Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Take Cover: I've Been Out Walking...

Nico, "These Days" (Jackson Browne)


One of the greatest and most well-known covers, I remember vividly the first time I heard this one, in part because it was so ironic. Sitting in Bill Danoff's Songwriting Seminar first semester of my freshman year, fresh-faced and eager to learn just how to craft a song from start to finish (as if it was a process that could really be taught), Bill put on Nico's cover of Jackson Browne's "These Days" as an example of the specificity and depth of emotion we should aim for in our songwriting attempts. I was floored. I didn't know if it was a boy or a girl singing, I didn't know what they were talking about or what kind of accent they had, but from that first line, "I've been out walking..." I was sold. I had "been out walking," too-- haven't we all? Nico meant what she sang, enough that it was palpable for all who were listening.

I was feeling pretty good about myself, being so moved by this song at the ripe old age of 18, giving myself a pat on the back for having enrolled in this cool class as a mere freshman, thinking I must be way ahead of the game in this whole songwriting thing. That's when Bill dropped the bomb that I've never forgotten, one that left me with an even deeper appreciation for this song as well as a healthy dose of humility: "...and Jackson Browne was only 16 when he wrote this song, so you can keep that in mind." Um, what? 16? When I was 16 I was certainly not singing "Please don't confront me with my failures / I had not forgotten them." It went more like, "Mom! Don't TELL me I'm doing it wrong, I already know!" A whole lot less eloquent, even if Nico herself somehow managed to make that into a song. Browne's profound verse, perhaps, lends itself to being covered and Nico has done that most legendarily with her chanteuse vocals, although as of late I've become a fan of both Elliott Smith, St. Vincent, and especially Gregg Allman's version (seen here with Graham Nash.)

-- Caroline Klibanoff

6 comments:

fiona said...

this scene would not be perfect / my second favorite movie scene of all time without nico

Emma said...

OH MY GOD, as I was reading this article, I had opened up another window to youtube this exact scene so that I could post it as a comment. way to go caroline AND fiona.

Caroline said...

it is a super application of the song, but by far the BEST scene in that movie, and in many many movies for that matter, is this one:
href= "http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9pyBB7y8fDU&feature=related"

igs said...

dead on, caroline. i agree 100 percent

Charlotte Japp said...

whoa i didnt know nico's version was a COVER. that girl just kept ripping from other folks, almost all the songs on the album chelsea girl (almost) was written by someone else!

"these days" is a superb song, though.

Ben said...

i think it bears noting that the royal tenenbaums soundtrack has got to be up there for the GOAT as far as those things are concerned. i couldn't imagine the movie without that soundtrack.

also, the tallest man on earth did a super duper nice cover of this song, as well. we still have a collective crush on him, right?

http://vimeo.com/4094994
mustaches and wife beaters (ribbed sleeve-less undershirts, i mean)... mmmm