Jackson Browne is not only a pivotal figure in the artistic history of Elektra/Asylum – remaining with the label for a remarkable 30 years – but the very existence of Asylum Records was a direct result of his exceptional talent. When artist manager David Geffen was initially unsuccessful in securing a recording deal for the L.A.-based singer/songwriter, he turned to his mentor, Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun – who suggested that if he truly believed in Browne, he should start his own label as a joint venture with Atlantic. Founded in 1971, Asylum’s earliest releases included Browne’s self-titled debut (1972), followed by For Everyman (1973) and Late For The Sky (1974).
Meanwhile, at the urging of Elektra’s departing founder Jac Holzman, Warner Communications turned to Geffen to lead Elektra, and Browne – along with his friends the Eagles and Linda Ronstadt – became part of the newly merged Elektra/Asylum. It was a fitting turn of events, since Browne’s links with Elektra went back half a dozen years. In 1967, he had signed a publishing deal with Nina Music, a division of Elektra named after Holzman’s then-wife. Browne’s songs were recorded by such artists as Tom Rush and then-girlfriend Nico, and during a brief stint in New York he played in Tim Buckley’s backing band.
Although Browne’s first three albums had been critically acclaimed and commercially successful, he was still not selling as many records as Elektra thought he could. In 1976, it was The Pretender that finally brought Jackson to a wider, deeper audience, with the title track and “Here Come Those Tears Again” among the highlights. Jackson’s introspective examinations of life “caught between the longing for love and the struggle for the legal tender” resonated everywhere. His next release, the 7-times platinum Running on Empty (1977) became his best-selling album, and his role as an iconic artist of his generation was forever cemented. Browne remained with the label until 2002, having charted a rare three-decade career with the first label that had signed him.