Glen Campbell Was a Beach Boy and Fought For Chart Success Against Wayne Newton

If you’re younger than 55 years old, there has been Glen Campbell music on your radio your entire life!

Glen played with a group called the Champs who had recorded and had a hit with the novelty record Tequila several years before Glen joined the group.  The song was a near instrumental, with the music interrupted from time to time by the sax player stopping long enough to bellow out, “Tequila.”  Income from that job must have been minor since Glen was also doing session work during that time starting in 1960.

When he got a chance to sign a record contract on his own in 1961, Glen left the group and recorded a record that was almost a minor hit, Turn Around Look At Me. The record only managed to get as high as #62 on the charts but was a top ten record in 1968 for the Vogues.  A year later Glen signed with Capitol Records, the label he would stay with for most of his career.  He released a record with the Green River Boys that made it to #20 on the country charts, but had no follow-up success and spent the next few years as a member of the Wrecking Crew,

A year later Glen signed with Capitol Records, the label he would stay with for most of his career.  He released a record with the Green River Boys that made it to #20 on the country charts, but had no follow-up success and spent the next few years as a member of the Wrecking Crew, a collection of studio musicians that played on an astonishing number of records in the 1960s.

In 1965 Brian Wilson decided to stop touring with the Beach Boys so he could find sanctuary in the safety of recording studios.  Glen replaced Brian for four months as a member of the touring group, making him an official Beach Boy.  Brian created a song that he had Glen sing on, although the record (Guess I’m Dumb) never made the charts (but a video of Glen lip-synching survived).

For the next few years, Glen continued to do studio work (including some banjo and guitar work on Brian’s Pet Sounds).  He managed to barely dent the pop charts a few times, and had a top 20 Country hit in 1966 (Burning Bridges), but true success eluded him until 1967.

Jimmy Webb had written a few songs that Johnny Rivers recorded and then written Up, Up and Away for the Fifth Dimension.  Somehow Jimmy and Glen connected, and in the next year Glen had hits with two songs written by Jimmy that took Glen’s career into overdrive, By the Time I Get To Phoenix and Witchita Lineman.  The first single hit #2 on the Country charts, but only got up to #26 on the Pop charts, and at the time the Pop charts were where the real money was.  In hopes of getting better results, somebody at Captial talked Glen into recording Dreams of the Every Day Housewife – and they also got Wayne Newton to release the song.  The company even released identical press releases for the two singers, each indicating that Housewife would be the song would be the breakthrough that each one needed in the pop music world.  Glen did better than Wayne on the pop charts (Glen #32, Wayne #60).  The song did much better for Glen on the Country charts, reaching number 3.  It wasn’t until Wichita Lineman came out the next year that Glen finally broke down the pop barriers…and Wayne had to wait until Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast was a hit in 1972.

The Smothers Brothers television show hit the air in 1967 and started an endless battle with the censors at CBS.  At that time, television shows typically ran for 39 weeks each year and a summer replacement would take their place for a few months before the next season.  Several hosts were considered for The Summer Brothers Smothers Show, and an effort to smooth things over with CBS, and Glen’s friendly personality and country music presence was calming enough to get Glen his own television show.  Things went so well that Glen was given his own show beginning in 1969 and he continued on the air for over three years.  Thanks in part to the exposure of the television show (and in larger part to his incredible singing and guitar-playing talent) Glen had a few more hits on the pop chart and a long string of major hits on the Country and Adult Contemporary charts during that period.  He even got to make a movie with John Wayne (True Grit).

His career faded a bit going into the seventies, but all that changed when he released Rhinestone Cowboy in 1975.  That was his biggest selling record and was followed by a string of Pop/Country crossover records over the next two years.  1977 was his last appearance on the Top 40 Pop charts, although he continued to release top ten Country hits through the eighties.  After the resurgence of New Country in the early nineties destroyed most of the existing Country careers Glen began recording Christian music, and that kept his career alive through until the mid-nineties.

In 2010 Glen was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s.  Over the next few years, he recorded a handful of songs that were put together for a final album release this year.  Along the way, a documentary about his illness was produced, and a song from his final sessions was released in 2014 when the movie came out.  I’m Not Gonna Miss You is a heartbreaking look at the impact his illness was having on Glen’s life and abundent talents.

Be prepared to shed a tear or two when you watch that video.

How Television Binging Could Save An Industry

When I was a kid, my Summer vacations gave me a few months off from school.  I usually got to spend a few weeks at Summer Camp, but other than that I spent most of my time reading, mostly science fiction.  One of the downsides of being an adult is losing that long stretch of free time; instead, I have a few hours at the store most mornings before the customers start to show up.  I can write or read or watch YouTube videos with few interruptions.

All year-round Bevie and I spend our evenings together eating dinner and then watching television.  Most of the year this entails taping the shows we want to watch all week long and then deciding each night which of our stored treasures we’ll open up.  Our current cable boxes can now store up to 100 hours of shows, but there are so many shows we want to watch that during most of the year we typically fill up 70% or more of that space.  That grinds to a halt in June: the shows from the Fall to Spring season that we’ve saved up run out, and after we binge we’re left with slim pickings from the Summer shows.  Bevie still has lots of shows she records, mostly horror and SciFi channel series and cooking and craft shows, but I have little interest in any of that.  As a result, we usually end up binging shows we may not have seen during the regular television season.  Sadly, this year we couldn’t even find many shows from the last year that we missed, so we looked at the shows in my instant queue on Netflix and decided to give Blue Bloods a chance.

