Saturday, October 24, 2009
The Load Out and Stay, Jackson Browne (1977)
Many years ago, I read the Studs Terkel 1972 anthology Working, a compilation of people's musings about how they felt about what they did to earn their living. People reveal so much of themselves when they talk about their work - and why wouldn't they; for those of us fortunate enough to have a job someone pays us to do, it's how we spend the better part of our waking lives. How could it not be an all-day psychodrama?
In his introduction, Terkel wrote that work is a search " ... for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash, for astonishment rather than torpor; in short, for a sort of life rather an Monday through Friday sort of dying. Perhaps immortality, too, is part of the quest. To be remembered was the wish, spoken and unspoken, of the heroes and heroines of this book."
In The Load Out, Jackson Browne pays stunning homage to the roadies who make it possible for touring musicians to schlepp from place to place but takes it a step further - he illuminates the sentiments of the musician himself who endures crushing boredom and isolation in order to experience the bliss of sharing one's gifts with a live, appreciative audience for a few hours a night. It's a musical version of something that could have gone into Working, and Terkel probably loved it, if he was aware of it.
More than 9 minutes long when combined with a variation on Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs' Stay, The Load Out is remarkably untedious. Across the spectrum of his body of work, Browne's songwriting chops have been what distinguishes him - I've never been overly inspired by his voice. But he excels at capturing sensibilities in an intimate way, of transporting us into feeling states that are very palpable and hard to resist.
He grew up in a musical home, and he had an amazingly fertile group of people around him who he counts as mentors: Lowell George, Warren Zevon, Bonnie Raitt, Don Henley and Glenn Frey (Browne co-wrote the excellent Take It Easy with Frey), David Crosby and Graham Nash, and his frequent sideman/collaborator the stringed instrument wizard David Lindley. That's Lindley on slide guitar in the clip and doing the bizarre falsetto after Rosemary Butler in the Stay portion.
In his remarks inducting Browne into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, Bruce Springsteen described Browne's "slow meticulous crafting of the songs, the thoughtfulness. Jackson was one of the first songwriters I met who demonstrated the value of thinking hard about what you were saying."
In so many jobs, people feel quite powerless even as they try to make their mark on some corner of the world. Browne's one of the lucky ones. As he said in his Rock Hall acceptance speech, "They say that music is a very empowering thing. I'm happy to have had a lifetime doing it."