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A Filmmaker's Excruciating Return To Adolescence

One of the worst fears of adolescents everywhere is throwing a party that no one attends. This actually happened to director Paul Weiland, who was left alone at his Bar Mitzvah because of the 1966 World Cup. Now, Weiland recreates his embarrassment for the amusement of others in his new movie, Sixty Six.




Related Topic

Other segments from the episode on August 14, 2008

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, August 14, 2008: Interview with Paul Weiland; Interview with Glen Campbell.


0 DATE August 14, 2008 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM

Interview: Filmmaker Paul Weiland talks about his new movie "Sixty
Six" which is based on his own bar mitzvah trauma in 1966

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, senior writer for the Philadelphia Daily
News, filling in for Terry Gross.

After 25 years of making movies and television, our guest Paul Weiland has
made a film based on a comically tragic story from his childhood, how his 1966
bar mitzvah in London was ruined by the improbable coincidence of England
winning its only World Cup title in London on that very day. The story,
recounted in Weiland's film "Sixty Six," is richer than that. Weiland's
father suffered from obsessive and compulsive disorder, and coping with his
illness shaped the family's interactions. Weiland felt overlooked by his
family and underappreciated at school. He hoped his bar mitzvah would change
all that, at least for a day. In this scene from "Sixty Six" Weiland's
character Bernie, played by Gregg Sulkin, hears from his rabbi, played by
Richard Katz, what a bar mitzvah can be.

(Soundbite of "Sixty Six")

Mr. RICHARD KATZ: (As Rabbi Linov) It is an epic two day festival at which
you are the absolute center of attention.

Mr. GREGG SULKIN: (As Bernie Reubens) At my bar mitzvah God will switch on a
spotlight, and for the first time everyone would really see me. From that
moment on I became the greatest party organizer in history. I spent every
minute preparing for the day when Bernie Reubens would walk on water.

Mr. KATZ: (As Rabbi Linov) Everybody you know will be invited. Everyone
will come. There will be presents everywhere. And you stand there on that
day a son of the commandments, a bar mitzvah.

Mr. SULKIN: (As Bernie Reubens) My bar mitzvah is going to make my brother
Alvie's look like a children's tea party. Mine was going to be the "Gone with
the Winds" of bar mitzvahs. It was going to be the Cassius Clay of bar
mitzvahs, the Jesus Christ of bar mitzvahs. In nine months' time I was going
to be a legend.

(End of soundbite)

DAVIES: Well, Paul Weiland, welcome to FRESH AIR. This film "Sixty Six" is
based on the story of your own bar mitzvah. You've been making movies and
television shows for a long time. Why do this story at this point in your

Mr. PAUL WEILAND: Basically this goes back to my 50th birthday party. And I
had needed to make a speech. And I'd been quite nervous about it because I'm
not much of a public speaker, you know, I'm much better when I'm telling other
people what to do and what to say. And I just thought, well, what am I going
to say? And it occurred to me that the last important party I had no one
showed up to. And it happened to be my bar mitzvah. And as I started to
write the speech, I suddenly began to realize that I was probably onto
something here. And the speech went down so well that there were some
producers from Working Title at the party and a guy called Tim Bevan came up
to me and said, `Look, if you ever want to make this as a film, I'll do it.'
And it was like, it's amazing, you know, because I really didn't mean it to be
a pitch, but it ended up being that.

DAVIES: Now, in the film, we're introduced at the very beginning to the
central character Bernie, Bernie Reubens, who was, you know, the guy who I
guess is, you know, the equivalent to you.


DAVIES: And he's a kid who wears glasses. He is picked dead last for the
soccer team after the kid who had polio, that had a brace on his knee.

Mr. WEILAND: Yeah.

DAVIES: That kind of easily overlooked, kind of a nerd, was that you?

Mr. WEILAND: Yeah, that's exactly me, really. As I said, not really
excelling at anything. But, you know--and that was the thing that, you know,
they used to pick up. And when I made the movie I decided that what I was
going to do was go back and stand up against that exact same wall. And what
was amazing is that the drinking fountain that we used to drink from was still
on that wall. The plumbing had changed slightly.

DAVIES: Now, when you say `the wall,' you mean the wall where the kids are
standing up as they're being picked for soccer?

Mr. WEILAND: Yeah, yeah, yeah. That was actually the rejection wall that I
remember. But what was wonderful is to actually go back there and this time
be slightly in control, which is kind of what the film was about. I needed to
go and kind of blow some of those demons away.

DAVIES: So we have a kid in the movie and in your life who, you know,
certainly not a stand out, who has some issues. But when he hears from the
rabbi what a momentous event his bar mitzvah will be at which he will be the
center of all attention and affection from those around him, he's enthralled
at the idea. And in the film we see this kid, he says he becomes an expert
party planner. He is going to get into this and throw a party that will be
legendary. Did you do that as well?

