My Dad loved classical music. He was a bit of an amateur expert on Beethoven and could tell the difference between a Klemperer a Karajan symphony. Nevertheless, he kept an open mind about the music I loved. he liked “Astral Weeks” and hated The Moody Blues. He went into the Virgin shop in 1977 and bought me The Sex Pistols first album for a Christmas present. He also bought me Rolling Stone every two weeks from Charing Cross Station between 1970 and 1972. Reading this heavily influenced my musical taste so much so, that when I went to Royal Holloway in 1972, taking my record collection with me, very few people had the first Jackson Browne album or The Eagles first album. Visits to A101 in Kingswood Hall of Residence were required if anyone wanted to listen to these great albums.
Although Jackson Browne had written half of “Take It Easy” before his first album was recorded, he didn’t finish it and was happy for Glenn Frey to complete it. Jackson Browne had written it up to “Standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona” and he says that “Only Glenn would’ve had the girl slowing down to take a look at him.” The song was a Top Twenty hit for The Eagles in the USA. Jackson Browne subsequently recorded it for his second album.
Although I have driven along Highway 40 a few times, sadly I have never left the highway to visit Winslow. If I had, I would have had the opportunity to visit the “Standing On The Corner” park. I could have actually stood on a corner and paid for a picture of me and a girl in flatbed ford slowing down to take a look at me. I’m truly gutted about the missed opportunity.
“Leaving Winslow” is one of several excellent songs on “Standing In The Breach”, Jackson Browne’s last studio album, released in 2014. The first thing to say is that the ubiquitous Greg Leisz plays fantastic pedal steel guitar on this song and Val McCallum’s guitar work is equally astonishing. As always with a Jackson Browne album, the words merit deep analysis. The singer is a homeless person who is about to hitch a ride on a train. “Station to station, coast to coast. Not that much of anything in mind. No expectations, way less than most. But I wanted to see Winslow one more time.”
In 1967, Jackson Browne was contacted by Tim Buckley who told him that Nico needed an accompanist. He took the job and also became romantically involved with her. She recorded three of his songs for her first album, one of which was “These Days”. Jackson Browne subsequently recorded this song for his second album. He has copied the introduction to the Nico version of “These Days” for “The Long Way Around” where the first line is “I don’t know what to say about these days.” It’s a really good song about the current state of the USA in which he says “It’s so hard keeping track of what’s gone wrong”, which obviously appeals to the curmudgeonly part of me. There’s a great verse about the stupidity of the gun laws and “The seeds of tragedy are there in what we feel we have the right to bear”. Instrumentally, it’s fantastic – there’s a long non-vocal part at the end of the song with a great sound produced by Val McCallum’s treated electric guitar.
The album has ten songs on it and they are all good. The title track was written in response to the devastation of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and it helped to raise money for a school for 2600 children in Port-au-Prince. The lyrics also cover injustice, unfairness and plain bad luck. He said “It’s a difficult subject, so it took me a long time to finish that song, I think it took me longer to write than it took them to build the school.”
“You Know the Night” is a song with words by Woody Guthrie who wrote 30 pages in a notebook about his feelings for Marjorie Greenblatt, his second wife. It’s a song that is replete with a deep emotional commitment, recalling the night that they first met. “Could all of your hundred and one dreams just as bright as the sun and all your wants and your hottest desires find shape in the flow of my talk?” The version on the album is an edited 4 minute version of a 15 minute song that appears on “Notes Of Hope, a celebration of Woody Guthrie.” The very tall guitar player in the clip is Val McCallum.
Jackson Browne has said that the album’s message of the album (released in 2014, two years before Trump became President) is “It matters how we live. It matters what you do in your daily life. It’s what you give others, and it matters how we treat each other. It matters what you offer the world; that’s really essential now.”