I've Always Been Crazy
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|I've Always Been Crazy|
|Studio album by Waylon Jennings|
|Recorded||March 13 - May 1978|
|Waylon Jennings chronology|
By 1978, Jennings was getting burned out on the outlaw country movement. Despite enormous critical and commercial success, including a run of three #1 studio albums, a #1 live album, a #1 duet album (with Willie Nelson), and ten Top 10 solo singles (including five chart toppers), he was irritated at the hype surrounding his music and resented how Nashville had co-opted what had started out as a musical rebellion against Music Row in the name of artistic freedom. Far more concerning, however, was Jennings' spiral into cocaine addiction. By his own admission, his appetite for the drug was monstrous:
I wasn't just doing a little drugs. I was doing them constantly...I'd do them until I collapsed, then I'd get up and start right doing them again. I was killing myself. I'd definitely hit bottom with it. I would never sleep. I'd stay up six or seven days or nights at a time, and I wouldn't go home. My health was bad, I had dizzy spells where I could hardly drive, I had cars strewed all over this town, because I'd get somewhere, and I'd have to leave 'em and have somebody else take me home.
On August 23, 1977, Jennings was busted by federal drug enforcement officers at American Sound Studios, where he was laying down harmony vocals on "Storms Never Last" during a session for a Hank Williams, Jr. album that he was co-producing. The officials had traced a package that had been sent there from his manager Neil Reshen's office in New York City. The package did indeed contain cocaine, but drummer Richie Albright managed to flush the drug down a commode before the officers could find it. They charged Jennings anyway but the singer was never convicted of the crime due to critical faults in the legal process against him. Still, Jennings was shaken by the bust, remarking in the audio version of his autobiography, "When you see yourself spread across the front pages - 'Waylon Jennings Arrested for Possession of Cocaine!' - it gets to you a little bit...It was a media feeding frenzy, like sharks smelling blood in the water. I couldn't go anywhere without a cluster of reporters swarmin' around me." Jennings added that the case cost him about $100,000 in legal fees, but his cocaine use continued unabated as he began to further isolate himself. The publicity did not hurt his sales, however, with author Michael Striessguth noting, "Waylon's public cocaine troubles only fueled his record sales. His five solo singles after the arrest rushed to the top five, and his albums sailed just as swiftly. On the surface, his two solo albums released after the bust - I've Always Been Crazy and What Goes Around Comes Around - communicated defiance."
Recording and composition
I've Always Been Crazy was produced by Jennings and Waylors drummer Richie Albright with a cast of players that included Tony Joe White, Ralph Mooney, Carter Robertson, Reggie Young, and Bee Spears. In light of the drug bust, the title track and "Don't You Think This Outlaw Bit's Done Got Out of Hand" sets the tone for the album, summing up Waylon's unapologetic attitude towards his lifestyle as well as his disdain for the music business. The title track, a Jennings composition, was released in June 1978 and became his sixth #1 as a solo artist, remaining there for three weeks and spending a total of thirteen weeks on the country singles chart. Considering the circumstances, the song played like a personal declaration by the singer, who proclaims that he has "never intentionally hurt anyone" and confesses that being crazy has "kept me from going insane." More serious in tone is "Don't You All Think This Outlaw Bit's Done Got Out of Hand," another Jennings original which recounts his 1977 drug bust and cynically recalls, "Someone called us outlaws in some magazine, New York sent a posse down like I ain't never seen." The song peaked at #5 on the country singles chart.
Despite the fiery spirit of the LP's hit singles, many the album tracks have a subdued, reflective tone. Although written by Tony Joe White, the Billy Joe Shaver tribute "Billy" sounds like it could have just as easily been composed by Jennings, who recorded nearly an album's worth of Shaver's songs for his Honky Tonk Heroes album in 1973. The sentimental mood is also apparent on the LP's closing tracks: the heartfelt "Girl I Can Tell (You're Trying to Work it Out)" and the Shel Silverstein ballad "Whistlers and Jugglers." Even Waylon's cover of Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line" is reinvented as a ballad (Jennings and Cash, who shared an apartment together between marriages in the late 1960s, would score a hit duet with "There Ain't No Good Chain Gang" in 1978). However upsetting the turmoil in his personal life may have been, it seemed to spark Jennings' creativity; he wrote or had a hand in writing five of the ten songs on the LP, his biggest songwriting contribution to one of his own albums up to that point.
Jennings also pays tribute to his late friend and mentor Buddy Holly with a medley of the fellow-Texan's hits. Jennings had famously given up his seat on the fatal flight that claimed the life of Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper, forever immortalizing himself in rock and roll trivia. Jennings, who was years getting over the tragedy, alludes to the flight on "A Long Time Ago," singing "Don't ask me who I gave my seat to on that plane, I think you already know, I told you that a long time ago" (he also name-drops fellow outlaw Willie Nelson in the song). In the liner notes to The Essential Waylon Jennings, Wade Jessen quotes the singer: "Buddy was the first guy to ever have faith in me as a singer. He was a rhythm guitar picker, and that's basically what I am. He taught me that you can take country songs and put different rhythms to 'em...But mainly, what I learned from Buddy was an attitude. He loved music, and he taught me that it shouldn't have any barriers to it." The cover of Merle Haggard's honky tonk classic "The Bottle Let Me Down" was an ironic choice for Jennings who, despite his fondness for pills and drugs, never indulged in alcohol.
The album cover, which features the singer scowling menacingly at the camera, became one of his iconic images.
At the time of its release, Nick Toches stated that I've Always Been Crazy tolled Waylon's "farewell to outlawry." Thom Jurek of AllMusic insists that the LP "smokes...In all, I've Always Been Crazy is a solid recording, still possessing the piss and vinegar of Jennings' best work with a deeper lyrical edge on most tracks...this is necessary for any fan of outlaw country in general and Jennings in particular." Amazon.com: "As he so often did, Waylon delves into the joys as well as the bumps in the road he'd met in life on this 1978 LP. His honesty hit home, as this superb album spent nearly a year on the charts."
- "I"ve Always Been Crazy" (Waylon Jennings) – 4:12
- "Don't You Think This Outlaw Bit's Done Got Out of Hand" (Jennings) – 3:00
- "Billy" (Tony Joe White) – 4:18
- "A Long Time Ago" (Jennings, Shel Silverstein) – 2:23
- "As the 'Billy World Turns" (Jennings) – 3:00
- Medley of Buddy Holly Hits: (Jerry Allison, Buddy Holly, Joe B. Mauldin, Norman Petty) – 6:04
- "Well All Right"
- "It's So Easy"
- "Maybe Baby"
- "Peggy Sue"
- "I Walk the Line" (Johnny Cash) – 3:31
- "Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down" (Merle Haggard) – 3:31
- "Girl I Can Tell (You're Trying to Work It Out)" (Fred Carter, Jennings) – 2:40
- "Whistlers and Jugglers" (Shel Silverstein) – 4:34
|U.S. Billboard Top Country Albums||1|
|U.S. Billboard 200||48|
|Canadian RPM Country Albums||1|
|Canadian RPM Top Albums||71|
Heartbreaker by Dolly Parton
|Top Country Albums number-one album
November 11-December 30, 1978
Willie and Family Live by Willie Nelson