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Running on Empty (album)

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Running on Empty
Live album / studio album by
ReleasedDecember 6, 1977
RecordedAugust 17 – September 17, 1977
ProducerJackson Browne
Jackson Browne chronology
The Pretender
Running on Empty
Hold Out

Running on Empty is the fifth album by American singer-songwriter Jackson Browne. Featuring songs themed around life on the road, the entire album was recorded on tour, either live on stage, or in locations associated with touring, such as backstage, on tour buses, or in hotel rooms. Released in 1977, the album reached No. 3 on the Billboard Pop Albums chart in 1978 and stayed on the charts for 65 weeks. The single for the title track, "Running on Empty", peaked at No. 11 and the follow-up single, "The Load-Out"/"Stay", reached No. 20 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart.

The album received two Grammy Award nominations in 1979: one for Album of the Year and the other for Pop Male Vocal Performance for the song "Running on Empty".[1]


In addition to tracks recorded on-stage during concerts, it contains songs recorded in hotel rooms, on the tour bus, and backstage. It is unusual among live albums in that none of the tracks had ever appeared on a previous studio album. Browne was the sole writer on only two songs, co-writing four others and covering another four. The theme of the album was life on the road. In a Rolling Stone interview about the tour during which the album was recorded, Browne expressed pleasure at finally being able to afford the session musicians he wanted to go out on the road with him.[2]

The album was certified as a Gold record in 1977 and Platinum in 1978 by the RIAA. It reached Multi-platinum in 1997 and 2001.[3] It reached 7x platinum and is Browne's best-selling album to date. In popular culture, the album cover can be seen framed and hanging on the wall next to the front door in the apartment on the set of Mork & Mindy.


Professional ratings
Review scores
Christgau's Record GuideB+[6]
The Encyclopedia of Popular Music[8]
Rolling Stone(no rating)[7]

The original Rolling Stone review in 1978 by music critic Paul Nelson praised the album, writing "What I really like about Running on Empty probably has little to do with the generosity or genius of its dual concepts, with the songwriter's craftmanship skill, with how much I admire the music of David Lindley and the Section, but rather with Jackson Browne himself. In other words, as impressed as I am with Jackson Browne's art, I'm even more impressed with the humanity that shines through it. Maybe they're inseparable, but I doubt it."[7]

In his retrospective review for AllMusic William Ruhlmann called the album "Browne's least ambitious, but perhaps most accessible, album ironically became his biggest seller. But it is not characteristic of his other work: for many, it will be the only Browne album they will want to own, just as others always will regard it disdainfully as 'Jackson Browne lite'."[4]

Music critic Robert Christgau gave the album a B+ grade: "Jackson sounds relaxed verbally, vocally, even instrumentally... I consider this his most attractive album. But his devotees may consider the self-effacement a deprivation."[6] Blender gave the 2005 reissue a 4 of 5 star rating, stating it "cuts deeper than most road sagas partly because Browne had the brilliant notion of recording on the fly... It also works because he tapped the culture's circa-1977 sense that it was running on empty, feeling like a trashed Holiday Inn room—Empty is about something larger than the misery of room service."[5]

Bill Shapiro called the album "Audio verité—one of the most conceptually fascinating recordings in the history of rock & roll."[9] In 2004, in The 100 Best-Selling Albums of the 70's, Hamish Camp wrote: "Entering somewhat of a creative lull following some sterling albums... Running On Empty was regarded by many as lacking ambition but was nevertheless Browne's most commercially successful of his career to date, peaking at Number Three in the US and reaching Number 28 in the UK." At that time, it was the twenty-third best-selling album of the 1970s.[10] In the UK, "Stay" became his only major hit single, reaching No. 12.


Running on Empty has been reissued numerous times on CD. On November 15, 2005, Elektra/Rhino issued a remastered version with the following additional tracks: 11. "Cocaine Again" and 12. "Edwardsville Room 124" on Disc 2 of the package, which is a DVD Audio version of the album's track lineup that features a 5.1 surround sound mix, among other bonus items, such as video montages and lyrics. Disc 1 is a remaster of the original album's song list only. The remaster is missing the first 25 seconds of audience ambience that, on all other previous editions of the album, led into the beginning of the album's title track. For reasons unknown, this snippet, which included the sounds of the musicians' count into the song's opening, was edited out on this version, though the Disc 2 DVD-Audio version includes the 25 seconds missing on Disc 1.[11]

Track listing[edit]

Side one

  1. "Running on Empty" (Jackson Browne) – 5:20
  2. "The Road" (Danny O'Keefe) – 4:50
  3. "Rosie" (Browne, Donald Miller) – 3:37
  4. "You Love the Thunder" (Browne) – 3:52
  5. "Cocaine" (Reverend Gary Davis, additional lyrics by Browne and Glenn Frey) – 4:55

