July 27, 2009 – 4:05 am

Born to wealth, with the IQ of a genius, he started life with great expectations. But years of substance abuse took their toll and on New Year’s Eve 1996, he collapsed. He died the next day at age 52.

Click on the panels for a better view or to download artwork.

Unknown Studio Sessions [no label, 1CD]

Excellent soundboard recording allegedly copied from the safety master.

Sweet the times
that leave
Sour the ones to come
I loved this world
the boy and the girl stood [???]
driving myself to the ground

Seems that sometimes I wondered why
sometimes I just don’t care
whenever I touched the sky [???]
I pray that no one’s waiting there

The sounds I keep
fearfully deep
The love’s so gently shallow
Still within
I know where I’ve been
The wind says it doesn’t matter

And gold
being made of stone
love of man be shone
I’ll return to burn
in the river
May all the water freeze

[The above is a transcript of the spoken word on Tk 4. If anyone has the correct wording, please post.]

Townes Van Zandt is best remembered as the writer of Willie Nelson’s and Merle Haggard’s 1983 hit single, Pancho And Lefty. A quick read of his life story at wikipedia shows up an unusually intelligent and gifted young man coping with the harsh reality that all these gifts don’t add up if you haven’t the wisdom to navigate life’s treacherous river.

Here is a haunting studio session from an unknown date and venue that shows both Van Zandt’s talent and weakness. Just under 20 minutes, Van Zandt keeps the tape rolling as he attempts three takes of Old Satan, two spoken word pieces and a couple of other tunes. All these seem to be unreleased. As he sings or read his poems, there’s a clarity that his own life sadly lacked. The session is also an example of how cavaliar Van Zandt’s approach was. He seems more concerned with his performance than making proper recordings of his work. These songs are all first impressions and unfinished in the commercial meaning. They are not yet “product”.

Van Zandt was more comfortable playing to an audience in a coffee bar and was a performance artist although his songwriting was prolific. After his death, three albums were released by his widow in quick succession - Far Cry From Dead, The Highway Kind and Last Rights. Much more has since made it out of the vaults and much more probably remains unreleased.

He remains highly respected by his peers but largely forgotten by the public.

Sound quality is excellent.
- The Little Chicken

These tracks are no longer available for download. (See note below)

Sanitarium Blues (spoken) omitted
1. Old Satan
2. Old Satan
3. Old Satan
4.  Sweet The Times (spoken word)
5. Harm’s Swift Way
6. R.M. Too
7. Townes’ Blues
8. Snow Flake (spoken word)

When Townes Van Zandt died in 1997, his widow released some of his recordings as Far Cry From Dead in 1999, a collection of introspective ramblings recorded from 1989 to 1996. That album contains a version of Sanitarium Blues, a song/poem about his time in a mental hospital. Buy it here.

Steve Earle also released an album of Townes Van Zandt covers in 2009. Simply titled “Townes”, you can buy it here.

+ + + + +

I am the executrix to the Estate of Townes Van Zandt.
It has come to my attention that you have uploaded recordings of Townes that belong to his Estate. In particular, unreleased recordings. These are a very valuable assets to Townes’ kids, to be used as they feel is best. They do not belong to you and you have no right to be giving away what belongs to JT, Will & Katie Belle Van Zandt.

I demand that you take them down or we will take legal action!

Jeanene Van Zandt

  1. 21 Responses to “GOT LIVE IF YOU WANT IT - PART 3 (TOWNES VAN ZANDT)”

  2. The more I listen to Townes music and learn about him, the more I enjoy his music. I can listen to him over and over and over. I can’t get enough, and I have a lot. I’ve downloaded this short set and look forward to my first listen when I can manage to move the music to a listening device. So, for now, I’ll just say “Thank You Very Much.”

    By Dennis on Jul 27, 2009

  3. This is very likely the soundboard recording of Townes’ last studio sessions at Easly Studios in Memphis, Tennessee, in late December, 1996. Steve Shelley, drummer with Sonic Youth, was supposed to produce an album with Townes for Ecstatic Peace, a subsidiary of Geffen Records. Townes, suffering from a broken hip he first refused to take care of for several weeks, was in an extremely bad shape during the sessions, also due to his exceedingly heavy drinking at the time. He died just a couple of days after these recordings on New Year’s Day 1997, following the much needed hip surgery.
    Thank you so much for posting Townes’ last recorded work.

