Friday, March 28, 2008


Listen to GALVESTON by Glen Campbell.

In the continued absence of Jason (skiing in the Alps this time), here's a bonus one-word jukebox classic for you this Friday.

Galveston has long been a strange one to me. First, having been to Galveston, it's hard for me to see where such longing for the place could come from (oddly enough, this isn't the only, or even my favorite song about Galveston. Someday I'll post a great tune by Lonnie Hill called Galveston Bay). Maybe that was part of Jimmy Webb's point in writing the song though, made in his typically oblique way--it's about longing for a place you know and understand, wherever that may be.

Anyway, why is this a jukebox classic? I'd say for two reasons. One is that measured by its own terms, the song is a success. That's easy--one of Jimmy Webb's best melodies with one of Glen Campbell's best performances, that means it's great, no question. The second thing, though, is its strangeness, its obliqueness. I'm sure this was there even in 1969 but forty years later it's probably the thing that stands out most to me. Even then, the production was wrapped in honey, now it sounds wrapped in amber. It's alien, a fossil. It's like hearing a song from a totally different world. Which it is I guess.

That's it for me this week. I got word from Stu yesterday that he's collecting some amazing performances over in Iceland this week, and hopefully he'll share some of them here next week. Otherwise, more of me. Have a good weekend!

Photo: Sunset, the west side.



Penny said...

Galveston came out about the same time that we lost my brother (I was eleven). I cannot listen to it (or any Glen Campbell) without experiencing an overwhelming sense of sadness. Its oddness fit perfectly with my inability to completely process my brother's death. Wichita Lineman causes an even deeper sense of despair, even today.

I might add that the draw of Galveston is probably the primal, rhythmic crash of the waves. I used to go there as a child and was always mesmerized by the repeating rhythms. Yeah, it is a dump (or used to be) but for some of us, it strikes at a viseral level.

john said...

Hard to see longing for Galveston?

The Perfect Galveston Day (coalesced):

1) drive the causeway across the bay, ignore all the blustery Moody Gardens signage and park downtown,
2) walk through the 19th century time warp Dickens on the Strand spectacle and tell yourself to make your mind up on it later, much later,
3) head into Col Bubbie's for some military surplus shopping ("wow, luftwaffe bell bottoms!"),
4) grab some salt water taffy (enough to "share") at La King's,
5) take a walk on the sea wall and maybe buy a shark's tooth,
6) take in the drilling rig museum and the Seawolf submarine, and then re-do the Seawolf,
7) beach time! forget those nasty seawall beaches and hop back in the suburban and drive TX-3005W to San Luis point and the pocket beaches - beware of lava-hot sand though!,
8) dinner time! check your feet for tar and pack the family up for a Gaido's Famous feast - gulf shrimp and oysters rockefeller, yum!
9) grab some beads and leave the island before the drunk Mardi Gras crowd remembers Wednesday is a work day.

Can't you hear those sea waves crashing?

Bill said...

My Galveston memories are (1) my sister getting stung by a jellyfish; and (2) singing along to Sussudio at a Kentucky Fried Chicken

Windy said...

my galveston memories are 1) being stung by a jellyfish and 2) having scars on my legs for several years afterwards

john said...

Jellyfish, ouch! But KFC? Seems more like a Long John's moment, with some extra crispies and malt vinegar.

As for Sussuido, well... in 2003 when Phil Collins was induced into the ASCAP hall of fame, Jimmy Webb was given the ASCAP Johnny Mercer award for life achievement or something like that AT THE VERY SAME DINNER!

Corbett said...

A most excellent post. It's hard to describe just what makes this song so beautiful, strange, wistful, etc., but you have done a beautiful job today. "Amber"--excellent!

soonergooner said...

As I was toiling in the pizza joint at 3am the great joy was FREE TUNES on the juke box. The only problem being all the songs that people had PAID for had to be listened to first. Galveston played and played leaving an eerie feeling in the empty dining room every time.
You were on the mark about the song because in that time there was a HUGE longing for things/times past. Looking at those times through said amber prism surely made it seem that things could/would be better.. As Penny and Windy attest, those memories/impressions are quite viable years and honey coatings later. For me, the real Galveston memories pale next to the empty echoes at 3am...