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The Wichita Lineman

Dylan Jones

Dylan Jones’ luminous excavation of Jimmy Webb’s song ‘Wichita Lineman’ offers a portal into a defining moment of American cultural history.

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Format
Ebook
ISBN
9780571353422
Date Published
30.07.2019
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Summary


‘It’s just another song to me. I’ve written 1,000 of them and it’s really just another one.’ Jimmy Webb


‘When I heard it I cried. It made me cry because I was homesick. It’s just a masterfully written song.’ Glen Campbell

The sound of ‘Wichita Lineman’ was the sound of ecstatic solitude, but then its hero was the quintessential loner. What a great metaphor he was: a man who needed a woman more than he actually wanted her.

Written in 1968 by Jimmy Webb, ‘Wichita Lineman’ is the first philosophical country song: a heartbreaking torch ballad still celebrated for its mercurial songwriting genius fifty years later. It was recorded by Glen Campbell in LA with a legendary group of musicians known as ‘the Wrecking Crew’, and something about the song’s enigmatic mood seemed to capture the tensions in America at a moment of crisis. Fusing a dribble of bass, searing strings, tremolo guitar and Campbell’s plaintive vocals, Webb’s paean to the American West describes a telephone lineman’s longing for an absent lover, who he hears ‘singing in the wire’ – and like all good love songs, it’s an SOS from the heart.

Mixing close-listening, interviews and travelogue, Dylan Jones explores the legacy of a record that has entertained and haunted millions for over half a century. What is it about this song that continues to seduce listeners, and how did the parallel stories of Campbell and Webb – songwriters and recording artists from different ends of the spectrum – unfold in the decades following? Part biography, part work of musicological archaeology, The Wichita Lineman opens a window on to America in the late-twentieth century through the prism of a song that has been covered by myriad artists in the intervening decades.

‘Americana in the truest sense: evocative and real.’ Bob Stanley

Dylan Jones

Dylan Jones studied at Chelsea School of Art and St. Martin’s School of Art. A former editor at i-D, The Face, Arena, the Observer and the Sunday Times, he is currently the Editor-In-Chief of GQ. He has won the British Society of Magazine Editors “Editor of the Year” award a record eleven times, and in 2013 was the recipient of…

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