Glen Campbell, Musical Prodigy, Majestic Singer and another Superb Doc from BBC4.

glen-campbellGlen Camp­bell was one of the most sought after musi­cians of the 1960s. He played lead gui­tar on The Beach Boys’ Good Vibra­tions, Elvis’ Viva Las Vegas and on Frank Sina­tra’s Strangers in the Night. At one point, he end­ed up tour­ing with the Beach Boys hav­ing replaced Bri­an Wil­son as the lat­ter descend­ed into Sty­gian darkness.

Raised lit­er­al­ly dirt poor, in so far as he and his eleven sib­lings were per­ma­nent­ly caked in mud form the fields where they all worked, Camp­bell moved to Los Ange­les to become a star after estab­lish­ing him­self as a musi­cal prodigy. 

But his first four albums failed to reg­is­ter. So like many before him, he became a ses­sion musi­cian, and was one of the core musi­cians in what came to be known as the Wreck­ing Crew. 

51IMviBowvL._SL500_SS500_These were the pro­fes­sion­al musi­cians and back­ing vocal­ists who, famous­ly, Phil Spec­tor and all the major record pro­duc­ers in Los Ange­les relied on at the time. It was their sound that the kids were unwit­ting­ly lis­ten­ing to when they bought all those hit records.

The Mon­kees in oth­er words were very much the norm, and not the exception.

But there was one per­son who’d fall­en for Camp­bel­l’s unloved debut solo album, Turn Around Look At Me. A 14 year-old boy, who dreamt of one day becom­ing a song­writer, had lis­tened to it end­less­ly. And when the now 21 year old Jim­my Webb even­tu­al­ly teamed up with Camp­bell sev­en years lat­er, they began one of the most fruit­ful rela­tion­ships in mod­ern pop.

Songs like By The Time I Get to Phoenix and The Wichi­ta Line­man would see the pair sent into the pop stratos­phere. And Camp­bell, after years of hard graft, became an overnight success.

He was the per­fect anti­dote to the sus­pi­cion and para­noia that the 60s became increas­ing­ly mired in. And, with his good looks, whole­some image, and gen­tly con­ser­v­a­tive demeanour he was soon host­ing one of the most suc­cess­ful TV shows of the day.

Inevitably though, as the 60s drift­ed bol­shi­ly into the 70s Camp­bel­l’s star was on the wane. But in 1975 he was giv­en a brief reprieve, as his record label had one last stab at reviv­ing his career. The result was Rhine­stone Cow­boy, a song that sound­ed like it was reveal­ing­ly auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal. It was­n’t of course. It was writ­ten by the young Lar­ry Weiss. 

lThe con­ven­tion­al nose-dive into drink, drugs and dubi­ous mar­riages fol­lowed. But a blind date with the prim and pret­ty Kim Woollen would see his spir­it and his life revived, resus­ci­tat­ed  and re-born. And although Alzheimer’s has brought his tour­ing to a pre­ma­ture end, for the most part this was a sto­ry with a hap­py ending. 

Glen Camp­bell: The Rhine­stone Cow­boy was anoth­er in a long line of per­fect­ly pitched por­traits of musi­cal greats. And it fol­lows hot on the heels of a bril­liant Sto­ryville pro­gramme on the gen­uine­ly inspir­ing fig­ure of Har­ry Bela­fonte. And, if you missed either of these two excel­lent BBC4 pro­grammes, keep an eye out for them. 

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