved stripy shirt that was their trademark.

In 1967 he recorded By The Time I Get To Phoenix, in 1968 it was Wichita Lineman and in 1969 Galveston. I have just revisited a map of the Southwest USA and these places are in Arizona, Kansas and Texas respectively. Glen himself was from Arkansas (born in a town called Delight – lovely) and went on to star in the western True Grit, so he was the perfect choice for this material. Elvis was ultimately a man for all of the USA but Glen was the man for these country-music-loving states. Each artist had their own American trilogy, and Glen had these three songs.

By The Time I Get To Phoenix by Glen Campbell:

I have written about Jimmy Webb before as he also wrote MacArthur Park, successful twice in the charts but with lyrics universally regarded as a bit bizarre. The song used the “cake left out in the rain” metaphor to symbolise the wasted demise of a relationship. With By The Time I Get To Phoenix, here he was again apparently inspired by the same break-up, but this time with much less bizarre lyrics. The timings of his journey across the country are tight, but at a push it turns out the timeline is possible, not that I would recommend trying. Best not to split up in the first place – Just sayin’.

Wichita Lineman by Glen Campbell:

And so we move on to song number two – Wichita Lineman tells the tale of a blue-collar worker in the heart of prairie country, alone with his thoughts. Again Jimmy was inspired by a relationship that had not turned out well for him so that’s three songs now we wouldn’t have been able to enjoy had his love-life run smoothly. Moving on to the third song, Galveston, the story-telling this time is about a soldier about to go into battle who is thinking of his hometown and the girl he left behind. Written in 1969 it was perceived to be an anti-war song but the inspiration was supposedly a soldier from the Spanish-American war and not the Vietnam war – Perhaps, but a third beautifully put together song featuring a place name in the title.

Live version of Wichita Lineman/Galveston/Country Boy (You’ve Got Your Feet in LA) by Glen Campbell:

I don’t quite know why, but I just love these story-telling American songs featuring place names. Probably because they just wouldn’t work over here. Substitute Phoenix for Felixstowe, Wichita for Widnes or Galveston for Galashiels and the romance is lost. As for 24 Hours From Tulsa, you are never 24 hours from anywhere in Britain unless you have had the misfortune to suffer multiple delays on public transport. Show Me The Way To Amarillo or Show Me The Way To Aberystwyth – I know which one I’d go for. San Jose or Sandbach – It’s a no-brainer.

Yes, it looks as if I have indeed been brain-washed from years of watching American films and television, and listening to all these great songs. As the GI Brides discovered however, when they went stateside after the end of the war with their new husbands, all that glittered was not gold and many found that the deprivations of war, experienced in a small terraced house in Britain, were nothing compared to life in a wooden shack in the Smokey Mountains. But it’s all relative and I am sure that the tourists who flock to my neck of the woods in summer just love songs with our place-names in the title – I did write about Runrig’s live version of the traditional song Loch Lomond a while back and I expect that the Caledonian Societies of North America feel the same way about that song as I do about Galveston.

amarillo

One last thing – I did consider calling the appreciation of these songs a “guilty pleasure” but have decided against using that term any more. They are indeed a pleasure, so why feel guilty about it? I have always been a fan of music from the easy-listening camp and have had to tell some porkies in my time to explain the ownership or purchase of such material. But why does music always have to be difficult? It boils down to the fact that we never want to feel embarrassed in front of our “cool” friends. No more of this nonsense I say, be loud and proud about what you enjoy and I am pretty sure that if they were being perfectly honest, our “cool” friends would agree with many of our choices.

Wichita Lineman Lyrics
(Song by Jimmy Webb)

I am a lineman for the county and I drive the main road
Searchin’ in the sun for another overload
I hear you singin’ in the wire, I can hear you through the whine
And the Wichita Lineman is still on the line

I know I need a small vacation but it don’t look like rain
And if it snows that stretch down south won’t ever stand the strain
And I need you more than want you, and I want you for all time
And the Wichita Lineman is still on the line

And I need you more than want you, and I want you for all time
And the Wichita Lineman is still on the line