Jimmy Webb Gives Melbourne A 'Songwriting Masterclass' #REVIEW - Noise11.com
Jimmy Webb at Melbourne Recital Centre 7 December 2023

Jimmy Webb at Melbourne Recital Centre 7 December 2023

Jimmy Webb Gives Melbourne A ‘Songwriting Masterclass’ #REVIEW

by Paul Cashmere on December 8, 2023

in News

‘An Evening with Jimmy Webb’ is a songwriting masterclass by one of the greatest songwriters of all-time.

Jimmy Webb was 21 years old when Glenn Campbell recorded his song ‘By The Time I Get To Phoenix’, Richard Harris recorded ‘MacArthur Park’ and The Fifth Dimension recorded ‘Up Up and Away’.

Frank Sinatra (Jimmy only refers to him as Mr Sinatra) recorded ‘Didn’t We’ for his ‘My Way’ album on 1969, country supergroup The Highwaymen took their name from his song ‘Highwayman’ and Kanye West misused his song ‘Do What You Wanna Do’ on his Taylor Swift diss ‘Famous’ in 2016.

Think of Lennon/McCartney, Jagger/Richards, Bacharach/David, John/Taupin … all of those great songwriting teams. Jimmy wrote all of these songs by himself. He often talks about the “cookie cutter” music industry of today. It took 17 additional songwriting credits for Kanye West to botch ‘Do What You Wanna Do’ into famous and when it was nominated for a Grammy, Webb was left off the nomination despite being responsible for 45% of the West song.

Jimmy closest collaborator was Glenn Campbell. Campbell recorded around 90 of his songs over the years including ‘Galveston’, ‘By The Time I Get to Phoenix’ and ‘Wichita Lineman’. ‘Wichita Lineman’ was done in one afternoon when Glenn wasn’t happy with the songs for his next album and asked Jimmy to write him another “song about a town”. Jimmy wrote it and took it to Glenn that day.

‘Highwayman’ was on Jimmy’s 1977 album ‘El Mirage’ and recorded by Campbell the following year but it wasn’t until it was offered to Johnny Cash that it became the song we know today. Cash wasn’t well at the time and needed friends to help him sing it/ Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson came to the rescue and became The Highwaymen. That’s how Cash and Nelson met. “All those years in Nashville and they had never met before,” Jimmy told the audience.

‘An Evening with Jimmy Webb’ is song followed by story followed by song followed by story followed by song followed by story. It is jaw-dropping listening to history by the man who lived the history.

Jimmy talked about silly lyrics. Bob Dylan’s ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ lyric “You used to ride on a chrome horse with your diplomat / Who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat”, The Beatles ‘Lucy in the Sky’ lyric “A girl with kaleidoscope eyes” and “Newspaper taxis appear on the shore” and the “vestal virgins” in Procol Harum’s ‘A White Shade of Pale’ yet he gets made fun of for the rest of his life for leaving a cake out in the rain.

There are only two Jimmy Webb shows on this visit to Australia. Jimmy’s son Christiaan and family live in Melbourne, so this is part family visit, part work.

Jimmy will perform his second and final show in Sydney on Sunday night 10 December, 2023 at the Sydney City Recital Hall.

Jimmy Webb setlist, Melbourne, 7 December 2023

Highwayman (covered by The Highwaymen, 1985)
Galveston (covered by Glen Campbell, 1968)
Up, Up and Away (covered The 5th Dimension, 1967)
Do What You Gotta Do (first recorded by Johnny Rivers, 1967 and misused by Kanye West in ‘Famous’, 2016)
The Worst That Could Happen (covered by The Fifth Dimension, 1967)
The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (covered by Judy Collins (1975), Linda Ronstadt (1982) and Joe Cocker, 1974)
By the Time I Get to Phoenix (covered by Glenn Campbell, 1967)
Didn’t We (covered by Frank Sinatra, 1969)
Whatever Happened to Christmas? (covered by Frank Sinatra, 1968)
Wichita Lineman (covered by Glenn Campbell, 1968)
MacArthur Park (covered by Richard Harris, 1967)

Time Flies (covered by Rosemary Clooney, 1995)

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