Q: One of your darker songs, "These Days"—which has been covered by everyone from Nico to Elliot Smith—is full of resignation, and yet you were this good-looking 16-year-old from Southern California when you wrote it.
A: Hey, the only person who thought I was good-looking when I was 16 was the school nurse.
Q: Oh, come on. I'm sure you saw some action.
A: Not too much, really. No. A bunch of my sister's friends thought I had potential—and this fantastic nurse who befriended me and allowed me to get out of a lot of the classes that I couldn't hang with. I would sit in her office and she would compliment me in sidelong ways—like, "When the girls figure out what you've got goin' on here . . ." Which was nice. But no, man, I was constantly falling in love and getting my heart bruised and then sitting it out for months at a time. But I was part of a scene where everybody eventually slept with everybody else. There was no reason not to. It was the whole mind-set that the adults had been wrong about everything—this and drugs and religion and the war and civil rights and every other thing. It was just a part of a revolution that was taking place.
Q: So the issue wasn't the unavailability of sex? It's that you had a habit of falling in love?
A: Very often it's really inconvenient—who you fall in love with. You can't really control it. Matter of fact, I was in love with this girl who was so beautiful, and she broke up with this guy that she was goin' out with, but they were one of those couples that everybody knew they'd be together forever. And she broke up with him for a while, and she started playing the field. And it just messed with me so bad. I just couldn't hang with it. So I sort of withdrew. My forays into trying to date girls my own age from the school I went to were all pretty tortured.
Q: Before your family moved south to Orange County, you grew up in a fascinating place—a house, located right in the middle of a Los Angeles barrio, that looks like an old Spanish mission.
A: Yeah, the Abbey. That's still in my family. My brother lives there. We had a ruined fountain and this enormous yard that was pretty much just a forest of weeds—it was a fantastic setting for a childhood. My grandfather built that place—we were living in a house that he had imagined and built. The house had a chapel with a pipe organ—as a matter of fact that's where we rehearsed Late for the Sky. And the patio is on the cover of For Everyman.