what’s jackson browne got to do with it?

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November 15, 2009 Columbus, GA

I thought if I wrote about it here either I might figure it out or maybe one of you would. You see, I’m working on my third piece of fiction where he tries to make an appearance.

Which he in fact did last night in Columbus!

In a 2001 (early, early) draft of my first novel, I opened every chapter with a few words from a Jackson Browne song. In July of that year, Howard Norman in a writing workshop said ever so gently, “Man, I just love Jackson Browne. Those quotes really took me back. But they’ve got to go. Your writing has to stand on its own.”

Perhaps you’d like to see what he was referring to:

Chapter Thirteen: “Whatever it is you might think you have/You have nothing to lose/Through every dead and living thing/Time runs like a fuse/And the fuse is burning/And the earth is turning.”

Chapter Fourteen: “And the heavens were rolling/Like a wheel on a track/And our sky was unfolding/And it’ll never fold back/Sky blue and black.”

Chapter Fifteen: “Sometimes I lie awake at night and wonder/Where the years have gone/They have all passed under/Sleep’s dark and silent gate.”

Then there was a draft of a story I sent through my writing group in September where two characters were listening to JB in the car. Not working was the consensus.

Last night I was beside myself, as the saying goes, in my front row seat. At 7:30 Jackson Browne appeared out of the darkness onto a stage set up with 16 guitars and a keyboard. He was wearing dark blue pants, a dark blue shirt, and black shoes. His long straight hair is tinged with gray.

He had no setlist but chose songs that appealed to him from those that the audience members shouted out, commenting late in the show that we were “a fractured group.” Several times he commented that he was concerned with trying to string the songs together in the right way, that he wanted everything to be “just so.” Then he said, “Really, when I think about it, it is ‘just so.'”

With the exception of a fifteen minute break, he played until 10:00. 1-Barricades of Heaven 2-I Thought I Was a Child 3-Looking Into You 4-Jamaica Say You Will 5-Running on Empty 6-Don’t Let Us Get Sick written by Warren Zevon 7-Naked Ride Home 8-For Everyman 9-Late for the Sky (better than I ever heard him play this before) 10-In the Shape of a Heart 11-Giving That Heaven Away 12-Rock Me On the Water [break] 13-Something Fine 14-Sleep’s Dark and Silent Gate 15-Going Down to Cuba 16-Lives in the Balance 17-Redneck Friend 18-Time the Conqueror (which he endearingly forgot the words to) 19-new song for a movie Here Without Her (title?) 20-Doctor My Eyes 21-These Days 22-Just Say Yeah 23-For a Dancer 24-The Pretender, and for the Encore: 25-Take it Easy (which he also forgot the words to), and 26-Our Lady of the Well.

He was amazing. See for yourself on my first (and shaky) YouTube video:

*the sneeze at 38 seconds belongs to my husband : )

This new piece of fiction that I started six weeks ago? Yup. “Running on Empty” is the name of a little coffee shop where Angelina likes to stop after work. Maybe this one will work, and I’ll be cured.

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13 thoughts on “what’s jackson browne got to do with it?

    • Thanks, Darrelyn, for appreciating the post and the sneeze!

      By the way, I’ve added a new picture to this post of his row of guitars (just found it on my iphone!) and another video to YouTube of his playing Time the Conqueror: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=apLhZA-QwZ0. In the middle of the video, he talks to the audience about the “kaleidoscopic nature of time” and forgetting the words to the song.

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  1. Thanks to Darrelyn for complimenting my sneeze. Jackson Browne’s performance was as good as you can imagine it being. I know he also played “giving that heaven away.” 61(21 in 69 + 40), but the voice is still there – no way to hide any deficiencies on stage by himself for 2 1/2 hours.

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    • Thanks, Peggy. I also have videos for Lives in the Balance, The Pretender, Going Down to Cuba, and For a Dancer when I have time to format and upload. Takes way more time than I imagined.

      And Running on Empty is only the name of the coffee shop in what I’m writing now, a minor detail I hope I can slide in!

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    • Sarah, ultimately what I decided about that first novel was that those quotes of the song lyrics helped me with tone and focus and were unnecessary to the finished manuscript–kind of like scaffolding that can come down after the building is in place. And with this new one, the reference just might be slight enough to work.

      *BTW, I’ve now listened to my iphone recording of the concert and the setlist is in order and complete.

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  2. Cynthia,

    I found your videos of the JB concert in Columbus this evening and I cannot thank you enough for posting them. My fiance` and I were in attendance for the show on the second row and were fortunate enough for JB to play 3 of the songs I yelled for: ” I thought I was a child”, “Sleep’s Dark and Silent Gate” and ” For a Dancer”. This is the fourth time I have had the pleasure of seeing JB and each time it just gets better and more intimate. I find it so interesting that you include JB in your novels. It’s rare to find people who have such a connection with JB such as ourselves.

    Have you ever heard of “The Nina Demos”? It is a collection of some of JB’s earliest works from the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. I would be happy to send you copies of them, if you do not already have them. Maybe you could find some new inspiration in these songs for your novels as I have for the soundtrack to my life.

    Thanks again for posting these videos and let me know if you would like copies. Nice website by the way.

    Father On,

    William V Sanders III

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    • William, thanks so much for your comment. I thought Jackson Browne was great the other night. I only wish I had been recording when he sang Late for the Sky in the first half. Didn’t you think he was amazing on that song? I would love to have copies of the “Nina Demos.” Thanks so much for offering to send them along. I hope you’ll come back to the blog from time to time. Cheers!

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  3. Cynthia,

    You can email me your address or PO Box to williamsandersiii@yahoo.com and I would be happy to forward them to you later this week. I loved the version of “Late for the Sky” he did that night. It truly was the most heartfelt version I have heard live. I hope you enjoy the “Nina Demos” as much as I have.
    I will check in on the blog from time to time.
    Have a good day,
    William Sanders III

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  4. Pingback: it’s been another year | catching days

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