Mr. WEILAND: Yeah, that was the whole thing. This was going to be my coming
out. This was going to be the day that everyone noticed Paul Weiland. And it
was important to me, it was important. And, you know, the whole thing with,
you know, in the movie Bernie goes into the garage--and basically the garage
was very much part of my growing up, because basically my mother really didn't
like too much mess in the house. And everything, you know, in the movie, as
you'll see, is kind of covered in plastic, which we used to have to sit on;
and the plastic was only every removed when visitors came. It's the family...

DAVIES: So that's real? That is in the film, and that's because of your
dad's obsession and compulsion?

Mr. WEILAND: No, no, because my mum was a bit obsessed as well.

DAVIES: Uh-huh.

Mr. WEILAND: And in a way it's, you know, in a way it was kind of hard for
the writers on this because we couldn't make the family just a bunch of
lunatics. We had to slightly calm my mother's role or character down. But
the plastic covers were much to do with, you know, my mother preserving
things, because as I said, when we moved to North London everything was
brand-new, and that is the way she wanted to keep it. And in the end it ended
up as a bit of a godsend to me because when we were building the home or the
set at Pinewood Studios, everything on that set belonged to my mother because
it was still in almost pristine condition. So the period details were
absolutely perfect, from the front doorbell to even down to the bar mitzvah
cards that I received. You know, my mum, thankfully, never threw anything
away, even the carpet that's rolled up because, you know, not only do we have
plastic covers on everything, but we used to have carpets on top of carpets
and they were the like the off cuts when they were laying the carpets. So it
was almost like stepping stones that you never trod on the real carpet. You
were always treading on the out cuts of the carpet when it was first put down.

DAVIES: So that it's...

Mr. WEILAND: Does that sound mad?

DAVIES: A little bit, yeah, a little bit. Yeah, this does sound like an
interesting childhood to recreate. And it sounds like you actually
resurrected parts of it. There are actually--you went back to the original
wall and the original house.

Mr. WEILAND: Oh, yeah, definitely, definitely, yeah. But that was the weird
thing, you know, because when I was standing on the set and I was standing on
that same piece of carpet that I stood on when I was five years old, I mean,
that is an amazing feeling. And the feeling when, at the end of the shoot,
you know, we could actually skip the carpet. It went into the bin and it was
gone and it was done, that was amazing for me.

DAVIES: Wow. So just to be clear here, we're talking about your family is so
obsessed with protecting the carpet they laid other carpets on top of it which
they would take back when company would come.

Mr. WEILAND: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.


Mr. WEILAND: Yeah.

DAVIES: And finally...

Mr. WEILAND: And that's why the carpet survived. That's why...


Mr. WEILAND: ...when I went back there 40 years later the carpet had
survived for 50 years. It looked brand-new.

DAVIES: Well, so in this odd house with the dad with the obsession and
compulsion comes your bar mitzvah being planned. And you take this enormous
interest in--I mean, when you said--did you like look at hotel rooms that one
would--and catering menus and make guest lists and table seating and all that
kind of stuff?

Mr. WEILAND: Yeah. You see, very early on, what I'd kind of realized was
that I wasn't going to be able to really leave it to my parents. And the
history of this is that my brother, who in real life, he's five years older
than me. In the movie he's kind of just a couple of years older. They gave
him a pretty stonking bar mitzvah at a place in Finchley, which is in north
London. And it kind of aggravated my parents. It was a lot of stress for
them, oh, especially my mother at that time. And after that was over and they
didn't really get back in presents what they had paid out for the bar

DAVIES: Right.

Mr. WEILAND: That's a bit cruel, but--that they decided when it came to my
bar mitzvah that I was already, you know, going to get something a lot
smaller. Quite as small as it ended up was not really on their agenda, but,
you know, they had purposely planned that they were going put--my birthday was
actually on July the 11th, and they booked the bar mitzvah for July the 30th
which was a time when most people would be away on holiday.

DAVIES: Oh, so they did that on purpose so they wouldn't--they knew they
wouldn't have as many people.

Mr. WEILAND: Yes, so most people would be away, right?

DAVIES: Right.

Mr. WEILAND: And then there would be a chance that maybe they would send a
gift because they were away but then they wouldn't have to cater for so many
people. So I was kind of aware of this. So I felt that I needed to take a
bit of control of the situation and see if I could, you know, up the numbers a
bit and up the kind of scale of the party. So there were a lot of things
going on, but obviously I came unstuck.

DAVIES: Uh-huh. So there you are. Your parents are trying to make this
thing a smaller event. You want to plan a blowout that will endure in time.
And then at some point you realize that July 30th is the date of the final of
the World Cup, right?

Mr. WEILAND: Yeah. And this is just like the final straw that broke the
camel's back. It's just that, again, I wasn't aware, you know, at the time.
It was only in hindsight that I realized that I was getting a smaller bar
mitzvah in the first place because no one really wanted to tell me that. And
then on top of this, the World Cup final is being played in England for the
first time ever. And no one really is rating England's chances of going very
far in the competition. But as luck would have it, they started to progress
right through to the final. And I won't give away what happens in the final,
but it's--you know, it's obviously in the history books, but it became the
biggest sporting event every in the history of the UK, I think.