    By Jochen on Jul 29, 2009

  4. On this recording, Townes is talking to the engineer/recorder and says … “Niles”.
    That will be Niles Clement (’Cowboy’ Jack Clement’s son)

    I contacted Niles a few years ago and he remembered recording Townes at the Cowboy Arms Hotel & Recording Spa, Nashville TN (Jack’s place) in 1996 but did not remember the exact date.
    I do not believe that it is part of the Memphis sessions with Steve Shellley in December 1996.

    By Patrick Hurley on Jul 31, 2009

  5. You sorry Mother F#[email protected]! These recordings belong to Townes’ family. You piece of Sh#t! Take it down and Patrick Hurley if you think you are going to upload our recordings, we will come and take you on!

    By Jeanene Van Zandt on Aug 1, 2009

  6. Ouch! What a foulmouthed woman she is!
    She could have made her point politely, and shown some class.

    By tk on Aug 2, 2009

  7. It is a shame to take these recordings down. As someone who purchases thousands of LPs and CDs (Townes included), I find downloads such as these only serve to generate interest and increase sales.

    By elmore on Aug 2, 2009

  8. I apologize for cursing, but you need to understand the hellish nightmare I have been put through. I have spent the last 5 years of my life in federal courts from New York to Texas fighting for Townes’ kids rights from unscrupulous thieves who were stealing from them blatantly. It has cost me half a million dollars.

    Our youngest Katie Belle, was 4 years old when Townes died. She, because of my work, finally started getting her dad’s record royalties when she was 15.

    In the meantime, the kids and I started our own record company TVZ Records and partnered up with Fat Possum Records to put out the records we had won back.

    We have all of Townes’ records up for download, Fat Possum has re-released most of Townes’ studio records on CD & vinyl and TVZ Records has re-released “Rear View Mirror”,
    “POET - A Tribute to TVZ”, “No Deeper Blue” is coming out any day, and we are working on the artwork right now for “In the Beginning”.
    We have many more records lined up for release.
    Including a single of “Harm’s Swift Way” which you see is on this download list.

    These recordings are from Townes’ very last studio recordings before the disastrous Memphis sessions and “Harm’s Swift Way” was the last song Townes Van Zandt finished writing in his life.
    It took him 7 years to write it, because he had to live it.

    This little handful of recordings is all we have of unheard recordings. Only a handful of people had access to these tapes. We have copyrighted them and have our own plans for them.

    Imagine my shock when I find them uploaded on the internet for anyone to take!
    I can’t understand why someone would think that was OK.

    i have always been tolerant of trading trees for stuff thats been out there a long time, in fact, they have helped us out, because I usually contact the person and just ask for a copy for the family archives because all Townes’ board tapes from his shows were stolen from us.
    Unreleased studio recording is a Whole Different Deal! Especially from a deceased artist!

    So as I said, I apologise for type cursing here, but I’m not trying to make a point.
    I’m fighting a War.

    Jeanene Van Zandt

    By Jeanene Van Zandt on Aug 2, 2009

  9. And good for you Jeanene. You go get em whenever they tromp on you and your kids.

    By Mary on Aug 2, 2009

  10. Yes, copyright should be protected, but politely if you want to get people on your side.

    Some time, I must dig out the bar room recording I made when Townes visited Brighton, with Robert Earl Keen.

    No idea how good the sound is. We were all drinking too much.

    And I apologise now, a bit belatedly, for buying Townes a drink.

    Keep up the good work with legit “bootlegs”.

    By Michael Kenward on Aug 3, 2009

  11. Too bad it cost a half a mil to get royalties on TVZ’s material. The fact that he’s not here with us to continue his work is even sadder.

    Not to sound defensive, but I was not familiar with Townes’ work until I heard it online. That, in turn, has prompted me to buy some legitimate releases, which are not as readily available in the general consumer market (Target, Wal-Mart, etc) as the abundance of crap I wouldn’t take for free from any source.

    That said, I wish the Van Zandts the best in reclaiming Townes’ rightful recompense and protecting his legacy and stature in the music world (and that is not limited to commercially-produced media…I’m talking appreciation for the work).

