These Days (Jackson Browne song)

"These Days" is a song written by Jackson Browne and recorded by numerous artists. Browne wrote the song at age 16; its lyrics deal with loss and regret.[1] It was first recorded by Nico in 1967 for her album Chelsea Girl and in 1968 by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band for their album Rare Junk and in 1970 by Tom Rush. Gregg Allman recorded a new arrangement of the song in 1973 on Laid Back, and Browne recorded the Allman arrangement on For Everyman the same year. "These Days" has also been recorded by Paul Westerberg, St. Vincent, Fountains of Wayne, Mates of State, David Allan Coe, Glen Campbell,[2] and Drake.

"These Days"
Song by Jackson Browne
Songwriter(s)Jackson Browne

According to Randall Roberts at the Los Angeles Times, the song has "quietly become a classic" over the years.[3] Pitchfork Media's 2006 ranking of "The 200 Greatest Songs of the 1960s" placed the Nico version of "These Days" at number 31.[4]

Origins and Nico versionEdit

"These Days"
Song by Nico
from the album Chelsea Girl
ReleasedOctober 1967
GenreFolk-pop, chamber folk
Songwriter(s)Jackson Browne
Producer(s)Tom Wilson

In the mid-to-late 1960s Browne was a precocious songwriter who was pitching his material to various artists and publishing houses. On January 7, 1967, he made some demo recordings for Nina Music Publishing at Jaycino Studio in New York City. (An unplanned double album of these recordings was made by Nina Music, with 100 copies issued.) Included in these demos, and the third song on this collection, was "I've Been Out Walking", the earliest manifestation of "These Days".[1] Yet the song was even older than that; Browne later said he wrote it when he was 16 years old,[5] meaning in 1964 or 1965.

German model and singer[3] Nico was the first to record "These Days" for release on her October 1967 album Chelsea Girl. The elaborate production[4] featured a fairly fast fingerpicking electric guitar part by Browne played in a descending pattern ending in a major 7th chord;[1] the use of that instrument was suggested by Andy Warhol, who was part of the Nico and Velvet Underground scene in New York and was looking for something more "modern" than an acoustic guitar in the song.[6][1] This was combined with strings and flutes, added after the fact by producer Tom Wilson, without Nico's knowledge.[4] Set against these elements were the sad, world-weary tone of the lyrics, all wrapped around Nico's mannered, icy, German-accented, lower-register vocals:[7][4]

I've been out walking
I don't do too much talking, these days –
These days ... These days I seem to think a lot,
About the things that I forgot to do
And all the times I had the chance to

Nico disliked the strings addition and called the album "unlistenable" as a result.[4] But Pitchfork said that nevertheless, the "ineffable sadness" and "grandeur of her melancholy" came through.[4] While Nico never achieved much commercial visibility, her work caught the attention of other musicians and songwriters. And although Browne was still several years from getting his own recording contract, his wise-beyond-his-years talent was quickly recognized by other performers looking for material.[8] Of Browne's catalogue during this period, "These Days," along with his "Shadow Dream Song," were regarded as his gems.[8] "These Days" was recorded in 1968 by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band on their album Rare Junk, by Tom Rush on his 1970 self-titled album, by Jennifer Warnes (as "Jennifer") in 1972 (this version was produced by John Cale, who also played on Nico's Chelsea Girl album), by Kenny Loggins' first band, Gator Creek, around the same time, and by Iain Matthews on his 1973 album Valley Hi.

Browne and Allman versionsEdit

"These Days"
Song by Gregg Allman
from the album Laid Back
ReleasedOctober 1973
GenreCountry folk
Songwriter(s)Jackson Browne
  • Johnny Sandlin
  • Gregg Allman

By 1973, Jackson Browne had become a successful recording artist, and not having raided his back catalogue for the first album, was willing to do so for this second, For Everyman. Recorded at the Sunset Sound Factory,[1] this "These Days" was considerably different in several ways from the Nico effort. Some lyrics were changed or omitted, such as a couple of lines about "rambling" and "gambling".[1] The fingerpicking guitar figure was replaced with flatpicking, and the slower-paced instrumentation was typical of early 1970s Southern Californian folk rock — drums, bass, piano, acoustic guitar, but most prominently with David Lindley's slide guitar, a feature of Browne's early albums, but also with Jim Keltner on drums and David Paich on piano.[7][1] Nico's cool delivery was replaced by Browne's singer-songwriter-style approach, resulting in a vocal that Philadelphia City Paper later called "unique, and piercingly sad".[7]