DAVIES: All right, so we won't give away everything that happens in the film,
but as much as you can tell us about what happened in your life, you do have
this young man who is very anxious and England does get into the World Cup
finals, and it is a national obsession. Tell us what you can about your bar
mitzvah when it finally arrived.

Mr. WEILAND: Well, you know, basically there were, as the progression of
England, as they went further in the competition we started to get some phone
calls of people starting to pull out, especially when they made it into the
final. And my Uncle Leonard, who basically was the chap that used to deal
with the cine films and all the photographs at all the family functions,
suddenly pulled out as well. So there isn't one single picture of me or
photograph at the bar mitzvah.

DAVIES: Oh, no.

Mr. WEILAND: I hope your audience is going to feel very sorry for me and go
and see this film now. And, yes, so basically it's absolutely true. And, you
know, at my 50th party when I made the speech I invited my Uncle Leonard, and
he got up and said a few words of apology all those years later and actually
admitted that he had actually gone to the final.


Mr. WEILAND: So it is quite funny. But the heart of the movie is
really--and what the movie is about is, you know, obviously it's not just
about the World Cup--it's about a boy who is invisible to his family and a boy
whose father is taking all the attention in the home so the mother doesn't,
you know, he's the child. The father becomes the child. And, you know,
basically the bar mitzvah was used as a kind of excuse to, as I said in the
beginning, to absolutely get seen. It's like, `Hello, everyone, I'm here.
I'm here. Please see me, please see me.' And, you know, that's--in the end it
didn't work out. But what I could do with the movie is that I was able now as
a director to slightly re-write history.

DAVIES: We're speaking with Paul Weiland. His new film is "Sixty Six." We'll
talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.


DAVIES: If you're just joining us, our guest is director Paul Weiland. His
new film, based on his own experiences, is called "Sixty Six."

Well, you know, the kid, as you describe yourself, was somebody who had a lot
of issues and no self confidence and was sort of easily ignored. You've had a
successful career in television and film. When did you realize that you had
something worth being proud of?

Mr. WEILAND: That's an interesting one, really, because as I said, at school
I didn't thrive at all and I left school with not really a single
qualification worth talking about. I mean, the only test certificate I got
was a cycle proficiency test. And I think that I--but for some reason I had
this absolute belief in myself. And, you know, to this day, you know what? I
do not know where it comes from. I just told people. And I went into
advertising very early on. I started off as a messenger boy and I kind of
worked my way into a position where I then became a copywriter. And I just
had this ability to get people to help me. You know, people--just because I
was cheeky and quite amusing and I played the underdog quite a lot. So the
people didn't really find me a threat. But they tended to want to become my
mentor, and that's how I started to develop my career.

DAVIES: You know, we've been talking about all these, you know, big emotional
issues that the film deals with, but this film really is very funny. And I
wonder when you were a kid and you were going through it, did it seem funny in
any way at the time?

Mr. WEILAND: Look, again, when you're going through it, that's what your
life is. You don't know that it's any different from any other child's
existence. But it's only when you start, you know, visiting the friend down
the road that you realize what your kind of being brought up in is not the
norm. And the way I used to deal with that, and my brother, is that we, you
know, I have to say this and it's a bit cruel, but we used to kind of wind my
dad up a bit, you know, because every night he would be in our bedroom and he
would be checking the electric heater was switched off, right? Because
obviously in those days there were no central heating. It was freezing. So
kind of before you went to bed you might have an electric blanket on and the
three-bar heater. And he would come in and go through this ritual probably
every night, and he would turn that heater off and on probably 50 times while
my brothers were there. And then he would leave the room and he would look
through the door.

And, you know, obviously I touch on that in the film. I don't do too much of
it because, you know, again, I'm making a Working Title film and I don't want
to, you know, you know, it's not a complete drama. But it could have swung in
that direction. It could have swung in that direction. But that's not my
approach to life. My approach is, you know, let's find--OK, there's a serious
voice here, but also lets try and cure it or deal with it, but using humor.
And my brother and I used to--and this is horrible that he would do this--and
on 50 times he would finally shut the door and it would be quiet for a minute
or so and then my brother would jump out of bed and turn the heater on, right,
and then call, `Dad, dad, the heater's on.'

DAVIES: Oh, no.

Mr. WEILAND: Yeah. And so the whole--you know, but that was the only way
that we could deal with it. And I suppose in a way that's what the films
about. I deal with the pain via the humor, using the humor.

DAVIES: As you're making this film that is so personal, I wonder, were you
concerned about the reactions of your family or friends?

