Flying Cowboys

  • written by Rickie Lee Jones, Pascal Naber-Meyer and Sal Bernardi

    Down there by the river is a man whose horn is twisted into shapes
    unknown to the wicked and the wise
    and he bears the look of an animal who has seen things
    no animal should ever see
    He has been driven beyond all towns and all systems until now
    and though it is long past too far he keeps going
    Because it's a desert,
    Because it's a desert.

    come to the river, we'll walk away from all this now
    come to the water, we'll walk away from all this now

    She first saw him standing in a doorway
    Illuminated from behind by a light
    though imaginary posses have chased them to this distant adobe
    Standing on the cliffs today I thought I saw you below
    Walking by the shadow growing smaller
    It's a desert because it's a desert.
    They'll be asking me about you forever, I guess.

    come to the river, we'll walk away from all this now
    come to the water, we'll walk away from all this now

    Long coats on the prairie lying in the dust
    Who can I turn to?  Who can I trust?
    Were you walking on the water?  Playing in the sun?
    But the world is turning faster than it did when I was young
    When I was young, oh, when I was young
    'When I was young, oh, I was a wild, wild one

length: 5:02 minutes
vocals: Rickie Lee Jones, drums: Peter Erskine
bass: Walter Becker, synthesizer: Pascal Nabet-Meyer, electric guitar and background vocal: Sal Bernardi, electric guitar: Dean Parks
english horn, clarinet: Marty Krystall
trumpet: Vince Mendoza, Engineers: Mark Linett, Greg Penny, Roger Nichols

Music video by Rickie Lee Jones performing Flying Cowboys with Neil Abramson [Video Director], Neil Abramson [Director of Photography], Robert Duffy [Video Editor], Larry Perel [Video Producer], Nina D'Luhy [Video Producer] (C) 1989 Geffen Records.

Flying Cowboys is a kind of anthem for me, a really important song for me, a big picture of my landscape. It's fairly representative of my life - sorrowful and yet hopeful, part of a question that's not answered yet. This song was written in a little country house outside of Paris right around the time when I met the Blue Nile. Pascal was playing this repetitive line on the synthesizer, and Sal was visiting. He played this guitar line that I liked and I made him play it over and over while I wrote the lyrics.

The music and first verse came together that night, and then the second and third verse was written after we moved to Ojai. It was all spoken and then there was a verse that I sang.

The recording of it was done with a drum machine and we didn't want to duplicate it because we like the drum machine sound. But then Peter Erskine played it with one hand, doing all those sixteenth notes. I remember it being a really exciting session. Walter (Becker) came out from behind the board to play bass, and Sal flew in to play guitar. Dean Parks played those lines that had been branded in my head for a long time.