Glen Campbell’s Ten Greatest (Most Memorable) Hits
We asked 100+ real fans on our mailing list to name their favorites. You will not be surprised that all of the tunes on the list come from his most fertile period – the 60’s and 70’s.
#10 – “Sunflower,” lives with a distinctive group of tunes written by but not recorded by Neil Diamond. This was Campbell’s last of eight number ones on the Easy Listening chart. Released June 20, 1977 it was the second of three singles off the “Southern Nights” Album. Campbell once said it was a fun song in concert for him, the band and especially the audience with it’s positive uptempo vibe. We should mention
#9 – “Everything a Man Could Ever Need” It’s from the 1970 film Norwood which starred Campbell and football great turned actor Joe Namath. It was one of six songs written by Mac Davis for the soundtrack and right in the pocked of the sound at the time. Sweeping symphony, anthem-like proclamation of love. Baby let me validate every little thing!
#8 – Was written by by one of those truly talented background figures. He was also a producer, arranger and an amazing piano player – Allen Toussaint who we lost in November, 2015. He wrote, “Southern Nights” while visiting relatives in Louisiana backwoods. It’s about all those stories we tell around the fire pit under the stars. It reminded Campbell of his childhood adventures in Arkansas. Some of the lyrics were changed and it went to #1 in 1977.
#7 – Was co-written by Conway Twitty and it was his only #1 hit on the pop charts. Of course he’s had more than a few on the country countdowns. His 1958 version had a doo-wop feel. The Hollies covered it in 1963 and Campbell made it a top 10 hits in 1970. It was on his “Goodtime Album” and the tune is about giving love but not getting it back. He sings, “My one and only prayer, Is that someday you’ll care.” Campbell played it on most of his tours.
#6 – Interestingly four of the top 10 Glen Campbell song were written by Jimmy Webb who has been called Burt Bacharach with a twist of country. That’s fitting since Bacharach was a big influence. “Where’s the Playground Susie,” a tale about lovers losing boundaries and time, was released April 29, 1969. second single from the album Galveston. It reached #28 on the country charts.
#5 – “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”is another Jimmy Webb classic. In fact in 1990 it was named the third most performed song from 1940 to 1990 by BMI. Isaac Hayes recorded a nineteen minute version – we would expect nothing less and Johnny Rivers did the tune first in 1965 and Glen Campbell went to #2 on the country charts and #26 on the Pop charts in late 1967. Just like Webb’s “MacArthur Park,” which was a big hit for Richard Harris in 1968 and Donna Summer in 78, it was written about Webbs ex-girlfriend Susan Horton who married Bobby Ronstadt, a cousin of singer Linda Ronstadt.
Before he was 21 he wrote some of the most enduring pop classics of all time. Frank Sinatra called, “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” One of “the greatest torch songs ever written.” It’s right in that pocket of sentimental /unrequited love
#4 – Is a moment in time, a different time. Written by Chris Gantry, “Dreams of the Everyday Housewife” would probably not be written today. Campbell sings of the sacrifices his wife has made for a life with him. She was the prettiest girl in town with many suitors and hopes of a future as a dancer. It was released in July 1968 as the first single from his album Wichita Lineman. It reached #3 on the U.S. country charts and #1 in Canada.
# 3 – “Gentle on My Mind.” John Hartford wrote the tune after seeing Doctor Zhivago but says he wasn’t trying to write a hit and it really wasn’t about the movie. When Campbell first heard it he was an artist without a track record but insisted on recording his own version so he recruited his L.A. session musician friends better known as the “Wrecking Crew” friends including Leon Russell. The group then recorded a demo version which included Campbell talking on it – giving instructing to the band on the tape. He then left it for his producer who after hearing it loved it so much he took out Campbell’s talking and released the demo version In 1967. It peaked at #30 on the U.S. Country charts but had a long shelf life on the radio. It was also re released in 1968.
#2 – “Galveston.” As promised more from Jimmy Webb. When asked if he was the character’s in his songs Webb said, ultimately it is always me I think, and sometimes me reaching out through another character like a puppeteer.” The Wrecking Crew back up Campbell on this one too which reached #1 on the country charts and it was a #4 Pop hit. It’s about a soldier missing his girl and home of Galveston, Texas. In 2003, this song ranked number 8 in CMT’s 100 Greatest Songs in Country Music. It was released during the Vietnam War in 1969 and Webb considered it an antiwar song but Campbell not so much. Little Richard, who is not known for his compliments said, “When Glen Campbell says one word ‘Galveston’ – it shakes me up. It takes me, man, that’s the whole soul of it right there.”
We have a tie for #1. Sort of. It’s closer to #1-A and #1-B. The voting was so close for the top spot that we put them both on top.
First the one with the few less votes. Again the Wrecking Crew back up Campbell in 1975 on his biggest selling song, “Rhinestone Cowboy.” It was written by Larry Weiss who had co-written some minor hits for Nat “King” Cole, Chuck Jackson, The Shirelles, Jeff Beck and The Animals. The tune is about a veteran artist who is a true survivor, something that many listeners identified with. Weiss said, “The idea for the song was also a crying out of myself. It was the spirit of a bunch of us on Broadway where I started out – Neil Diamond, Tony Orlando – we all had dreams of making it.” It went #1 on the country and pop charts.
“Rhinestone Cowboy” was one of six songs released in 1975 that topped both the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot Country Singles charts. The other songs were “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” by Freddy Fender, “(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song” by B.J. Thomas, “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” and “I’m Sorry”/”Calypso,” both by John Denver, and “Convoy” by C.W. McCall.
Weiss would go on to work in TV performed the theme song for the popular sitcom Who’s the Boss? In the 80’s.
#1 – A – This one officially got the most votes but it was close. More from the genius of Jimmy Webb.
It’s the gentle, “Wichita Lineman” a tune that’s regularly voted into lists of the greatest songs of all time. It’s from the album of the same name from 1968. With Wrecking Crew by his side it reached #3 on the U.S. pop chart, remaining in the Top 100 for 15 weeks.
Webb got the idea for the song driving Washita County in rural southwestern Oklahoma where he saw a telephone Lineman up on a pole with a “TeleTalker.” This one probably offers the best example on how Campbell was a perfect spokesperson for Webb’s gorgeous songs.
1968 was the year we lost Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy the world needed a haunting love song even though Webb described it as “the picture of loneliness” Campbell added in a statement to the Dallas Observer that Webb wrote the song about his first love affair with a woman who married someone else.
Campbell didn’t write any of his big hits but he sure knew where to take them. He became those characters and we believed him every step of the way.
1. “Wichita Lineman”/”Rhinestone Cowboy”
3. “Gentle on My Mind”
4. “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”
5. “Dreams of the Everyday Housewife”
6. “Where’s the Playground Susie”
7. “It’s Only Make Believe”
8. “Southern Nights”
9. “Everything a Man Could Ever Need”
John Beaudin has been in major market radio (Edmonton, Vancouver & Calgary) for 33 years and a music journalist since 1989. He graduated from Broadcasting school as a news man so he would have the skills to write about the artists that inspired him since he bought his first album, “Madman Across The Water” by Elton John as a teen. In the 80’s Beaudin was the host of the syndicated radio show “The Cross Canada Report” which had two version (Rock and A/C). Beaudin was also asked to be a judge at the Juno Awards (Canada’s answer to the Grammys) Twice. He has anchored every position in radio including morning and afternoon drive and was a Program and Music Director for The Breeze and California 103 in Calgary. He currently hosts the popular Lovesongs at QM-FM in Vancouver and on iHeartRadio.