I had planned on writing about Alison Ellwood’s marvelous documentary The History of the Eagles for a while now but circumstances have conspired against me. It’s not every month that we get both new Doctor and a new Batman and one can handle only so much vitriol in such a short time span. Then last night I finally started on typing this up and everything disappeared when I was about three paragraphs from the end.
To make matters worse I read Bill Simmons’ brilliant article “The Eagles Greatest Hit” on Grantland.com last week and not only did it make me not want to write about this subject it made me want to give up writing altogether.
Having said that, here goes nothing.
The History of the Eagles part one made me remember why I liked the Eagles music. Part two reminded me why I often don’t like certain members of the band.
Growing up it seemed like everyone owned a copy of The Eagles Greatest Hits 1971-1975. Usually on 8 track. No one had Frampton Comes Alive on 8 track because the picture of Peter Framton was too small. Maybe that was just me.
As someone whose parents liked country music it wasn’t a huge leap for me to progress to the the Eagles. I was going to get to rock eventually, but if my mom knew that the Eagles would lead to KISS and Van Halen a few years later I think she would have been none too happy. Then again, rock and roll has always been about pissing off your parents.
The Eagles were ubiquitous in the 70s, or at least their music was. I remember hearing “Take It Easy” on B.J. and the Bear, and on seperate occasions John Schneider and Tom Wopat sang “Desperado” on I think it was the Mike Douglas Show. I have no idea if William Shatner or Leonard Nimoy ever covered an Eagles song and I don’t want to find out.
The Desperado album was a collection of songs that equated the rock and roll lifestyle with that of Old West outlaws, and it is an apt comparison. Both ride into town, take your money, steal your girl, drink a lot, cause mayhem, then ride out one step ahead of the law. One can only imagine William Bonney tossing a television out of a boarding house window.
While I am on the subject, the Eagles never achieved any sort of “rock cred” until Joe Walsh replaced Bernie Leadon. It was due partly to his guitar prowess, but mainly to being known as “The King of Room Trash,” and no, I am not talking about the “Third Encore.”
The Third Encore was the name of the after party. The Eagles would play two encores and then invite a bunch of women back to their hotel for a discussion about the fall of the Roman Empire.
That was the sort of dicotomy that the Eagles presented, in the early years at least. On records and on stage they were easy going country-rockers, and after the show they were raging hormonal manics. Then again, what is the point of being a rock star if you can’t cut loose every now and then?
The thing is I don’t remember hearing about the Eagles party antics at the time. Maybe it was because most rock journalists hated them, maybe it was because other bands outpartied them. The Who, Led Zeppelin, KISS, and Van Halen were the party hardy bands of legend. In fact, Joe Walsh studied under the tutelage of Keith Moon the legendary drummer of The Who.
That being said, I don’t ever remember Walsh driving a Rolls-Royce into a swimming pool. No one wrote a song about the Eagles party antics like Frank Zappa did about Led Zeppelin. If you are familiar with the song “Mud Shark” you know what I am talking about. If you are not then forget that I brought it up.
Bernie Leadon left the Eagles because he didn’t like the direction the band was going in. Musically. He prefered the laid back music of the early albums. One wonders what the Hotel California album would have sounded like if he had stuck around. We’ll never know.
More in part two. Stay tuned.