wichita linemen

I have a number of versions of “Wichita Lineman”, the song written by Jimmy Webb & popularized by Glen Campbell. Here, as an exercise, I’m going to attempt to go through them all & say something about each one. Hopefully the process will teach me something about repetition and variation; I’m also interested in originality, and the idea of standards.

(Also, I need some content to play with on Drupal. That’s the most proximate reason. (The sharpminded may notice that this site is not actually running Drupal which is true – I didn’t care quite enough about Drupal to sort out its confusion and then I moved everything to Drupal including the first six entries or so which I actually wrote a while ago and then forgot about while I was busy doing other things.))

Why “Wichita Lineman”? It’s a nice song, first of all. It’s not a song I can claim to know anything much about – it came out & was popular well a decade before I was born. While I had heard of the song – most specifically in the context of the title of the KLF’s “Wichita Lineman Was a Song I Once Heard”, a track on Chill Out, an album I’ve played more often than just about any – I don’t think I’d actually heard the song, to my conscious knowledge anyway, until I downloaded Glen Campbell’s version a couple of years ago out of curiosity. It’s strange that I never would have heard it, but I don’t think that I had.

As of this writing, I’ve got somewhere over 50 versions, three-and-a-half hours worth. Most – but not all – of these are by artists I don’t know, or don’t know particularly well, if at all. This is somehow nice: there are an enormous range of interpretations, only fixed around a basic structure. They range in time over the past 37 years. Some are very nice; some are abysmal.

Alas, I am a very slow writer.

Precedents for this project (or a bibliography):

  • Raymond Queneau, Exercises in Style
  • Michael Daddino’s “Send in the Clones”, which started off doing roughly the same thing for “Send in the Clowns”
  • Glenn McDonald’s The War Against Silence for its inspiring magnitude.
  • Allmusic’s review of Glen Campbell’s version

One thought on “wichita linemen

  1. Glann Campbell also does a cover of Wichita Lineman with Michell Shocked on the Lounge-A-Palooza CD. Tokyo’s Coolest Combo do an instrumental cover of the song on their album 20 Coolest Hits.

    Both worth a listen.

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