I have a ticket for “An evening with Jackson Browne” tonight at the Britt Festival in Jacksonville, OR. But on August 7, 2019 I’m gonna be 1984 miles away in Springtown, Misery.
On most days of our summer roadtrip I posted thirteen pictures on Facebook. This time I’m stealing lyrics from a baker’s dozen from the singer-songwriter who has been my favorite the longest.
If I was making up the setlist for “An evening with Jackson Browne” this 8/7/19 I’d have trouble limiting it to his standard setlist for 2019 of 22 songs. And I’d walk away from the show wanting more.
Picking only 13 is not gonna be easy. The first twelve are listed in the order released, and then my number one.
Some editorial comments; perhaps some background; and always the lyrics. Other than #12, these have been the songs of my life for the last 40-plus years.
1. Jackson Browne’s first album was released in January, 1972. I was a short-timer at Ft. Bragg. I wanted out of the army. They wanted me gone. This is one of the albums that pulled me thru the last few months of my 1 year, 6 months and 6 days in uniform. Angst running rampant. Hoping not to be court-martialed out.
“It’s a hotel at best, you’re here as a guest
You oughta make yourself at home…”
I’ve been lucky enough to bounce from room to room, and from pillar to post, for longer than anyone who knew me back then expected. I was a loose cannon. “Wanta do it? Wanta do it now.”
Last summer I drove by the four places I lived in Corvallis between 76&82.
Played this song more than a few times that day.
2. From that same, self-titled album a song that seems like it should be played at the baptizing hole…or on a water bed perhaps. I read once that he said the song came from the desire for love and peace and release and reconciliation with the spiritual.
I can support those four.
BTW, the album is NOT titled “Saturate before using.” Just sayin’.
“Your walls are burning and your towers are turning
I’m going to leave you here and try to get down to the sea somehow…
…When my life is over, I’m going to stand before the Father
But the sisters of the sun are going to rock me on the water now”
This song meant more to me after we moved to Oregon and we could be at the beach in under an hour. Someday I hope to be closer to the Pacific again.
3. “For Everyman” was released in October of 73. I was getting ready to start my second year at SEMO. I was the sports editor for the Capaha Arrow, worked football and basketball games and did some tasks for the Sports Information department, and picked up a few bucks as a stringer for a couple of city papers and the AP.
I had been subjected to living for one term with my authoritarian asshole of a brother as a roommate. I spent a lot of time in the library and in my own head. I cannot hear this lyric without thinking of he who shall remain nameless.
“Don’t confront me with my failures
I had not forgotten them”
More people should cover this one.
4. We talked about leaving.
We talked about going somewhere.
We went places.
We were everyman.
We are Everyman.
“Everybody I talk to is ready to leave
With the light of the morning…
…Seems like I’ve always been
Looking for some other place to get it together”
I’m still looking.
I don’t expect to die while living in MO. But I’m not going anywhere that will keep me more than a few hours from Dad. And even though at 93 he talks about going somewhere, I’m expecting to be spending several days/weeks at some point wrapping things up at the house he had built a little over 30 years ago.
After his place in Doe Run is gone, who knows? Stay in Springfield? Orygun? Colorado? Virginia? Belize?
5. The album “Late for the sky” was released on my birthday in 1974. I’m pretty sure I didn’t get my copy on 9/13, but I’m sure the first vinyl had been played a hundred times before xmas of 74.
When I met Shelly she wasn’t all that familiar with Jackson Browne, so I bought her 2 CDs: a greatest hits….and this one.
Stick me on a desert island and tell me only one Jackson Browne album, “Late for the sky” is it.
Come to one of the ash scatterings that I wrote about, and this one will be playing. My sister says she wants this one played at her funeral too. When I heard this, I asked what she thought our fundamentalist, biblical inerrancy father and brother would think of the lyric, she said it is open to interpretation. Malarkey. Typical baptist bullshit.
As an evangelical agnostic, I love it:
“I don’t know what happens when people die
Can’t seem to grasp it as hard as I try…”
And others too:
“Keep a fire for the human race
And let your prayers go drifting into space
You never know will be coming down”
“Don’t let the uncertainty turn you around
Go on and make a joyful sound”
I saw Warren Zevon open for J.B. a couple of times.
Make a joyful noise….and enjoy every sandwich!
6. I’m thinking that this pick is gonna surprise the folks who’ve known me the longest: “walking slow.”
“I got a thing or two to say
Before I walk on by
I’m feeling good today
But if I die a little farther along
I’m trusting everyone to carry on…”
No “If” about it. Even my true believing father doesn’t expect to be sucked up in the rapture anymore. We’re all gonna die.
This song never gets played in concert anymore: only a few times in years beginning with a 2.
But it made my baker’s dozen because: (1) it’s got a good beat and you can dance to it; and (2) this lyric:
“I’m puttin’ down my left foot
I’m puttin’ down my right foot…”
Keep on keeping on…and picking ‘em up and putting ‘em down.
