Portland, Maine

Nothing But Time by Jackson Browne

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There ain't nothin' but time
Between this Silver Eagle
And that New Jersey line
Jackson Browne c 2008
(thanks, Craig O'Neal)
Jackson Browne’s “Nothing but Time” kindly expresses the boredom of the musician’s road life, from an album written about – and sometimes actually created on – the road. The album, Running on Empty, was released in December of 1976. It was certified platinum in 1978 and is still Browne’s bestselling album to date. It’s been said this album is one of Browne’s least ambitious, yet likely most accessible album.

“Nothing but Time” was, in fact, one of those songs written on the bus. If you listen closely, you can even hear the bus’s engine running in the background. That bus, by the way, was a Continental Silver Eagle, and the selfsame “Silver Eagle” Browne refers to in the song’s lyric.

Browne co-wrote the song with Howard Burke. He likely penned it while staring out the window of that Continental Silver Eagle because its lyric begins with Browne announcing, “Rolling down 295 out of Portland, Maine.” This was during the East Coast swing for Browne - a west coast kid from Orange County, California - because he continues later with, “Gonna make it to New Jersey, gonna set it up and do it again.”
Old Port District of Portland, Maine, c 2006
(thanks, Alex Kehr)
The concert tour included this port city (Portland is home to Old Port along the Portland Harbor…are you seeing a pattern here?) because this Maine metropolis is also the state’s biggest city. In fact, it’s where approximately one-third of Maine’s residents call home.

Browne might have also gained a little inspiration from Portland’s motto, Resurgam, which is Latin for “I will rise again.” After all, getting up in the morning (or, more likely, early afternoon) must be akin to a phoenix rising from the ashes, especially after a long night of playing, partying and surviving the load out on the road. This city’s motto refers to how it has recovered from four nearly devastating fires over its history. In a story that ought to be filed under Be Careful How You Celebrate, the 1866 Great Fire of Portland, Maine, happened on July 4, 1866, during an Independence Day celebration. It burned through most of the commercial buildings in the city, as well as torching half its churches and many homes. After all was said and done, 10,000 people in town ended up homeless.
City Hall in Portland, Maine, c 2005
(thanks, Bill)
This survivalist spirit has made it one inspiring city. So much so, in fact, the equally well known Portland, Oregon, was named for Portland, Maine. Some of the city’s more famous citizens include scary Stephen King, Bob Marley (the comedian, not the reggae icon) and actress Liv Tyler.

Browne and band may have been in a hurry to get to New Jersey to set up for that next show, but at least they wouldn’t be arriving there with empty stomachs. Bon Appétit has called Portland, Maine, America’s foodiest small town, while Sperlings named it fourth among the best places for America’s foodie cities. It’s not clear if Browne is a foodie or not, but he has no one to blame but himself if he only frequents fast food joints in Portland, Maine.

Living on the road is a fact of life for most professional musicians. You can whine about it, dread it or despise it, as many have done in the past, and will continue to do in the future. Or you can write great songs about the life, like Jackson Browne has, and turned the road’s kill into an aural foodie’s delight.
~ Dan MacIntosh

(Thanks to David Clark for the Songplace suggestion.)

Comments: 1

  • Jim Gallison from Corinna Maine OriginallyI was at that Portland Maine Concert, just amazed at how good he was. We sat in back of the stage and during the break he stayed out and played. He turned around to us and played the guitar from his back and sang directly to us. That was the beginning of my wife and I meeting and then were married for 25 years, always bringing up what a great concert that was.
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