Single Stories: Jackson Browne, SOMEBODY'S BABY

Friday, August 13, 2021

"Hey Bud, let's party!"

It was August 13, 1982, when the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High debuted on movie theater screens across America. The hilarious and sometimes harrowing tales of high school seniors Jeff Spicoli, Stacy Hamilton, Mark Ratner and their friends lit up pop culture like a fireworks factory on the Fourth of July. From checkerboard Vans slip-on sneakers to the of-the-moment musical references, Fast Times quickly left an indelible imprint on the youth of the United States.

Adapted from the novel written by Cameron Crowe, Fast Times at Ridgemont High arrived with a double-LP soundtrack packed with odds and ends from some of music's biggest names: Joe Walsh, Stevie Nicks, Don Henley, Donna Summer and the Go-Go's were among the acts featured on the soundtrack. The movie's biggest tune, however, came courtesy of Jackson Browne: "Somebody's Baby."

"So I had all the music and the 'must be somebody's baby' part. That's what I brought to him: all the guitar parts and everything else. I knew he was the guy to write with, Jackson being the brilliant writer he is," recalled the song's co-writer, Danny Kortchmar, to Songfacts. "At the time, our mutual friend Cameron Crowe had his first movie being made based on a book that he'd written [Fast Times at Ridgemont High], and we were all writing tunes for it. Don (Henley) and I wrote a song for it ["Love Rules"]. So I brought it over."

Kortchmar admitted that Browne was somewhat out of his element making the track: "It was not typical of what Jackson writes at all, that song. But because it was for this movie, he changed his general approach and came up with this fantastic song. It's a brilliant lyric. I think it's absolutely wonderful. But it's atypical of him - he wasn't sure what to make of it himself."

Released as the only charting single from the Fast Times at Ridgemont High soundtrack in July 1982, "Somebody's Baby" began a steady ascension before peaking at #7 on the Hot 100 for the week of October 16, 1982. The #1 single in America that week: John Cougar's "Jack & Diane."

Despite the song's popularity, Browne didn't think it belonged on his next album, Lawyers in Love. Much to his label's chagrin, naturally. In retrospect, Brown himself admitted that not including it on his own record was a misstep: "That album would have been a lot better had I."

"He didn't want to put it on his album that he was making because it was atypical of what he did, but it ended up being something that got requested a lot and he ended up playing it live and taking it to his heart, as it were," Kortchmar said. "And now he plays it all the time."

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