In the early Seventies, Jackson Browne relied on sideman David Lindley so heavily, Browne named his touring band “The Lindley Brothers.” The musician played everything onstage and in the studio: guitar, slide, Hawaiian steel, banjo and violin. This summer, Lindley returns to the stage with Browne for 37 American dates to promote the duo’s live album Love Is Strange. “It’s interesting for the two of us to join up again,” says Browne. “It’s back to the beginning of the cycle.”
At a recent show at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, Browne and Lindley played an intimate, chatty acoustic set at the beginning of the night that included nuggets like Warren Zevon’s “Seminole Bingo” and “Brothers Under the Bridge,” a rarity off Bruce Springsteen’s Tracks. They stripped down Browne’s Seventies hit “For Everyman” and later tore through full-band versions of Jackson staples “Rock Me on the Water,” “The Pretender” and “Running on Empty.” They even included Steve Van Zandt’s reggae anthem “I Am a Patriot.” Browne says Lindley’s instrumental versatility keeps even his most popular tracks fresh. “I’ll call out a song,” says Browne, “and he’ll play it on a different instrument every night.”
Browne is on the road until late September, and has been testing out a new song with Lindley in soundchecks. He says he can’t decide whether to keep touring or hit the studio. “I’m still trying to figure out how to write this one song of something [Lindley] wrote in Spain four years ago,” he says. “It’s got this amazing sort of African violin playing.”
Lindley, who played in psychedelic L.A. group Kaleidoscope in the Sixties, met Browne at a California club when Browne was a teenage rock freak. “He was underage and the management would scratch a hole in the painted-over windows so that Jackson could watch,” Lindley told Cameron Crowe in a 1974 story. “He looked like he was about 12 years old. He still looks the same now. I have no doubt Jackson will look that way forever.” After the two teamed up, Lindley appeared on Browne’s classic albums including 1973’s For Everyman and 1976’s The Pretender, which sold 2 million copies. He became a studio ace and played on classic albums with Warren Zevon and Rod Stewart. In 1981, Lindley went solo and released for the Browne-produced El Rayo X, a disc that explored everything from rock & roll to Mexican soul.
Recently, the two hit up a Vegas thrift store to search for vintage polyester. The flammable Seventies garb is a longtime obsession of Lindley’s, who has a massive collection. “Wearing it is a commitment,” says Browne. “Shopping for it is like going to the pound and rescuing some animal.”
The duo, both in their sixties, have created the viral campaign Show Me the Polyester, which encourages fans to submit photos of themselves wearing the fabric. The best dressed (or worst, depending on your take) scores a trip and two front-row seats to see the duo’s September 14th gig at New York’s Beacon Theatre. Browne says he wakes up and checks the photos every morning of fans dusting off their most ridiculous Saturday Night Fever outfits. “There’s something universal about it,” he says. Everybody’s got one of these shirts they haven’t been able to throw away. It’s interesting to see some people have these shirts in their closet they haven’t been able to part with. Maybe it speaks to some vestige of a former life.”