Blue Bloods is primarily a police procedural that stars Tom Selleck as the police commissioner of New York City.  The cast includes his father (a former police commissioner), a son who is a detective, a daughter who is an assistant district attorney, and another son who studied to be a lawyer but changed course and became a rookie street cop.  There are also a wife and three kids in the mix.  It’s the kind of show I would normally watch, but back in 2010 we could only tape two shows at a time, and Blue Bloods was the odd show out that we skipped.

We’ve already managed to watch over 70 of the 133 available episodes this Summer.  With few exceptions, the episodes follow a very specific pattern:

  • Each episode has three distinct plotlines following different characters.
  • The plotlines will sometimes intersect but have individual resolutions.
  • At some point in the episode, the entire family will come together at a dinner, giving them a chance to discuss the events of the episode.
  • Prior events in older episodes are sometimes referenced, but only as a nod to long-time viewers.

The important part of the plotting is very simple: done in one.  With only a small handful of exceptions, there are no big bads hanging over every episode and no ongoing investigations that clutter up the episodes.  While the characters may learn a lesson or become more aware of the challenges faced by the roles other characters play in the pursuit of justice, there is no major character development on the show.  The net result is that viewers who are not recording and binging episodes can casually decide one Friday night to watch the show live and not feel like they don’t know what’s going on.  Unlike almost every other show we watch, Blue Bloods is NOT an ongoing soap opera that requires constant attention.  While the show did have an unsolved mystery in the first season that impacted a handful of episodes, they did not return to that pattern in the following seasons and ratings for the show improved.

The show has also had a rotating group of supporting characters the family members work with, including several different partners, but they have enhanced the storylines without requiring constant attention from the viewers.

How I wish the comic book industry could learn a lesson or two from Blue Bloods!

Return with me now to a short visit to the comic books of the late fifties and early sixties.  Each comic book featured three complete, self-contained stories.  Worlds Finest, Detective Comics, Action Comics and Adventure comics were anthology books that had three complete stories that each featured different heroes.  Readers could pick up and read any comic off the newsstand and know everything they needed to know to follow and understand the story.

There was mild continuity.  There were recurring characters (such as the Legion of Superheroes) who would show up from time to time.  It was fun when the comics mentioned (in a note to the reader) which issues in the past had featured some of the characters before, or mentioned little things from the past (like Flash’s watch that could record sounds helping save the Justice League).  These little nods to long-time readers encouraged but did not require reading every….single….issue.

The first clue I had that things were changing came in 1959 when Wonder Woman #105 featured a single story that filled up the entire comic.  Showcase and Brave and Bold comics quickly followed suit, and Fantastic Four #1 started the tide at Marvel that would eventually put an end to multiple stories in a comic.

There were crossovers between comics, but not the kinds of events we have now.  Guest appearances were usually complete in one comic (such as the Spider-man/Avengers/Hulk crossover in Amazing Spider-man Annual #3).  Sometimes a story only required reading one comic from each of the main characters (such as the Namor versus Iron Man story that started in Tales of Suspense #80 and ended in Tales to Astonish #82).

Comic sales were in the millions.

Sadly, look where comics are now!  Very few writers seem to be able to tell a complete story in a single issue, and there appears to be pressure on writers to write to the trade: storylines are designed to last 4 to 6 issues so they can be collected in a graphic novel.  The ongoing soap opera that makes up most comics make it nearly impossible for new readers to get into most comics (except by buying the expensive trade paperbacks).  Nobody can casually pick up a single issue of hardly any comic and expect a self-contained story.  Everything seems geared to keeping the current readers at the expense of growing the audience for the comics and attracting new readers.  The only way Marvel and DC try to widen their audience is by throwing away what came before and starting over (and over and over) or by throwing out massive crossover events that require buying dozens of different, unrelated titles to keep customers spending money.  Instead, it appears they are driving away their customers without bringing in any new readers.  One would think that the success of the movies and television shows featuring comic book characters would lead to booming sales of the comics, but the high cost of the comics combined with the difficulty of finding an entry point has blocked that.

Sales of comics are now in the tens of thousands.  Or less.

Perhaps the comic book companies could learn something by binging Blue Bloods.  Bring back self-contained stories.  Produce comics that match the media characters people are expecting.  With any luck, those sorts of changes would yield higher sales that would allow lower prices which would lead to much higher sales.

We don’t often get songs that mention comic book characters.  Early in his career, Donovan sounded a lot like early Bob Dylan, and there’s even a video on YouTube of the two of them singing to each other.  While Donovan had success in his early career doing folk-rock songs like Catch the Wind and Colours, he didn’t really hit it big in the US until he switched a more pop-oriented sound and released Sunshine Superman, his first and only number 1 record in this country.