“These Days” is an example of the beautiful contrast which every artist tries to render through their work. It’s at the same time simple but profound, peaceful yet haunted. In a first listen, the song appears to be a casual reflection of a life well lived, taking place perhaps on a porch over a glass of lemonade. Upon a closer listen, it reveals itself as coming from a place of deep regret over a life riddled with missed opportunity.
However, perhaps what’s most fascinating about the song, is the fact that it was written by a sixteen year old Jackson Browne while working as a staff writer. How someone who’s not even been to a senior prom can write such profound lyrics about the human experience is beyond me. Originally titled, “I’ve Been Out Walking,” the song was then given to Nico of the Velvet Underground fame to record for her 1967 solo album Chelsea Girl, for which will be indefinitely linked in my mind to the The Royal Tenenbaums some 30 odd years later.
In addition to Nico’s version, “These Days” was also famously recorded by Allman Brother, Gregg Allman on his 1973 solo album, Laid Back. Here the song takes on a slow southern drawl and sounds just at home in Gregg’s relaxed manner as it does when paired with Nico’s German accent and somewhat unconventional delivery.
Oddly, Browne didn’t release the song himself until later that same year and arranged his recording of the song similarly to Allman’s take. In each case, the artists changes the phrasing slightly to best suit their delivery, and it’s one of the rare cases in music in which each cover feels as though it’s the original – regardless of the version you heard first.
Please don’t confront me with my failure
I’m aware of it
Those last two lines though… simply brutal.