Friday, October 22, 2010

Fleetwood Mac -- "Jewel-Eyed Judy" (1970)

I just wondered if
Your eyes still shine
As they did
When you were mine . . .
Jewel-eyed Judy please come home
Jewel-eyed Judy don't leave me alone

I own Fleetwood Mac's Kiln House album now, but I first became familiar with it when I was a sophomore in college.  A freshman named Norm who lived just a few rooms away from me used to play it a lot.

Norm and his roommate were major marijuana consumers.  At night, the smoke in their room was so thick room that you could barely see the other people in the room.  I think Norm went to south Texas during spring break that year with another freshman to harvest peyote buds -- people were serious about drugs in those days. 

I have a vivid memory of returning Norm's copy of this record on my way to lunch one day in  December.  I knocked on the door and Norm eventually answered in a T-shirt and briefs.  It was about noon, but it wasn't all that uncommon for students to sleep late in those days, so I wasn't too surprised that he was still in bed after noon.

Norm was a bit nonplussed to learn that it was already lunchtime -- and not because he was afraid of missing a meal.  You see, it was finals week, and Norm had slept through a final exam that had been scheduled for 9 am that morning.  This may have been his very first college final exam -- not a promising start for a student who purported to be planning to go to medical school -- but he didn't panic.  

I'll never forget Norm (who looked a little like Jeff Spicoli, but was from Fort Worth) asking me very calmly in his soft Texas drawl what I thought he should do about the situation.  I advised him to contact his professor as soon as possible, explain that he had overslept, and see if something could be worked out.  He thanked me politely, and I handed him his copy of Kiln House and proceeded to the dining hall for my midday repast.  

Norm made it through his freshman year, I think, but I don't know what happened to him after that -- I moved off campus and don't remember seeing him again.  I somehow doubt that he ever achieved his dream of becoming a doctor, but who knows?  Stranger things have happened.  I mean, this guy became president of the United States -- and she almost did as well:

(What were we thinking?)

Fleetwood Mac's original members were blues purists -- three of the four original members had played with legendary blues singer John Mayall.  Guitarist Peter Green, who had replaced Eric Clapton in Mayall's band, was the main creative force in the original band, but left in 1970 -- he became schizophrenic after taking LSD and spent a lot of time in psychiatric hospitals undergoing electroshock therapy and doing other fun stuff.

The Kiln House album is a bit schizophrenic as well.  (Actually, schizophrenia has nothing to do with dissociative personality disorder -- which is characterized by split or multiple personalities -- but you didn't come here to be lectured on proper psychiatric nomenclature, did you?)  It is somewhat bluesy in feel, but much less of a blues album than the previous Fleetwood Mac albums.  

The word that comes to mind when I think of this album is naive -- the songs have an innocence and a simplicity that was not like anything I listened to in those days.  There was a lot of very high-falutin' rock music around in those days -- for example, Emerson, Lake & Palmer's Pictures at an Exhibition album, a progressive rock album based on composer Modest Mussorgsky's 1874 piano suite, which has been orchestrated by many composers.  (British conductor Henry Wood recorded his orchestral version in 1920, but prohibited public performance of his work after Maurice Ravel published his orchestration, which Wood considered vastly superior to his own.  Can you imagine someone doing that today?)

Danny Kirwan
About the half the songs -- including "Jewel-Eyed Judy" -- were written by Danny Kirwan, who had been an 18-year-old wunderkind when he joined the band a couple of years earlier.  Most of the rest of the songs on the album, which had more of a 1950s flavor, were written by Jeremy Spencer, who disappeared while the band was in Los Angeles touring in support of Kiln House.  Spencer joined a religious cult called the "Children of God," now known as "The Family International," and is still a member.

"Jewel-Eyed Judy" has a very simple structure.  After a 12-bar instrumental introduction, there are two verses, the chorus, two more verses, the chorus again, and a brief instrumental "outtro."  It's typical of Fleetwood mac songs of this era -- especially Kirwan's compositions.  There aren't a lot of words, the music isn't very complicated, and the performance isn't at all showy.

The story of this song is straightforward.  As the song begins, it's night -- "moonshine time" -- and the singer is thinking about a girl he once loved.
Thoughts of you
Spinning round
As thoughts do

Next, he sings the words quoted above, wondering if "your eyes still shine/as they did/when you were mine."  

The second verse uses similar imagery: the boy asks "would your eyes/still sparkle then/if we were/once again?"  (Once again what?  That's not explicitly stated, but we can fill in the blank pretty easily -- If they were once again a couple, once again together.  He doesn't need to say that in so many words -- the fact that the rest of the thought is unspoken makes it more poignant.)

The instrumental accompaniment for these two verses is quiet at first, but gradually becomes louder.  Then we get to the chorus, which Kirwan belts out as full volume:

Jewel-eyed Judy please come home
Jewel-eyed Judy don't leave me alone
Jewel-eyed Judy please come home
Jewel-eyed Judy don't leave me alone

Each line of the chorus is exactly the same musically, built around a figure of six forceful guitar chords (A, B, D, A, B, E).  The singer's mood has changed from the wistfulness of the verses to outright agony and desperation.

The volume drops back down during the brief instrumental bridge that follows until we are back where we started.  In the final verse, it's no longer Judy's sparkling, jewel-like eyes shining in the moonlight.  Rather, it's the singer's eyes that are shining -- but not from joy:  "So am I/sitting here/moonlight glistens/on my tears."

The loud, anguished chorus is repeated once more, followed by an instrumental passage that quickly fades out.  And that's all she wrote -- or, in this case, all he (Danny Kirwan) wrote.  When you break it down like that, it all seems so easy, doesn't it?

Here's the song:

It appears that you can't buy an mp3 of "Jewel-Eyed Judy" from iTunes or Amazon.  (The versions they do offer appear to be from recent albums featuring alternate takes -- not the version that ended up on Kiln House.)

Click here to buy the Kiln House CD from Amazon:


  1. I bought the album (when there were albums) for "Tell Me All the Things You Do" but Judy is my second favorite on an album without a clunker.

  2. Indeed a beautiful album. Jeremy and Kirwan at their top as composers and arrangers.

  3. Its an obviously Beatles/McCartney influenced song (late-period Beatles) - but its got one of the most powerful choruses I've ever heard. I mean that chorus just blasts in all directions!I just wish the gentle verses had a tad more backbone as well.

  4. The alternative version of "Jewel-Eyed Judy" released on the albums Dust My Broom (2014), Crazy About The Blues 2010) and Madison Blues (2007) has some very muddy sounding recording the instruments and some odd vocal riffs going on behind the vocalist. It's altogether a huge disappoint after hearing the Kiln House recording with its crisp guitar work and simple, single-voice vocals. They ruined a great song!

  5. One of my favorite albums of all time. I had the pleasure of seeing Fleetwood Mac at the Filmore West in one of their last shows before Jeremy Spencer left the band. I was a little apprehensive since Peter Green was no longer with them, but will never forget that show.