It had big gold hinges. The outside was light brown and the inside was orange and black. It weighed about 15 lbs and was about the size of a smaller piece of luggage with the cover on. It was the first portable music device I’d ever seen. It was a portable record player. When I say it was “portable” what I mean is that it could be moved from outlet to outlet quite easily. This was a time before the iPod, Walkman or portable CD player. The year was 1977.
And it didn’t belong to us. My father would bring it home from the school at which he taught which meant we were able to jam out to tunes during the summer months and over the occasional weekend and holiday when school wasn’t in session.
But it was a magical time when my father would show up with it in hand. I’d take it from him, run into the living room and pop the cover off and plug it in. I’d keep a stack of 45s in my room just waiting to be played.
And my favorite 45, the one I played over and over until it wore out was “Running on Empty” from Jackson Browne. It was my favorite song that happened to have the coolest cover. I’d play it over and over. I loved the beat and the drums at the beginning and the crowd applauding at the end. It seemed like the perfect rock song to a 10 year old. I’d crank the volume as loud as a mono speaker could go until my mother would tell me to turn it down. If I was lucky she’d be in the basement doing laundry and I could get in a few songs at top volume. Had I been thinking I should have asked my dad to “borrow” a set of headphones from the school too.
Nearly 30 years later, Running on Empty is still one of my favorite songs. But now I listen to it on headphones at my computer or on my iPod. The song is still relevant today. And that cover and drums are still pretty dang cool. “Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels…”