379 to 50: #1 “Wichita Lineman” by Glen Campbell

Glen Campbell Wichita Lineman

The conclusion of my 379 to 50 favourite songs countdown and taking top slot is the wondrous “Wichita Lineman” by Glen Campbell, a number 7 UK hit in early 1969.

The song’s Wikipedia page references a BBC quote thatWichita Lineman” is one of those rare songs that seems somehow to exist in a world of its own – not just timeless but ultimately outside of modern music” and this impeccably crystallises my feelings about “Wichita Lineman”.  A perfect three minutes, everything about this luscious record is flawless; the sweeping strings intro, Glen Campbell’s effortlessly gorgeous vocals, the throbbing bass solo halfway through, all topped off by one of the greatest lines in pop history: “…and I need you more than want you, and I want you for all time…”.


Written by Jimmy Webb after a request by Glen Campbell for a follow-up “geographical” song to the also fantastic “By The Time I Get To Phoenix”, Webb’s inspiration came while driving through rural Oklahoma.  He drove past a seemingly endless number of telephone poles before noticing a solitary lineman atop one, which he described as “the picture of loneliness”. Inspired by this, Webb has told the BBC“I thought, I wonder if I can write something about that? A blue collar, everyman guy we all see everywhere – working on the railroad or working on the telephone wires or digging holes in the street.  I just tried to take an ordinary guy and open him up and say, ‘Look there’s this great soul, and there’s this great aching, and this great loneliness inside this person and we’re all like that. We all have this capacity for these huge feelings’.”  And despite (or perhaps because of) the relative brevity of the song’s lyrics, “Wichita Lineman”’s melancholic, melodic splendour delivers a powerful yearning, wistful atmosphere every time you hear it.

Jimmy Webb and Glen Campbell

Jimmy Webb and Glen Campbell

“Wichita Lineman”’s lyrics are actually fairly short due to the fact that Glen Campbell recorded what Jimmy Webb regarded as an incomplete version of the song, with a third verse and middle eight missing.  However, Campbell then recorded his iconic bass solo in place of a middle eight, followed by a repeat of the “…and I need you more than want you, and I want you for all time…” section, helping to accentuate “Wichita Lineman”‘s considerable emotional heft.  And sometimes it’s these happy little accidents that serve to elevate the merely great to the realms of all time classic, certainly the case with this masterfully fashioned record.

A uniquely charming song, “Wichita Lineman” is my signature final tune when DJing, usually when venue owners are telling me I need to stop now and get everyone to leave, to which I always reply “don’t worry, I’m playing Wichita Lineman” as if this stranger should realise that of course it’s my last record.  I mean, what can you follow the greatest song of all time with?  I always like to think that its bittersweet beauty serves as a soothing balm before heading back out into the night.  Finally, I may not have actually visited Wichita in person (yet!) but while on a road trip around the USA a few years back I did take a detour to visit the faded glamour of Texan seaside town Galveston, the third song of the peerless Glen Campbell/Jimmy Webb “place trilogy”, so was able to pay my own homage to this fantastic singer/songwriter double act there.


2 thoughts on “379 to 50: #1 “Wichita Lineman” by Glen Campbell

  1. Pingback: Jumping Fences To Wichita: my 100 favourite songs | No Longer Teenage Fan Club

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