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Artist: Jackson Browne

Jackson Browne

Bio

Jackson Browne (born Clyde Jackson Browne; October 9, 1948) is an American singer-songwriter known for having sold millions of albums worldwide. First coming to prominence in the 70s, the rock musician has had a long career and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. Browne was born in Heidelberg, Germany, his father being an American serviceman stationed in the nation, but he moved to the Highland Park district of Los Angeles, California at an early age and soon began singing folk music locally. In 1966, his major career began as a part of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Often mixing catchy melodies with reflective, moody, and sometimes melancholic lyrics, some of his most popular hit singles include "Doctor My Eyes", "Running on Empty", and "Somebody's Baby". Considered a precociously-talented songwriter by many peers, Browne's solo career got its legs when he signed a publishing contract with Nina Music. His work have been performed by several artists such as Bonnie Raitt, Joan Baez, Larry Norman, Linda Ronstadt, Nico, and Tom Rush, among many others. After moving to Greenwich Village, New York, Browne worked, for a brief period, in Tim Buckley's back-up band and on Nico's Chelsea Girl. This album includes two of Jackson's songs and the pair were reputedly lovers for awhile. After leaving New York City, Browne formed a folk band with Ned Doheny and Jack Wilce. In 1971, Browne signed with Asylum Records and released Jackson Browne (1972), which included "Doctor My Eyes", a major hit and later coverec by the Jackson Five . He didn't sustain pop success, though, and his next album, For Everyman (1973), while considered of high quality, was a commercial failure. Late for the Sky (1974) established a significant audience for Browne, and fans and critics often consider this Browne's best album. Highlights include the searching title song, the elegiac "For a Dancer" and apocalyptic "Before the Deluge", the pure arrangements featuring David Lindley's evocative violin and guitar playing, and the Magritte-inspired cover. The title track was also featured in Martin Scorsese's film, Taxi Driver. Browne released his breakthrough album, The Pretender (1976) soon after the suicide of his wife, Phyllis. Featuring livelier production by Jon Landau, the title song is a vividly desc
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Articles

Jackson Browne: I'm Alive Mojo, Dec 1993

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HAS TIME STOOD STILL? Fifteen years on and Jackson Browne's running on empty again. He's out of love yet surviving, holding himself together but now full of sorrow, yearning and regret.

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Through the '70s, Browne provided the soundtrack to that particular courtship ritual between shy girls and sensitive boys. If you hadn't got to tentative tactile contact by halfway through Late For The Sky, it was time to play the trump card – the Joni Mitchell album. And failing that, of course, it was a delicious cup of instant then home alone. I’m Alive is Jackson Browne's first album in four years, though in terms of style and personnel (David Lindley, Don Henley, Jim Keltner, David Crosby, et al), it’s as if the '80s never happened. In truth, for Jackson Browne and his ilk, the '80s didn’t happen so far as Britain's concerned. Back home, the gold albums still gathered dust in the beach house, but here they were battered out of the ball park in the post-punk decade.

Mind you, through the last decade, Jackson Browne cured his romanticism and fought the good fight for social and political issues. He found love, too – the much-publicised liaison with Darryl Hannah, which is over, of course, as the lyrical tone of this new album suggests. One can only speculate about the inspiration for I’m Alive, but it’s littered with lines about dead dreams, betrayed love and passing moments. It ends with ‘All Good Things’ and the realisation that "All good times, all good friends. All good things got to come to an end." Hmmm.

It's easy and somewhat heartless to mock, but whatever the cause of the man's grief, I'm Alive doesn't really hold up against those '70s explorations of the same themes. It's too simplistic in its imagery and musically very underwhelming.

The nadir is a slick reggae-style track, ‘Everywhere I Go’, that would discredit even UB40; the high point is ‘Too Many Angels’, where Don Was lends a hand in production and David Lindley adds some welcome instrumental substance, plus there's wistful back-up from Jennifer Warnes. It also benefits from the kind of intriguing wordplay of old that stands above the poetry by numbers elsewhere.

