I am a lineman for the county
And I drive the main road
Searchin' in the sun for another overload
I hear you singin' 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
But it don't look like rain
And if it snows that stretch down south won't ever stand the strain
And I need you more than want you
And I want you for all time
And the Wichita lineman is still on the line

And I need you more than want you
And I want you for all time
And the Wichita lineman is still on the line

Lyrics submitted by goodreverend, edited by Mellow_Harsher

"Wichita Lineman" as written by Jimmy Webb

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Wichita Lineman song meanings
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  • +8
    My InterpretationWhen I heard this in October of '68, the whole thing fit me like a well-worn glove. Our friends Jimmy Webb and Glen Campbell talk about a magical fit between songs and singers, but don't mention that there are flesh and blood people whose lives genuinely fit a given song. By 1968 I had already been living the Wichita Lineman's life for a few years, and I know my own story when I hear it. People, this song is about unrequited love. The Lineman is a songwriter's combination of telephone lineman, powerline lineman and even telegraph lineman, and that's OK. The real and important thing here is the agony this hardworking man carries with such dignity and civility. I know this all too well. I began to research this song online a while back and came to someone's report that Jimmy Webb, the man who wrote it, had the experience of his first love marrying someone else. He's very quiet about that himself, so don't ask him, but my own dad never got over it, and I may as well confess I've never gotten over it either. So when I read that about Jimmy, I sat back, really struck, and realized I have been right all these years. You can't fake this stuff. Jimmy and Glen really really got it right. This is coming from a man who knows. I'm inside that fabulous, beautiful, haunting song, and I'll never get out of it. Never.
    OldWireManon April 15, 2014   Link
  • +6
    General CommentOne of my favorites songs from the 1960's. This is was the time when country music came into its own and some of the best performers were crafting some of the greatest tunes of all time. This is my favorite song by Glen Campbell. Very sentimental and it speaks the truth about how it sucks to be away from the one you love when you work a job that requires such long hours. It may be the best blue-collar anthem of all time, at least in my demented opinion.
    OpinionHeadon September 16, 2005   Link
  • +2
    My OpinionThis is quite simply a song about man who finds himself astonished and despairing that he is still in love with a woman.
    janelynchon May 31, 2013   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationI envision the Wichita lineman is now deep into March or early April after having endured a horrific winter of cold winds, heavy snows and many sleepless nights of emergency call; he's now driving down the mainroad alone the highest towers staring southward into the low angled sun beating on the wires as he checks the transformers for overload indicator lights and any signs of line damage or fallen trees from the harsh winter snow. He knows that he needs a vacation with his woman, but refuses to yield to the pleasure of the thought for too long because the dark clouds on the horizon "don't look like rain" and "if it snows that stretch down south, won't ever stand the strain." And he turns dutifully turns south heading straight into the coming storm, and mentally prepares for another cold, windy, sleepless night, working hard at his thankless job. And when he's up on that tower working the line with his cold rough hands, he finds solace hearing her voice in the whine of the wires as the howling wind blows through them and the intense voltage hums steadily through the wires--through all of this he listens to her song, her haunted voice sings out while his frozen fingers work hard. Thoughts of her aches within his soul, and he wants her for all time, but like so many men, working hard to make a living and provide for her in ways continue to be just beyond grasp, his "need" for her, and to be a great provider and hard worker, exceeds his "wants" of sensual fulfillment. I see a hard working man who "needs" deep inside to express love to his woman in the way that most men do, by providing for her and working hard. I'm sure that he needs a long, long vacation, but doesn't even allow himself such luxuries of thought, only willing to admit needing a little break for a "small vacation". Like so many men, he dreams of being with her forever in a better place if he can just save a little more, work just little harder for a little longer... "And I need you more than want you" does not mean that he does not want her, obviously he wants her deeply, he thinks about her all the time. This is about choices, he is choosing to be away from her, and the most common reason for a man is to work hard to provide a better life for her. I feel that his basic need is to be a great provider for the love of his life.
    Yachtsmanon March 11, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI think "I need you more than want you" is to imply the relationship is a co-dependent one.
    ratanxon April 30, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentJimmy Webb, the song's author, said that a listener once criticised his song because the lineman died. The listener interpreted as "Still on the line" as being motionless on the line ie. dead after electrocution!
    Opinionhead - your interpretation is the correct one.
    chrisb1on September 24, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThat line, "And I need you more than want you/And I want you for all time" is so good. I have no idea what it means, but in a cryptic, impressionistic way, it's totally brill.
    owennnnnnnnnnon March 27, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentmany things, but mainly memories of radio 2, waitin for me sunday dinner when i was a kid, family favourites i think it was........ pure class great tune
    Acey64on September 13, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think the part about "needing more than wanting", but "wanting for all time" is very clever.

    I don't think it's saying he's dependent, per se. It's saying he both needs and wants her(a safer way for him to say he loves her), and he's illustrating how intense his feelings are by pointing out that if he could "want her for all time" yet also need her EVEN MORE than that, it must mean his feelings are very real, very deep. I think it's using one to emphasize the other and emphasize BOTH at the same time.

    I've always felt it's pretty much the narrator attempting to be flowery and emotional, trying to get across how much he cares. I imagine the guy is very work-oriented, not very open with his feelings, and that line is his way of trying to express the vastness of his love for her. It really paints a picture in my mind. As in: "I want you for all time, see? And yet somehow I find that I also NEED you even MORE than I want you...which is overhwelming, because I never knew I could need and want a person so much."

    In my mind it's one of those scenes where a person deeply loves someone but can't directly say it, due to being reserved/not knowing how to express it, so the person outlines it with lines like the ones above.

    Makes the hopeless romantic in me sigh.
    delialon September 25, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think you are right on track delial. At least that's how I always interpreted the words.

    I think what I like is the spareness of the arrangement, how it paints a picture of a guy against a background of big, open country and wide sky, squinting into the sun as he checks the wires. The whole song is kind of poignant, giving the impression of his loneliness as he works long hours alone, while thinking of the woman he loves. Even after hearing it a million times, it still always touches me.
    koosgirlon April 11, 2009   Link

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