The For Everyman liner notes thanked Gregg Allman for the arrangement. While Allman was most associated with the emerging Southern rock scene, he had spent considerable time in Los Angeles before The Allman Brothers Band came together; he and Browne had become friends, and the brothers' early band had recorded Browne's "Cast Off All My Fears" on their 1967 self-titled album The Hour Glass. Allman decided to record his own version of "These Days" for his debut solo album, Laid Back, released like For Everyman in October 1973[1] (and following by a year or two the loss of bandmates Duane Allman and Berry Oakley in motorcycle accidents).[1] Allman's version kept to Browne's revised lyric until the end, when he changed "Don't confront me with my failures / I had not forgotten them," to "Please don't confront me with my failures / I'm aware of them." Rolling Stone praised the treatment, saying Allman "does full justice to the quietly hurting lyrics, double-tracking the vocal over a sad steel guitar," and calling the vocal quality "resigned" and "eternally aching."[9] In 1999, writer Anthony DeCurtis called Allman's version "definitive",[10] and in 2012, American Songwriter magazine said that Allman's recording had overshadowed Browne's in the same way that the Eagles had for Browne's co-written "Take It Easy".[1]

Anthony DeCurtis at Rolling Stone called Gregg Allman's rendition of the song "definitive"[10]

Many years later, Browne described the inspiration he credited: "When [Allman] did it I thought that he really unlocked a power in that song that I sort of then emulated in my version. I started playing the piano. I wasn't trying to sing it like Gregg; I couldn't possibly. I took the cue, playin' this slow walk. But it was written very sort of, kind of — [strums opening] — a little more flatpicking."[11]

While neither version was released as a single, both Browne's and Allman's "These Days" recordings gained airplay on progressive rock radio stations and became the most-heard interpretations of the song.[citation needed] The song was included on both of Browne's "best of" albums, The Next Voice You Hear: The Best of Jackson Browne and The Very Best of Jackson Browne, and on both of Allman's compilations, The Millennium Collection: The Best of Gregg Allman and (in a live version) No Stranger to the Dark: The Best of Gregg Allman.[12]

When Allman toured as a solo act, he generally kept "These Days" in his concert repertoire. Browne was a different story. It had appeared in his concerts since before he had a recording contract, and stayed in through the 1970s, usually played on piano in a surprising segue out of his biggest hit single, "Doctor My Eyes". But by 1980 he had graduated from halls and outdoor amphitheatres to arenas, and "These Days" disappeared from his set lists, perhaps because he felt it no longer effective in those settings. Save for the occasional acoustic show or benefit show, the song was not heard again until the late 1990s, as Browne was again playing smaller venues, often solo, and where it began to reappear out of the "Doctor My Eyes" segue again.

Renewed visibilityEdit

"These Days" gained renewed visibility[1] when the Nico recording was included in a scene in the 2001 Wes Anderson film The Royal Tenenbaums, which grossed over $50 million in the U.S.[13] and garnered many award nominations.[14] The Philadelphia City Paper wrote that "It's no surprise that Wes Anderson used this recording in The Royal Tenenbaums; the fear of missed opportunity that its characters share is what propels 'These Days'."[7] The scene in which Gwyneth Paltrow gets out of a Green Line bus as the song is heard was one of the first that Anderson designed for the film.[1] Jackson Browne later said "I forgot that I'd licensed them to use this song. And this is one of those things that comes to you in the mail and you don't know what they're talking about and you simply give them their permission. You're sitting in the movie theater and there's this great moment when Gwyneth Paltrow is coming out of a bus or something like that. I'm thinking to myself, I used to play the guitar just like that. And then the voice comes on and it's Nico singing 'These Days', which I played on."[11]

Nico's "These Days" was included on both versions of The Royal Tenenbaums soundtrack. Later, a 2002 Kmart commercial looped the guitar part from the Nico recording.[7] There was a new wave of treatments of the song, with some emulating either Nico or Browne while others reimagined it in other ways.[15]

