Glen Campbell’s “Dreams of the Everyday Housewife” troubles me
So yeah, Ad-Rock or MCA or Beck (I forget which one) died last week. We didn’t write about it.
In fairness, we’ve written about very little recently. We have a corporate gig now, which takes up 90% of our time. The other 10% is taken up dealing with the self-loathing that comes from having 90% of your time taken up by a corporate gig. But the reason we didn’t write about the man’s death is because… well, it’d have been dishonest.
Like most kids outside the US in the mid-90s, it was the Beasties, along with Cypress Hill, who first got me intro rap music. So when the news of Yauch’s death filtered through, I thought “I know, I’ll get Ill Communication popping on Spotify.” Within three tracks, all I could think was “Man, I could sure go for The Cactus Album about now.”
And you can’t write an obituary of a guy that says “Fucked with this dude when I was 16, but when I was 16 I also thought Adam Schlesinger was the GOAT lyricist, so idk.” You can’t do that because there’s an inverse statute of limitations on speaking ill of a recently deceased musician. If you have a valid critical point to make about them, you need to do it before, rather than after, they pass.
Which is why I should probably say this now. Glen Campbell is ill. The man has Alzheimer’s to the degree that he doesn’t remember the lyrics to his songs anymore, so he probably has three to five years left on this planet.
Everyone likes Glen Campbell, right? He was the last of the “acceptable” Nashville country musicians, kitschy enough for those ironic country retrospectives on BBC 4, earnest enough for Radio 2 airplay, edgy enough for people who use the word “Americana” in all earnestness. He had the karaoke classics (“Rhinestone Cowboy”, “Wichita Lineman”), but I always fucked with him more as a maudlin Sunday morning comedown musician. “Mary In The Morning”. “Little Green Apples” with my girl Bobbie Gentry. And “Dreams of the Everyday Housewife”.
First ten, fifteen times I heard that song I thought “Right, I get it.” It was the last 60s, Campbell presumably had liberal songwriters (hence “The Universal Soldier” a few years earlier), and they were on their Betty Friedan tip with a song about how it’s wrong that women have their hopes and dreams crushed by domestic drudgery. The woman in the song things about dancing as a teenager and how she was the prettiest thing in town, and now she’s stuck darning socks and waiting for the UPS guy to arrive between 8 and 4.
And then we listened to it the last time and… well, it’s not about that at all. It’s a song in which Glen Campbell sings a song of celebration that his wife, who broke all their minds back so many years, has been forced into a lifestyle of subjugation to him. Yes, the end line of the chorus is “An everyday housewife who gave up the good life for me.” Glen Campbell is the husband in the song. He’s saying it’s a good thing that his missus has no aspirations any more.
Look, ILB has never shied away from praising the wrong people. All of my musical heroes are assholes: Dean Martin (alcoholic mob-affiliated sociopath), Warren Zevon (alcoholic abusive father), Eazy-E (back-stabbing drug dealer and Republican), Darren Hayman (opened a ukulele store). But but but…
What we’re trying to say is: Glen Campbell spent most of the late 70s smacking the living shit out of Tanya Tucker. For him to do that in the aftermath of a song where he boasts about keeping a woman locked down like a fucking Muslim child bride… I dunno, man. It’s awkward. Maybe too awkward.
I know, as a rap fan, you eventually come to expect that anyone who makes any half decent music in the genre is, at the very least, the kind of guy who deals crack to pregnant mothers and hates at least three other races intensely. But they at least weave stories out of them. This Glen Campbell thing just reminds me of when Eminem was doing Dee Barnes zingers while on the same track as Dre. It’s not even a case of “too soon”, it just looks like really, really bad bragging.
Glen Campbell was honoured at the same Grammys that Chris Brown took a bunch of flack for performing at. There was precious little in the way of protest. Whether this is a mark of respect for the man’s music, a feel that time has passed, racial issues or just the fact that people find Rihanna more attractive than Tanya Tucker, I don’t know. But what I do know is that all of this makes me very, very confused as to which asshole musicians I am allowed to cosign. I don’t want to end up like one of those liberal metal fans who decry misogyny in pop, commercialism in rap and monoculturalism in indie before listening to an album of songs where a Norwegian guy shouts about the purity of the Aryan Brotherhood for 23 minutes.
So what I’m saying is: someone write a list of which wifebeating musicans are OK to listen to. Chris Brown apparently isn’t, neither was Ike Turner. Mark E Smith and James Brown apparently are. Let’s get one of those feisty feminist “personality” bloggers, one of the ones with the shitty pink dyejob, labret piercing and propensity for writing in lolcat talk so they sound about 13, and set them to work on this. Maybe we can get an answer once and for all and I can go back to listening to my Glen Campbell best ofs without suffering a breakdown in my conscience.