Doctor My Eyes

Album: Jackson Browne (1972)
Charted: 8
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Songfacts®:

  • Jackson Browne's songs often ask if it's better to see the world through the harsh lens of reality, or to just leave on the rose-colored glasses. He does just that in "Doctor My Eyes," asking if was unwise to leave his eyes open for so long, as now he must contend with a "slow parade of fears."

    The song had a very literal inspiration. "I did, in fact, have something happen to my eyes," Browne told Rolling Stone. "They became red, I could barely see - I didn't know what it was. They gave me some drops: 'Keep your eyes shut for a few days.' By the time I wrote this, I could see again. But it was a metaphor for having seen too much, a loss of innocence."
  • Originally, the lyrics were about a guy who tries to get help, but is doomed because it's too late. Browne's record company thought it was too much of a downer, so he made it into a story about a guy who has gone through a lot in life and comes to accept his fate.
  • Browne's Southern California musical cohorts David Crosby and Graham Nash sang harmony vocals. Brown was signed to Asylum Records, which was owned by David Geffen. According to Jackson, Geffen asked Nash if he thought there was a single on the album (Browne's first), and Nash picked this one, with the proviso that Browne add a high vocal part, which he did.
  • "Doctor My Eyes" was Jackson Browne's first single. It's far more compact than most of his songs, running a radio-friendly 2:55. It did very well in America and remained a fan favorite, garnering lots of airplay on Classic Rock and Adult Contemporary radio, and often earning a spot on Browne's setlists.

    Getting that first hit under his belt was satisfying for Browne, whose first recorded album (in 1968) was never released.
  • The guitar solo was played by Jesse Ed Davis, a brilliant but troubled musician who performed on albums by Willie Nelson, Marvin Gaye and John Lennon. Davis died in 1988 at age 43 in what appeared to be a drug overdose.
  • Browne was just 23 when this song was released, but he was well known in the Southern California music community, where he had high standing with the likes of Linda Ronstadt and the Eagles. A few years earlier, he was part of an early permutation of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, which ended up recording two of his songs: "Melissa" and "Holding." He also worked with Nico and Tim Buckley as a backing musician; Nico covered Browne's song "These Days" in 1967.

    Browne, though, had never had his own band, so putting one together for the album was a challenge. He ended up anchoring it around bass player Lee Sklar and drummer Russ Kunkel, who where James Taylor's rhythm section and much-admired session pros. Instead of working with a high-powered producer, Browne put engineer Richard Orshoff in that role and gave his players lots of input. They were able to transform the songs he had been playing solo on acoustic guitar into full arrangements.
  • Jackson Browne and the Eagles were creative kin and rose to fame around the same time in 1972. Browne was first on the charts, with "Doctor My Eyes" peaking at #8 in America in May 1972. In July, the Eagles reached #12 with their first single, "Take It Easy," a song Browne co-wrote with Glenn Frey. Browne included his version of "Take It Easy" on his next album, For Everyman.
  • Browne played the piano himself, which starts off the song and originally played all the way through. The arrangement changed in the studio as Browne encouraged the musicians to explore. "If the song was a hit, it was because of Russ Kunkel's swing rhythm and David Crosby's fantastic harmonies," Browne told Rolling Stone. "That's what those things are made of - the stuff that sticks to you."
  • In the UK, it was The Jackson 5 who had a hit with "Doctor My Eyes"; their 1973 cover went to #9. On their version, Jermaine Jackson came in too early and ended up repeating the first line. His error was allowed to remain in the final mix.
  • Paula Cole sang this for the 2004 film Eulogy. Other artists to cover it include Wilson Phillips, Gretchen Wilson, and Garth Brooks.

