Long ago, when I first met ideath on this website, for some reason which I cannot now remember, we talked about this album by Jackson Browne. She told me that she had fond memories of her parents playing this on the homestead turntable while she played out in the yard like a little girl should. I think she told me that she might have had dreams of her parents loving each other in ways that made her happy while the songs on this album played in the background as she slept. I might have imagined that last part, but I think it's true, regardless. If not, it should be.
When Jackson Browne put out his self-titled debut album in January of 1972, it was instantly recognized by anyone with taste (meaning me and my friends, of course) as a masterpiece. Just having "Jamaica Say You Will" as the opening tune on it was enough for me. How could I have known that I'd be having a honeymoon in Jamaica a dozen years later? I don't remember ever even thinking of Jamaica as a place prior to listening the this song, but it sent shivers down my spine and I know for a fact that prescience was involved. Of course, "Doctor My Eyes" was the hit, and it said everything you needed to know about how he made a fortune co-writing songs that the mighty Eagles turned into radio megabucks.
Jamaica, say you will
Help me find a way
To fill these empty hours
Regardless of how my friends and I felt about this debut by Mr. Browne, Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic records didn't much care for this sound. David Geffen told Ertegun that there was a fortune to be made in this laid-back California introspective country-tinged rock. Ertegun told Geffen he could have it, and David Geffen made a label and Browne and the Eagles and Geffen made a fortune.
As with other artists of his time, such as Rod Stewart who put out Gasoline Alley before he really arrived with Every Picture Tells a Story, Jackson Browne really hit his stride with his second effort which he called For Everyman. It was released in the fall of 1973 and I know I wore out at least one copy of this vinyl album and had to replace it with another. It had nothing to do with the annoying insert of a picture on the cover which kept hanging up every time I'd pull it out of my stack of albums arranged in such ways as would be later turned into a major motion picture called High Fidelity starring John Cusack and Jack Black, but actually being about me in so many ways it's not really funny. Especially the "fidelity" part. That picture on the album which now reminds me of a snapshot on grouchyoldman's homenode or a hidey hole in the French Quarter of Nawlins, surrounded by a brown frame, is woven into the fabric of both ideath's parents' and my mind. A lot of the weaving had to do with songs like "Our Lady of the Well."
If you look for me, Maria,
You will find me in the shade.
Wide awake or in a dream
It's hard to tell.
If you come to me, Maria,
I will show you what I've made.
It's a picture for Our Lady of the Well.
I've had some folks tell me I should listen to Ryan Adams. Some have even hinted that he might be a new Bob Dylan. According to folks on the web, he is more likely to be a new Jackson Browne. That's why I think I'll pass. I strongly suspect that Ryan Adams has not produced a song which can give me shivers up and down the backs of my legs like "Our Lady of the Well." When ideath was thinking of her parents' love for this album, was she wide awake or in a dream? Was I in a dream or wide awake when I remembered our conversations about this album. It is hard to tell, isn't it, dear?
The wonderful Ready or Not was a song which told me everything I never knew about knocking a girl up and winding up in some sort of marital bliss. This is another concept I don't ever remember one of my other songwriting heroes ever covering with me.
I let her do some of my laundry
And she slipped a few meals in between,
And the next thing I remember, she was all moved in
And I was buying her a washing machine.
These Days was a song that had been around for a while. In fact, it had been covered half a dozen times, probably most famously by Nico on the Chelsea Girl album back in 1967. "Take it Easy," co-written with Glenn Frey, had already been a radio hit for The Eagles the year before.
The guitar work is done by David Lindley, Browne's all-purpose string player for many years. I've seen this guy play live, and he can do anything he's done on vinyl right in front of you. Bonnie Raitt, Glenn Frey, David Crosby and Don Henley do most of the background vocal work. Bill Payne (later to be of Little Feat) plays some keyboards. Wilton Felder (later to be of the Jazz Crusaders) and Leland Sklar play the bass. Jim Keltner and Russ Kunkel play most of the drums. That's a pretty solid lineup with which to be working, but at the time a lot of these names were not nearly as household as they are today. Joni Mitchell plays piano on "Sing My Songs to Me." And, as a sidenote, I've heard some rumors that it's Elton John playing piano on "Redneck Friend." I can't verify that and he's not listed on the liner notes. It does sound a lot like his style, however.
Albums like For Everyman were seminal to the work that would be done later on by many different types of artists; not just the introspective California cowboy-wannabee hipsters. His problems with maintaining popularity might have had something to do with his foray into left-wing politics which started on this album, as you can probably read into lines like, "Where the families work the land as they have always done / Oh it's so far the other way my country's gone." This fascination with politics led him further and further away from what he does best, and that's why he's still out there touring, playing songs he wrote in 1972. God bless him for those songs, however; no matter how silly he looks to me with his hippie freak flag flying in a brand new Century.
Don't confront me with my failures.
I have not forgotten them.
And for ideath
, here's a couple of final lines from the album.
It's such a clever innocence with which you do your sorcery
As if somehow the years just bow
And let that young girl go free.
I thought I was a child until you turned and smiled.