Mr. WEILAND: Yeah. In fact, my brother got to a point where he wouldn't
actually sign the release because he was slightly worried that the family were
going to end up looking pretty bad. And what happened is that when he
eventually did see the film he absolutely loved it. So it wasn't--it didn't
become an issue. And, of course, the minute for my mother, the minute she
knew that Helena Bonham Carter was playing her, she was absolutely delighted
and would sign anything...(unintelligible). It was fine.

DAVIES: And has she seen the final cut?

Mr. WEILAND: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. She sees it, and she kind of
regularly watches it. You know, she loves it. You know, and it's given her,
in her little kind of group of friends, it's given her a real kind of kudos.

DAVIES: And her...

Mr. WEILAND: She actually appears in the film. She actually appears behind
Helena in the synagogue when I'm being bar mitzvahed. And also in the end
credits I show the footage of my brother's bar mitzvah from 1961, and my
mother appears in that. So she's made it to Hollywood, which is great. She's
a very beautiful woman.

DAVIES: And she looks great in those home movies.

Mr. WEILAND: Yeah.

DAVIES: You do a wonderful thing at the end where you see the home movies of
the actual real life characters as the cast members are revealed on the

Your dad's no longer with us?

Mr. WEILAND: No, he died 10 years ago.

DAVIES: What do you think he would have thought?

Mr. WEILAND: Oh, God knows. He probably--I don't know, actually. He would
think I'm completely 'round the bend bonkers. In fact, when I first showed a
very early test--we did a very early test screening in a place called High
Wycombe, and it was so weird because I sat there and I thought, oh my God.
What have I done? This living room that I have been all my life trying to get
out of, here am I putting all these people in that same living room. What
have I done? And I had a moment of panic.

DAVIES: So did the fact that your bar mitzvah was overshadowed by the World
Cup put you off of soccer, or as you say in England, football for the rest of
your life?

Mr. WEILAND: Well, it's a very funny story, that, because that night as I
lay in my bed and I heard the next door neighbors celebrating and people
dancing in the streets, and my kind of day had been completely ruined, I
placed a curse on the English football team. And to this day they've never
won again.

DAVIES: I think this may be a security risk for you to reveal this.

Mr. WEILAND: But you know what? I'm going to now, on this radio program,
I'm lifting that curse, so at the next World Cup I think we'll win.

DAVIES: All right. Is any ceremony needed, or we'll just take your word for
it that it's...

Mr. WEILAND: I believe I've just cut it. It's gone. It's gone.

DAVIES: They're released.

Mr. WEILAND: Yeah, they're released. Go ahead. Go England, go win the next
World Cup, please.

DAVIES: Well, Paul Weiland, you have come a long way. Thanks so much for
speaking with us.

Mr. WEILAND: You're welcome.

DAVIES: Paul Weiland's film "Sixty Six" starring Helena Bonham Carter and
Eddie Marsan is opening in selected cities in August and September. I'm Dave
Davies, and this is FRESH AIR.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Interview: Glen Campbell reminisces about his days in the business
and talks about recording his new album "Meet Glen Campbell"

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies filling in for Terry Gross. Here's a
little quiz. What do all of these hits from the '60s have in common?

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. FRANK SINATRA: (Singing) Strangers in the night exchanging glances
Wondering in the night
What were the chances we'd be sharing love
Before the night was through

The Ronettes: (Singing) The night we met I knew I needed you so
And if I had the chance I'd never let you go

Jan and Dean: (Singing) Two girls for every boy
I bought a '30 Ford wagon and we called it a woody
Surf City, here we come
You know it's not very cherry, it's an oldie but a goody
Surf City, here we come
Well, it ain't got a backseat

The Monkees: (Singing) I thought love was only true in fairy tales
Meant for someone else, but not for me

Mr. ELVIS PRESLEY: (Singing) Viva, Las Vegas
Viva, Las Vegas
Viva, Las Vegas
Viva, Viva, Las Vegas

(End of soundbite)

DAVIES: In each of those cuts you hear the rhythm guitar of my guest Glen
Campbell. Before his solo career, Campbell was part of a legendary group of
LA studio musicians known as The Wrecking Crew. In addition to playing on
many Beach Boys songs, including Brian Wilson's landmark work "Pet Sounds,"
Campbell went on tour with the Beach Boys when Brian became too ill to travel.

When he set off on his own, Campbell had a string of hits, including "Gentle
on My Mind," "By the Time I Get To Phoenix," Wichita Lineman" and "Galveston."
He hosted his own TV show, "The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour." Though his life
at times seemed charmed, he battled drug and alcohol addiction and married
four times, but he never gave up music. And now at age 72 he has a new album
called "Meet Glen Campbell." It includes hits by current artists such as Green
Day, Tom Petty and the Foo Fighters. Here's the first track, the band Travis'
song called "Sing."