Comments: 18

  • Anonymous I heard that Jesse Ed did his guitar solo in one take. Did anyone else hear that?
  • Randall from Los AngelesRuss Kunkle played with Leland Sklar, who played the bass on this tune. They were session musicians (the Section) who also released two albums in the 70's. Danny Kortchmar and Craig Doerge played guitar and keyboards, respectively. Sklar has played on literally thousands of songs and toured with the likes of James Taylor and Phil Collins. Check out his youtube channel.
  • Loyd from MinneapolisI've been told Russ Kunkle played drums and bongos on this. I know Jesse Ed played the solo. Jackson on piano. But who played bass. It's a solid b
  • Jennifur Sun from RamonaLoved the piano and Che, I don't know for sure but the drummer on this session (and I can't remember his name off the top of my head) worked for the Wrecking Crew for a while and was the one who had a breakdown and is now in prison for killing his mom. maybe he played both drums and bongos.
  • Ken from Louisville, KyGlen Frey said he learned how to write songs by listening to Jackson Browne work on writing this song when they were neighbors in Echo Park. He said he heard Browne play the piano riff over and over until he got it, and the verses, just where he wanted them. Frey said "So that's how you do it - 'elbow grease'." Meaning to keep working at it until you get it right.
  • Cher from Enumclaw, WaThe line "Was I unwise to leave them open for so long?" is one of the best ever in recent music. Also, does anybody know who plays the bongoes on this record? Fantastic timing!
  • Cher from Enumclaw, WaThe line "Was I unwise to leave them open for so long?" is one of the best ever in recent music. Also, does anybody know who plays the bongoes on this record? Fantastic timing!
  • Richard from Los Angeles, CaAs Jaym says, this song is from the self title album "Jackson Browne"... the album wasn't called Los Angeles, CA (actually kinda odd that was printed across the bottom of the album) or Saturate Before Using, that was just intended to be humorous, but wasn't the name of the album. Most fans these days do refer to the album as Saturate Before Using though.
  • Brian from Richmond , VaThis is one of the first songs that I loved as a child. I think it has some of the most brilliant lyrics ever written. I would rank only "Carry On Wayward Son" as having better lyrics.

    I am not sure what the song is about but it sounds deep. I never tire of hearing this song.
  • Rance from Los Angeles, CaActually, guys, it's not "Saturate Before Using"
    nor is it "Jackson Browne" The correct title of the LP is...."Los Angeles California". Look a little closer. Ref Ayslum LP catalog 1970.

    Rance, Los Angeles
  • Jay from Atlanta, GaThe piano intro was inspired by an old piano that was in their apartment complex that had a key that would stick. That's how he got the double beat sound. Whenever he would play a note the key next to it would play also, but a 1/2 second behind.
  • Paul from Tallahassee, FlI agree with Michael from Lansing, MI. The guitar playing on this song is just about as good as it gets!
  • Michael from Lansing, MiDon't forget the tasty playing of Jesse "Ed" Davis on this who is still an unsung hero in the guitar world. He was deep into heroin and booze at the time this was recorded. Check out his playing with Taj Mahal.
  • Rich from Elkins, WvThis song and Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl" must be two of the most played songs on oldies radio....Hard to tell how much dough this song has made over the years... ~sounds as good today, as ever..."Rock me on the Water" is another song by J.B. that shows his early talent.
    Most excellent tunesmith and singer. <><
  • Jay from Long Island, NyDefinitely one of the more prolific American songwriters and successful trubadors of the Alt-Country genre. Hepaid his dues in the late 60's while playing with the Nitty Gritty Dirt band and then headed East to NYC and was part of the late Tim Buckley's backing band. This guy has paid his dues and deserves all the accolades that he gets.

    He also wrote the Eagles smash hit, "Take it Easy." How would you like to get those royalty checks!!
  • Jay from Atlanta, GaGreat song, I like the bass and keyboard into. But,like most great songs it's way to short.
  • Jaym from The Dark Side Of The MoonActually, it's not from Saturate Before Using. The album is in fact entitled Jackson Browne.
  • Windle from Montgomery, AlThis is from the album "Saturate Before Using"
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