Read The Liner Notes because that The 50th-Anniversary edition Of Townes valve Zandt’s Debut

On September 27th 2018 » by Erin Osmon


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There’s a proprietary intimacy commensurate with universal experiences. The full-body quake of a an initial kiss, or the wild horse liberation that a brand-new driver ~ above the open road. Life’s turning points endure as distinctive impressions. Because that the soldier of pan who’ve uncovered the music of Townes van Zandt, the emotion is as personal and revelatory.

You are watching: For the sake of the song lyrics


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Whether his records were passed down by a dad or older sibling, served up by an algorithm, or struck prefer a lightning bolt at a hearne station, the swift punch of van Zandt’s poetic clarity has become a throughline in musical resulting age. His profound and unfussy guitar-and-voice compositions focused on love, heartache and tribulation are critical fiber in the towel of American culture, commanding attention and also unrelenting in their grasp.

Yet, together heralded together the folk singer of ft Worth, Texas, has actually become, yet often his name is uttered in the same breath as Bob Dylan or Woody Guthrie, the route to discovery and the connection with each tune continues to be acutely personal, a personal boxcar humming under the monitor of self-evident truth. A one-room cabin in a common landscape created from a drifter’s pen. The unearthing of songs choose “Waiting about to Die,” “Pancho & Lefty” and “I’ll Be right here in the Morning” act as pages in an anthology of associated yet completely individual tales.

Perhaps it’s due to the fact that Van Zandt’s words, extremely calculated yet deceptively plainspoken, don’t just speak to the listener. His indigenous speak through all who hear them. And so his work, as significant and as universal as it has become, begs for possessorship. The a love language taken by all who uncover it, however one that stays acutely an overwhelming to analyze to those that haven’t. How have the right to one truly grasp the astute and also necessary observations of 2 parakeets named Loop and Lil uneven you’ve heard van Zandt say it, from the usually stage and low-grade chatter of a small nightclub, or a scuffed CD.

No one understood this far better than his more quickly fans. It’s perhaps why his first studio album, For the sake of the Song, remains a point of controversy amongst anyone who found Townes valve Zandt exterior of this LP’s grooves. Townes valve Zandt the songwriter to be the antithesis of bells and whistles, and also so an album with such accoutrements, together this album has actually in spades, ring false — however unfairly — among purists. Taken in context, though, For the benefits of the Song is a gorgeous study in polarity. Every anchor is an artist native wildly various backgrounds, unified under the profound result of songcraft.

Like any fan, from any type of far-flung corner of the world, that has ever resonated with truth in these songs, their definition and the method that an interpretation is translated to the world remains open up to interpretation. But their impression is everlasting. The same can be stated of the guy who created the songs, and also the guy who gathered them right into an album.


In 1965, Townes van Zandt was a 21-year-old university dropout who’d opened a few times for storied blues musician Lightnin’ Hopkins in ~ Houston’s Jester Lounge, hub the Texas folk-music culture at the time. Though the club often attracted bigger names, who’d drop by in ~ the end of the evening after your headlining gig in ~ a local theater, through 1966 the Jester’s regular performers had Van Zandt, his brand-new friend man Clark, “Mr. Bojangles” writer Jerry Jeff walker — who’d simply headed south from new York — and folk humorist Don Sanders. Lock earned about $10 a night.

Local audience had concerned expect in van Zandt simplicity, clarity and also a knowing wink. Despite he professed heart-sunken lines prefer “If you ever involved Denver / Mama please don’t shot to uncover me / every you perform is just remind me / of the method you let me down,” he likewise cracked jokes and also sang about failed attempts at discovering martial arts. Turn a yarn was all component of the gig, and also to van Zandt, so serious around his handmade from so beforehand on, comic relief from the stage became necessary. His frequent and also varying claims of inebriation couldn’t have hurt.

Club regulars who had the objective of mind to take keep in mind of the handsome songwriter v the beanpole frame, who had a studious love of blues music and also a lyrical wisdom that belied his young age, to be the same folks in the crowd throughout the very an initial recording of valve Zandt’s faster works, an oft-traded bootleg well-known as Live in ~ the Jester Lounge Houston, Texas 1966 ~ above its main release in 2004.

