Among the recent late-night listening around here has been some Jackson Browne, especially his 1974 album, Late For The Sky, which remains among the saddest and most reflective records I’ve ever heard. But then, Browne was always most effective, it seems, when he was cataloging life’s difficulties and disappointments, which seemed to be the case on his first four studio albums way back when. (Jackson Browne from 1972; For Everyman from 1973; Late For The Sky from 1974; and The Pretender from 1976.)
When he found love and happiness after 1977’s live Running on Empty, he told that tale – with a few side turns – on 1980’s Hold Out. The music on that 1980 album was among the best Brown had ever written, but the lyrics were lacking, studded with vagueness and stock images that he likely would have sidestepped in earlier years. After that came the inscrutable Lawyers In Love and his two agit-prop albums, Lives In The Balance and World In Motion (1983, 1986 and 1989, respectively), and I wasn’t all that interested.
I’ve not listened to much of Browne’s work since then, and what I have heard hasn’t grabbed me. I’m intrigued, however, by what I’ve read about the two Solo Acoustic albums, from 2005 and 2008. They’re now waiting for me in a Spotify playlist. And I suppose I should go back and give a listen to the other stuff of his that I let pass by, as well. (Too much music to catch up on and not nearly enough time . . .)
But this week, I’m listening to Late For The Sky, especially “The Late Show,” the track that’s felt like the heart of the album since the first time I heard it, back in the summer of 1978 when I was catching up with Browne’s work for the first time. From that first listening, there’s been something about the third verse and the ending of the song that’s made me catch my breath every time I hear it:
Well, I saw you through the laughter and the noise;
You were talking with the soldiers and the boys.
While they scuffled for your weary smiles,
I thought of all the empty miles
And the years that I spent looking for your eyes . . .
It’s like you’re standing in the window of a house nobody lives in,
And I’m sitting in a car across the way.
(Let’s just say) it’s an early model Chevrolet.
(Let’s just say) it’s a warm and windy day.
You go and pack your sorrow, the trashman comes tomorrow;
Leave it at the curb, and we’ll just roll away.
I went looking for covers of “The Late Show,” but according to the website Second Hand Songs, there are none (and the info there is usually pretty accurate). I’ve found a few interesting covers of some other Jackson Browne tunes, but they don’t match the mood right now, so for today, we’ll leave it at the curb, and we’ll just roll away.
Tags: Jackson Browne