Thursday, 6 October 2016

WORDS FOR THE MUSIC #7: Rickie Lee Jones


On Saturday Afternoons in 1963
from the 1979 Warner Bros LP Rickie Lee Jones


The most as you'll ever go
Is back where you used to know
If grown-ups could laugh this slow
Where as you watch the hour snow
Years may go by
Years may go by

So hold on to your special friend
Here, you'll need something to keep her in
Now you stay inside of this foolish grin
Though any day your secrets end
Then again
Years may go by
And years may go by

You saved your own special friend
'Cuz here you need something to hide her in
And you stay inside of that foolish grin
When everyday now secrets end
And then again
Years may go by
And years may go by
Years may go by
  Years may go by…  

Words & Music © 1979 Rickie Lee Jones

The Songwriter:  The following biography by JASON ANKENY is taken from the AllMusic website.  [It is re-posted here for recommendation purposes only and, like the material displayed above, remains its author's exclusive copyright-protected intellectual property.] 

From her 1979 debut onward, Rickie Lee Jones has proved to be an original, mixing beatnik-based poetic sensibilities with R&B, jazz, folk, and pop.  Most of her commercial success came at the outset of her career, but a restless creative spirit –– combined with a stubborn refusal to fit comfortably into any one musical niche –– sealed her ultimate destiny as that of a highly regarded cult heroine.

Jones was born on November 8, 1954, in Chicago, but the volatile relationship between her mother and father resulted in an upbringing that led her everywhere from Phoenix, Arizona, to Olympia, Washington, where an expulsion ended her school career.  As a teen, Jones left home and began drifting up and down the West Coast before settling in Los Angeles in the mid-'70s.  There she worked a series of waitressing jobs while occasionally performing in area clubs, where she sang and honed her unique, Beat-influenced spoken word monologues.  She also began a relationship with fellow boho Tom Waits.

Her first measure of success was as a songwriter; after her friend Ivan Ulz sang Jones' composition Easy Money over the phone to Lowell George, the ex-Little Feat frontman included it on his album Thanks I'll Eat It Here. Then in 1978 Jones' four-song demo came to the attention of Warner Bros executive Lenny Waronker, who enlisted Russ Titleman to co-produce her self-titled 1979 debut LP.  Spurred by the success of the jazz-flavored hit single Chuck E's in Love, the album became a smash both commercially and critically, earning praise for Jones' elastic vocals, vivid wordplay, and unique fusion of folk, jazz, and R&B.

With 1981's follow-up, Pirates, she gave early notice that her music would not sit still; employing longer and more complex song structures, her lyrics tackled themes of evolution, change, and death. Two years later, she returned with Girl at Her Volcano, an EP collection of live jazz standards and studio outtakes; with 1984's The Magazine, she made another left turn, teaming with composer James Newton Howard for her slickest, most synth-driven outing to date.

After taking a few years off from recording, she resurfaced with 1989's sterling Flying Cowboys, produced by Steely Dan's Walter Becker and recorded with the aid of the wonderful Scottish trio The Blue Nile. Don Was took over the production reins for 1991's Pop Pop, on which Jones covered ballads ranging in origin from Tin Pan Alley to the Haight-Ashbury era while backed by jazz players including Charlie Haden and Joe Henderson.  After 1993's Traffic from Paradise, she embarked on an acoustic tour; Naked Songs, a document of those unplugged shows, followed in 1995. Ghostyhead was released in 1997 and the standards record It's Like This appeared three years later.

Jones returned to original material in 2003 with The Evening of My Best Day, an album that expressed her anger and disappointment with contemporary American politics. During the summer of 2005, Rhino released the career-spanning three-CD anthology Duchess of Coolsville. Two years later, Jones released The Sermon on Exposition Boulevard, a stunning collection of songs based on friend Lee Cantelon's 1997 book The WordsBalm in Gilead, another album that found Jones exploring personal and spiritual themes, followed in 2009.  In 2012, Jones returned with the Ben Harper-produced covers album Devil You KnowFor her next project, Jones chose to protect her unique vision by taking full control of the process; 2015's The Other Side of Desire was financed through an online crowdfunding campaign and released by Jones through her own label, Other Side of Desire Music.

Some singers have the ability to transport the listener to a unique time and place the moment they open their mouthsRickie Lee Jones is a case in point.  On paper, a song like On Saturday Afternoons in 1963 looks like a brief wisp of a thing, a few throwaway lines that, while poetic, hardly qualify as earth-shattering.  But the magic happens when Jones sings those words in her own haunting and inimitable way, against a musical background that's at once nostalgic and longing, wistful and resigned, defining and celebrating childhood even as it appears to be lamenting its inevitable passing.

I defy anyone with an open heart to listen to this song and not feel profoundly moved by it.  It proves why the greats are great and why certain albums become classics while others languish in perpetual obscurity.  There's no trickery here, no trendiness, no hiding behind hype or effects or overly slick arrangements.  Just honest raw emotion, delivered by one human being to other human beings in a way that's instantly comprehensible.

And all in a pithy, self-contained work of art that lasts less than three minutes.

Sit back and marvel, as I do, at the sheer unadorned beauty of it.

Click HERE to visit the website of US singer/songwriter RICKIE LEE JONES.

Special thanks to everyone who takes the time to upload music to YouTube.  Your efforts are appreciated by music lovers everywhere.

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