Songs for Sovereign Professionals: Running on Empty

Gotta do what you can just to keep your love alive
Trying not to confuse it with what you do to survive
In sixty-nine I was twenty-one and I called the road my own
I don’t know when that road turned onto the road I’m on.

I love this song. It opens full of a 17-year old’s drive and hope and energy, but quickly turns to melancholy and a just a tinge of desperation …

I look around for the friends that I used to turn to to pull me through

Looking into their eyes I see them running too

Sometimes, we all feel that we’re running on empty.

Here’s Jackson Browne at the 2004 Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame Inductions…

And, more youthfully, on the BBC in 197. David Lindley’s lap steel here is superb…

Running on Empty is the opening (and title) track of Jackson Browne’s 1977 album. Maybe the ultimate road album, the album was recorded on stage, on the tour bus and in hotel rooms.

Songs For Sovereign Professionals: Down Payment Blues

I got myself a Cadillac
But I can’t afford the gasoline
I got holes in my shoes
And I’m way overdue
Down payment blues

So, not a place you want to be. A wise warning.

But, also, maybe it’s a state of mind:

Feeling like a paper cup
Floating down a storm drain
Got myself a sailing boat
But I can’t afford a drop of rain
I got holes in my shoes
And I’m way overdue
Down payment blues

Some people always spend more than they make.

I couldn’t find a video of the Bon Scott line-up performing this, but here’s Brian Johnson in 1996…

The song originates from the band’s 1978 album, Powerage.

Songs for Sovereign Professionals: Lawyers, Guns and Money – Warren Zevon

I was gambling in Havana
I took a little risk
Send lawyers, guns and money
Dad, get me out of this

Every sovereign professional has a lawyers, guns and money moment at one point or other.

Warren Zevon’s my favourite songwriter, after Bob Dylan. He was literate, witty, satisfyingly cynical and musical. He took the easy-on-the-ear musicality of the West Coast, Asylum-label sound of the Eagles, Jackson Browne et al and added his own black humour and an edge of film noir. He also wrote the most fragile long songs.

Lawyers, Guns and Money first appeared on Zevon’s 1978 album Excitable Boy, but here I’ve chosen a version by The Wallflowers recorded for the posthumous tribute album, Enjoy Every Sandwich.

Here’s the Wallflowers and Zevon’s son Jordan (who also appears on the album) on the David Letterman Show …

And here’s Zevon himself on the David Sanborn show …

 

Songs for Sovereign Professionals: Blue Valley @Thomas_Blug

Blue Valley is my all-time favourite guitar instrumental. It’s from Thomas Blug’s debut (?) album, The Beauty of Simplicity.

Why’s it on the list? Tone and dynamics. Just listen to the open, expansive ring that is 100% Fender Stratocaster. Also, listen to the guitar come back in at 2:29, with that very slight Strat “bark”.

It’s such a beautiful, uplifting track.

Blue Valley was actually my first choice for Songs for Sovereign Professionals (it’s number two on my personal playlist, after Alice Cooper), but I could never find a version on YouTube to share. In desperation to share, I instead offer this link to Spotify.

You can also find it on Last.FM, here.

And, it features on the compilation, The Best of Thomas Blug.

Blug is a German guitarist who might be described as somewhere between Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix in sound. These days, he might be better known as a gear-head, having formed his own amp company, BluGuitar.

There’s an interesting, gear-focused interview, here.

Songs for Sovereign Professionals: Little Wing

Maybe it’s because I’m so easily distracted, but as a writer, my standard work playlist consists almost entirely of instrumentals. I still get arrested by a phrase here and there, but not the kind that end up inadvertently in my work.

This is one of the tracks that’s been catching my ear, lately.

Little Wing is a Jimi Hendrix composition that originally appeared on Axis: Bold as Love and, according to Charles Cross’s excellent Hendrix biography Room Full Of Mirrors, it’s one of two songs Hendrix wrote about his mother.

The song was also covered, in a much heavier version, by Derek and the Dominos on the Layla album.

However, for easily distracted sovereign professionals, the version I recommend here is Stevie Ray Vaughan’s instrumental from the posthumous, 1991 album The Sky is Crying.

Here are a couple of live versions.

One from 1983 …

And one from 1984 …

Songs for Sovereign Professionals: Human

Some people got the real problems
Some people out of luck
Some people think I can solve them
Lord heavens above
I’m only human after all
I’m only human after all
Don’t put the blame on me
Don’t put the blame on me

Rag ‘n’ Bone Man rather exploded onto people’s awareness with this big-label debut in late 2016. What a voice! I heard him singing live on a radio show last week, with a pared down band, and the emotion was incredible.

Anyhow, a great voice, great delivery and a great refrain.

From his 2017 album (and effective wide audience debut, following a couple of EPs), also titled Human.

Here’s the official video:

And, a live performance from the BRITs Nominations Show:

And, a nicely stripped down version:

Don’t put the blame on me.

Songs for Sovereign Professionals: Wichita Lineman

I know I need a small vacation

But, it don’t look like rain.

Even when you’re your own boss, it takes a major effort of planning to get time off when you want.

The great Glen Campbell was something of a sovereign professional. He was master of several trades and – I only learned from an obituary – started his career as a session guitarist and songwriter, playing on tracks by Elvis, Sinatra, Dean Martin, The Monkees and others.

He went on to become a solo artist, actor, TV presenter and more.

Wichita Lineman, however, was written by Jimmy Webb. It appeared on Campbell’s 1968 album of the same name.

Here are a couple of live versions, each with a tasty little guitar solo by Campbell: