Jackson Browne – Late for the Sky

Jackson Browne Late for the sky in vinyl from 1973 with white earlyChevrolet

Please enjoy my Travel books – LINK TO YOUR COUNTRY : https://bit.ly/bookneal

Jackson Browne Late for the sky in vinyl from 1973 with white earlyChevrolet
My well used cover of Jackson Browne’s Late for the Sky 1974

Jackson Browne  –  Late for the Sky

It would be fair to say that Jackson Browne has for me brought out more feelings about life and all that it can throw at you than any other writer. He is my go to songwriter if I want to feel better about just about anything. That may seem strange as he is to some perhaps viewed as a slightly melancholic writer. True in part, but for me no one captures the human spirit and condition better than he does. For a writer to do that from such an early age is astonishing, as shown with his mature writing of ‘These Days’, one of his first compositions.

‘Late for the Sky’, released in 1974, actually the day prior to me seeing CSNY at Wembley Stadium, a concert that opened for me by hearing ‘Take it Easy’ blasting out over the sound system as I entered the arena. That song would be my first introduction to his work. For the next couple of years my knowledge and love of his work would be hearing covers of his songs, such as Joan Baez recording ‘Fountain of Sorrow’. Of course, also, there was his association with the Eagles and visually on the ‘Desperado’ cover. It was though Jackson’s appearance on the BBC ‘Old Grey Whistle Test’ in 1976 that finally prompted me to start becoming more familiar with his work. ‘Late for the Sky’ was my first addition to my vinyl collection of his work.

It has become one of my most played and loved of albums. That is not to say it is perfect. I find the two up-tempo numbers slightly out of sync with the mood of the album. I could happily listen to a whole album of easy melancholy. Also some of his writing on here can be a little apocalyptic for some but looking back from 2023 with the state of the world you could argue he was over optimistic. Having said that it may be that when he wrote ‘Before the Deluge’ he didn’t expect there to be a 2023.

The album was low budget and completed with familiar band members and David Lindley playing anything that was thrown at him. The result is a harmonious, beautifully played collection. I have not come across another album that has such an all pervading atmosphere, constructed around Lindley’s sympathetic arrangements. The overall feel is melancholic but at the same time conveying a feeling of hope, that all will be well. Lindley’s violin is at times haunting and then softly joyous. The harmony of the musical score set around, but not intruding into, the stunning poetry of Browne’s lyrics is breath-taking. It is an album to listen to in solitude, with no other distractions.

It opens with a song that could leave you having to pull yourself together to hear the next offering. It is the title track ‘Late for the Sky’, surely the finest ‘break up’ song. He expresses the dawning realisation that they are not who they hoped to be, the pain of seeing it end being played out without words being needed or possible. The hope is still there in the mind, but they are not the ones they need, it must come to an end. They are together but alone, drifting alone for some time and close to the end. Late for that plane, but it must be caught. I can appreciate how some have said they cannot listen to this without being reduced to tears. It is an incredibly powerful piece of writing. Musically also it is perfection as distinct instruments underpin the melody and complement Browne as he comes to a realisation that the relationship is gone.

He follows this with another relationship song ‘Fountain of Sorrow’. The theme is similar to ‘Late for the Sky’ but perhaps this one has the feeling that they can still be friends. I appreciate that it is said to be about Joni Mitchell, and the last time I saw him in concert he left you in little doubt with his intro that this was the case. However, I feel the speculation is irrelevant. Like most of his writing it can be about who you want it to be and generally that is you or someone close to you. It takes a special writer to be able to draw you so into the music. When a dear friend of ours died a few years ago I used his lyric from ‘Fountain of Sorrow’ in a posting in tribute to her. Yes, at that moment it was about her, in the photo I posted there was a trace of sorrow in her eyes. It takes a special talent to write in such a way.

Rear cover of Jackson Bowne Late for the Sky vinyl album
Rear cover of Late for the Sky

‘Fountain of Sorrow’ takes you through a relationship that has a sense of joy and love but ultimately is not going to work out. The sorrow is there as the writer feels regret because there was so much to love about this relationship. It has gone but the photo in the drawer conveys the sorrow of what could have been. Can he go back. Clearly not, but the warm memories linger on.

When someone asks what is your very favourite song they would generally expect you to come up with some joyful up-tempo number – ‘Take it Easy’ for instance, although I doubt they were expecting you to reference Jackson Browne anyway. I was asked this question during a long evening of food and wine on a holiday away with several close friends. Our mellow wine induced mood should not really have produced ‘For a Dancer’ as my answer to that question, but it did, and it is true.

