Another Kind of Chain – Gene Pitney and “Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa”

Don’t panic, I’m not about to highjack that most excellent of features, Jez’s “The Chain”, but I seem to be experiencing blogger’s block, and want to find a way of kick starting things again around here. 

I wrote last time about how I have very nearly completed my third year on the blogosphere. It’s been a joy, and although each year has been totally different for me in terms of what’s going on in the real world, this virtual world has been my anchor, my constant amongst all of life’s ups and downs.

Something that has kept me going more than anything else however, is that I seem to have become part of a little community, which I hadn’t bargained for when I started out in the blogging world. I suspect I would have never found this little community had I not discovered Jez’s place back in the early days, when I pretty much only wrote about the music (with a little anecdote thrown in). One of my early posts featured the three Jimmy Webb songs recorded by Glen Campbell in the late 1960s. One of these  songs was Galveston, and back then I used to perform a quick search before pressing the publish button, to check whether anyone else had written about it recently. Someone had, Jez, and as usual he had included a very funny story.

Many of us around here know that Jez has been a bit poorly of late, but after being absent for a wee while he seems to back firing on all cylinders in terms of his blogging output. I suspect there are a few more chapters to go in terms of what happened, but as ever, he has made what must have been a pretty awful time, very entertaining. Cross fingers he’s well and truly on the road to recovery.

Back in my early days of blogging, I used to find that each post linked to the previous one in terms of the thought process. I sometimes ended up with a string of posts all connected to each other in some way, as is wont to happen when you revisit older songs. Davy Jones followed on from David Bowie, for obvious reasons. Seals and Crofts followed on from the Isley Brothers, for possibly less obvious reasons, but great fun for me to delve into the respective backstory to their songs.

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Linked posts

Suggestions for Jez’s Chain were creative indeed. In fact there used to be a prize for the most tenuous link of the week, which led to a fair bit of “showboating”. Anyway, we all still miss The Chain, but respect the fact it took an awful lot of time and effort to put together, so no pressure to see it make a comeback. No indeed, no pressure at all!

But back to my chain and Galveston – What song links to it in terms of the thought process for me? Well I don’t know about you, but my immediate thoughts turned to Gene Pitney’s 1964 hit, Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa. We’ve moved across the state line from Texas into Oklahoma, but we’re still in the Southern States of America, we’re still in the 1960s, and it’s another song about leaving a girl behind. Oh yes, it wasn’t until I checked it out properly, that I came to realise the lyrics were about a chap finding himself just 24 hours from home, but falling head over heels in love with a woman he meets after stopping at a motel for the night. Apparently he “lost control as he held her charms“. This woman must have had stupendous “charms”, as hitherto, Gene had been looking forward to being back in the “arms” (not charms) of his wife.

Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa by Gene Pitney:

As a kid of course, back in the 1960s, I would never in a month of Sundays have worked out the meaning behind those lyrics when I first saw Gene perform the song on British telly. I do remember however that my dad used to do quite a good impression of him, as he did have quite a distinctive style. Oh how our little family of three laughed. But that was over 50 years ago, and for the first time ever, Mr WIAA and I will have none of our parents with us on Christmas Day. Only my mum left now, and she will have lunch in the care home. It really hit me this week, as I finally got round to doing some festive preparation, that our family has shrunk somewhat in the time we’ve been in our current house. The year we moved in, we had to hire a table and chairs to accommodate everyone, but over time we have lost a mum, two dads, an auntie and a best friend. Only ourselves and DD now, until the next generation make an appearance (and not quite ready for that yet, so will be patient).

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I hoped this post would kick start the writing juices again, and it seems it has. A whole week to go until Christmas Day, so time to return with something festive before then I think. And, another full moon post to fit in as well – Will have to exercise the act of brevity when blogging, something I’m not great at delivering on. Good luck with all the last minute shopping, and again, all the best to Jez for his continued recovery.   

Until next time….

Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa Lyrics
(Song by Burt Bacharach and Hal David)

Dearest darling
I had to write to say that I won’t be home any more
For something happened to me
While I was driving home and I’m not the same any more

Oh, I was only twenty four hours from Tulsa
Ah, only one day away from your arms
I saw a welcoming light
And stopped to rest for the night

And that is when I saw her
As I pulled in outside of the small hotel she was there
And so I walked up to her
Asked where I could get something to eat and she showed me where

Oh, I was only twenty four hours from Tulsa
Ah, only one day away from your arms
She took me to the café
I asked her if she would stay
She said, “Okay”

Oh, I was only twenty four hours from Tulsa
Ah, only one day away from your arms
The jukebox started to play
And night time turned into day

As we were dancing closely
All of a sudden I lost control as I held her charms
And I caressed her, kissed her
Told her I’d die before I would let her out of my arms

Oh, I was only twenty four hours from Tulsa
Ah, only one day away from your arms
I hate to do this to you
But I love somebody new
What can I do
When I can never, never, never go home again?

Glen Campbell, Jimmy Webb and RIP Wichita Lineman

Like many others, I was saddened to hear last night’s news of the death of Glen Campbell. It was not one of those shock deaths we had got so used to hearing about last year as most of us who were fans knew he had been suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease for some time, but it still marked the end of an era. Here is the post I wrote last year when I was still relatively new to blogging and still called my appreciation of the music of Glen Campbell a “guilty pleasure”. I have since discovered that he was one of the most respected and accomplished artists of the 20th century, and the Jimmy Webb songs he recorded in the late 1960s are some of the finest pieces of popular music ever produced. RIP Glen – Despite your sad demise we will continue to hear you “singin’ in the wire” for a long time to come, for which I am very, very grateful.

What's It All About?

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. Three 19th century folk songs had been melded together and given the full jumpsuited-Elvis treatment and even today, I can’t think of anyone better suited (no pun intended) for the song. His poverty-stricken southern roots, his close affinity with black music and his subsequent elevation to all-American global superstar.

But no, the songs I want to visit today are the three Jimmy Webb compositions recorded by Glen Campbell in the late ’60s. In 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…

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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.

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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