Jackson Browne/Don Henley/Steve Winwood
The radio has not been on a roll lately.
Formats that used to be so restricted they couldn’t breathe are stretching out. In many ways that’ s a good thing but every once I a while I find myself longing for a theme and actually catching one is kind of refreshing.
So, today…on what still bills itself as the classic rock station around here (even while they have Kenny Loggins in heavy rotation), 1978’s “Running On Empty” ran into 1984’s “The Boys of Summer” which ran into 1987’s “The Finer Things” and it struck me that rock’s autumnal streak was baked into the cake early.
I mean, jeez, Buddy Holly hadn’t been dead twenty years when “Running On Empty” just missed the top ten and Jackson Browne–then barely thirty–sounded like an old man taking stock of an ancient civilization that hadn’t deserved to die. More or less the same way Don Henley would sound in 1984 and Steve Winwood would sound 1987 (irrespective of any lyrical content, incidentally, though, in these particular cases, that fits as well).
Does it mean anything special that each man had effectively reached his respective limits at the very moment these records were released? They each made some good records afterwards, but I’m not sure they made anything devoid of a little too much caution. Is that what happens when you accept a position as an elder statesman at thirty or thirty-five or even forty?
Does your middle-brow talent–however considerable–just run out of gas right then and there? Or was there something specific about encountering Elvis when you were ten (Browne, Henley and Winwood were all born within fifteen months of each other in the late forties) and reading his obit when you were thirty, with assassination, riot, war and Watergate already in the rearview mirror, that just made rock and rollers want to head for the hills? And if that were the case, could they even be blamed?
I don’t really know the answer. If I did, I would keep it to myself and write a book. I’m just in Sunday musing mode here.
Still….Thank God they didn’t play 1976’s “Night Moves” just then. I probably would have damn near cried.