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The Pretender

Released: 1976

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The Pretender

The most striking songs on The Pretender are concerned with death and parenthood, subjects not necessarily unrelated. Often, his apocalyptic imagery is merely a way of getting at his feelings of mortality-the crumbling towers of Babylon in "The Fuse" are as much about the inevitable erosion of time as anything else. And parenthood is seen as a symbol of the middle-class life he has experienced: it's both a joy and a trap. In "Daddy's Tune," he reaches out to his father, long ago alienated, in order to share with him the turmoil of advising his son in "The Only Child." In a way, this is his ultimate dilemma-to be a father, or to be a son. And his ultimate triumph is to realize and reconcile the parent and the child in each of us.
"The Pretender" is a breakthrough. Browne has always had traces of cynicism in his writing, but about romance he has remained firm. Love can make a difference, all of his songs say. But "The Pretender" is a song about why even that won't work, in the long run. In its most shattering moment, the hero imagines what he and his dream-lover will do, if ever they manage to meet.

Dave Marsh, Rolling Stone

  • 1. THE FUSE
    It's coming from so far away
    It's hard to say for sure
    Whether what I hear is music or the wind
    Through an open door
    There's a fire high in the empty sky
    Where the sound meets the shore
    There's a long distance loneliness
    Rolling out over the desert floor
    And the years that I spent lost in the mystery
    Fall away leaving only the sound of the drum
    like a part of me
    It speaks to the heart of me
    Forget what life used to be
    You are what you choose to be
    It's whatever it is you see
    That life will become
    Whatever it is you might think you have
    You have nothing to lose
    Through every dead and living thing
    Time runs like a fuse
    And the fuse is burning
    And the earth is turning
    Though the years give way to uncertainty
    And the fear of living for nothing strangles the will
    There's a part of me
    that speaks to the heart of me
    Though sometimes it's hard to see
    it's never far from me
    Alive in eternity
    That nothing can kill

    Oh Lord
    Are there really people starving still?
    Look out beyond the walls of Babylon
    How long will their needs go unfilled
    I want to say right now I m going to be around
    I'm going to be around
    When the walls and towers are crumbling
    When the towers are tumbling down
    And I will tune my spirit to the gentle sound
    I want to hear the sound
    Of the waters lapping on a higher ground
    Of the children laughing

    Words and music by Jackson Browne
    1976 Swallow Turn Music ASCAP and WB Music Corp
    All Rights Reserved
  • 2. YOUR BRIGHT BABY BLUES
    Im sitting down by the highway
    Down by that highway side
    Everybodys going somewhere
    Riding just as fast as they can ride
    I guess theyve got a lot to do
    Before they can rest assured
    Their lives are justified
    Pray to God for me, baby
    He can let me slide

    Ive been up and down this highway
    Far as my eyes can see
    No matter how fast I run
    I can never seem to get away from me
    No matter where I am
    I cant help feeling Im just a day away from where I want to be
    Now Im running home, baby
    Like a river to the sea

    Baby if you can see me
    Out across this wilderness
    Theres just one thing
    I was hoping you might guess
    Baby you can free me
    All in the power of your sweet tenderness

    I can see it in your eyes
    Youve got those bright baby blues
    You dont see what youve got to gain
    But you dont like to lose
    You watch yourself from the sidelines
    Like your life is a game you dont mind playing to keep yourself amused
    I dont mean to be cruel, baby
    But youre looking confused

    Baby if you can hear me
    Turn down your radio
    Theres just one thing
    I want you to know
    When youve been near me
    Ive felt the love stirring in my soul

    Its so hard to come by
    That feeling of peace
    This friend of mine said,
    "Close your eyes and try a few of these"
    I thought I was flying like a bird so far above my sorrow
    But when I looked down I was standing on my knees
    Now I need someone to help me
    Someone to help me, please

    Baby if you need me
    Like I know I need you
    Theres just one thing
    Ill ask you to do
    Take my hand and lead me
    To the hole in your garden wall
    And pull me through

    Words and music by Jackson Browne
    1976 Swallow Turn Music ASCAP and WB Music Corp
    All Rights Reserved
  • 3. LINDA PALOMA
    At the moment the music began
    And you heard the guitar player starting to sing
    You were filled with the beauty that ran
    Through what you were imagining
    Dreaming of scenes from those songs of love
    I was the endless sky
    And you were my Mexican dove

    Now the music that played in your ears
    Grows a little bit fainter each day
    And you find yourself looking through tears
    At the love you feel slipping away
    Thought it's not the kind
    Of love you might hope to find
    If tears could release the heart
    From the shadows preferred by the mind

    Like a wind that comes up in the night
    Caressing your face while you sleep
    Love will fill your eyes with the sight
    Of a world you can't hope to keep
    Dreaming on after that moment's gone
    The light in your lover's eyes
    Disappears in the light of the dawn

    But the morning brings
    Strength to your restless wings
    And some other lover sings
    To the sun's bright corona
    I know all about these things
    Linda Paloma
    Fly Away
    Linda Paloma

    Words and music by Jackson Browne
    1976 Swallow Turn Music ASCAP and WB Music Corp
    All Rights Reserved
  • 4. HERE COME THOSE TEARS AGAIN
    Here come those tears again
    Just when I was getting over you
    Just when I was going to make it through
    Another night without missing you
    Thinking I might just be strong enough after all
    When I hear your footsteps echoing in the hall

    Baby, here we stand again
    Like weve been so many times before
    Even though you looked so sure
    As I was watching you walking out my door
    But you always walk back in like you did today
    Acting like you never even went away

    Well, I dont know if I can
    Open up and let you in, baby
    Here come those tears
    Here come those tears again

    I can hear you telling me
    How you needed to be free
    And you had some things to work out alone
    Now youre standing here telling me
    How you have grown

