Song Of The Day 6/22/2016: Glen Campbell – “Guess I’m Dumb”

The Life of Brian – This is one of my very favorite Brian Wilson-related artifacts. Glen Campbell's history with the Beach Boys is documented all over the place. As a member of Los Angeles session musician cabal The Wrecking Crew, Campbell played guitar on several big records which went a long way in establishing L.A. as major hub in the American music business. Many of the records Campbell played on were by the Beach Boys, including the holy grail in flat disc format, Pet Sounds.

In 1964 Brian Wilson had what amounted to a nervous breakdown on a plane to Houston, ostensibly caused by his constant schedule of touring, writing, producing, the usual culprits. He decided to take some time out from performing. In Love & Mercy it's suggested that he took this time off from live performance to compose the songs on Pet Sounds, and I suppose the calendar matches up with that explanation. To take his place, the Beach Boys hired Campbell to play bass and handle some of Brian's backup parts. This went on for about four months, until Campbell went on to his own career and Bruce Johnston (the composer of "I Write the Songs") took his place on a more permanent basis.

As a thank-you gift Wilson gave Campbell a shot at "Guess I'm Dumb," a song he wrote with eventual Warner Bros. Records exec and producer Russ Titelman. The instrumental track was recorded in 1964 for eventual inclusion on a Beach Boys record, but the rest of the band decided not to go forward with it. I can sort of understand why: As an immediate precursor to the compositions on Pet Sounds, Wilson was starting to stretch out with his melodies on "Guess I'm Dumb," coming up with some unexpected, neo-Bacharach chordings and breaks. Allegedly this song was a big influence on songwriter Jimmy Webb, who really got Glen Campbell's career going with "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" and used Campbell as one of his primary muses. (The 5th Dimension was the other, I think.) I've always loved this song.

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