When introduced by hosts Phaedra and Mark Ledbetter to Jackson Browne Saturday night at their Greene & Greene just south of the Colorado Street Bridge, for a half-second I didn’t know why it should seem fitting to meet the songwriter while standing on the edge of the Arroyo Seco. Also, it was the fancy culmination of Pasadena Heritage’s annual Craftsman Weekend; while hundreds of revelers swirled about us, all the rest of us were ordinary Arts & Crafts nerds.
And while it may not be cool to say so, associated as he is to most of my cool pals with songs I also don’t care for — the Eagles’ version of his “Take it Easy,” shudder, for one — Browne is a kind of heroic musical figure of our time, and I was probably nervous. The dead giveaway about his high talent is to hear his songs interpreted by someone you really do like as opposed to the anti-Buffalo Springfield. And when that someone else is, say, the coolest, most chillingly beautiful person who ever lived, Nico, who very early on recorded “These Days” on her first solo album, “Chelsea Girl,” as soon as she split with the Velvet Underground — well, all I can say is, give it a spin. “I count the time / in quarter tones / til 10 … Please don’t confront me with my failings: I am aware of them” intoned in her Teutonic accent is sheer godhead. She also recorded his “Fairest of the Seasons.” Plus, as I recall, he got to sleep with her. With Nico. No cooler thing could happen to a fellow.
Anyway, as I shook his hand, I laughed and said, “That’s it. You go way back with the Arroyo Culture.” He agreed that he does.
Remember the cover to “For Everyman”? It was shot at theAbbey El Encino, Browne’s boyhood home in Highland Park, in the Arroyo Seco, designed and built by his famed Craftsman printer grandfather Clyde Browne out of Arroyo stone. I love the fact that in the previous link, with a great picture of the house, that it’s Jackson’s far lesser-known brother Severin whom the Highland Park history buffs note a connection with.
But I didn’t know, and later at the party was told by the Gamble House’s Ted Bosley, that another reason Browne was at the party to see the Ledbetters’ gorgeously restored Robinson House is that he used to own a Greene & Greene in Santa Monica, which I gather is the Whitbeck House.
The Ledbetters’ infinity pool overlooking what Browne recalled Arroyo kids used to call Suicide Bridge? It has a better view than that from any old beachside manse: this one has the remnants of a culture below it.