Border Town

It was on Asylum.

That’s one of the main reasons I purchased the Souther, Hillman, Furay Band’s debut.  Richie Furay had been in not only Buffalo Springfield, but Poco.  Stephen Stills and Neil Young had gone on to triumph in later incarnations, but Richie struggled.  This supergroup was his last great hope. J.D. Souther wrote those great Eagles and Linda Ronstadt songs and Chris Hillman had been a member of the Byrds, the Burritos and Manassas. Only one problem, they hated each other.  You can create a group on paper, but that doesn’t mean everybody’s gonna get along.  But we didn’t know that, we only had the album.  Which had no hits, but still went gold and peaked at number 11 on the chart and was filled with nuggets those who purchased it knew by heart.

In other words, what do you say about an album that was seen as a failure that everybody loves?  At least everybody who bought it.

Richie Furay gave up.  He went into the ministry.

Chris Hillman went solo then went into another failed trio with his old buddies from the Byrds and then found a niche in country.

And J.D. Souther went on to record one of the greatest SoCal albums that nobody heard.

I know, I know, J.D. had a hit single.  With "You’re Only Lonely" in 1979.  Not bad, but that track from the uneven album of the same name was eclipsed by so many cuts on 1976’s "Black Rose".  The record produced by Peter Asher in the classic Southern California style that barely made a ripple.

But I love it.  It’s got his version of "Faithless Love", sung like someone who’s experienced the heartbreak of a failed relationship.  Linda Ronstadt knocks it out of the park, whereas hearing J.D. sing it is like stumbling upon your best friend in a room alone, after you’ve convinced him to unlock his door.  He tells the story wearily, just the facts.  But you can hear the pain in each and every word.

And also included is a version of "Simple Man, Simple Dream".

But what will kill you is the two unknown originals.  They’re hiding in plain sight for you to discover them today, "Your Turn Now" and "Baby Come Home".

"Your Turn Now" is a masterpiece.

The moon was yellow
And the sky was cool
The night can make a promise of love
Or it can make you a fool

Ain’t that every Friday night when you’re single.  You put on your clothes and your attitude, use your best material and sometimes you come home drunk and sometimes you wake up in someone else’s bed.

How would anybody know it
If the real thing shined
You’ve seen so many movies
You’d probably think it was a line

Everything I know about sex I learned from the movies.  That’s what we judge our lives against, the movies.  Soul mates?  All that other crap?  We get it from entertainment, we don’t really know what love is.

Let me tell you I can fight like a man
And cry like a little boy

This is why we loved the Eagles, lyrics like this.  The honesty, the immaturity, the incompleteness under the swagger.  We like our heroes vulnerable.

And almost as good is "Baby Come Home".

Ever been left?


You can employ a bunch of strategies.  You can go out and get drunk.  You can go out and get laid.  You can ring their phone off the hook.  But none of it ever works.  You just can’t forget, you can’t get them out of your mind.  You’re waiting for them to come back home.  Even though they never do.  Maybe for a night or two.  But when they leave in the morning you never know when you’re gonna see them again.

And the strings evidence the misery.  J.D. starts out telling his story.  Then he begins to plead.

If you could trust me
Try to believe me
Listen to me when I say
When I say that love is a burning fire
And it will not fade away

Love never evaporates.  It’s like carbon.  It’s got a half-life.  You’ve just got to wait until the pain fades and you can start all over again, with someone new.

But until then…

Some people pray, most every day
Some people wait and see
Ah, but deep in the night
When nearly nothing’s going right
You can hear him cryin’
Baby come home
Baby come home
Baby come home

Sleepless nights.  Of torture.

But it wasn’t like J.D. Souther emerged fully-formed on "Black Rose".  He had moments of genius before that.  And some of them are on that Souther, Hillman, Furay debut.

The single was supposed to be Richie’s "Fallin’ In Love".  But it was too generic to hit.

The surprise was the Hillman tracks, "Heavenly Fire" and "Safe At Home" are rollicking cuts that have you raising your beer glass and singing along.

And then there’s J.D.’s "The Heartbreaker".  An Eagles track on a different album.  This is the kind of stuff Glenn Frey sings about.

And the final cut, "Deep, Dark And Dreamless", is the sensitive work J.D. made his name with.

But the best J.D. track on the album is "Border Town".

I had a cassette.  Taped from the vinyl record.  I listened to it as I drove cross-country, back and forth, alone.  It was my constant companion.  Part of my DNA.

And lo and behold, I ask Kevin yesterday about his kid in the Air Force and he says he’s down in Texas, in Laredo, in a border town.  And he starts singing these lyrics:

Life ain’t so easy in this border town
Too much dope and too much runnin’ around

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