By The Time I Get To Phoenix

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Posted: 2006 11-05


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Jimmy Webb at the BBC

Retrieved from Wikipedia:
By The Time I Get To Phoenix on Wikipedia
"By the Time I Get to Phoenix"
Single by Glen Campbell
from the album By the Time I Get to Phoenix
B-side"You've Still Got a Place in My Heart"
ReleasedOctober 23, 1967
Writer(s)Jimmy Webb
Producer(s)Al De Lory
Glen Campbell singles chronology

"By the Time I Get to Phoenix" is a song written by Jimmy Webb. Originally recorded by Johnny Rivers in 1965, it was covered by American country music singer Glen Campbell on his album of the same name. Released on Capitol Records in 1967, Campbell's version topped RPM's Canada Country Tracks, reached number two on Billboard's Hot Country Singles chart, and won two awards at the 10th Annual Grammys.[1] Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) named it the third most performed song from 1940 to 1990.[2] The song was ranked number 20 on BMI's Top 100 Songs of the Century.[3] Frank Sinatra called it "the greatest torch song ever written."[4]


  • 1 Background and writing
  • 2 Covers
  • 3 Chart performance
  • 4 References
  • 5 External links

Background and writing

The inspiration for "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" originated in Webb's breakup with Susan Horton. They remained friends after her marriage to Bobby Ronstadt, a cousin of singer Linda Ronstadt. The relationship itself, which peaked in mid-1965, was also the primary influence for "MacArthur Park", another Webb composition.[5]

Webb stated that the song was not intended to be geographically literal. "A guy approached me one night after a concert [...] and he showed me how it was impossible for me to drive from L.A. to Phoenix, and then how far it was to Albuquerque. In short, he told me, 'This song is impossible.' And so it is. It's a kind of fantasy about something I wish I would have done, and it sort of takes place in a twilight zone of reality."

However, the drive is actually possible. If she "rises" at 6:00 a.m. when he is in Phoenix, and she eats lunch at 12:30 p.m. when he is in Albuquerque, it gives him six and one-half hours to make the 420-mile drive, an average of 65 mph. The drive from Albuquerque to Oklahoma is just 340 miles, giving her plenty of time to get home and go to sleep.

Webb called the song a "succinct tale" with an "O. Henry-esque twist at the end, which consists merely of the guy saying, 'She didn't really think that I would go,' but he did." Although the protagonist in the song left his lover, Webb did not leave Horton.[6]


"By the Time I Get to Phoenix" was named the third most performed song from the period between 1940 and 1990, by Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) on September 14, 1990.[2] Many cover versions have been recorded. Isaac Hayes' version of the song, included on the album Hot Buttered Soul, runs for 18 minutes and 40 seconds, and recounts the events that transpired before the actual roadtrip.[7] Brídín Brennan, sister of singer Enya, sampled the song for her second single on her Eyes of Innocence album. Hayes and Dionne Warwick released the song as a live medley with "I Say a Little Prayer" in 1977. The single reached #65 on the R&B singles chart. The Mad Lads covered the song in 1969 for Stax Records. It reached #28 on the R&B singles chart. Engelbert Humperdinck covered the song in 1968 for his album A Man Without Love. Harry James released a version in 1981 on his album For Listening And Dancing (Reader's Digest RD4A 213). Nick Cave covered this song in the 1980s and later. John Peel, the pre-eminent British 'alternative music' radio disc jockey from 1967-2004 considered Cave's version to be "by some considerable distance" the best version of this song ever recorded.


  1. ^ "Past Winners Search". National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Retrieved December 14, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b "BMI list of Most Popular Songs from 1940–1990". Broadcast Music, Inc. September 2, 1990. Archived from the original on April 2, 2003. 
  3. ^ "BMI Announces Top 100 Songs of the Century". Broadcast Music, Inc. December 13, 1999. 
  4. ^ Takiff, Jonathan (January 17, 1992). "The Man Behind The Hits". Philadelphia Daily News. 
  5. ^ Boucher, Geoff (June 10, 2007). "'MacArthur Park' Jimmy Webb, 1968". Los Angeles Times. Tribune Publishing. 
  6. ^ Gross, Terry (February 10, 2004). "Jimmy Webb: From 'Phoenix' To 'Just Across The River'". Fresh Air. NPR. 
  7. ^ Birchmeier, Jason. Hot Buttered Soul at AllMusic. Retrieved December 16, 2014.
  8. ^ "Hot Country Singles". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. 80 (2): 37. January 13, 1968. ISSN 0006-2510. 
  9. ^ "Glen Campbell – Chart history" Billboard Hot 100 for Glen Campbell.
  10. ^ "Glen Campbell – Chart history" Billboard Adult Contemporary for Glen Campbell.
  11. ^ "Top RPM Country Tracks: Issue 100164." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. January 27, 1968.

External links

  • Lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics

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