(Soundbite of "Sing")

Mr. GLEN CAMPBELL: (Singing) Baby, you've been going so crazy
Lately nothing seems to be going right
So low, why do you have to get so low
You're so
You've been waiting in the sun too long

But if you sing, sing, sing,
Sing, sing, sing, sing
For the love you bring won't mean a thing
Unless you sing, sing, sing, sing

Colder, crying on your shoulder

(End of soundbite)

DAVIES: Well, Glen Campbell, welcome to FRESH AIR. Do you think you're
picking up a younger audience? I mean, there were a lot of folks who were
real kids when you had your big hits.

Mr. CAMPBELL: Mm-hmm.

DAVIES: Do you feel that there's a whole new generation that's getting to
know Glen Campbell?

Mr. CAMPBELL: Yeah, I think there are. Because a good song is a good song.
A lot of people, they listen to a good song but they ain't got a hole in their
ear. I don't know where that came from. But the songs that we picked, the
country, the rock, the whatever kind of music you say it is, I never really
looked at it like that. I looked at it as just being good music. But a
lot--people seem to like they wanted to pinhole things, you know, `this is
country and this one is rock and this one is pop.' You know, I never looked at
music like that.

DAVIES: Right.

Mr. CAMPBELL: I just wanted to do it like what the song called for, and
people, they make up their own mind whether it's country, rock, pop or crock.

DAVIES: You know, you've got a lot of years on that voice and I'm really
impressed with its clarity and range in this record. Have you done anything
in particular to preserve your voice over the years?

Mr. CAMPBELL: Oh, yeah. I quit drinking. I quit smoking. Get my rest. I
can sleep good now, thank God--with a clear conscience, I might add.

DAVIES: You know, another song that I really liked was "Jesus," which...

Mr. CAMPBELL: Mm-hmm.

DAVIES: ...was from Velvet Underground. Do you want to tell us a little bit
about how you approached this one?

Mr. CAMPBELL: Well, to do it, naturally, a little bit different than they


Mr. CAMPBELL: Actually I just, I really like what the song said.

DAVIES: Right. Well, you did a lot of gospel recording in the '90s, didn't

Mr. CAMPBELL: Mm-hmm.


Mr. CAMPBELL: Yeah, I'm made some gospel albums. And it was fun. It was
fun to do. I probably--I might do another one, you know. If there was any
really good new Christian songs, I'd do another album.

DAVIES: Let's listen to your version.


DAVIES: This is "Jesus" by our guest Glen Campbell.

(Soundbite of "Jesus")

Mr. CAMPBELL: (Singing) Jesus, help me find my proper place
Jesus, help me find my proper place
Help me in my weakness
'Cause I'm falling out of grace
Jesus, Jesus

(End of soundbite)

DAVIES: And that's "Jesus" by Glen Campbell.

Mr. CAMPBELL: Let me find my special place, or let me find my place. I
thought that was a great line.

DAVIES: And it's interesting, you know, the Velvet Underground had kind of a
minor key here. Some folks wondered if it was sort of an ironic take on a
religious message. Shall we hear Velvet Underground's take on it, which is so


DAVIES: Let's give a listen. This is Velvet Underground doing a spiritual
song "Jesus."

(Soundbite of "Jesus")

Velvet Underground: (Singing) Jesus, help me find my proper place
Jesus, help me find my proper place
Help me in my weakness
'Cause I've fallen out of grace
Jesus, Jesus

(End of soundbite)

DAVIES: And that's "Jesus" by Velvet Underground. Our guest Glen Campbell.

Let's talk a little bit about your life. You grew up in a small town in
Arkansas, big family, 12 kids, is that right?

Mr. CAMPBELL: Twelve kids, eight boys, four girls.

DAVIES: What kind of childhood did you have?

Mr. CAMPBELL: Working. You worked. As soon as you got old enough to milk
the cows, you milked the cows. It was--slop the hogs. We didn't have
electricity when I was a kid. We had to watch TV by candlelight. No, that's
a silly joke. But it's--I did the chores, and we didn't have--like I said, we
didn't have electricity, and we farmed. Daddy, I remember when he first let
me drive the cultivator for him, you know.

DAVIES: The cultivator?

Mr. CAMPBELL: Of course, he--a cultivator, yeah. It's a plough, actually.

DAVIES: Right, right, right.

Mr. CAMPBELL: It was two things--anyway. So that was great. He eased you
into the hard work that you had to do later.

DAVIES: Did you think you'd spend your life on a farm doing farmer's work?

Mr. CAMPBELL: No, I didn't. I came to Albuquerque with my aunt, my dad's
sister. She had married some guy from the radio station, Dick Bills. And I
auditioned for him. And I got the job, and I was in Albuquerque probably six,
seven years. We had a radio show every day on KOB, and we'd go out on
weekends and do concerts.

DAVIES: Well, for you to audition in Albuquerque, you had to have already
been pretty decent with a guitar. How did that get started? That's when you
were on the farm, right?

Mr. CAMPBELL: Yeah. Oh, I don't remember not playing a guitar. And daddy,
he made me a capo out of corn cobs. You know, where you can, you know, clamp
it down on the A position and you can play C position with it, you know?