To explain my reasoning I found the lyrics on my phone and just asked my friend to read them. Fighting back tears she said simply – ‘OK’. A song about death is rare. Not many have attempted it. Jackson does and he gets to heart of the matter in a way that no one else has achieved. We are dancers, we go through this life affecting people in ways we do not always understand. The final dance is solo, and he conveys that in beautiful, but disturbing words. He does not give us any answers but somehow once again the melancholy gives way to hope. For a song about death, I feel positively uplifted when I hear this. Yes, go on, throw those seeds, let your life be a positive influence on others.  A remarkable song that expresses the human condition better than anyone has attempted before or since. Last time I saw Jackson in Manchester, England just a few years ago he was in a taking request mood. A man in front of us called out rather loudly: “For a Dancer”, and Jackson nodded and headed to the piano. I tapped the guy on the shoulder to say thank you. Music can be a truly special experience and that was one of the best.

Vinyl record on Asylum Records of Jackson Browne Late for the Sky album

I rather like ‘Before the Deluge’ despite its rather apocalyptic sentiments. Somehow though it still sounds hopeful, a tribute to the amazing atmosphere created by him and David Lindley that permeates the whole album. Looking back from our time it doesn’t seem that he called it too far from the reality we see today. I can’t help feeling we have seen the magnitude of her fury in the times we live in. He calls out the glitter and the rouge as not a worthy addition to our musical journey. I never went down that road thankfully and continued to find music I love permeated with meaning. Maybe he was right in doing so, the genres look tame now, but they opened the door to anything goes in ‘music’. Some of these genres I am convinced would leave the world a better place had they not come to birth. ‘Before the Deluge’ fits the theme and texture of the album perfectly.

I could say that I would probably have eventually bought this album for the cover alone. Surely one of the great album covers. In some ways it is a pity he didn’t call the album ‘Early Morning Chevrolet’. Would have been a great photo quiz question. The cover theme runs a thread through the whole album. If ever a cover depicted an album atmosphere it is this one.  Late for the sky indeed.

‘Late for the Sky’ sets out the stall for Jackson Browne’s future writing. The themes and indeed the musical style he will return to again and again. Check out ‘Naked Ride Home’ and compare the heart beating alone with ‘Late for the Sky’. I find he always reaches the depth of the emotion of life in clear and beautiful language. It was my introduction to his work, and it has enriched my life and record collection ever since. If you get the chance to see him live make sure you take it – he is just as, if not more, capable of reaching your heart on the concert stage. You won’t forget it.

Alt='My LP vinyl collection, Carole King, Jackson Browne. Neil Young' Joni Mitchell, Emmylou Harris, Paul Simon"
My musical loves – a Vinyl collection

Please enjoy my Travel books – LINK TO YOUR COUNTRY : https://bit.ly/bookneal

Alt="French travel book series and Collioure harbour photo"
My French Travel Book series and New book Off the Autoroute

Published by Neal Atherton

My passion is writing about travel and particularly French travel. I have traveled extensively in France and wine and food has always featured on my travels and now in my books. My friends always await our return from France with the latest new finds from the vineyards and I was more than happy to keep sampling. I am from Lancashire in the north of England but have now relocated to Somerset (nearer to France) and able to enjoy devoting my time to writing and new discoveries. France came late to me as a destination, in fact so conservative was my travel upbringing that it was a long time before I even ventured to Cornwall. I have more than made up for the slow start and have enjoyed helping many others with their travel plans to France and especially to Paris and Provence. I have written a series of four books on France - Three are now on Amazon:THE FIRST TIME WE SAW PARIS about our first steps in French Travel, THYME FOR PROVENCE our discovery of that glorious region and the people and places we met and discovered, A DREAM OF PARIS a personal memoir of our times in Paris with friends. France has been fun, we have been burgled on our very first arrival, we discovered the best cafe that changed our travel lives on the very next day, we learnt about French wine, we escaped from the most horrendous gite, we found the best of gites, B & B's and people, we laughed and cried with dear friends in Paris, I was hosed down by a crazy owner to cool me down in Provence, our breakfast in a remote village was served by the French army, we stepped totally out of our comfort zone and discovered the best of French culture. The experiences are varied and many and please come with me as I retell the stories and my footsteps are there to follow. I am also writing about ancestry and genealogy and my first book about our incredible family story themed around war and the military is now on Amazon - A BULLET FOR LIFE. I love the English game of cricket, golf, soccer, photography, walking and cooking. Oh, and travel of course.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: