Jackson Browne – Running On Empty (1977)

FrontCover1Running on Empty is the fifth album by American singer-songwriter Jackson Browne. Released in 1977, the album reached #3 on the Billboard Pop Albums chart in 1978 and stayed on the charts for 65 weeks. The single for the title track, “Running on Empty”, peaked at #11 and the follow-up single, “The Load-Out”/”Stay”, reached #20 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart.

The album received two Grammy Award nominations in 1979: one for Album of the Year and the other for Pop Male Vocal Performance for the song “Running on Empty”.

In addition to tracks recorded on-stage during concerts, it also contains songs recorded in hotel rooms, on the tour bus, and backstage. It is unusual among live albums in that none of the tracks had ever appeared on a previous studio album. Browne was the sole writer on only two songs, co-writing four others and covering another four. The theme of the album was life on the road. In a Rolling Stone interview about the tour during which the album was recorded, Browne expressed pleasure at finally being able to afford the session musicians he wanted to go out on the road with him.

The album was certified as a Gold record in 1977 and Platinum in 1978 by the RIAA. It reached Multi-platinum in 1997 and 2001. It reached 7X platinum and is Browne’s best-selling album to date. In popular culture, the album cover can be seen framed and hanging on the wall next to the front door in the apartment on the set of Mork & Mindy. (by wikipedia)

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Having acknowledged a certain creative desperation on The Pretender, Jackson Browne lowered his sights (and raised his commercial appeal) considerably with Running on Empty, which was more a concept album about the road than an actual live album, even though its songs were sometimes recorded on-stage (and sometimes on the bus or in the hotel). Unlike most live albums, though, it consisted of previously unrecorded songs. Browne had less creative participation on this album than on any he ever made, solely composing only two songs, co-writing four others, and covering another four. And he had less to say — the title song and leadoff track neatly conjoined his artistic and escapist themes. Figuratively and creatively, he was out of gas, but like “the pretender,” he still had to make a living. The songs covered all aspects of touring, from Danny O’Keefe’s “The Road,” which detailed romantic encounters, and “Rosie” (co-written by Browne and his manager Donald Miller), in which a soundman pays tribute to auto-eroticism, to, well, “Cocaine,” to the travails of being a roadie (“The Load-Out”).

Singles

Audience noises, humorous asides, loose playing — they were all part of a rough-around-the-edges musical evocation of the rock & roll touring life. It was not what fans had come to expect from Browne, of course, but the disaffected were more than outnumbered by the newly converted. (It didn’t hurt that “Running on Empty” and “The Load-Out”/”Stay” both became Top 40 hits.) As a result, Browne’s least ambitious, but perhaps most accessible, album ironically became his biggest seller. But it is not characteristic of his other work: for many, it will be the only Browne album they will want to own, just as others always will regard it disdainfully as “Jackson Browne lite.” (by William Ruhlmann)

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Personnel:
Jackson Browne (guitar, piano, vocals)
Craig Doerge (keyboards)
Danny Kortchmar (guitar, background vocals)
Russ Kunkel (drums, percussion)
David Lindley (lap steel guitar, fiddle, co-lead vocals on “Stay”
Leland Sklar (bass)
+
background vocals on
Joel Bernstein – Rosemary Butler  Doug Haywood

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Tracklist:
01. Running On Empty (Browne) 5.31
02. The Road (O’Keefe) 4.46
03. Rosie (Miller/Browne) 3.41
04. You Love The Thunder (Browne) 3.55
05. Cocaine (Davis/Frey/Browne) 4.57
06. Shaky Town (Kortchmar) 3.41
07. Love Needs A Heart (Browne/George/Carter) 3.30
08. Nothing But Time (Burke/Browne) 3.37
09. The Load-Out (Garofalo/Browne) 5.36
10. Stay (Just A Little Bit Longer) (Williams) 3.22

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Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels
Looking back at the years gone by like so many summer fields
In sixty-five I was seventeen and running up one-oh-one
I don’t know where I’m running now, I’m just running on
Running on, running on empty
Running on, running blind
Running on, running into the sun
But I’m running behind
Gotta do what you can just to keep your love alive
Trying not to confuse it with what you do to survive
In sixty-nine I was twenty-one and I called the road my own
I don’t know when that road turned, into the road I’m on
Running on, running on empty
Running on, running blind
Running on, running into the sun
But I’m running behind
Everyone I know, everywhere I go
People need some reason to believe
I don’t know about anyone but me
If it takes all night, that’ll be all right
If I can get you to smile before I leave
Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels
I don’t know how to tell you all just how crazy this life feels
Look around for the friends that I used to turn to to pull me through
Looking into their eyes I see them running too
Running on, running on empty
Running on, running blind
Running on, running into the sun
But I’m running behind
Honey you really tempt me
You know the way you look so kind
I’d love to stick around but I’m running behind
You know I don’t even know what I’m hoping to find
Running into the sun but I’m running behind

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