There were sidemen, then there was him – Rolling Stone

David Lindley, the slick multi-instrumentalist and pixie who died yesterday at the age of 78, might be happy to share some stories of his days on the road with Jackson Browne, James Taylor and the other leading minstrels and songwriters that he supported during the 70s and 80s. There was a time, he told me in 2013, when he saw one of them talking to a backstage visitor. Lindley grabbed a bottle of apple juice, walked over to her boss, and told him her urine sample was ready. Needless to say, the normally meek leader wasn’t so cold afterwards.

Lindley also didn’t like being disturbed early in the morning by hotel workers – and had a unique way of chasing them away. “The maids were knocking on the door, very loudly,” he said. ” It is not a good thing. (Drummer) Russell (Kunkel) had a sign on the door. I said, ‘OK, it’s not working. We’ll do This.’ So I waited for the good ones and got on my hands and knees on the other side of the door, and if you put your hands around your mouth, it sounds like a Doberman’s muzzle, and I’d throw myself against the door . Finally, they got the message.

As funny as these stories are, they also highlighted what sets Lindley apart in her milieu. Lindley was deeply rooted in the LA rock world, and his contributions on guitar, fiddle, slide guitar, mandolin, and a variety of other string instruments became integral parts of these records. To cite just one example of many, Browne’s “Running on Empty” would have sounded great without Lindley’s slide guitar. But the extra fat he brought to the song reinforced the wariness of the words on the road: you really felt like you were on a bus, speeding to a concert, racing against time and mortality. Lindley has helped bring out additional textures and nuances in the songs – as much a part of his legacy as his voluminous credits, which also include work with Ry Cooder, John Prine and David Crosby & Graham Nash.

To some of the public, Lindley, who grew up in California, first came to prominence for his tenure with the acid-folk psychedelics Kaleidoscope in the late sixties. But even before becoming a superstar sideman, he hinted at what was to come: it’s his drone, mystical fiddle on The Youngbloods’ “Darkness, Darkness” (1969) and, supposedly, here and there on the early days of Leonard Cohen in 1967, Leonard Cohen Songs. The original LP didn’t mention the credits of the musicians, but it has since been discovered that Kaleidoscope played on several tracks, meaning that the violin running through “So Long, Marianne” is likely Lindley’s. Even if you didn’t know who was playing, you heard those records and wanted to know who they were – early examples of how Lindley could stand out in the world of session musicians, who are often required to be as musically under the radar as possible, especially in the worlds of folk and troubadour rock.

Of course, the most competent sidemen know how to play their parts discreetly and not get in the way of the melody or the feeling. Lindley knew it too: listen to her violin work on Warren Zevon’s “Mama Couldn’t Be Persuaded”, Linda Ronstadt’s “Heart Like a Wheel” or the alternative version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Racing in the Street” (released much later late, the The promise) — his playing underlines the songs, but never overwhelms them.

This approach is particularly felt on the records he made with Browne, in whose band he played for most of the 1970s. Aside from his own records, Lindley remains the one most associated with Browne, and for cause: his acoustic guitar on “I Thought I Was a Child”, his violin on “Before the Deluge” or the skillful and almost comforting riffs of the electric guitar. “Late for the Sky” are just a few examples of how he complemented Browne’s vocals and songs.

As Browne told me in 2010, he felt it from the start, when they went on tour supporting Yes. “I don’t know what they thought of us,” he said of Yes fans. “And we couldn’t play ‘Doctor My Eyes’ because I thought we couldn’t play it without congas and drums. At the end of the visit, we had play because people kept asking for it. We play this gig at a college and they were asking for this song. And we said, “What is it, let’s play it.” And it was a revelation. The piano part is solid enough – it’s only about playing four – and it was enough to help Lindley do this insane game of groove and swing. He wasn’t even the guitarist on the record. But he just tore it up. And I realized then that I didn’t need a band to play with David. It just comes from him.

Speaking to me about her work with Browne in 2010, Lindley recalled the origins of her co-writing credit on 1980s “Call It a Loan.” Wearing. “I had a Strat with a really glassy sound that I was experimenting with, playing with my fingernails,” he said. “I said to Jackson, ‘Do you want to write a few words on this and put some sort of order so we can use this guitar thing?’ And he said, ‘That would be awesome,’ so he put it together and it went really well. I love that song.”

But Lindley also had this special sauce aspect in his heritage. He seemed to know when to release just enough to enhance the heart of a song. His fiddle contributions to Browne’s “For a Dancer” and Graham Nash’s “Simple Man” were heartbreakers that made the songs even sadder. He could bring a jolt of raw electricity to a genre that might occasionally use him. His slide guitar parts may have been rooted in country blues, but in his hands the instrument was brash and cunning – heard in its heartbreaking parts on Browne’s “Red Neck Friend,” the live version of “Fieldworker.” by Crosby & Nash (where Lindley’s playing reinforces angry pro-migrant worker lyrics) and Zevon’s “Play It All Night Long”. Musically and lyrically, the latter is a creepy swamp of a song to begin with, but Lindley’s bottleneck solos only make it swampier and more otherworldly. “Warren was really cohesive in the studio,” Lindley told me. “He would give you picture clues. I would ask, ‘What kind of approach do you want on this?’ And he said (imitating Zevon’s deep voice), “Jeff Beck”. How much more accurate can you get? »

On stage, especially with Browne, Lindley also distinguished himself. With super-long hair even by the standards of the time, he would sit behind his array of fretted instruments and play — a mysterious, mischievous presence that offset the somberness of everything on stage. This was especially evident in Browne’s version of “Stay,” where Lindley came out for a then-rare falsetto vocal that was as hilarious as it was unexpected.

In a world known for its share of backstage and offstage excesses, Lindley has also reduced her own figure in large part by staying out of it. “I’m a bit unsuited to after-show parties, so I would usually go back to the hotel,” he told me in 2013. “There’s hazard at those after-show parties, you know what I mean? I couldn’t do that. And I had no idea how to gossip and do all this. You saw Paul Shaffer’s character in It’s Spinal Tap? There was a lot of that. Browne confirmed this to me at the time: “Lindley has always been a bit of a loner. He never really hung out with anyone at parties. He was still in his room with his instruments. He was very religious about playing his own music every day and exploring instruments. He always carried his mandolin or his violin.

Lindley left Browne’s band after 1980. Thirty years later, Browne told me he encouraged his bandmate to move on so he could be enjoyed in his own right, though Browne still had regrets. “There were times when I thought it was the craziest. and the dumbest thing I’ve ever done,” he said.


True to his quirks and musical passions, Lindley didn’t become a laid-back singer-songwriter himself when he went his own way. With his band El Rayo-X, he made his music even funkier (his propulsive, can’t-drive-55 version of KC Douglas’ “Mercury Blues” remains definitive), and delved deeper into reggae and blues. He continued to work with Zevon, Browne and others, but his passion for world music – heard on the records he made with guitarist Henry Kaiser and musicians from Madagascar – also spoke to Lindley’s passions. .

Even when he joined Browne for a few reunion tours in the mid to late 2000s, Lindley brought instruments like an oud (from the Middle East) and a bouzouki (from Greece) along with his guitar and violin. Hawaiians. Why not just replay the games as they were originally done? “There are all kinds of variations,” he told me. “Some fans don’t understand: ‘It’s so good – why don’t you keep playing like that?’ But you see this cheesecake in the window and you’re like, ‘Do I want to try this or what? This looks really good. You have this image in your head and you want to know. Lindley always wanted to make this discovery.

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