CRAVEN LOVELACE: Gentle on our ears
Free Press Music Columnist
Today, let’s talk about the member of the Beach Boys who had his own TV show and who went on to record with Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, the Monkees, Merle Haggard, Nat King Cole and practically every other great band or performer during the 1960s. He’s a famous guy — but not for ANY of that.
If you were born after 1980 or thereabouts, Glen Campbell is probably just someone your grandparents liked — if you’re aware of him at all. But for people of Craven’s generation, Glen Campbell is an essential musical touchstone, and not just for the more than 50 studio albums or 15 Top 40 hits he released under his own name.
Before Campbell broke through to widespread public awareness with his 1967 recording of John Hartford’s “Gentle On My Mind,” he was a ubiquitous sessions musician who not only played on classic Beach Boys albums like “Pet Sounds,” but who actually joined the band briefly as a replacement for Brian Wilson.
His guitar can also be heard on famous songs by Sinatra (“Strangers in the Night” and “Something Stupid”), Presley (“Viva Las Vegas”) and countless other classics as a member of the “Wrecking Crew,” the loose-knit band of sessions players favored by California producers at the height of the rock n’ roll era.
Campbell reportedly never learned to read music, but could (it was said) pick up any song by ear. His guitar playing was virtuoso, and combined with a sweet voice and chiseled good looks, success must have seemed like a shoo-in to the label executives at Crest Records, where he was first signed as a solo act. While he was never known as a songwriter (preferring to cover great songsmiths like Hartford and Jimmy Webb, and on his final album, the likes of Paul Westerberg of the Replacements and Robert Pollard of Guided by Voices), Campbell wrote at least one bona fide classic: “Turn Around, Look at Me,” which was a hit for both the Vogues and Ronnie Milsap. (Campbell wrote the song, but gave composing credit to Crest executive Jerry Capehart, a decision he would later regret.)
Campbell has retired now, due to Alzheimer’s Disease. But, like all true pop music heroes, his music will live on.
One of the great joys of writing this column is that it is a process of continuous learning. Last week, Craven made a stupid mistake in his column — but enjoyed a delicious discovery as a result. I wrote about the mysterious 1995 disappearance of Richey Edwards of the Manic Street Preachers. Although I consider myself a Manics fan, and used to play them on my radio show, I mistakenly identified Richey as the lead singer of the band — this, despite having done a lot of research on his vanishing in preparation for last week’s column.
I think I was suffering from a conceptual “blind spot,” because I knew Edwards often wrote lyrics for the band. That being said, he was not the lead singer of the Manics, but the rhythm guitarist. I was alerted to my error by a reader who apparently goes by the name of JamGaw and who uses the Twitter handle of @starsfrighten. I don’t know his “real” name, but he has a website at undevelopedpolaroid.wordpress.com/ that is very much worth the trouble of checking out if you are interested in challenging, thought-provoking writing.
Never fear making mistakes; if I hadn’t made one last week, I never would have read JamGaw’s unique mystery, “Tea Party.” Do yourself a favor and check it out.
Craven Lovelace is the producer of the Notes Blog & Podcast at http://cravenlovelace.com/notesblog and also writes about popular culture at the Cravenomena blog at http://cravenlovelace.com/cravenblog/. You can also find him on Facebook.
Notes is made possible by Tina Harbin of Real Estate West, the premier resource for all real estate information and services on the Western Slope.
This year’s theme is “Marble Mash” in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Lincoln Memorial, which was built from marble mined in the nearby Crystal River Valley town of Marble. Among the day’s events is a statue contest.
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