"Rhinestone Cowboy" is a song, written and first recorded in 1974 by Larry Weiss, but made most famous as a Billboard #1 by Glen Campbell the following year. The song was musically a cross between light rock and country, and it reached the top of both the pop and country charts.
1975 is musically a year I do not know a lot about. 1975 was four years before I was born. The classic rock of the 1960s that I would later mythologize had just about run out of steam (although Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti and Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here would be released that year), while the music that would decorate my earliest memories, the bubbly, electric music of the 1980s was still a few years away. While the album-oriented rock of the time would be played ad nauseum during my teenage years, much of the country rock, easy listening, and disco music that was popular at the time would fall out of my range. Since I have recently discovered an interest in these overlooked pieces of pop culture, I decided to actually listen to "Rhinestone Cowboy".
"Rhinestone Cowboy" is a song about a poor musician, on Broadway, dreaming about the day he will be a big star. This is a theme that has been done before, probably most famously in The Drifters 1963 soul song, On Broadway. Songs about struggling are probably very natural for musicians to sing. Campbell's voice is deep, and smooth, and he manages to carry the song along at the type of medium tempo that works well for a pop song. The singer talks about his frustration, and then his hopes for the future when he will be as famous as a "rhinestone cowboy".
What is most interesting to me is that the song seems to be phrased in several layers of pretense. In the song, Glen Campbell, a successful singer, puts himself in the roll of a struggling singer, who is expressing his desire to be famous in terms of being a theatrical cowboy, based distantly on the idea of a working cowboy. Even the idea of rhinestones sound artificial to me, as they are used in costume jewelry, and strike me as superficial and shoddy. Perhaps some of this subtext is intentional, the singer of the song is not necessarily the narrator.
But for me, despite Glen Campbell's soulful voice, I can't quite get into the song. The song comes across as facile and overproduced, schmaltzy and glib. As the title suggests, it sounds polished and artificial. Perhaps it is just an accident of when and how I grew up listening to music, but the vibe of 1975 doesn't quite work for me.