Wednesday, October 23, 2013

40 Year Itch : Well I've Been Out Walking

In October of 1973, Jackson Browne released his second album, For Everyman, a collection of songs old and new, recorded with some of the West Coast's most talented musicians including David Crosby, Joni Mitchell, Bonnie Raitt, Glenn Frey, Don Henley and Elton John ( who, as "Rockaday Johnnie",  played piano on the single "Redneck Friend"). 

Among the older songs is "These Days", first recorded by Nico , then Tom Rush, then The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Gregg Allman. It was Allman's version that inspired Browne to slow down the song and let the emotion , and the extraordinary slide guitar of David Lindley, carry the tune.

   For Everyman received all kinds of well deserved critical praise. If you believe author Mark Bego 's Jackson Browne: His Life and Music a lot of the songs are more sexual in nature than you'd guess ...even after years of listening to the record. "Redneck Friend" is apparently Browne's nickname for his penis. (" Honey let me introduce you to my red neck friend") "The Times You've Come", sung with Bonnie Raitt, has a line about lying" in the ruins of our pleasure". And "Ready or Not" is the autobiographical tale of his meeting, defending and impregnating Phyllis Major, the baby who's feeling funny in the morning and having trouble getting into her jeans.

The Allman Brothers were working on their first #1 record Brothers and Sisters at the same time Gregory ( as his friends call Mr Allman) was cutting Laid Back, his first solo album with Johnny Sandlin producing. In his autobiography, My Cross to Bear, Allman writes 

"I told him that I wanted it to sound real swampy, with the image of moss hanging off the trees, alligators and fog, darkness, witches, and shit. That's what I told Johnny, and we took it to the swamp, man."

With Scott Boyer on steel guitar and Allman supplying his own harmonies, this version of "These Days" is more soulful and darker than Browne's. After all, the depths of despair Allman had experienced by the time he recorded the song (with the deaths of brother Duane and bassists Barry Oakley)  was deeper than Browne had so far experienced.( Though God know Browne would have his share) 

 Allman makes one lyrical change at the end of the tune: from 

Don't confront me with my failures/ I had not forgotten them 
Please don't confront me with my failures/.I'm aware of them.

Allman was still experiencing his pain...despite the presence of  new wife Janice Blair ( seen below on the Laid Back sleeve)

Jackson Browne claims he wrote the song when he was 16 years old. He would have been just 19 when the Velvet Underground chanteuse Nico recorded the song for her first solo album, Chelsea Girl, in early 1967. 

It is her version that appeared in the Wes Anderson film The Royal Tenenbaums.

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