The album’s 13 monitor consist that covers and a few originals favor “Colorado Bound” and “Talkin’ Karate Blues,” — tape-recorded for For the sake of the Song two years later — sung plainly over minimal guitar picking and also met through claps and hollers from the audience. Young valve Zandt was a fixture among folk music fans at the Jester, a marginal step on the decline. In 1969, when friend and future collaborator Rex “Wrecks” Bell opened his brand-new club The Old Quarter, van Zandt came to be a Houston legend, returning individual music come vogue amongst hip and also turned-on locals. In between, van Zandt gotten in into what would become an albums-long working connection with a storied Nashville producer.

A previous Sun Studios engineer credited with discovering Jerry Lee Lewis and also writing Johnny Cash’s struggle “Ballad of a Teenage Queen,” “Cowboy” Jack Clement discovered Van Zandt top top a lark. As Clement remembers that in his foreword come I’ll Be here in the Morning: The Songwriting tradition of Townes van Zandt, a trip to Houston through a friend led him to a neighborhood studio, wherein the owner played because that Clement a few live recordings the the young songwriter, a fixture at the Jester and also the Sand hill Coffeehouse. His prompt thought to be to do a record, though he was unsure the the type that sound the heard. Valve Zandt no Dylan, who’d simply recorded his album John Wesley Harding at Colombia’s studio in Nashville. And he certainly wasn’t a country artist, Clement’s bread and butter. Still, what the heard was exceptionally special.

In the documentary Be right here To Love Me valve Zandt’s an initial wife Fran remembered the he composed “Waiting roughly to Die,” his many gorgeous gut punch, in their very first apartment, in a tiny walk-in closet that commandeered because that a studio. In the middle of what she assumed was bohemian newlywed bliss, he created the lines:

“I came of age and also I found a girl

in a Tuscaloosa bar

she cleaned me out and also hit in top top the sly

I tried to death the pain, bought part wine

and hopped a train

seemed much easier than just waitin’ around to die.”

It exemplifies a worldview therefore defty break up by valve Zandt in the same documentary. “I nothing think castle all the sad,” he claimed of his songs. “I have actually a couple of that no sad, castle hopeless. About a totally hopeless situation. And the remainder aren’t sad, they’re just the means it goes.” and the song he wrote and also performed in those days, just a scrawny child with an acoustic guitar — a hippie cowboy as Van Zandt regularly said — to be the very meaning of that purview.


When Clement and Van Zandt met in ~ Bradley’s Barn close to Nashville in April 1968, every man worked by instinct. Van Zandt brought with the “Waiting about To Die,” “Tecumseh Valley,” “Sad Cinderella” and other compositions of a troubled ilk — heartworn, downtrodden, “just the means it goes,” together if the male who created them somehow peered much into his future and also then scrawled what he observed retroactively. With these sage and skeletal meditations came simply an acoustic guitar and also his southerly articulations.

For Clement, the male who i ordered it the mariachi horns top top “Ring the Fire,” and also produced a slew the Charley Pride’s popular music crossover hits, the job-related at Bradley’s Barn meant including strings, back-up singers, reverb and also even a harpsichord. Because that Van Zandt, who cared just for songwriting and also who’d never set foot in a studio, it supposed deferring come the experts. And today, there’s beauty beauty in that pedigree, and also in that trust. That 2 opposite end met in the middle. That the album was recorded live v a three-track is a testimony to each man’s intuition and also follow-through, various as your methods and approaches might have been.

Decades after ~ its December 1968 release, both males admitted your shortcomings during this very first pass at a collaboration. Clement had actually said that, yes, he might have overproduced a couple of tracks. The reverb on valve Zandt’s voice can be a little bit too thick, and the harpsichord ~ above “Sad Cinderella,” and the backing vocals on “Velvet Voices,” a touch over the top. Van Zandt, too, admitted he should have talked up a bit more. Yet these execution of “Waitin’ roughly to Die” and also “I’ll Be below in the Morning” room as epic and also cinematic as is deserving of such iconic lyrics. The disastrous salience of “Tecumseh Valley” and also the title monitor still rattle bones.

Today, For the benefits of the Song endures as a arsenal of timeless songs, and also an album that is as focused and immortal as it is ornate. The passing of time and brand-new generations that fans have actually rightfully aided in hushing i delivered purists; this album has actually transcended eras. This day the Houston folkie and Nashville royalty poles of Clement and also Van Zandt stand together not only valuable, yet crucial.

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Townes valve Zandt"s debut album, for the sake of the Song, is the record of the Month for Vinyl Me, please Essentials.