Fountain of Sorrow, River of Sadness
January 6, 2010
Since I suffered my first real broken heart at seventeen, I’ve been on a quest to find the perfect heartache. Whether it be in story, song, or film. I have found a lot of things on my travels. I can show you movies that will bum you out hard, I can lend you books that will make your stomach sink, and I can show you songs that will you send you batting the bulb in your basement. I found the perfect heartache, and I decided to share it with you faithful readers of 3 or 4: Side A of “Late for the Sky” by Jackson Browne.
I don’t know if you’ve ever listened to Jackson Browne, but he easily one of the greatest songwriters of his time, based on his early material from the 1970’s. His lyrics put Bob Dylan’s attempts at introspection to shame. Talk about putting yourself out there, Jackson Browne’s songs are personal on such a level that we hardly hear, at least without coming off cheesy. My first exposure to the name came from reading a Stephen King book which had his name and shortly after, “sloppy lipstick blowjob” within the same somewhat context. Luckily while most people’s first exposure is probably the version of “These Days” by Nico, mine was “Nobody’s Baby”. Of course, “These Days” is a better starting point because it was written during his personal period. While she recorded in 67? somewhere around there, it wouldn’t be heard by him on record until 1972 on “For Everyman”, a brilliant record with beautiful songs and some genius lines. I mean we all know the words to These Days but c’mon: “Don’t confront me with my failures. I have not forgotten them”. Perfect. Just Perfect. Perfect on a Red House Painters level. I have a live album where he talks about recording that song with Nico, and using an electric guitar because Andy Warhol wanted a more modern sound (even though he put strings in it), and forgot that he let someone use it in a movie and being in a theater and hearing the song and thinking, “Hey I used to play like that”, then realizing it was his song. I don’t talk much about Jackson Browne because I don’t want Colin to listen because he’ll ruin it for me, but I’m over it. Anyway, I’m gonna talk about Late for the Sky.
The Album, his third release came out in 1974. It peaked at #14 on Billboard, and Martin Scorsese used songs from it for his film, “Taxi Driver”, which is kind of a bummer. I’m not putting down the movie because its one of his 3.5 Shining moments in the world of film (Raging Bull being the other, Mean Streets and Goodfellas gets a .5 [because its only good from an entertainment aspect, so yeah fight me]) but when I think of the lyrics I don’t want to think of Robert DeNiro being all introverted and creepy taking girls to sex films and shaving his head and his physical regiment and the “You talking to me” scene that was perfectly parodied by Moe Syzlak. The album is 8 songs, and the first 4 are the best but the whole album is actually great. If I crushed on a girl and she said “make me a mixtape” I’d probably put “For a Dancer” on it, buried somewhere on side 2. A tender song about death and optimism. Anyways, I’ll give a rundown on the 4 songs and then I’ll tell you about how I’m a wuss:
1.) Late for the sky starts off this side of a record about past love, failed love, and heartache. If you’ve ever been in a strained relationship, you’ll hear this and know whats up. Wondering how it started and how it got to where it is and why its there. Simply put, “You never knew what I loved in you, I don’t know what you loved in me. Maybe the picture of somebody you were hoping I might be”. This song brings up essentially all the possible things you think when you are in something on the fritz? Do the words you say have meaning? Coming out of the fake dream that you could make things better or good again or to begin with. “Awake again, I can’t pretend,That I know I’m alone, And close to the end of the feeling we’ve known. How long have I been sleeping? How long have I been drifting along through the night? How long have I been dreaming I could make it right, If I closed my eyes and tried with all my might, To be the one you need?”
2.) Fountain of Sorrow is one big river of sadness. A song written about his wife who would commit suicide by overdose on sleeping pills a couple years after this album. Simply put, the song is about coming across a photograph of a lover. To me, it feels like two people together, but on seperate plane’s. One more in than the other, the idea of thinking things are good but really they couldn’t be further from that. “When you see through love’s illusions, there lies the danger, and your perfect lover just looks like a perfect fool. So you go running off in search of a perfect stranger
All the loneliness seems to spring from your life, Like a fountain from a pool.” Another line I quite like is “I’m just one or two years, and a couple of changes behind you in my lessons at love’s pain and heartache school”. Its one of those lines that makes me think about how hard we try to reinvent ourselves after a breakup or a loss. I wrote about it in a song, and made boys and girls weak in the knees once.
3.) Farther On. A song about the day to day struggle of being who you are. Putting yourself out there to get no results, or just to get it pushed back in your face, emotionally speaking. The first verse is perfect: “In my early years I hid my tears and passed my days alone. Adrift on an ocean of loneliness, my dreams like nets were thrown to catch the love that I’d heard of In books and films and songs. Now there’s a world of illusion and fantasy in the place where the real world belongs”. He touches on memories of past love, and the idea of sharing yourself with someone, and realizing there are ones just like you but sometimes they might stop to listen to you too. While these things come and go, and you’re often left with the mess that is yourself, you don’t give up. You keep going. It gets awfully boring being alone, hanging out with yourself, writing blog entries about people who write about being alone. Whoops.
4.) The Late Show is my favourite of the four. Everytime I hear it, I feel my spine crawl and I get chills. I’ve never heard a song that rang more true than this. A lot of ideas are presented in this song, that I almost just feel like its best to just put the whole song right here:
The last chunk of the song, is epic in a way that its almost hard to process. I’ve had so many instances standing somewhere wondering what to say to someone. I’ve often blown it, and learned from it, but a lot of my experiences have left me jaded. That’s why the first part of that song is so perfect. How many times do you pass someone and they ask how you are, strictly due to the formalities. We don’t inconvenience them with any real troubles because they don’t care. No one wants to know your true feelings. Think about all the times you say to someone “I’m good thanks”. Most of my days are spent holding back bile because sometimes you just wanna go off about some little frustration, but we hold it back. Everyday I try to keep quiet, I hear myself speak and wonder why I am using precious breath. This one day, I was walking home from some errands back in Oshawa, and I was listening to this song. It might have been in October. Yeah, October because I remember my hands were cold and I hadn’t bought gloves yet. By the time I reached the end of The Late Show, I had reached my house, and I had to hold back tears over what I had listened to. It was so weird, because I had become the casual listener in the summertime but I guess I never really paid attention except for Fountain of Sorrow. Its an album where, if you let it, it can slay you.