DAVIES: Right, that's where it's--capo, they actually make them now on
guitars where it sits on the front so you can shorten the strings, right?

Mr. CAMPBELL: Yeah, right.

DAVIES: And your first one was out of a corn cob?

Mr. CAMPBELL: Yeah, it was out of a corn cob with a nail through it. I'll
never forget those days. That was--I must have been, oh, seven, eight years
old then.

DAVIES: And were you singing, too, at an early age?

Mr. CAMPBELL: Mm-hmm. We sang in church. It was amazing. The Church of
Christ that we went to there, we had to go, you know. All of us were breast
fed and if we wanted anything to eat Sunday you had to go to church with mama.
That's the truth. And it was--and I loved the singing. I remember hearing
the singing. But a lot of it was out of tune because they, the Church of
Christ, didn't have musical instruments.

DAVIES: I happen to know that. Yes, I went to the Church of Christ as a...

Mr. CAMPBELL: They sing a capella.

DAVIES: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Mr. CAMPBELL: Yeah, but when I do something I take my guitar and play for
them. I go down to the Baptist church where Grandpa Campbell was and I could
play my guitar and sing down there.

DAVIES: Well, you must have had some talent because, you know, you, as you
said, you ended up in Albuquerque.

Mr. CAMPBELL: Mm-hmm.

DAVIES: And I know that you joined the band The Champs, which had that famous
song "Tequila."

Mr. CAMPBELL: Right.

DAVIES: So you made your way to Los Angeles.


DAVIES: And you became one of really a legendary group of studio musicians
that did...

Mr. CAMPBELL: Oh, boy.

DAVIES: ...tracks for what groups? I mean, it's a long, long list, right?

Mr. CAMPBELL: Oh, well...

DAVIES: The Beach Boys, right?

Mr. CAMPBELL: Yeah. The Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, Nat King Cole, Sinatra,
and my buddy Dean Martin. It just--everybody really. The Mamas and the
Papas, The Blossoms, everybody that--we played almost on every record that
came out of Los Angeles. And that was the group called The Wrecking Crew. It
was the best--what an incredible band. They all just--boy, it was the best
musicians I had ever played with. And you got to be on your toes for session
playing because that's a--you're laying out a pretty good chunk of money
there, and they don't want no overtime.

DAVIES: Well, now, you were never trained to read music, right? I mean, was
that an issue?

Mr. CAMPBELL: No. No, it wasn't. I learned to read chord charts, you know,
and their time signatures. But I never learned to read notes. That was
always so hard for me. And I didn't--of course, I can pick up a sheet music
and play it, you know, but not necessarily the melody.

DAVIES: So you played rhythm on a lot of these tracks, right?

Mr. CAMPBELL: Yeah, that's what I played, rhythm, because of my capo, you
know, I could--if it was an E flat, I could play C position in E flat. It
drove the guys at--the readers, it drove them nuts. `How can you read like
that?' And I said, `Well, I'm going to pretend I'm in C when I'm actually in E
flat with my capo on it playing open chord rhythm.' And that's one of the
reasons that, you know, that Wall of Sound that Phil Spector came through. I
mean, he recorded God knows how many people. And they wanted that big open
ringing sound, you know, like The Righteous Brothers things. When you hear
that it's like, it's a huge, open, big sound. And the Wall of Sound, that was
all they were wanting, that ring a ring a ring a. You know, you can even hear
the--I can hear a little bit of the feedback now on (singing) `You never close
your eyes anymore,' The Righteous Brothers stuff, you know, it has a ring to

DAVIES: Oh, yeah.

Mr. CAMPBELL: It was wonderful.

DAVIES: Why don't we listen to just a little bit of that track, The Righteous
Brothers with "You've Lost That Loving Feeling."

(Soundbite of "You've Lost That Loving Feeling")

The Righteous Brothers: (Singing)
You never close your eyes anymore when I kiss your lips
And there's no tenderness like before in your fingertips
You're trying hard not to show it
But baby, baby, I know it
You've lost that loving feeling

(End of soundbite)

DAVIES: And that's The Righteous Brothers, the rhythm guitar there, our guest
Glen Campbell. That's "You've Lost That Loving Feeling."

You know, I'm just picturing, this is back in the early and mid-'60s...

Mr. CAMPBELL: Mm-hmm.

DAVIES: ...and you're putting in long days in the studio, right?


DAVIES: One producer after another, and what's happening is you guys are
putting in music which then becomes hit records for other groups.

Mr. CAMPBELL: Mm-hmm.

DAVIES: Did you feel ripped off?

Mr. CAMPBELL: No. That's the most money I'd ever made. You know, it beat
the hell out of picking cotton, I can tell you that. Oh, it was just--I had
more--I think that was probably the part of my life that I'll remember is
sitting down and playing with the best musicians in the world, literally.

DAVIES: Glen Campbell. His new album is called "Meet Glen Campbell." More
after a break. This is FRESH AIR.


