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

On September 27th 2018 » through Erin Osmon


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There’s a proprietary intimacy commensurate v universal experiences. The full-body quake of a first kiss, or the wild equine liberation of a brand-new driver ~ above the open road. Life’s landmarks endure as distinctive impressions. For the soldier of fans who’ve uncovered the music the Townes van Zandt, the emotion is as an individual and revelatory.

You are watching: For the sake of the song lyrics


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Whether his records were passed under by a dad or older sibling, offered up by one algorithm, or struck like a lightning bolt in ~ a listening station, the swift blow of valve Zandt’s poetic clarity has end up being a throughline in musical coming of age. His profound and unfussy guitar-and-voice compositions centered 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 as the folk singer of ft Worth, Texas, has actually become, yet often his surname is uttered in the same breath as Bob Dylan or Woody Guthrie, the route to discovery and the relationship with each tune continues to be acutely personal, a exclusive boxcar humming under the track of self-evident truth. A one-room cabin in a common landscape written from a drifter’s pen. The unearthing of songs like “Waiting approximately to Die,” “Pancho & Lefty” and also “I’ll Be below in the Morning” act as pages in an anthology of related yet wholly individual tales.

Perhaps it’s since Van Zandt’s words, very calculated however deceptively plainspoken, don’t just speak to the listener. His words speak through all that hear them. And also so his work, as far-reaching and as universal as it has actually become, begs for possessorship. That a love language interpreted by every who uncover it, yet one that continues to be acutely difficult to translate to those that haven’t. How can one truly master the astute and necessary monitorings of 2 parakeets named Loop and also Lil uneven you’ve heard van Zandt speak it, from the usually stage and also low-grade chatter that a small nightclub, or a scuffed CD.

No one understood this better than his earliest fans. It’s possibly why his first studio album, For the sake of the Song, remains a point of controversy amongst anyone who uncovered Townes valve Zandt outside of these LP’s grooves. Townes valve Zandt the songwriter was the antithesis that bells and also whistles, and also so one album v such accoutrements, together this album has in spades, rings false — however unfairly — amongst purists. Taken in context, though, For the services of the Song is a gorgeous examine in polarity. Each anchor is an artist from wildly different backgrounds, joined under the profound result of songcraft.

Like any fan, from any far-flung edge of the world, who has ever resonated with reality in this songs, their definition and the means that definition is interpreted to the people remains open to interpretation. Yet their impression is everlasting. The same can be said of the male who wrote the songs, and the man who gathered them right into an album.


In 1965, Townes van Zandt to be a 21-year-old college dropout who’d opened a couple of times because that storied blues musician Lightnin’ Hopkins at Houston’s Jester Lounge, hub the Texas folk-music society at the time. Though the society often attracted bigger names, who’d fall by in ~ the finish of the evening after your headlining gig at a local theater, by 1966 the Jester’s regular performers contained Van Zandt, his brand-new friend male Clark, “Mr. Bojangles” writer Jerry Jeff walker — who’d simply headed southern from new York — and also folk humorist Don Sanders. They earned about $10 a night.

Local audiences had pertained to expect in van Zandt simplicity, clarity and also a discovering wink. Despite he professed heart-sunken lines favor “If you ever come to Denver / Mama please don’t shot to uncover me / every you perform is simply remind me / of the way you permit me down,” he likewise cracked jokes and sang about failed do the efforts at learning martial arts. Rotate a yarn was all part of the gig, and also to valve Zandt, for this reason serious about his handmade from so early on on, comic relief from the stage ended up being necessary. His frequent and also varying claims of inebriation couldn’t have hurt.

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

The album’s 13 monitor consist of covers and a few originals like “Colorado Bound” and “Talkin’ Karate Blues,” — tape-recorded for For the benefits of the Song 2 years later — sung plainly over minimal etc picking and also met with claps and also hollers from the audience. Young van Zandt to be a fixture amongst folk music fans at the Jester, a marginal step on the decline. In 1969, once friend and future collaborator Rex “Wrecks” Bell opened up his new club The Old Quarter, van Zandt became a Houston legend, returning people music to vogue amongst hip and also turned-on locals. In between, valve Zandt gone into into what would end up being an albums-long working connection with a storied Nashville producer.

A previous Sun Studios engineer attributed with discovering Jerry Lee Lewis and also writing Johnny Cash’s struggle “Ballad the a Teenage Queen,” “Cowboy” Jack Clement discovered Van Zandt ~ above a lark. Together Clement remembers the in his foreword come I’ll Be below in the Morning: The Songwriting heritage of Townes van Zandt, a pilgrimage to Houston v a girlfriend led him to a neighborhood studio, wherein the owner played because that Clement a couple of live recordings the the young songwriter, a fixture in ~ the Jester and the Sand mountain Coffeehouse. His prompt thought was to do a record, though he was unsure of the type the sound that heard. Valve Zandt no Dylan, who’d simply recorded his album John Wesley Harding in ~ Colombia’s studio in Nashville. And also he certainly wasn’t a country artist, Clement’s bread and butter. Still, what he heard was extremely 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 most gorgeous gut punch, in their first apartment, in a small walk-in closet that commandeered for a studio. In the midst of what she assumed was bohemian newlywed bliss, he created the lines:

“I come of age and 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 simpler than simply waitin’ approximately to die.”

It exemplifies a worldview therefore defty finish by valve Zandt in the very same documentary. “I nothing think they’re all that sad,” he claimed of his songs. “I have a few that aren’t sad, they’re hopeless. About a totally hopeless situation. And also the rest aren’t sad, they’re simply the way it goes.” and the song he wrote and also performed in those days, simply a scrawny kid with an acoustic guitar — a hippie cowboy as Van Zandt regularly said — were the very meaning of the purview.


When Clement and also Van Zandt met at Bradley’s Barn near Nashville in April 1968, every man operated by instinct. Van Zandt brought with the “Waiting approximately 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 composed them in which method peered far into his future and then scrawled what he witnessed retroactively. Through these sage and skeletal meditations came simply an acoustic guitar and his southerly articulations.

For Clement, the guy who i ordered it the mariachi horns on “Ring that Fire,” and also produced a slew the Charley Pride’s popular music crossover hits, the job-related at Bradley’s Barn meant adding strings, backup singers, reverb and also even a harpsichord. For Van Zandt, that cared only for songwriting and who’d never collection foot in a studio, it expected deferring come the experts. And today, there’s beauty, beauty in that pedigree, and in that trust. That two opposite ends met in the middle. The the album was tape-recorded live with a three-track is a testament to each man’s intuition and also follow-through, various as your methods and approaches could have been.

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

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

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Townes van Zandt"s debut album, because that the benefits of the Song, is the record of the Month because that Vinyl Me, you re welcome Essentials.