    By O.B. Dan on Aug 8, 2009

  12. Pleased to see Jeanene v Z has posted a reasonable, decently argued, explanation.
    Good luck.

    By tk on Aug 8, 2009

  13. “Harm’s swift Way” is a wonderful song. It can be heared on Paul K’s record “Saratoga”

    By Jean-Jacques Corrio on Aug 8, 2009

  14. Hello Ms Van Zandt,

    It is important that I clear the air.

    The background is…
    I was contacted directly by a Townes fan who referred me to this website and asked me if I knew anything about these recordings. I explained to him what I knew of them.

    Then, to correct what I believed was an error on this website, I also posted a comment here that (as far as I know) they are not any of the Steve Shelley late 1996 recordings.

    That is all I did – make a comment, accurate or inaccurate as it may be.

    I do not know who did. I can see the original upload seems to be under the name of “Little Chicken” and the so-called label on the recording photograph shows a name, “Naughty Dog”. I have no idea who these people are.

    I DO NOT UPLOAD RECORDINGS OF ANY MUSIC TO WEBSITES. Never have done and never will do.

    I can understand your annoyance at what happened. Maybe you were bit too quick to point the finger at me – but that’s OK.

    Patrick Hurley

    By Patrick Hurley on Aug 11, 2009

  15. What a shame. . . for a human being to act like that about free live music. Its ironic that the spirit of musicians are represented by these kinds of people (always after the fact) because of monetary causes. She is basically pissing on everything wholesome about his music. She should be ashamed.

    By Jason on Aug 20, 2009

  16. p.s. I have purchased in my lifetime around 12,000 cds. Its not the most in the world, but its definitely not the least. Because of this woman’s attitude and poor decisions and the fact that non-talented fungus’ might get a penny (including the heirs) I will never ever ever ever ever buy a single thing they put out. . . ever.

    I am one man. But I think I represent many.

    By Jason on Aug 20, 2009

  17. To whom it may concern,
    The fact that a musician, as a matter of course, got screwed out of royalties during his life does not give license to anyone to continue the practice after his death. If the man built a house as his life’s work, and his family decided to sell it after his death, the family gets the money, period. I cant imagine people d be expecting theyd be giving away the furniture, or the appliances.
    Free uploads and downloads are a courtesy, often for promotional purposes. Nobody owes you free shizzle. In Ms Van Zandt’s opinion, ( and as the owner of the estate, hers is the one that matters) there are bogus recordings floating around, songs being uploaded, and every one of those unauthorized sales is basically stolen. Think about your own work, whatever it is you do….and how you d feel if after a job was finished, they paid you less than what was promised.
    Support your favorite musicians….not by freely downloading their art, but by paying the few bucks they charge to be able to make their living making good music.

    By LOOPnLIL on Jun 7, 2010

  18. “I am one man. But I think I represent many.”

    In this case, “many” does not represent me.

    That CDs and other formats, before and after, are so over-priced is not the fault of the artists (or their rightful heirs or other designates). That these same artists et al are screwed out of their royalties, particularly after an artist has stopped recording (or living) is again not their fault.

    Consequently, that artists and/or their survivors have to struggle to get what is rightfully theirs is a shame and something that simply should not happen.

    Jason, I don’t think your decision to no longer include Townes Van Zandt on your “must buy” list is going to alter the Van Zandt family’s spending habits all that much. But calling Jeannette Van Zandt out like that was uncalled for, and you should apologize immediately.

    She was reasonable in her request, and made it a point to address anybody she may have offended.

    You should do the same.

    By O.B. Dan on Jun 8, 2010

  19. Robert Plant is now performing Harm’s Swift Way in his live shows. I don’t know if he has recorded it.

    By no one on Aug 5, 2010

  20. She is a very classy woman I much prefer sweet anyway….she cares much more about money than the memory of a dead loved one….to bad she not nice is she!

    By Happy Jap on Aug 6, 2010

  21. I have to thank Steve Earle and Robert Plant for introducing me to Townes Van Zandt, an amazing poet and a songwriter. I hope the family gets justice on this but that’s not always the case….

    By mgvsmith on Feb 3, 2012

  22. Soooo…. can someone reupload?

    By Lance on Oct 17, 2016

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