I guess for Jackson Browne it's less time standing still than history repeating itself. And it makes you wonder. Alarmingly so, in fact. The last time I bought a Jackson Browne record, England failed to qualify for the World Cup. What next, the frightening prospect that Frampton may come alive again?

Jackson's Song For Everyman Melody Maker, Nov 1973

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JACKSON Browne arrived half an hour late. He'd been figuring out how to repair the plumbing at his house, and had finally succeeded in getting the water flowing freely again.

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An irrelevant story? Far from it – for it reflects this man's attitude to the whole business of music – do it yourself.

With few exceptions, Jackson will try his hand at anything rather than get some-one over to help. He's alway learning.

Right now, Jackson Browne is on the brink of becoming very big indeed. His first album, released a couple of years ago, was received with critical acclaim everywhere and his second – For Everyman – was released a month ago in the US and is more than emphasising Jackson's potential.

Jackson belongs firmly in the school of California singer-songwriters, having been brought up in the Troubador, rubbing shoulders with what has now become the hierarchy of West Coast music.

He's also managed by the "supergroup" office of Elliott Roberts and David Geffen, who largely control the interests of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Joni Mitchell and countless others.

Jackson was born in Heidleberg, Germany, but raised in Los Angeles where his American family moved to when he was three. His only formal musical training was trumpet lessons at school, but that, he says, was like learning maths or history.

"It was a studious trip," he says in a relaxed Californian accent. "It never got to the point where it was fun.

"My father was encouraging me to play it but there was nothing social about a trumpet. I was hanging around with a whole load more juvenile delinquents, vandalising cars and things, and I could never imagine bringing my trumpet to a party for anything."

It wasn't until Jackson reached 15 that the radio brought him folk music in the form of Joan Baez and Dylan, who, he says, opened everything right up for him.

"Right around that time there were the blues players, too, like Dave Van Ronk, Jack Elliott, Lightnin' Hopkins, Jimmy Reed and Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee, a whole bunch of blues players. I didn't get into all that as a social thing, but as something I could do all by myself.

"I'd dig the records at home because I didn't make it at some things. I didn't dress very well, I didn't have a car. The one thing I loved to do was surf and in the winter months, it got too cold for that. I was really skinny, too. I'd get carried in real easy."

It was on the beach that Jackson first picked up a guitar. "Everybody plays on the beach. Everybody I knew seemed to know how to play the guitar a little, just enough to have fun. The first couple of years I could play I never had a guitar of my own; I'd borrow one and when the owner wanted it back; I'd just go and borrow another. My brother played and he gave me his old one when he bought an electric."

Jackson's recording debut was on a sampler for Elektra, a sort of music workshop album which involved four or five singer/songwriters who had stayed together in California and who were supposed to represent the music that Elektra stood for.

It wasn't successful. "They were a very image-minded company in those days and they wanted this to demonstrate what they were up to, but the people involved ought to have been able to make their own albums.

"As an album it was very unsuccessful because we didn't have time to get to know each other, and, to be honest, I was terrible. Even if I'd made my own album, it would have been awful. It takes a long time to become a musician, and I hadn't been able to learn everything at all."

At this time – 1968/9 – Jackson was playing regularly at the Troubador Hoot nights, Monday evening shows when whoever turns up has an opportunity to play.

Whereas today the Hoots are more organised, five years ago singers who turned up around 5 p.m. and waited would get to go on stage at the prime time. "I'd go on sixth which was the best time, before people left and after they'd been there a while so they'd gotten into it.

"That's always been a strange audience because they tend to ignore you, but if you catch their attention or be outrageous or something, they'll cheer you on and go for it.

"I used to do it every week, five times in a row, but now you can't do that. They limit you. After a while I started to get a positive reaction there, but it was tough.

