Jackson Browne's very first album, sometimes known as "Saturate Before Using", reached the shores of this island in 1972 . My younger brother Simon suggested that I should listen to it and I was immediately entranced. Jackson's plaintive voice, his musicality and his poetic lyrics grabbed me straight away.
He has released fourteen more albums since then and I have twelve of them. With Simon, I finally got to see Jackson in concert at Sheffield City Hall in March 2009 and we were not disappointed. It was a fabulous concert from a guy who has now been there in the background of my life for almost fifty years.
One of the songs from the first album that has haunted me forever is "Song for Adam". I know every word and I just have to close my eyes to hear the recording. No need for a turntable, a CD player or headphones connected to a phone. I just go to the music library in my head and there it is, complete and sweet.
It is not about love, seeking love or losing love as many pop songs are. Instead, it's about friendship, memory, loss and puzzlement. It was inspired by news of the death of a Californian contemporary - Adam Saylor who travelled to India in the late sixties and died in the street below his hotel window. Did he jump or did he just fall? Nobody knows for sure though back in 2017, Saylor's father Dr John Saylor seemed pretty sure that it was suicide:
“He wound up in Bombay – Mumbai, now, it’s called. After a while, I think he got depressed. He wrote to me that he wanted to come back home, but he didn’t have any money. His girlfriend had gone back home, and he was stuck there.
So I sent him $600 for air fare, and a couple of weeks later I got another letter asking if I’d seen his note about wanting to come home, and asking for money. So, I sent him another $600, and I got a third letter wondering why I hadn’t responded. And just before Christmas, he jumped from the fourth floor of his apartment.
Someone had intercepted the letters and forged his signature on the checks. Adam never got them. I’m sure he was depressed, and he thought I had abandoned him."
Of course, there's a sense in which that background doesn't really matter. "Song for Adam" is a human song that most people can relate to without knowing any of the back story. Here it is with the opening lyrics so that you can sing along:-
Though Adam was a friend of mine, I did not know him well
He was alone into his distance, he was deep into his well
I could guess what he was laughing at, but I couldn't really tell
Now the story's told that Adam jumped, but I've been thinking that he fell
Together we went travelling, as we received the call
His destination India and I had none at all
Well, I still remember laughing with our backs against the wall
So free of fear, we never thought that one of us might fall
I sit before my only candle
But it's so little light to find my way
Now this story unfolds before my candle
Which is shorter every hour as it reaches for the day
But I feel just like a candle in a way
I guess I'll get there, but I wouldn't say for sure...
That is unimaginably tragic--not getting the checks and feeling abandoned. :(ReplyDelete
You got it Margaret.Delete
I don't think I've ever heard that song before. (I only know a few of his songs) What a heartbreaking story.ReplyDelete
Songs can say so much as Jackson has proved over and over but the first songs are often the best.Delete
I've heard and listened to a lot of Jackson Browne songs but have never heard that one. I couldn't help myself and thanks to the miracle of the internet, now own the album on my computer and am listening to it right now.ReplyDelete
So glad that I led you to that purchase Ed. Worth every cent my friend.Delete
I've never been a fan of Jackson Browne but I must say that is a most poignant song. Thanks, Mr. Pudding.ReplyDelete
Thanks for taking the trouble to listen to it Catalyst. Maybe you will try some more. Search for "These Days" and "In The Shape of a Heart".Delete
I've always heard of Jackson Browne. Now I'll have to listen to him because you said so!ReplyDelete
Yes! Be a good lad Red and do as I say.Delete
Oh no, that story is just horrible and the survivor guilt would be intenseReplyDelete
Human life is fragile. I think that's partly what this song is about and of course Adam was the first man.Delete
That's quite beautiful, though not something I would normally listen to.ReplyDelete
Glad you took the time to listen River.Delete
Adam's story is truly tragic, and I can't begin to imagine how it must have been weighing on his father for all those years.ReplyDelete
I am glad that you and your brother got to see Jackson Browne in concert together!
At the concert in Longbeach, California in 2017, Jackson Browne announced that he was about to do "Song for Adam" when a voice called out from the audience -"That's my son!". It was Dr John Saylor - aged ninety.Delete
That is a very sad story. I can't imagine being a parent trying so desperately to help your child and being unable to reach him.ReplyDelete
We are all vulnerable. Adam was just somebody who left the stage early. It could happen to any of us.Delete
I remember that song. It is the saddest ballad, isn't it? The saddest story.ReplyDelete
I repeat my response to Librarian..."At the concert in Longbeach, California in 2017, Jackson Browne announced that he was about to do "Song for Adam" when a voice called out from the audience -"That's my son!". It was Dr John Saylor - aged ninety."Delete
Nice song about a sad event. I hadn't heard it before. I love singer/songwriters but Jackson Browne isn't one I ever followed closely. Wonder where "Saturate Before Using" came from?!ReplyDelete
Jackson said he wanted the album cover to resemble an old water bag and the words "Saturate Before Using" just happened to be on it.Delete