DAVIES: We're speaking with Glen Campbell. He has a new album called "Meet
Glen Campbell."

Well, you had these great years as a session musician with this group called
The Wrecking Crew.

Mr. CAMPBELL: Mm-hmm.

DAVIES: And then you went solo. Did you always see yourself as going out and
having a solo career?

Mr. CAMPBELL: Yes, I did. I just waited, I waited for it to come to me. I
was making records, you know, here and there like "Turn Around, Look at Me" in
1962. But I loved the studio work.

DAVIES: And when you said about doing solo, you wanted to wait until it came
to you, what do you mean?

Mr. CAMPBELL: Before I wouldn't go out--I didn't really--I was in a position
where I didn't have to go out and knock on doors. Everybody--and then a lot
of people didn't even--the guys didn't know I could sing. And when I
started--I got more kidding from the musicians because the same guys that I
was playing with on all those sessions, they all played on my stuff, you know,
whether it was "Rhinestone Cowboy" or "Wichita Lineman," "Galveston."

DAVIES: Uh-huh.

Mr. CAMPBELL: It was the same guys, and it was so much fun in the studio
with them because, `Hey, old big shot's back with us, boys,' you know.
Especially during the TV show. I went in and did sessions with people while I
was doing the TV show. I missed...

DAVIES: And they weren't jealous?

Mr. CAMPBELL: Yeah. I just missed the camaraderie with the musicians.

DAVIES: Oh, you mean, when you were a big star, had the TV show, you would go
back in and just do some session work on other people's stuff?

Mr. CAMPBELL: Yeah. Mm-hmm, just to see the guys, you know, see what was
happening in that end of it. It was fun.

DAVIES: Well, you know, you're breakout hit was "Gentle on My Mind," with
Capital Records.

Mr. CAMPBELL: Mm-hmm.

DAVIES: I guess this was 1967, right? Do you want to tell us a little bit
about recording that song?

Mr. CAMPBELL: Oh, I heard the song. John Hartford, he did the song, and I
said, `Boy, it takes too long to get to the next verse, that's slow.' And I
just did it--I got a comfortable time on the song, you know, whether do it
slow, medium, and I just got it to where I could talk the song like (singing)
`It's knowing that your door's always open and your path is free to walk.' I
just put it in a tempo that was comfortable like I would be talking it without
singing the melody.

DAVIES: Well, let's hear it. This is "Gentle on My Mind" by Glen Campbell.

(Soundbite of "Gentle on My Mind")

Mr. CAMPBELL: (Singing) It's knowing that your door's always open
And your path is free to walk
That makes me tend to leave my sleeping bag
Rolled up and stashed behind your couch
And it's knowing I'm not shackled
By forgotten words and bonds
And the inkstains that have dried upon some line
That keeps you in the back roads
By the rivers of my memory
That keeps you ever gentle on my mind

(End of soundbite)

DAVIES: And that was my guest Glen Campbell with his breakout hit "Gentle on
My Mind" from 1967.

That was a huge hit. How did it change your life and career?

Mr. CAMPBELL: It changed everything. We did "The Summer Brothers Smothers
Show"; that just exploded everything. EMI had the pressing--where they press
the records, they had every press in town, every guy that could press records
doing Glen Campbell records because I'd such a backlog of it. And then you
come out and people see you on TV. TV is just an incredible media.

DAVIES: You mean, after--yeah, when people saw you on TV suddenly the demand
for the records just shot through the roof, you mean. Yeah. Yeah.



Mr. CAMPBELL: And that was timing, again. And I had all that I had recorded
and they'd--middle of the charts, something, you know. Some of them didn't
even get in the charts. But everything, it didn't matter what it was after
the TV show. Everything got in the charts and almost all of them went to
number one. It was just amazing.

DAVIES: Well, you know, one of them was "Wichita Lineman," which was a...

Mr. CAMPBELL: Oh, yeah.

DAVIES: ...great old favorite. I just think this is such a wonderfully
evocative tune. You know?

Mr. CAMPBELL: Oh, wasn't that good.

DAVIES: We've all had the experience of working a shift, you know, in a
hospital or in a warehouse or wherever and thinking about, pining for a love.


DAVIES: You want to talk a little about this, about recording this song?

Mr. CAMPBELL: Well, I just do a track first, and then I sing it three or
four different times, and actually I will put some songs you did on track one,
put words there and just change it around until I got it like I wanted it.
But when the TV show hit, there was just, everything, it didn't matter what I
put out, it sold.

DAVIES: Well, let's listen to a little bit of "Wichita Lineman." This is our
guest Glen Campbell.

(Soundbite of "Wichita Lineman")

Mr. CAMPBELL: (Singing) I am a lineman for the county
And I drive the main road
Searching in the sun for another overload

I hear you singing in the wire
I can hear you through the whine
And the Wichita lineman
Is still on the line

I know I need a small vacation

(End of soundbite)

DAVIES: That was "Wichita Lineman" by our guest Glen Campbell.