    Here come those tears again
    Now youll tell me how to hold them in
    Here come those tears
    Here come those tears again

    Some other time, baby
    When Im strong and feeling fine, maybe
    When I can look at you without crying
    You might look like a friend of mine

    But I dont know if I can
    Open up enough to let you in
    Here come those tears
    Here come those tears again

    Walk away
    Im going back inside and turning out the light
    And Ill be in the dark
    But youll be out of sight

    By Jackson Browne and Nancy Farnsworth
    1976 Swallow Turn Music ASCAP, WB Music Corp., Open Window Music, Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Company
    All Rights Reserved
  • 5. THE ONLY CHILD
    Boy of mine
    As your fortune comes to carry you down the line
    And you watch as the changes unfold
    And you sort among the stories you've been told
    If some pieces of the picture are hard to find
    And the answers to your questions are hard to hold

    Take good care of your mother
    When you're making up your mind
    Should one thing or another take you from behind
    Though the world may make you hard and wild
    And determine how your life is styled
    When you've come to feet that you're the only child
    Take good care of your brother

    Let the disappointments pass
    Let the laughter fill your glass
    Let your illusions last until they shatter
    Whatever you might hope to find
    Among the thoughts that crowd your mind
    There won't be many that ever really matter

    But take good care of your mother
    And remember to be kind
    When the pain of another will serve you to remind
    That there are those who feel themselves exiled
    On whom the fortune never smiled
    And upon whose lives the heartache has been piled
    They're just looking for another
    Lonely child

    And when you've found another soul
    Who sees into your own
    Take good care of each other

    Words and music by Jackson Browne
    1976 Swallow Turn Music ASCAP and WB Music Corp
    All Rights Reserved
  • 6. DADDY'S TUNE
    A dirty wind blows through the sky
    And the Autumn leaves cut loose and fly
    Leave me watching
    And wishing I could follow
    Though among the regrets that I can't get by
    There are just one or two
    Unkind things I said to you
    Daddy what was I supposed to do?
    I don't know why it was so hard to talk to you
    I guess my anger pulled me through

    No sooner had I hit the streets
    When I met the fools that a young fool meets
    All in search of truth and bound for glory
    And listening to our own heart beats
    We stood around the drum
    Though it's fainter now
    The older I become
    Living your life day after day
    Soon all your plans and changes
    Either fail or fade away
    Leaving so much still left to say

    But Daddy I want to let you know somehow
    The things you said are so much clearer now
    And I would turn the pages back
    But time will not allow
    The way these days just rip along
    Too fast to last, too vast, too strong

    Somewhere something went wrong
    Or maybe we forgot the song
    Make room for my forty-fives
    Along beside your seventy-eights
    Nothing survives
    But the way we live our lives

    Words and music by Jackson Browne
    1976 Swallow Turn Music ASCAP and WB Music Corp
    All Rights Reserved
  • 7. SLEEP'S DARK AND SILENT GATE
    Sometimes I lie awake at night and wonder
    Where my life will lead me
    Waiting to pass under Sleep's dark and silent gate

    I found my love too late
    Running around day after day
    Looking for the time to play
    While my old friends slipped away

    Never should have had to try so hard
    To make a love work out, I guess
    I don't know what love has got to do with happiness
    But the times when we were happy
    Were the times we never tried

    Sitting down by the highway
    Looking down the road
    Waiting for a ride
    I don't know where I've been
    Wishing I could fly away
    Don't know where I'm going
    Wishing I could hide
    Oh God this is some shape I'm in
    When the only thing that makes me cry
    Is the kindness in my baby's eye

    Sometimes I lie awake at night and wonder
    Where the years have gone
    They have all passed under
    Sleep's dark and silent gate

    Words and music by Jackson Browne
    1976 Swallow Turn Music ASCAP and WB Music Corp
    All Rights Reserved
  • 8. THE PRETENDER
    Im going to rent myself a house
    In the shade of the freeway
    Im going to pack my lunch in the morning
    And go to work each day
    And when the evening rolls around
    Ill go on home and lay my body down
    And when the morning light comes streaming in
    Ill get up and do it again
    Amen

    I want to know what became of the changes
    We waited for love to bring
    Were they only the fitful dreams
    Of some greater awakening
    Ive been aware of the time going by
    They say in the end its the wink of an eye
    And when the morning light comes streaming in
    Youll get up and do it again
    Amen

    Caught between the longing for love
    And the struggle for the legal tender
    Where the sirens sing and the church bells ring
    And the junkman pounds his fender
    Where the veterans dream of the fight
    Fast asleep at the traffic light
    And the children solemnly wait for the ice cream vendor
    Out into the cool of the evening strolls the Pretender
    He knows that all his hopes and dreams begin and end there

    Ah the laughter of the lovers as they run through the night
    Leaving nothing for the others but to choose off and fight
    And tear at the world with all their might
    While the ships bearing their dreams sail out of sight

    Im going to find myself a girl
    Who can show me what laughter means
    And well fill in the missing colors
    In each others paint by number dreams
    And then well put our dark glasses on
    And well make love until our strength is gone
    And when the morning light comes streaming in
    Well get up and do it again
    Get it up again

    Im going to be a happy idiot
    And struggle for the legal tender
    Where the ads take aim and lay their claim
    To the heart and the soul of the spender
    And believe in whatever may lie
    In those things that money can buy
    Thought true love could have been a contender

    Are you there?
    Say a prayer for the Pretender
    Who started out so young and strong
    Only to surrender

    Say a prayer for the pretender
    Are you there for the pretender?
    Say a prayer for the pretender

    Words and music by Jackson Browne
    1976 Swallow Turn Music ASCAP and WB Music Corp
    All Rights Reserved