Wichita Lineman: Searching in the Sun for the World’s Greatest Unfinished Song

Faber & Faber. Sept. 2019. 288p. bibliog. ISBN 9780571353408. $16; ebk. ISBN 9780571353422. MUSIC
Jones (David Bowie: A Life) brings the requisite expertise and love of subject to this nostalgic rumination on the 1968 song “Wichita Lineman,” written by Jimmy Webb and recorded by singer Glen Campbell. The author details the original production, Campbell’s singing and guitar playing, and the tune’s subsequent resonance through the decades as an anthem of the American heartland’s blue-collar worker. In themed chapters, Jones addresses the social impact of music and a variety of tangential areas, such as what a lineman’s job actually entails. Of special interest are interviews with key players in the creation of the song including Webb and Campbell and behind-the-scenes glimpses into the tribulations of session musicians. However, readers who aren’t schooled in the wide range of British pop/rock bands since the 1960s might get lost in the weeds.
VERDICT This affectionate memorial to Campbell and rather hagiographic take on Webb’s talent might have worked better as a long article for Rolling Stone or The New Yorker, as it tends to repetitiveness and often veers into self-serving territory. Sadly, the whole does not equal the sum of its (many excellent) parts.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.


Community matters. Stay up to date on breaking news, trends, reviews, and more.

Get access to 8000+ annual reviews of books, ebooks, and more

As low as $13.50/month

Like this premium article? Subscribe to LJ and get all of our premium content at your fingertips for 12 months.