Back in week 3 I wrote about the first hit single by Fountains of Wayne, a song called “Radiation Vibe” that I think epitomizes summer. Later in the 52 songs in 52 weeks essay project I will write about FOW’s “Valley Winter Song,” which epitomizes winter. There may not be a better autumn song than “These Days.”
“These Days” was originally written by Jackson Browne and has been covered by an amazing variety of artists including Nico, Paul Westerberg, Mates of the State, and Elliott Smith. You can find FOW’s version of the song on their 2005 collection of B-sides entitled Out of State Plates. This 2-disc album contains a few wonderful live tracks, original Christmas and Chanukah songs, and an amazing cover of Britney Spears’ “Hit Me Baby One More Time.” (It is true!) But the best track is their version of “These Days.”
It is amazing to think that Jackson Browne wrote “These Days” while only 16. It is an older person’s song of regrets and disappointments. It has been called a “classic of morose introspection.” The song reaches its deepest poignancy with the lines, “These days I sit on cornerstones and count the time in quartertones to ten, my friend. Do not confront me with my failures. I had not forgotten them.”
Adam Schlesinger’s beautiful voice brings out the pained beauty of this song. Unfortunately, I could not find a version of FOW’s version of this song on the web. However, you can listen to a live version of Elliott Smith (who did sadness better than anybody) covering “These Days” here. Or, check out this cover by Mates of the State as they offer a daring interpretation of the song. You may love it or you may hate it.