Battle of the Bands: Doctor My Eyes by Jackson Browne

It’s June 15th and the official kickoff to Battle of the Bands going monthly. From here on out, Battles will be held once a month, on the 15th of every month. (Note: some BOTB participants will still post two battles per month, on the 1st and the 15th).

My mid-month battle is featuring the song Doctor My Eyes by Jackson Browne.

“Doctor My Eyes” is a 1972 song written and performed by Jackson Browne and included on his debut album Jackson Browne. Featuring a combination of an upbeat piano riff coupled, somewhat ironically, with lyric about feeling world-weary, the song was a surprise hit, reaching #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 in spring 1972, after debuting on the chart at #80. In Canada, the song peaked at #4.

Jesse Ed Davis played the electric guitar while David Crosby and Graham Nash sang backing vocals, and Russ Kunkel played drums.

I’ve always loved this song. It’s interesting in that the upbeat music doesn’t match the lyrics. Here’s some history of the song from Wikipedia: William Ruhlmann on Allmusic.com elaborated on the development of the song: “Browne first recorded a demo of ‘Doctor My Eyes’ for the Criterion Music publishing company in early 1971, and despite its striking imagery and carefully crafted writing, it was a bleak song… By the time he came to record the song for his first album in the summer of 1971, however, Browne had revised the lyric, tossing out the most pessimistic lines. Now, ‘Doctor My Eyes’ was the statement of a man who had stoically endured life’s hardships, but having done so, now worried that he had been rendered unable to feel anything. It still wasn’t an optimistic song, but the unhappy ending had been rendered ambiguous.” Ruhlmann addresses the final recorded version’s “paradoxical sense” between the music and the lyrics: “Working with other musicians, Browne drastically altered the sound of the song on record. A lively 4/4 beat, played on drums and congas, and supported by piano, set up a catchy underlying riff before the lyrics even began. Browne’s singing was supported by Graham Nash and David Crosby’s harmonies, giving the lyrics an emotional edge. On the whole, the arrangement and performance worked against the still desperate message contained in the words.” There was originally a third verse to the song, but it was not retained when Browne recorded the song for his debut album. The lost verse, however, can be found on circulating bootlegs of the song’s original demo.

In part 1 of the 2013 documentary History of the Eagles, JD Souther and Glenn Frey discuss at some length the process of Browne’s work methods while Browne was working on the song over a period of some months. The three lived in adjacent downmarket apartments; the future Eagles would hear Browne, through the walls, at work on his piano every morning.

On the song’s reception: Jeff Walker, in his review of Browne’s debut album for Phonograph Record magazine in 1972, wrote that “Doctor My Eyes” is one of a number of tracks on the album that “deal with a spiritual search; no preaching, no conclusions, just searching.”

Ruhlmann on Allmusic called it “a rollicking pop/rock song about being almost terminally burnt out.”

Here’s a terrific live performance of Jackson Browne’s appearance on Rockpalast (Rock Palace), a German music television show, in 1986. Don’t vote for this version: it’s here for your enjoyment only.

 

THE BATTLE, featuring female vocals:

CONTENDER #1: Wilson Phillips 

Wilson Phillips covered the song on their 2004 album “California”.  Wilson Phillips is an American vocal group consisting of Carnie Wilson, Wendy Wilson, and Chynna Phillips, the daughters, respectively, of Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys and of John and Michelle Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas. (If the video doesn’t play for some reason, you can hear the version here)

 

CONTENDER #2: Gretchen Wilson

Gretchen Frances Wilson (born June 26, 1973) is an American country music artist. She made her debut in 2004 with the Grammy Award-winning single “Redneck Woman,” a number-one hit on the Billboard country charts. She covered the song for the 2013 album “Under the Covers“.

 

TIME TO VOTE! Which version do you like better and why? When you’re done voting, please visit these other BOTB participants and check out their cool battles:

Thanks for your participation and your votes! I’ll be back next month, on July 15th, for another battle. Until then, rock on…