Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Deep Cuts 2A: Rickie Lee Jones

For a short time in the early 80's, I was obsessed with Rickie Lee Jones. I loved her debut and loved her follow-up, "Pirates" even more. Then, I witnessed one of the most amazing concerts I had ever seen over on the Pier in NYC, right next to The Intrepid. It was an almost three hour affair, featuring RLJ and her "Pirates" band, doing what felt more like a Broadway musical about a down and out singer. There were costume changes made behind a Garment District rack of clothing, comedy bits, dancing, and of course, the songs. Rickie sang her tunes from both records, covers like "Walk Away Renee," standards  like "I Won't Dance" and a still bone-chilling version of "My Funny Valentine," and the whole time, you felt like she might just pull a "Rose" and fall backward for good. She didn't. I have a memory of talking about this particular show with a few other people, who unlike me, recall it as a shambles. For me, it was a performance of a lifetime. Go figure.

Back then, like now, I am a sucker for the heartbreak ballad, and few can tear me up like Rickie Lee Jones. Two songs in particular, never fail to reduce me to tears. "Company," from the debut, is about loss and Rickie pours all she has into the performance. The other track is a song written but never recorded by Tom Waits. "Rainbow Sleeves" was originally found on the "King Of Comedy" soundtrack, and then on RLJ's E.P., "Girl At Her Volcano. Its message is a bit more hopeful, but fuck that shit. It still gets me in the eyes and throat.

Rickie Lee doesn't have a whole lotta hits, so anything I choose will most likely be a deep cut. I've decided to just post these two. I also posted lyrics to both for anyone who wants sing along!


I'll remember you too clearly
But I'll survive another day
Conversations to share
When there's no one there
I'll imagine what you'd say
I'll see you in another life now, baby
I'll free you in my dreams
But when I reach across the galaxy
I will miss your company
I'll be looking for company
Look and listen
Through the years
Someday you may hear me
Still crying for company
So now you're going off to live your life
You say we'll meet each other now and then
But we'll never be the same
And I know I'll never have this chance again
No, not like you
So, I'll see you in another life now baby,
I'll free you in my dreams
But when I reach across the galaxy
I will miss your company
I'll be looking for company
Look and listen
Through the years
Someday you may hear me
Still crying for company


You used to dream yourself away each night

To places that you've never been.

On wings made of wishes that you whispered to yourself

Back when every night the moon and you would slip away to places

Where you knew that you would never get the blues.

Well, now, whiskey gives you wings to carry each one of your dreams

And the moon does not belong to you

But I believe that your heart keeps young dreams, I've been told

To keep them there for growing old

And a heart that has been broken will be stronger when it mends.

Don't let the blues stop you singing

Darling, you've only got a broken wing

Hey, you just hang onto my rainbow

Hang on to my rainbow

Hang on to my rainbow...sleeves.


buzzbabyjesus said...

I think if I had an attention span I might learn to like ballads of this nature.

Rodger Stroup said...

RLJ's first album was a fine start. Pirates, on the other hand, remains one of my favorite albums. You've got to pay attention when she gets quiet, but the payoff is worth it. "Skeletons" is one of those quiet songs that demands your attention.

Post-Pirates, there were good songs, but to me every album paled in comparison to Pirates. Definitely not fair, but that's how it turned out. That's the magic and the mystery of music.

Anonymous said...

My friend and I used to work in a Florida nightclub in the 80's where every band did Rickie Lee Jones songs. A few years ago, we both found ourselves in Detroit on the same day as Ms. Jones, and we went to see her in concert to hear said songs done properly. Ms. Jones only did songs from her then current album, and refused to do any of her hits. It wouldn't have killed her to encore with "Chuck E.'s In Love."

While I support an artist doing so, it's a disservice to not advertise that decision. We felt shortchanged, like there was a "bait and switch" and I've never bought anything she's put out since. I think she's great, but I can't forgive and forget.

Conversely, I saw Chuck E. Weiss when I lived in L.A. and he was mind blowing! - Stinky

whattawino said...

Sadly, I'd never known the lyrics to Company until this morning. I am blown away by them and Rickie's delicate performance. I'd always appreciated the melody and piano but
never focused on the words. Stunning! And Mr Waits' little composition sounds like it was made in heaven for Ms Jones to spirit it away. Again, stunning!

Anonymous said...


Rickie Lee Jones is definitely an "acquired taste" as the saying goes (her albums are hit/miss affairs), but a couple of good songs go a long way. Girl at her Volcano is a little gem (still got it on vinyl).

She has a Waits-like persona on a certain level, which might be part of her charm to me.

Thanks. This is an interesting series of posts.

Michael D.

Jeff said...

Yup, had and have the same reaction to those two amazing songs. As an aside, that King of Comedy album has some incredible pperformances, apparently coaxed by Robbie Robertson, including his own Between Trains, and songs by BB King, van Morrison, and that amazing rendition by RLJ.

mauijim said...

I saw the same tour but in Pasadena and would use the term shambles as well. Was told later she might have had a substance problem at that point in her life. But the cover that stuck with me was her doing Marvin's Trouble Man. She sang it like she meant it which she may have been living it. She later did get it on one of her cover albums but on that night he owned that song

A walk in the woods said...

I've been a Rickie Lee fan for years, and yes, Pirates is a big part of that. But I also love Flying Cowboys and especially The Magazine, plus parts of all her records, up to the present day.

Michael Giltz said...

Hat tip to a walk in the woods. My gateway drug was Flying Cowboys and then I worked backwards. It's interesting how fond will be of the first album introducing you to an artist.