Given this new attention, Browne began playing "These Days" in concert on a regular basis, but on acoustic guitar and in a new style. He now started with the fingerpicking guitar part but continued in a technique and feel that falls between the Nico and Browne recordings.[5] He said "And now I've learned how to play the Nico version, which we sort of made up for her. [Imitates Nico's version] Fabulous you know..."[11] It was included on Browne's 2005 live album Solo Acoustic, Vol. 1, including a humorous spoken introduction about the origins of the song. Another arrangement was constructed for his 2006 tour of Spain with Lindley and percussionist Tino di Geraldo and captured on the 2010 live album Love Is Strange: En Vivo Con Tino. A Spanish-accented vocal from guest singer Luz Casal was set against Browne's acoustic guitar, Lindley's violin, and di Geraldo's cajón; Allmusic stated that the result "makes an already beautiful song exquisite".[16]

The Allman Brothers Band included the song for the first time in their concerts, featuring it on their March 2005 Beacon Theatre run of shows with Gregg Allman and Warren Haynes both playing acoustic guitar and sharing dual vocals.

Browne and Allman sang "These Days" together on January 10, 2014, at Atlanta's Fox Theatre at the All My Friends: Celebrating The Songs & Voice Of Gregg Allman tribute concert and subsequent CD and DVD release. The pair followed with a duet of Allman's classic "Melissa."

On October 9, 2014, Browne joined Blake Mills onstage at the World Cafe in Philadelphia to perform "These Days." The two were joined by Mills' tour band as well as his opener, yMusic. Mills admitted to having played the song at his high school graduation, citing Browne as an early influence and now-frequent collaborator.

Post-1973 versionsEdit

Soundtrack appearancesEdit

The best-known soundtrack usage of "These Days" was in the 2001 film The Royal Tenenbaums. Other soundtrack appearances include:


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Inman, Davis (January 2, 2012). "Jackson Browne, 'These Days'". American Songwriter.
  2. ^ Listed on the album Meet Glen Campbell
  3. ^ a b Roberts, Randall (June 25, 2012). "Review: Glen Campbell's farewell at the Hollywood Bowl". Los Angeles Times.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Staff Lists: The 200 Greatest Songs of the 1960s". Pitchfork Media. August 17, 2006.
  5. ^ a b Sessions @ AOL September 4, 2002, Jackson Browne concert broadcast.
  6. ^ Solo Acoustic, Vol. 1, "These Days" song introduction, 2004 tour.
  7. ^ a b c d e Michael Pelusi, "Test of Time: Nico said there'd be 'These Days'", Philadelphia City Paper, November 27, 2003. Accessed May 26, 2007.
  8. ^ a b Jackson Browne inductee entry, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Accessed May 26, 2007.
  9. ^ Tony Glover, "Laid Back", Rolling Stone, January 3, 1974. Accessed May 27, 2007.
  10. ^ a b Anthony DeCurtis, "For Everyman", August 5, 1999. Accessed May 28, 2007.
  11. ^ a b c Interview with Jackson Browne Archived July 4, 2008, at the Wayback Machine, KGSR radio Austin, October 10, 2002. Accessed May 26, 2007.
  12. ^ Allman later attempted Browne's "Shadow Dream Song" in an unlikely context, the 1977 album Two the Hard Way with Cher.
  13. ^ "The Royal Tenenbaums (R)". Boxoffice. Archived from the original on April 6, 2011. Retrieved July 22, 2012.
  14. ^ "Awards for The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved July 22, 2012.
  15. ^ Georgiana Cohen, "The life I have made in song", The Seedy Revue, August 7, 2004. Accessed May 27, 2007.
  16. ^ Juhrek, Thom. "Love is Strange: En Vivo con Tino > Review". Allmusic. Retrieved July 22, 2012.
  17. ^ "Babeo Baggins Shares Her New Song "Things I Forgot to Do" With Drake". Complex CA. Retrieved April 15, 2016.
  18. ^ Bob Grimm, "Let the Eagle Soar", Tucson Weekly, August 31, 2006. Accessed May 28, 2007.

External linksEdit