Side two

  1. "Shaky Town" (Danny Kortchmar) – 3:36
    • Recorded in room 124 (8/18/77), Holiday Inn, Edwardsville, Illinois
    • Danny Kortchmar sings harmony.
  2. "Love Needs a Heart" (Browne, Valerie Carter, Lowell George) – 3:28
  3. "Nothing but Time" (Browne, Howard Burke) – 3:05
    • Recorded "on a bus (a Continental Silver Eagle) somewhere in New Jersey" (9/8/77)
    • Russ Kunkel is credited as playing "snare, hi-hat, and cardboard box with foot pedal." The song was recorded aboard the band's Continental Silver Eagle tour bus (hence the lyrical reference to "Silver Eagle") while en route from Portland, Maine to their next gig in New Jersey. The bus's engine is audible in the background throughout, and its downshift and acceleration can be plainly heard during the bridge.
  4. "The Load-Out" (Browne, Bryan Garofalo) – 5:38
    • Recorded live (8/27/77), Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, Maryland
  5. "Stay" (Maurice Williams) – 3:28


Tour staff[edit]

  • Howard Burke – tour manager
  • Donald "Buddah" Miller – production manager
  • Jan Michael Alejandro – drum technician
  • Eric Deterding – stage technician
  • Michael Deterding – stage technician
  • Bill Thompson – technician
  • Edd Kolakowski – Steinway piano and keyboards technician
  • Dave Hassingar – technician
  • Jim Nipar – technician
  • Chris Cabral – technical advisor
  • Alan Owen, Kevin Di Piazza and Jim Waits – lighting crew
  • Jim Bornhorst – house PA mixer
  • Bill "Doc" Gans – monitor engineer
  • Rance Caldwell – monitor engineer
  • Peter Golden – booking coordination
  • Thomas Gustaferro – bus driver
  • Jimmy Deluca, Bryan Lisenbee and Mike Rogers – truck drivers


  • Producer – Jackson Browne
  • Engineer – Greg Ladanyi
  • Recording in hotel and bus on Record Plant NY Remote Truck.
  • Assistant Engineers – David Hewitt, Norman Mershon and Mark Salwasser (bus and hotel recordings); Russell Schmitt and Tom Walsh (stage recordings).
  • Mix Assistants – Dennis Kirk and George Ybarra
  • Mixed at The Sound Factory (Hollywood, CA).
  • Mastered by Bernie Grundman at A&M Studios (Hollywood, CA).
  • Art Direction and Design – Jimmy Wachtel
  • Photography – Joel Bernstein (tour) and Aaron Rapoport (other).



Year Chart Position
1978 Billboard Pop Albums 3


Year Single Chart Position
1978 "Running on Empty" Billboard Pop Singles 11
1978 "Stay/The Load-Out" Billboard Pop Singles 20
1978 "You Love the Thunder" Billboard Bubbling Under Hot 100 109


Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[12] 3× Platinum 210,000^
Canada (Music Canada)[13] Platinum 100,000^
Germany (BVMI)[14] Gold 250,000^
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[15] Gold 50,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[16] Gold 100,000^
United States (RIAA)[17] 7× Platinum 7,000,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.


  1. ^ 1979 Grammy Award Nominations and Awards http://www.india-server.com/awards/features/grammy-awards-1979-227.html
  2. ^ also found at http://www.uncut.co.uk/features/jackson-browne-album-by-album-23311
  3. ^ RIAA Gold and Platinum award. Archived September 24, 2015, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved July 20, 2010
  4. ^ a b Ruhlmann, William. "Running on Empty > Review". AllMusic. Retrieved June 14, 2010.
  5. ^ a b Smith, RJ. "Running on Empty > Review". Blender. Retrieved July 28, 2010.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: B". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Retrieved February 22, 2019 – via robertchristgau.com.
  7. ^ a b Nelson, Paul (March 1978). "Running on Empty > Review". Rolling Stone.
  8. ^ Larkin, Colin (2007). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (4th ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195313734.
  9. ^ Shapiro, Bill (1991). Rock & Roll Review: A Guide to Good Rock on CD.
  10. ^ Camp, Hamish (2004). The 101 Best-Selling Albums of the 70s.
  11. ^ Rhino Records reissue.[permanent dead link] Retrieved June 16, 2010
  12. ^ "ARIA Charts – Accreditations – 1996 Albums" (PDF). Australian Recording Industry Association. Retrieved November 28, 2021.
  13. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Jackson Browne – Running on Empty". Music Canada.
  14. ^ "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank (Jackson Browne; 'Running on Empty')" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie.
  15. ^ Salaverrie, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (PDF) (in Spanish) (1st ed.). Madrid: Fundación Autor/SGAE. p. 959. ISBN 84-8048-639-2. Retrieved August 26, 2019.
  16. ^ "British album certifications – Jackson Browne – Running on Empty". British Phonographic Industry.
  17. ^ "American album certifications – Jackson Browne – Running on Empty". Recording Industry Association of America.