When I saw St. Vincent at Union Hall a couple weeks ago, I was really taken with her cover of Jackson Browne’s “These Days.” Of all the cover versions of this song, it’s unsurprisingly most akin to Nico’s, with its folky, rambling speed. Browne’s “original” — although he wrote the song, he recorded it after Nico — focuses most acutely on that weary longing in his voice that he conveys so well. He plays it slowly, drawn out, as though the narrator has just returned home and is telling all of this to someone. Gregg Allman takes a similar approach to Browne, while the Nico and St. Vincent versions clip along, as though the narrator is still on the journey.While it’s difficult to knock Browne’s version, the glaring omission between his version to Allman’s and Nico’s to St. Vincent’s is the absence of the second verse:
I’ve stopped my rambling,
I don’t do too much gambling
These days, these days.
These days I seem to think about
How all the changes came about my ways
And I wonder if I’ll see another highway.
It could be that Browne decided this verse didn’t fit the introspection of the other verses, and cut it, which actually works for Browne, because he plays it in a way that it doesn’t feel like it needs more. Allman just plays one of the verses twice, because the way he plays, structurally it sounds better to have something there. But lyrically, what sticks out most about St. Vincent’s version isn’t the inclusion of the second verse, but the removal of two words in the first. In “these days I seem to think a lot / about the things that I forgot to do / for you,” she clips out the “for you,” which changes the tone and context of the piece considerably — more so than leaving in the entire second verse, more so than when Allman adds in lyrics of his own. The absence reinforces the sense that St. Vincent’s narrator is still out on the road, searching for the “you” she would’ve sung to.