Jackson Browne

By Santoro, Gene | The Nation, May 13, 1996 | Go to article overview

Jackson Browne


Santoro, Gene, The Nation


"I've been a compulsive sense-maker," says Jackson Browne of his song-writing. We're backstage at the Beacon Theater, squatting in one of the many rooms that amount to a kind of vertical warren. "I've always wanted to have an impact immediately, so the song could be consciously digested and engage the listener's attention. You get a lot the first time, but like with a book or a movie, just by the nature of what music is there's always something you don't get until later. The more somebody can affix their own experience and imagery to a song, the better experience it's gonna be for them."

Browne and his feisty rock band are on the road behind Looking East (Elektra), his first album since 1994, and only his eleventh in twenty-four years. The stage show is tight, well wrought. The audience thrills to the older material, like "Rock Me on the Water," and is polite or, at best, receptive to the new - a standard rock paradox. As Browne himself sees it, in the show now, "Looking East" comes right after "Rock Me on the Water." It happened as an accident, but it's unmistakable for me in the course of doing a show what works, so there it stays. It's the album's title song, but I think it's one of the hardest songs for my audience to get into, and it's working. "Rock Me on the Water" is about the sixties, the Watts riots and reading Soul on Ice and Bobby Seale's book. That whole idea of a city in flames and trying to find some sort of redemption in all of that has sort of come full circle with "Looking East." It has a political context but it's not really identifiable politically. It's not a specific political problem; it's the social context for a song. I guess whether I was consciously avoiding it or not, I didn't want to write a song that was a list; I don't want to catalogue what's wrong with the world as much as refer to it and try to get to the heart of it. And so it winds up getting into spiritual territory, like "Rock Me on the Water," because the world is the way it is because we're the way we are. I'm sitting here, and I know it's not the Great Satan, it's just the Great Fuckup, the great snarl and tangle of commerce and people confusing commerce with progress, lifestyles with redemption.

A snarling guitar army launches the album's title track, recalling the postpunk edge of singer-songwriters like James Mc-Murtry, and Browne delivers the lyrics with just the right insinuating drama, a secular preaching that quavers with the tension between hope and fear: "Standing in the ocean with the sun burning low in the west/Like a fire in the cavernous darkness at the heart of beast/With my beliefs and possessions, stopped at the frontier in my chest/At the edge of my country, my back to the sea, looking east.... There's a God-sized hunger underneath the questions of the age."

At 47, Browne is no longer the pretty boy who sat on Nico's lap in an Andy Warhol flick. But he's still a bardic voice for the boomers who fill his shows. Despite - or maybe because of - a lengthening string of ex-wives and lovers, a posse of kids, critical attacks on his eighties social activism, the scandal of his relationship with actress Daryl Hannah, which ended amid rumors of abuse, Browne keeps on keeping on.

Looking East is a beefy-sounding mix from the same band as 1994's I'm Alive (Elektra), a more uneven effort focused largely on personal semi-revelations in the wake of the Hannah debacle. But the new disc combines the confessional, personalized storytelling the singer-songwriter first rode to fame and fortune with the metaphoric, prophetic jeremiads he's been drawn to increasingly since 1976's The Pretender (Asylum)-which, after all, predicted the yuppie phenomenon. But as that song implies, exactly what "keeping on" means is a lot less clear than it was before the questions boomers like Browne faced had multiplied and the answers shrunk into tired mantras from right or left. At its best, which it is about 60-odd percent of the time-a solid average for any rock CD-Looking East finds Browne traversing the elliptical symbolic ground he's typically used to stage his delvings into the visceral sense of hovering apocalypse that shadows his generation and so much of what he's written. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Jackson Browne
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.