"Most concerts I do I like to wander around the town and visit the record store, or a guitar shop or a restaurant, just to meet someone who will be at the show, and know them. They're so many robots in America, people who just say 'have a nice day' and do it automatically without meaning it."

The first offer that came along for Jackson was the Elektra sampler and he admits he jumped at it without realising all the implications. He realised there was more to being a singer than just singing his heart out as often as possible, so a period of travelling, learning and self-organised club appearances followed.

"Around the time I started to get hungry, I decided I'd have to get a little more serious about it. My whole attitude was so relaxed, but I knew one of these days I'd make a record.

"I did a week at the Troubadour and they passed on my option because I hadn't taken up any record-offers that came in so they thought I wasn't interested.

"Doug Weston, who's been very helpful to me really, was disgusted and didn't hire me, but I knew I needed a manager, and a friend told me about David Geffen. I had the impression that you needed an audition to get through to him, and an introduction, but I made a demo tape and sent it to him.

"I did 'Jamaica' and did it all wrong. I got John David Souther on drums, and Glen Frey, Ned Doheney and David Jackson and it was all back to front and it sounded terrible. I sent it off, though, and left town for a while. When I got back I was really surprised to learn Geffen had been trying to get in touch with me. He told me to relax and enjoy myself and that he'd figure something out after a while. And he did just that.

"I wasn't one of those people who could go to a record company, get a deal and go into the studio the following week, spend a month making a record and have it out. I don't know how to go about making a record; I was no musician, though I'm getting to be one now.

"There was talk about me getting some big superstar to produce my record, but I figured it would end up sounding like his records and be a hype, so I didn't want that."

Ultimately Denny Cordell was hired to produce Jackson's first album, but this, too proved unsatisfactory. Jackson was under the impression that Cordell would produce top session men to work on the album, and he'd be guaranteed fine music for his songs. But Jackson was unable to exert his influence over the musicians and the sessions stopped.

"Denny saw that either we would have to do the album real quick and it would be real bad, or he would have to put in a whole load of work on it which he didn't have time to do.

"I wasn't even on his label and he had his hands full with Shelter which was just opening, so we decided to pass."

Another six months elapsed before he finally made the album with Richard Orshoff, an engineer who produced it along with Jackson. "Now I'm always like that. I've got to the stage where I always do things myself. If I need a plumber, I'll go out and buy a wrench and try to do the job myself rather than call a man to do it for me.

"I'd rather figure things out and make my own mistakes, rather than have those decisions made for me and never be confronted with them and never learn anything.

"That was what happened with that Elektra sampler. For years I knew it was terrible but didn't know why because decisions were made for me."

Since the release of the first album, Jackson's career has taken a more organised path. He's made a couple of trips to England, one of which saw him appearing at the Festival Hall in London – a concert he'd rather forget as the sound system failed half way through his set.

"I think I got through four numbers in half an hour. It was one of those scenes where the mike would whistle for half a minute during a song and then go off completely. Nothing. It was funny because it was so stupid, and so impossible.

"Join Mitchell was on too, and she played through the house system. She did one of the best sets of her life there because there was so much to get across in such circumstances. The audience probably never realised it.

"English audiences are funny. They're like time bombs. If they like you at all, they'll wait until the end and then really let you know."

His writing, he says, relies entirely on personal experiences. His material has been covered by many, including Velvet Underground vocalist Nico, for whom he played back-up guitar at the New York Electric Circus.

Three of Jackson's songs were featured by Nico on her first album Chelsea Girl, though more recently the Eagles (which include his old friend Glen Frey) recorded and had a big hit with ‘Take It Easy’. Tom Rush recorded Jackson's ‘These Days’, and the Jackson 5 recorded his ‘Doctor My Eyes’.

Linda Rondstadt, the Byrds, Bonnie Raitt, Ian Matthews, Greg Allman and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band have also recorded Jackson's material.

