Jackson Browne historian Justin Cox

by Corey O'Flanagan

Exploring the music of Jackson Browne with Justin Cox, host of "After The Deluge: An Unofficial Jackson Browne Podcast."

This episode of the Songfacts Podcast is all about Jackson Browne, his life and songs.

Our guest, Justin Cox, examines his work in great detail on "After The Deluge: An Unofficial Jackson Browne Podcast." After 12 episodes, Browne granted Cox an interview for episode 13 as part of the press for his 14th album, Downhill From Everywhere, released in July 2021.

Here, Cox explains what makes Browne so special as a songwriter and goes through some key songs from his career, uncovering some worthy deep cuts along the way. Below are selected transcripts from the episode.

Origins Of The Podcast

This is going to make me sound like this is my nightly routine in my life, but it's not. I got high, smoked some weed, and was bingeing down into the Jackson Browne Wikipedia page. I knew he made these five albums in the '70s that I think are amazing. I realized he made the first three in '72, '73 and '74. These are three of my favorite albums ever, and they are three years in a row. That little moment was what planted the seed. It wasn't till months later that I thought about what it would be. I knew I wanted loose conversations with musicians or fans or writers or whatever. And the intro for each one is like a look through the Rolling Stone review that came out at the time.

Justin CoxJustin Cox

Interviewing Jackson Browne

His album was supposed to come out last year, but he got COVID like a week or two before Tom Hanks, even. Not horrible symptoms or anything, but he had it and that was around the time I'd launched the podcast. That album and a tour with James Taylor got pushed back a year.

I got a preview of the album and I listened super intently, then I listened passively while working. Then I listened while sitting and taking notes and thinking about what to talk about, and then the interview came. I was nervous for about 10 minutes, and then there was a moment when it clicked into something very real and natural and good. The whole thing felt that way.

He was doing interviews with Rolling Stone and Marc Maron and the guy from the Foo Fighters - Chris Shiflett. They were interviewing a different person every week, not always a musician, whereas this is a podcast about Jackson Browne. It's a chance for him to not talk about the same thing every single time.

It would be bad for me as an interviewer to let him just talk about a new 2021 record and climate change the whole time, but I let that dovetail into stuff he did in the past, and I think it opened a door and allowed for a natural conversation.

He speaks in long exploratory meandering sentences that figure out where they're going when they get there. That's why the first 10 minutes were a little stressful: He was going all over and I didn't know where it was going to go. But I was told about that a couple of days before by a guy named Paul Ingles, who does public radio work. He puts together these legacy, full career-spanning shows. He interviewed him as well, and he said if you've got an hour's worth of stuff to talk about, put the things you definitely want to talk about pretty early, because that hour is going to run away from you. It's going to be a long, tangent-type conversation.

"Somebody's Baby"

He has a very sharp memory. A lot of little details surprised me. He said he didn't like the song, but he was talking to his therapist, who told him, "What's more relatable than wanting to be loved."

"Somebody's Baby" and "Take It Easy" are probably two of his most simple, catchy, clear-cut pop songs. There's a reason "Take It Easy" is an Eagles song, and that "Somebody's Baby" is a soundtrack, '80s big pop song. Glenn Frey helped finish "Take It Easy" and he liked it more than Jackson Browne.

Where the magic happens. Closets make great studios on a budget.Where the magic happens. Closets make great studios on a budget.

"These Days"

It was one of his biggest songs - Nico recorded it and Gregg Allman recorded it, and it's this timeless song. He wrote it when he was 16 but didn't record it until his second album. He had this period of travel across the country and into Europe and recording with the Velvet Underground and Nico, and Warhol and stuff like that. It's a crazy amount of life to pack into a time when he was very young.

He was living in Orange County as a teenager and going up to LA to play with this band and see the scene. He said he was coming down off acid, and the whole landscape around him looked like arteries flowing.

A thesis point, like a reason for the podcast for me, is that he's brilliant, and maybe more poetic than the Eagles or Bruce Springsteen. Bruce Springsteen has his storytelling and everything, but you can safely call some of it cliche, but in a way that's relatable to the masses. So there's those big stadium acts like Bruce Springsteen and the Eagles. Then there's Bob Dylan and Neil Young, who have a weird rough edge of abstract poetry, mystery, even grit to them that Jackson Browne doesn't have. Jackson Browne is somewhere between those two things, and I think that's how you end up with the career he had.

Favorite Jackson Browne Songs

The song that I come away as my favorite is "Farther On." And then there's "Late For The Sky," which is used in an iconic scene from Taxi Driver. I fell in love with "Late For The Sky" long before that. I've caught up with a lot of classic movies later in my life, so I was well into my 20s when I watched Taxi Driver. You get this scene that comes up, and then the David Lindley slide guitar comes in, and it's this heavy moment in the movie. Scorsese really knows what he's doing.

There's a song called "Ready Or Not," it's different from your typical Jackson Browne song. It's about a guy getting his girlfriend pregnant, and he's got these lines, like,

Baby's feeling funny in the morning
She says she's got a lot on her mind
Nature didn't give her any warning
But she's going to have to leave her wild ways behind

It feels weirdly light for a Jackson Browne song, but it's about life changing and becoming domesticated, and it's a brilliant, brilliant song.

September 10, 2021

Here's our list of Jackson Browne Songfacts entries

Subscribe to the Songfacts podcast, part of the Pantheon Network

Find Justin Cox on Twitter @routinelayup

Jackson Browne photo by Dylan Coulter

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