The last album my brother bought was probably Loving And Free by Kiki Dee. Not that Mark bought many records. Some Beatles albums, Kris Kristofferson, King Crimson, George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass.
Did he buy Loving And Free for the sentiment of the title track, to hear Kiki Dee sing I will untangle myself/So that I can be/loving and free…?
Did he buy it for the intimacy of the hit single, Amoureuse, a slow-burning coming-of-age love song?
Did he buy it for the pretty cover photos of red-headed Kiki Dee, smiling on her bicycle, its wicker front basket full of flowers in bloom?
He probably bought it for all of these reasons.
But did he know about, and what did he make of, Dee’s version of Song For Adam, the 1972 Jackson Browne song ?
He was alone into his distance
He was deep into his well
…the story’s told that Adam jumped
But I’ve been thinking that he fell.
It’s not a mistake to transpose your own experiences onto a song (or a poem or a novel or a painting…). It’s inevitable. It’s part of art and life and trying to deal with things.
But it can be a trap if you’re not careful. You’ve got to be strong enough not to get too self-referential, too sentimental. You’ve got to keep your distance. There’s a limit to the maxim of Australian writer Steven Carroll: ‘A song’s not a song without a bit of your life wrapped around it.’
Song For Adam was never about my brother. It never could be. Impossible. It was about, presumably, a friend of Jackson Browne (who himself would have only been in his early 20s at the time of the song’s writing).
I sit before my only candle
Like a pilgrim sits beside the way
Now this journey appears before my candle
As a song that’s growing fainter
The harder that I play..
Kiki Dee’s version begins with a light touch, at odds with the original, and with what’s to come.
I came to Jackson Browne via The Pretender album and then I made my way back to the 1972 debut, home of Song For Adam (plus Jamaica Say You Will, Doctor My Eyes, Rock Me On The Water and My Opening Farewell.)
I reckon my brother would have liked Jackson Browne’s songs.
Steven Carroll quote from the 2001 novel The Art Of The Engine Driver.
YouTube clip sourced from Kiki Dee YouTube channel