"All the time it comes from personal experience," he says. "Even when I thought I was writing a pure fantasy, I stopped to think and realised that I was writing about something that actually happened.

"I have written lots of songs that are completely true; 'Song For Anna' is word for word true, though 'Jamaica' was a song for a girl I knew. Many of the songs are for people I know.

"I'm not very prolific. The last year or two it's been hard, as I don't like being pressured. A second album is always a product of a short period of time, though a first album can be the product of years of work."

"I know the old saying of 'I'm not going to let success spoil me', but that's really pretty funny as you can never tell. Other people's attitudes has changed. I've woken up six months after I've said that and realised I'd been rotten to some people who really loved me. I didn't mean to, but I didn't realise it.

"In the long run this career can isolate you as people always want to talk about music. I really like to go places, and there are still a lot where I'm not known at all".

He writes most of his songs at the piano. He taught himself to play and, he says, it shows. On stage he flits between guitar and piano, using a three-piece back up band of David Lindley (who used to be with Terry Reid) on fiddle, lap slide guitar, and guitar, Doug Heyward on bass and Larry Zack on drums. They've been together around a year.

"I've always played with people that tended to play right whatever they were doing, and I'm only just learning to get the most out of my musicians by saying what I want.

"Ultimately I always find people who play things right, but now I'm being influenced by David Lindley even though he's playing my tunes. I've found some incredible players in studios."

Laura Nyro: Laura's London Triumph Melody Maker, Feb 1971

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Laura Nyro/Jackson Browne: Royal Festival Hall, London

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WHEN AN AUDIENCE can greet Laura Nyro the way they did at the Royal Festival Hall, London, on Saturday night, then I've got to admit it's getting better, it's getting better all the time.

To me, she symbolises the breadth of pop music – the way it can embrace such widely disparate performers. Nyro is at one end of the spectrum, and she has it all sewn up.

There can be no question that the concert was a personal triumph for her. True, the audience was on her side from the start, and would probably have applauded had she just sat there mumbling and never sang or played a note. But a large part of her achievement was the conquering of her extreme pre-concert nervousness, which manifested itself in her rather unsteady gait and occasional tight half-smile. The first strident notes of 'Stoney End' though, dispelled all doubts in the hearts of both her and the audience. A couple of minutes later, no one present could have argued against the assertion that she is certainly more effective live than on record; the arrangements for voice and piano are more sharply focused, the emotional registrations more exact, than the recorded orchestral treatments.

She was an extraordinary sight, wearing an off the-shoulder Spanish dress, her hair floating down to the piano stool as she leaned back ecstatically at the end of each number while the spotlights dimmed to a pin-point and died. It was a superbly theatrical performance, yet one never felt any sense of falseness because the music is true and the trappings somehow enhance that honesty rather than give the lie to it.

She gave us 11 of her own compositions, all familiar from the albums, outstanding among which were 'Timer' for its vocal virtuosity; 'Been On A Train', for its dark autobiographical melancholy; 'Emmie', for its sense of personal loss; 'Map To The Treasure', for a stunning display of highly percussive pianistics; and the climactic 'Christmas In My Soul', which she delivered as if possessed by benign spirits.

Unexpectedly, she also read a brief poem called 'Coal Truck' which emphasised her way with words, and her final encore took the form of a medley of two old favourites;

'He's Sure The Boy I Love' and 'Spanish Harlem', bending them to her will and making them sound as though she'd written both.

The concert was opened by Jackson Browne, who used to compose and play guitar for Nico. His warm voice, rough but driving guitar and piano and sad songs made a strong impression before the interval but the first glimpse of Miss Nyro drove all else out of everyone's head. It was a most memorable occasion.

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Running On Empty

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For Everyman cover art

For Everyman

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Late For The Sky

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The Pretender

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Running On Empty

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Doctor My Eyes

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Take It Easy

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These Days

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Late For The Sky

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Somebody's Baby

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The Pretender

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Still the One by Orleans

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