GLEN CAMPBELL – Rhinestone Cowboy

I have a firm belief that this is the second song I ever heard.

Read all about my childhood association with Glen here. Instead here I want to talk about how a song can subtly infiltrate different thoughts and memories and thus distort your view of the world. There are three aspects of my life view which have been distorted by Rhinestone Cowboy.

a) What a Rhinestone is
b) The weather in New York
c) The plot of the film Midnight Cowboy

So super-tiny Pete bouncing around at home hears Rhinestone Cowboy. I know what a cowboy is, Bonanza is still on television and Alias Smith And Jones was on too late to watch. But lyric comprehension is not a high point. I know there is stuff about trains, which probably ties in with train robbery – but the mention of snow and rain is what most arrests this youthful country fan. Having recently experienced, and asked endless questions, about a hail storm which had occurred there must have been some slight linguistic confusion in my bonce. Henceforth, and until put right some years later at school, ice falling from the sky was known to me as rhinestones. Even when corrected, I did not correct my view of the rhinestones not being meteorological in origin.

Which brings me on to the weather. There is a lot of weather in Rhinestone Cowboy. One of Larry Weiss’s nice runs of words introduces the nice guys who get washed away like the snow and the rain: the rain which later reappears to really not mind. And having been introduced the concept of Broadway via some television musicals, couple with the subway tokens, I have always assumed that Rhinestone Cowboy takes place in New York. And thus New York, via Glen’s song, is a windier, wetter town than Manchester in my memory. (That said the regular news reports of New York under snow in January has reinforced this).

So finally to Midnight Cowboy. Its unlikely that the three year old me had much awareness of Midnight Cowboy. This was before video’s after all, and Midnight Cowboy is famous for being the only adult rated winner of an Oscar*. Possibly my first awareness would be in the early eighties – maybe via a listen to “Everybody’s Talkin'” (I had a friend who was a big Nilsson fan). So there was a connection between this gentle Nilsson song, the film and thusly Midnight Cowboy becomes Rhinestone Cowboy. Midnight Cowboy: a story of a grizzled showbizzy country singer hustling his way up and down Broadway. I was possibly too young to pick up any double meaning of hustle in the song and in Midnight Cowboy. Even now I think Rhinestone Cowboy is the theme (and occasionally name of) Midnight Cowboy.

Thinking about all this has given me a fourth connection, one of a pop music family tree. If Rhinestone Cowboy is the grandaddy of country meets city singalongs, then one of its progeny is Big & Rich’s “Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy”. And as both songs both straddle Broadway I just singalong, standing on a table, adding to my musical landscape of New York. And thanks to Glen my New York is wet and snowy, bombing frozen hailstones like rhinestones from the sky with Jon Voight hustling his way up and down Broadway. And that is as good a New York as anyone elses.

*Its a trademark you know. I’ll probably get sued just for saying the word. Note, no-one is ever called Oscar these days.