7. Paula Rudloff and I moved everything we owned in a 2 car VW bug caravan from Washington, MO to Corvallis, OR at the end of August of 1976. The road trip was interesting. Saw POTUS in Russell, KS. Got yelled at for pumping my own gas in Ontario, OR.
“The Pretender” was released in November ’76. We were impoverished…with priorities. I scrounged up a few bucks for an album that stayed on the turntable for a long time.
This is another one that he seldom plays, but it has always been one of my favorites.
“Forget what life used to be, you are what you choose to be,
It’s whatever it is you see that life will become.
Whatever it is you might think you have you have nothing to lose,
Through every dead and living thing time runs like a fuse.
And the fuse is burning…”
8. Now for a deep-cut that he must really hate!! Setlist.fm says he has only played it 16 times….and only once since 3/24/77.
I have posted links to this song on my Facebook timeline several times.
There is so much that I love about this song.
“Among the thoughts that crowd your mind there won’t be many that ever really matter,
But take good care of your mother
And remember to be kind”
“And when you’ve found another soul
Who sees into your own
Take good care of each other”
“Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.” Henry James
9. It was several years between the time I first heard the title track of “The Pretender” in 76 and when I started at AA&Co. in late May of 82. During those 6 years, I was a substitute teacher for a few and then at OSU on the GI Bill. There were also more than a few prolonged periods of stoned stupors and homemade blackberry wine benders.
At Andersen these lyrics applied. I worked my ass off there. There was tad bit of quality to go along with the quantity:
“I’m going to pack my lunch in the morning
And go to work each day
And when the evening rolls around
I’ll go on home and lay my body down…”
I became a full-fledged Pretender in 2011. I got lucky too….I found her!!
“I’m going to find myself a girl
Who can show me what laughter means
And we’ll fill in the missing colors
In each other’s paint-by-number dreams…”
10. “Running on Empty” hit the streets 12/6/77.
We house sat for her brother in Vancouver, BC for the summer. In the fall we moved into grad assistant housing. Made 4 batches of blackberry wine…20 gallons. Had grow lights in the extra closet.
As soon as the needle drops, the math works:
“In sixty five I was seventeen and running up 101
I don’t know where I’m running now, I’m just running on…”
“In sixty-nine I was twenty-one and I called the road my own
I don’t know when that road turned, into the road I’m on”
I dropped out of college at the end of 68. It’s a miracle I made it thru 69. Landed a union job at PPG Industries in Crystal City . Shift work. Carpooled…sometimes with a couple of wild guys from Bonne Terre. Booze was a big problem. Blackouts. Stories for another day…
No doubt about it. I had no idea what I was looking for in 1969. I was indeed running on empty.
11. Every time this song played after our marriage ended in 2011, this one hit me with the 3 Jimmy Valvano emotions: I thought; I laughed; I cried.
I had been in love before. Only once.
And for a long time.
Would it happen again?
[And then there is this from Jason Isbell: “If there’s two things that I hate, It’s having to cook and trying to date…”]
“Love won’t come near me, she don’t even hear me
She walks past my vacancy sign…”
“…Where’s the heart that’s been looking for mine?
I hope it finds me in time
Love needs a heart and I need to find
If love needs a heart like mine”
I got lucky. I found someone who loves me in spite of all my quirks.
I am a lucky old coot.
12. We saw him sing a couple of new songs before the 10/7/14 release of “Standing in the Breach.”
This was one of them. It’s a cover. If I made up setlists, every one for everybody would include at least one cover.
It’s pretty simple.
“Ever since the world’s existed
There’s one thing that is certain
There are those who build walls
And those who open doors…”
This: “There can be freedom only when nobody owns it”
13. After Shelly had listened to the album “Late for the sky” several times, including a few when I caterwauled along, I asked her for her favorite.
I don’t think I guessed right.
I Know that she didn’t guess mine.
So I played my favorite from the album and told her why.
The album had always been my favorite album. This start of “The late show” took on more meaning during the 14 years at Arthur Andersen. The politics there were cut throat at times. On the flip side, many of the friendships are irreplaceable.
These six lines start it off:
“Everyone I’ve ever known has wished me well
Anyway that’s how it seems, it’s hard to tell
Maybe people only ask you how you’re doing
‘Cause that’s easier than letting on how little they could care
But when you know that you’ve got a real friend somewhere
Suddenly all the others are so much easier to bear”
The other lyrics that we talked about that day were these:
“And now I’m sitting here wondering what to say,
Afraid that all these words might scare you away…”
I don’t 100% buy into the first half of “say it, forget it; write it, regret it.”
I told Shelly that I have mellowed, but my mouth has gotten me into, and out of, lots of trouble. I am a wise ass.
Sometimes I’m a dumbass.
Or an asshole.
I’m a work in progress.