A friend and I have been swapping lists just lately of our favourite pieces of classical music. For our own education and maybe even a blog post on here sometime. The doing of these somehow made me think of ‘Wichita Lineman’. Not because it’s classical music, of course, though maybe it is now?

I’ve been listening to this glorious song since it first emerged from my Binatone transistor radio fifty years ago. I’ll almost certainly have heard it on the new BBC Radio One that had just been invented then to replace my preferred Radio Caroline pirate station. And once I’d heard it the song not only stuck with me, it stuck in me.

The loneliness, the yearning, the situation, the working man out there on his own, the SOS in the strings and every single time these last fifty years when he sings:

‘And I need you more than want you
And I want you for all time’

I stop.

I stop whatever it is I’m doing. And feel the shiver down my backbone that I just felt now. Because I’m listening to the song while I write this.


That’s all. I could go on about it but there’s no need. I’ll show you my list of Beethoven and Brahms and Debussy one day. And maybe like I did you’ll say:

‘What about Glen Campbell, what about Jimmy Webb, what about their beautiful perfect song?’

As perfect as perfect gets.

If you want more you can hear the singer and the writer talking about their song here on this BBC Radio 4 ‘Soul Music’ documentary. Or you can just go back and listen to the song. Over and over and over again. Through the wires.

Published by Ronnie

Writing about life, Liverpool and anything else that interests me. As well as working with others to make the world a fairer and kinder place: http://asenseofplace.com.

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  1. I’d like to see your classical list as well – at least I could contribute to that discussion :-)

    I remember ‘Wichita Lineman’ coming out; and I also remember being surprised when it was lumped in by some people under the heading of “Country & Western”, a genre I never associated with songs about ordinary working people.

    1. Classical list coming soon Robert.

      And I agree that Wichita Lineman isn’t C&W, but think I could argue that country music is pretty much all about ordinary working people?

  2. I’d argue that it is kinda country, just imagine it with plain guitar so ever-so slightly speedier and no other backing… I agree, C&W is about ordinary folk. Of necessity being married to a Texan I spend time there regularly visiting family and my favourite occupation is going to little bars and rural dance halls to hear the local C&W talent. I love the morse bits of this song and yes, shiver at the loneliness of it all, those endless lines. But the one that really gets me is Galveston. I stood on the beach with my parents-in-law on a wintry day (they do have them I discovered) and watched the seagulls flying – and that was all I could hear – Glen Campbell’s Galveston – ‘I am so afraid of dying…’ and seagulls. Sorry ’bout the length of this Ronnie, you struck a chord ;-)

  3. I likewise will be intrigued to see your classical list Ronnie. I like to make ‘discoveries’ and, by way of an appetiser, I attach a link to what I consider may well be an almost perfect ‘miniature’ – ‘Les Barricades Mysteriurese’ by Francois Couperin. It reminds me of a dialogue between two people who take delight in each other’s company, perhaps meeting and really conversing for the first time. The ‘colours’ and chord progressions in the centre section are remarkably contemporary.

    1. Thank you Nick, I agree with you about the conversation. I’ve only listened once but it’s clearly beautiful and I doubt I’d have happened upon it any other way, the joy of exchanging recommendations.

  4. Hi Ronnie,
    You probably know this but Galveston was inspired by Ferry Cross The Mersey. If you could write a song about somewhere ordinary like that (we might dispute this!) then why not about somewhere even less glamorous. I think Wichita may also have been informed by the same thought process.
    And on the subject of the latter, I have always been interested in the way that distinctive sort of Morse code riff on one note (da da da da etc) is also used on You Keep Me Hanging On and Starman.

      1. Thanks for the correction Ronnie. I should have focused on Wichita. I heard an interview years ago with Glen Campbell who said he loved Ferry Cross the Mersey and the fact that you could write about somewhere that wasn’t famous, glamorous etc. Consequently he asked Jimmy Webb to write a geographical/place song, which he did, in the form of Wichita Lineman.

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