Mr. Glen Campbell
Listen – Guess I’m Dumb – MP3
Here’s hoping that the week having crested, you are all in good spirits and anticipating the sudden onrush of autumn. At least that’s how it’s supposed to play out around here, with the temperature dropping – in a weeks time – from the upper 80’s to the low 60’s.
As far as I’m concerned the change couldn’t have come sooner. I love the summer but after a while heat and humidity become monotonous (unless of course you’re a banana farmer, in which case it verily screams “PROSPERITY!”) and one requires a touch of crispness in the air to soothe the soul.
That said, in the small corner of the interweb that I inhabit blog-o-rifically, things have been moving a long at a brisk pace, due in large part to an infusion of fresh vinyl, including a couple of pieces that I’d been trying to track down for a while.
One of these is today’s selection, and once you’ve heard it I think you’ll agree that the search was worthwhile.
I’ve been a Glen Campbell fan since I was a kid. Though his mid-70’s travesty ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ tortured anyone within reach of an AM radio in 1975, I remember his late-60’s, Jimmy Webb associated heyday when he had a TV series and was all over the charts with the brilliant likes of ‘Wichita Lineman’*.
Campbell – born in Arkansas in 1936 – was already a busy studio guitarist in LA when he first hit the charts (however gently) in 1962. He wouldn’t have his first major hit until 1967 and ‘Gentle On My Mind’. In the years leading up to his initial visit to the Top 40, he spent some time on the road with the Beach Boys as a temporary replacement for Brian Wilson.
The story goes, that as a thank you to Campbell, Brian Wilson “gave” him today’s selection ‘Guess I’m Dumb’.
Written by Wilson and Russ Teitleman, and produced by Wilson (with backing vocals by the Honeys), ‘Guess I’m Dumb’ had originally been recorded (and subsequently discarded) by the Beach Boys in 1964. The following year Wilson too Campbell into the studio, and created just over two and a half minutes of pop perfection.
I’d never heard of the song until last year when a clip of Campbell performing the song (on Shindig, I think) showed up on the Bedazzled blog. I was –from the very first listen – blown away. I set out immediately to try and track down a copy of the 45, but soon discovered that it was not only rare, but as might be expected, quite expensive. It was a few weeks ago that I found a copy at a record show. I didn’t get it for peanuts, but it was still about half the going price, so I didn’t hesitate to spend the dough.
Melodically ‘Guess I’m Dumb’ presages the kind of things that Wilson would be recording on Pet Sounds a year later. The arrangement is first-rate second-generation Wall of Sound, and the melody, filled with odd little dissonances – the kind of art-pop that Wilson did so well – is a marvel.
I’ve never heard the Beach Boys version of the song (if one even exists) but I can’t imagine that even their wonderful harmonies would be any better than Campbell’s crystal clear tenor. Gary Usher and Curt Boettcher no doubt felt the same way two years later when they used Campbell as the lead vocalist on ‘My World Fell Down’ by Sagittarius.
Sadly – at the time (aside from an oddball chart appearance in Salt Lake City) ‘Guess I’m Dumb’ proved too sophisticated for popular success and disappeared. Campbell went on to bigger (though maybe not better things) with a long and successful career.
See you next week.