At the time this album was released Jackson Browne was the undisputed king of southern california easy rock. His majesties court was a circle of friends that included Glen Frey & Don Henley of the Eagles, J.J.Cale, Linda Ronstadt & Warren Zevon. By this time he had produced albums for Warren , written hit songs for the Eagles and had just finished a long tour for his last album, the very successful “The Pretender”. Jackson was in the middle of a creative explosion and it would not wait until the tour was finished and he could go back into a recording studio. The result is one of the most unusually recorded albums to ever reach this level of commercial success. The album has several tracks that were recorded during live performances on the Pretender tour, others were recorded on the bus while traveling between cities( on some songs you can actually hear the bus engine shifting) and still others were recorded in hotel rooms on the road. The record tells the tales of the working musician out on the road, some are told from an autobiographical point of view. The album kicks off with the song that really launched Jackson into superstar status, the title song of the disc “Running On Empty” that tells of the mental exhaustion of the touring schedule kicking off with the classic first line “looking out at the road rushing under wheels”. The second track “The Road” follows the same theme is a more toned down acoustical presentation. The 3rd song of the album is the all time roadie/groupie tune, the hilarious “Rosie”. It is about a roadie who hands out a backstage pass to a groupie whose affection he seeks. The girl sits and watches the show with him but when the band finishes the show she is swept away by the drummer. Thus leaving the roadie with Rosie as his date yet again, “Rosie your alright (you wear my ring)..when you hold me tight( Rosie that’s my thing)…When you turn out the light (I’ve got to hand it to me)…It looks likes its me & you again tonight…Rosie”.. There is also the classic ode to the rockers of the 1970’s drug of choice “Cocaine”. And who can forget the combination of songs #9 & #10 “The Load Out/Stay” which was Browne’s concert closer that once again recognizes the roadies that put on his shows every night , while at the same time exalting the crowd to “stay just a little bit longer..”. Jackson Browne would still go on to produce more hits during his career, but “Running On Empty” would be the commercial and creative pinnacle of his career.
Other Jackson Browne on the blog: #195 The Pretender