All the sweet icing melts down, and some bitterness and tragedy lie exposed in the life of the hit-making songwriter.
Webb (b. 1946), famous for “MacArthur Park,” “Up, Up and Away,” “Wichita Lineman,” and many other 1960s- and ’70s-era pop classics, has a bit of a bone to pick. He wants readers to know, as if we don’t already, that his songs have been transformative; an 11-page double-column appendix listing artists who have recorded them is just one bit of testimonial. But more, he’s ticked at the “left-wing folkie exclusivity” that has relegated him, in the pantheon of songwriters, to the establishment-supporting, squaresville corner where has-beens like Marilyn McCoo and Glen Campbell live. Never mind that plenty of people worship both singers and that plenty of hipsters live and breathe by Webb. The chip on the shoulder never quite falls off, but thankfully, it gets less pronounced as the author presses on with this spry, mostly pleasing memoir that has more than its share of rough patches. For instance, he writes, when he came to Los Angeles from Oklahoma, he was a nice Christian boy who didn’t smoke or drink. At the height of his fame—and this book mostly dwells on the golden age of the late ’60s and early ’70s—he hoovered up a line of what was supposed to be good cocaine but turned out to be “a super dose of crude street level PCP, enough to kill an elephant.” Along the way, mostly with an affect of not quite believing his luck, Webb recounts brushes with fame and his many high points, from idol Paul McCartney commissioning a song from him to losing a few brain cells during John Lennon’s lost weekend—to say nothing of sessions with Richard Harris, prime interpreter of his greatest and perhaps strangest hit.
An insider’s view of the star-maker machinery and a treat for Webb’s many fans.