An affectionate homage to an indisputably great song, one that readers will listen to with new ears.



A lively biography of the song that Bob Dylan once called the greatest ever written.

Musical maven and GQ editor-in-chief Jones (David Bowie: A Life, 2017, etc.) is plainly smitten by Jimmy Webb’s unlikely story of a telephone repairman who rides a cherry picker into the sky in order to attend to malfunctioning wires, which the author calls “the first existential country song.” That may or may not be true, but it is unforgettable, one of the city-named story-songs that propelled Glen Campbell to fame and a natural successor to Webb and Campbell’s previous hit, “By the Time I Get to Phoenix.” Webb considered “Lineman” incomplete when he gave it to Campbell, and indeed it is light on lyrics, certainly as compared to his opus, “MacArthur Park.” Campbell ran with it, turning to the extraordinary talents of the session cohort called the Wrecking Crew, with bass player Carol Kaye doing beyond-the-call-of-duty work with her improvised introduction. One flaw that Jones uncovers: Webb had the hero of the song fixing the wrong kind of wire—a high-tension line can experience an overload but not a telephone line, leading him to remark ruefully, “it’s very hard to explain poetic license to a union member.” Still, poetic license aside, the song is instantly recognizable and consistently makes critics’ lists of the best pop songs of its era, if not of all time. Jones focuses ably on meaning and affect, more as they have to do with the lyrics than with the unusual chord pattern, which makes the song so distinctive; a little more attention to the structure of the music and how it evolved would have pleased the hearts of geeks. Even so, the author’s account satisfies, without a wasted word or the usual clichés of pop-culture writing and with plenty of quotations from the principals involved in making the song an enduring hit.

An affectionate homage to an indisputably great song, one that readers will listen to with new ears.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-571-35340-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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