I had a spiritual experience Friday night when I went to see one of my musical idols at Ram's Head Tavern, a local live performance venue. Since moving to Annapolis I have taken advantage of opportunities to see my musical heroes when the pass through, and Rams Head has been a good place to do so. I've got pretty eclectic tastes in music - my iPod and CD collection contain almost everything that you might find in the polygon whose corners are George Gershwin, Amy Winehouse, Rick James, and Buck Owens. Last night I got to see Jimmy Webb in concert. I didn't know who he was until a couple years ago, but the songs he wrote - By the Time I Get to Phoenix, Galveston, Wichita Lineman, All I Know, Highwayman, The Worst That Could Happen, MacArthur Park - have been favorites for decades, resonate in my soul, and are all over my iPod.
He played for over 2 hours. Actually, I think he played for about half that time and talked the other half of the time. He's not a great singe but a great piano player, just like his idol Burt Bacharach, but just being in the same room was well worth the $25 ticket price. Disappointingly, just like the time I saw Donovan live, he spent way too much time dropping names of past associates or telling of all the awards he had won (to his credit, most by the time he was 22), and was heckled for it at one point. He also seemed to begrudge singer-songwriters, blaming them for sweeping him and other songwriters out of the way as the 60's went on. He spoke disparagingly of the British Invasion, and of Bob Dylan (why did Bob get away with lyrics such as "You used to ride on the chrome horse with your diplomat, who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat", when Jimmy got savaged for "Someone left the cake out in the rain"), and somewhat disparagingly of the Byrds and The Mamas and the Papas.
Jimmy - you are already a legend in my book, and in those others who knew enough about you to show up. You don't need to try to raise your stature. Spend less time time talking, and more time playing - maybe you could have gotten to "Worst That Could Happen" and "All I Know". At least you signed autographs after the show - a rarity among performers these days. And thanks for leading off with Highwayman, which contains one of my favorite lines from any song: "...Or I may simply be a single drop of rain..."