(Soundbite of guitar being played)

DAVIES: Glen, you have your guitar there?


DAVIES: You want to play us a little something?

(Soundbite of guitar being played)

Mr. CAMPBELL: Yeah, what do you want to hear?

DAVIES: You tell me. You want to play something from...

Mr. CAMPBELL: Oh, I don't know.

DAVIES: want to play something from the new album?

(Soundbite of "I've Been Out Walking (These Days)")

Mr. CAMPBELL: (Singing) I've been out walking
I don't do too much talking these days
These days

(End of soundbite)

Mr. CAMPBELL: There's some good songs in this album.

DAVIES: Right. Now, that was an old Jackson Browne tune, right?

Mr. CAMPBELL: Yeah. Jackson Browne.


Glen Campbell's new album is called "Meet Glen Campbell." More after a break.
This is FRESH AIR.


DAVIES: We're speaking with Glen Campbell. His new album is called "Meet
Glen Campbell."

Let me ask you, before I let you go I want to ask you one or two more
questions about your life.


DAVIES: And you mentioned the television show.

Mr. CAMPBELL: Mm-hmm.

DAVIES: You became a TV star when you got associated with the Smothers
Brothers that had that really edgy comedy show that eventually was taken off
by CBS.

Mr. CAMPBELL: Right.

DAVIES: And that led you to getting your own musical variety show...

Mr. CAMPBELL: Yes, it did.

DAVIES: ..."The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour." And one of the things that was
interesting about that was that the, you know, the Smothers Brothers were
always pushing the edge with anti-establishment, anti-Vietnam War comedy.


DAVIES: I think of you as maybe not so political. Were you comfortable with,
you know, the kind of edge and tone of what they were doing?

Mr. CAMPBELL: Not really. When I listened to their show I thought it was a
little edgy, you know. I don't think--I'm in the music business to, you know,
to try to save the world or to focus my opinion. And Tommy--that's why they
got threw off CBS. He stepped over the line a little bit, I believe. And
that shouldn't even be a factor, as far as music goes, you know. There's a
war going on. Well, it's, you know, your life's got to go on. And I don't
think there's--a lot of people would try to get their influence to stop this
and stop that. They're not going to stop anything.

DAVIES: You know, after the TV show became a huge hit and your records then
were selling like crazy, you were a mega star. And, of course, I mean, there
was a long period in your life of addiction to alcohol and cocaine, which you
wrote about in your book in 1994...

Mr. CAMPBELL: Mm-hmm.

DAVIES: ...and we're not going to drag you through all of the dark days. But
with the benefit of hindsight, does it make any sense to you? Do you
understand kind of how you went down that road?

Mr. CAMPBELL: Oh, yeah.


(Soundbite of guitar being played)

Mr. CAMPBELL: Oh, yeah. That's a long story. It wasn't nobody's fault but
mine and my ex-wife. She was, God rest her soul, she didn't live very long.
She was really into all that stuff. And it really broke me. As they say back
home, it broke me from sucking eggs. I just, I stopped doing all of it when I
looked around. When I actually looked around to see what my life was doing
then and what I was doing with it, I was--I don't know, it was like I was
trying to destroy myself, or I really didn't care, you know, because I had no
reason for it, actually, except some--a lot of people done me dirty. And, of
course, I probably did dirt to a lot of people. But I decided to just let God
handle it. And I'll do as much as I can.

DAVIES: Well, I wish you the best with the new album. Thanks so much for
speaking with us, Glen.

Mr. CAMPBELL: Hey, thank you.

DAVIES: All right. Take care.

(Soundbite of "She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain)

Mr. CAMPBELL: (Singing)
She'll be coming 'round the mountain when she comes
She'll be coming 'round the mountain when she comes
She'll be coming 'round the mountain
She'll be coming 'round the mountain
She'll be coming 'round the mountain when she comes

(End of soundbite)

DAVIES: Glen Campbell's new album is called "Meet Glen Campbell."


DAVIES: For Terry Gross, I'm Dave Davies.

Finally today, some happy news to share from the FRESH AIR staff. Producer
Monique Nazareth has been with us for 11 years. She tracks American politics
and current events and books guests for the show. But until this week she was
actually a British citizen. She was born in Uganda, and her family came to
the United States in the 1970s. On Tuesday, Monique gave up her green card
and became a US citizen. We say way to go, Monique, glad you want to stay

(Soundbite of "America the Beautiful")

Unidentified Man #3: (Singing) And you know when I was in school
We used to sing it something like this
Listen here:

Oh, beautiful, for spacious skies
For amber waves of grain
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain
But now wait a minute
I'm talking about
America, sweet America
You know, God done shed his grace on thee
He crowned thy good
Yes he did
In a brotherhood
From sea to shining sea
You know
I wish I had somebody to help me sing that

(End of soundbite)
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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