Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Glen Campbell...

Heard this morning that Glen Campbell has died. Though never a great fan, I particularly remember two of his songs: Witchita Lineman and Galveston, both written by Jimmy Webb, which came out in 1968 and 1969 respectively, years when music meant a great deal to me. The words may not resonate too strongly, but if you can hear the music and the peerless voice of Glen Cambell they’ll leap off the page. Instead of adolescent angst, the lingua franca of most popular songs, both songs have a timeless quality.

We can imagine the lineman, on his own, repairing telephone lines in America’s rural south; he’s yearning for someone so strongly that he can ‘hear’ her over the telephone wires. We can imagine the conscripted soldier, in a lull in the fighting (Jimmy Webb was thinking about Vietnam, apparently), wondering if the woman he loves will still be there when - or if - he gets back home.

The sentiments are sketched, not spelt out - making it easy to identify with the ‘I’ in the songs: the essence, I think, of good song-writing. These are the kind of songs I sing as I drive along; it’s impossible for me to approach Ulverston in Cumbria without breaking into the chorus of Galveston at the top of my voice…

Witchita lineman

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…


Galveston, oh Galveston,
I still hear your seawinds blowing;
I still see her dark eyes glowing.
She was twenty one, when I left Galveston.
Galveston, oh Galveston,
I still hear your seawaves crashin,
while I watch the cannons flashin'.
I clean my gun, and dream of Galveston.
I still see her standing by the water,
Standing there looking out to sea.
And is she waiting there for me,
On the beach where we used to run?
Galveston, oh Galveston,
I am so afraid of dying,
Before I dry the tears she's crying,
Before I watch your sea birds flying in the sun,
at Galveston, at Galveston

Rievaulx Abbey...

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