So, let's start with the true original. Glen Campbell on his variety show, bringin' us the goods, many years before he became a Rhinestone Cowboy.
Now that you've seen "Wichita Lineman" as it was meant to be sung, let's look at various covers of the tune - some good, some horrifically awful. The first is from Sergio Mendes & Brazil '66, who covered this song perhaps better than anyone else. Instead of recreating the song, they brought their own unique flavor to it, and I love it. Please don't discount this version outright - give it at least a good thirty seconds of your time. It'll grow on you.
Here we have a moog version of the song. Our song, "Wichita Lineman", is the first track on Nashville Gold: Switched on Moog. For some odd reason, I actually enjoy the moog version. I think it is because the hollow feeling emitted by the moog fits in well with the mood of the song. But be forwarned, I am easily the only living person on the planet that feels this way.
RecordRobot has a good helping of "Wichita Lineman" cover versions. Here's a sampling. I encourage you to browse on over to this awesome blog for a second helping. All Electric Love really has going for it is the cover, but, again, there's a certain something here that I like.
Here's a version by Sammy Davis, Jr. courtesy of RecordRobot. I wonder if this was during his Church of Satan phase. A couple posts back I talked about Sammy and his fling with Beelzebub. But enough about that, here's Sammy doin' what he does best... singing other people's material.
One of my favorites, possibly simply for its rarity, is a version recorded by Campbell himself with the Stone Temple Pilots. The recording never made it to an album, and all that survives is some grainy black and white footage.
Needless to say, the song's been covered countless times. R.E.M. did a version, and I think the song suits their style, but they really didn't add anything to the song except maybe make it more depressing. Andy Williams and Tom Jones also provided a rendition of the tune, which I'll spare you from. Suffice it to say, there's been plenty of tries to capture the magic of the Jimmy Webb song, but no one has come close to Campbell.
It's fascinating to think that Jimmy Webb's lonely drive down an Oklahoma road in the late 60's would result in a timeless classic and an endless supply of cover versions. I for one am mighty glad he took that trip.