Song of the Day #1,417: ‘The Load Out/Stay’ – Jackson Browne

Best Albums of the 70s – #14
Running On Empty – Jackson Browne (1977)

An interesting sub-genre is the album of new material that’s recorded live. Joe Jackson’s Big World is an example, as well as Stew’s The Naked Dutch Painter and Other Songs. These recordings lend an intimacy to the material that can be diminished in the studio.

The best example of this sort of album that I know of is Jackson Browne’s Running On Empty. This is an album about life as a musician recorded in a way that puts you in that musician’s shoes. It’s a beautiful marriage of form and content.

In addition to songs performed live, Running On Empty features tracks recorded during sound checks, in hotel rooms, on the tour bus — in the world of a traveling musician. The songs are all great, but it’s the feel of the songs that elevates the album to en even higher plane.

The closing track, ‘The Load Out,’ is the most direct contemplation of life on tour, and it’s the album’s masterpiece. Browne delivers a tribute to the roadies who make it all possible and paints a picture of the mundane and lonely existence that surrounds those electrifying three hours onstage.

As the song closes, Browne segues into the Zodiacs’ doo-wop classic ‘Stay,’ an inspired decision. It turns the album into a celebration — a lovely evocation of the connection between an artist and a live audience.

Now the seats are all empty
Let the roadies take the stage
Pack it up and tear it down
They’re the first to come and last to leave
Working for that minimum wage
They’ll set it up in another town

Tonight the people were so fine
They waited there in line
And when they got up on their feet they made the show
And that was sweet–
But I can hear the sound
Of slamming doors and folding chairs
And that’s a sound they’ll never know

Now roll them cases out and lift them amps
Haul them trusses down and get’em up them ramps
‘Cause when it comes to moving me
You guys are the champs
But when that last guitar’s been packed away
You know that I still want to play
So just make sure you got it all set to go
Before you come for my piano

But the band’s on the bus
And they’re waiting to go
We’ve got to drive all night and do a show in Chicago
or Detroit, I don’t know
We do so many shows in a row
And these towns all look the same
We just pass the time in our hotel rooms
And wander ’round backstage
Till those lights come up and we hear that crowd
And we remember why we came

Now we got country and western on the bus
R and B, we got disco in eight tracks and cassettes in stereo
We’ve got rural scenes & magazines
We’ve got truckers on the CB
We’ve got Richard Pryor on the video
We got time to think of the ones we love
While the miles roll away
But the only time that seems too short
Is the time that we get to play

People you’ve got the power over what we do
You can sit there and wait
Or you can pull us through
Come along, sing the song
You know you can’t go wrong
‘Cause when that morning sun comes beating down
You’re going to wake up in your town
But we’ll be scheduled to appear
A thousand miles away from here

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One thought on “Song of the Day #1,417: ‘The Load Out/Stay’ – Jackson Browne

  1. Dana says:

    Aw, for all of my teasing about the lack of Browne on the blog, you came through with a very nice entry here. This is, indeed, a special album and a great closing song.

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