Can I speak honestly? I hate to write about the legends of rock music, mainly because how could I possibly enlighten you, my readers, anymore on The Beatles, Zeppelin, Hendrix, Dylan, and the like? I am by no means a PhD. in any rock artist. On the contrary, I might be a Master’s level in knowledge of Billboard’s Top 40 hits from the years 1975 through 1984, but that’s as close as I get to a level of a true expert. Plain and simple, I am just a fan. My writing lacks the insight required of the fine journalists writing for Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, Mojo and the other musical outlets. No, I am quite content bringing a little music information to the few people who know me and/or enjoy this lame perspective of a great era of music that seems to be coming to a close, like any great musical movement throughout history.
But, today, I am tackling an American band from the Seventies Southern California heyday who brought country rock to the mountain top, but also, inadvertently lead to Yacht Rock, for all its schlocky glory. I have never really been much of a fan of country music. Oh sure, I love the classic artists such as Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson, but I hear so much more in their music than country. And, when it comes to country rock, I have always preferred Gram Parsons as a solo artist, along with his work with The Byrds, The Stones and, best of all, The Flying Burrito Brothers. But, I didn’t discover him until I listened to Elvis Costello’s Almost Blue album. But, that’s another story. No, today, I am tackling my ambivalent feelings for one of America’s favorite bands, Eagles.
Much like John Goodman’s character in The Big Lebowski, I have always thought, “F@*k the Eagles!” I don’t know why. I sure loved slow dancing to “Best of My Love” with my seventh-grade girlfriend at school dances. And, I loved the sound of “One of These Nights” at night during a thunderstorm, or how “Take It Easy” reminds me of the teasing that would go on in the locker room when we’d tease each other about all the lack of girlfriends we had at the time. (The line of “I got seven women on my mind…” was the source of much ridicule with high school guys like me.) Sure, I appreciated their music, but I NEVER once bought an Eagles album. Someone gave me The Long Run for Christmas 1979, but I never really got into it. I preferred Tom Petty’s Damn the Torpedoes then, and today. So, I sold that album in college for some beer money.
And, yes, I know that their 1975 Greatest Hits album is the biggest selling album of all-time, yet I still do not own it. However, I DO own their double-CD compilation from 2003, The Very Best of the Eagles. I bought it on my way to bring my wife back home from the hospital after her neck surgery, during a moment of weakness. I listened to it, then put it away until this week. And, I am not sure why, but I pulled it out again. Now that I am no longer besieged by an inordinate amount of testosterone raging through my body, the mellowness of their sound, coupled with the warmer weather of late-Spring here in the Midwest has been comforting. Maybe, like I thought when I was younger, the Eagles were really designed for old people.
Now, I do own, and completely enjoy, the band’s documentary about their history. To me, the Eagles are the poster child for Seventies rock excess, and that warts-and-all film shows it. And, to the band members’ credit, they all admit to it. But, did they go through so many members along the way. I guess that’s the perils of becoming super-successful at a young age, when every member was an alpha male. Lord knows I could not have handled it. Hell, I had difficulty handling the little athletic success I experienced growing up, let alone increasing the craziness of going to their level of craziness.
But, I do have to hand it to the Eagles because they wrote some very enduring songs. And, when Glen Frey and Don Henley were receiving the lion’s share of credit for their songwriting, and rightfully so, Bernie Leadon was getting kudos for his acoustic playing, and, later on Joe Walsh and Don Felder were being held up as guitar gods, the band has been anchored by two very underrated bass players who both possess soulfully soaring voices, first Randy Meisner, then Timothy B. Schmit. Those two, I feel like, have not gotten their true due for what they have brought to the band. They have been the glue to the rhythm section as well as bringing the top end of those outstanding harmonies the Eagles are known for. It’s easy to write this band off at the time, because I was more interested in punk rock at the time. But, now that I am older, and maybe a bit wiser, I respect the band.
So, once again caving to the change in the weather and a little nostalgia, let’s do an Eagles Top 30 countdown today.
30. “How Long” (Long Road Out of Eden, 2007)
29. “Love Will Keep Us Alive” (Hell Freezes Over, 1994)
28. “Doolin-Dalton” (Desperado, 1973)
27. “Please Come Home for Christmas” (Non-album single, 1978)
26. “The Last Resort” (The Long Run, 1979)
25. “Ol’ 55” (On the Border, 1974)
24. “James Dean” (On the Border, 1974)
23. “Victim of Love” (Hotel California, 1976)
22. “Pretty Maids All in a Row” (Hotel California, 1976)
21. “On the Border” (On the Border, 1974)
20. “Already Gone” (On the Border, 1974)
19. “Heartache Tonight” (The Long Run, 1979)
18. “New Kid in Town” (Hotel California, 1976)
17. “In the City” (The Long Run, 1979)
16. “Witchy Woman” (Eagles, 1972)
15. “Seven Bridges Road” (Eagles Live, 1980)
14. “Lyin’ Eyes” (One of These Nights, 1975)
13. “After the Thrill Is Gone” (One of These Nights, 1975)
12. “The Long Run” (The Long Run, 1979)
11. “Life in the Fast Lane” (Hotel California, 1976)
10. “Tequila Sunrise” (Desperado, 1973). Whenever one of the guys who lived next door to me in the dorm got wickedly drunk the night before, his football-playing roommate would come back from his mornings in the weight room and crank this song just because. Every time I awoke to that damn song I would just laugh, because you’d hear Max whining over the music, “Mike! Turn that f—king song off!” My roommate and I would be doubling over in laughter at the 8:00 AM Saturday morning wake-up song.
9. “Desperado” (Desperado, 1973). By now, I have heard this song a billion times, but it is still a pretty good “rock musicians as country outlaws” song.
8. “Wasted Time” (Hotel California, 1976). How could guys in their twenties and thirties ever write such a poignant song about a yearning for one’s youth? Unbelievable!
7. “One of These Nights” (One of These Nights, 1975). I remember hearing this song for the first time down at my friends’ house down the street and just feeling like I was hearing some alien sound. Like I said, this song is even better during a storm.
6. “Peaceful Easy Feeling” (Eagles, 1972). This song got to the zeitgeist of people coming of age in the early-Seventies.
5. “Best of My Love” (On the Border, 1974). Remember when you first started slow dancing at middle school dances and that silly electricity firing through your body in potentially embarrassing ways? Here is one of those culprit songs from the mid-Seventies for me.
4. “Take It Easy” (Eagles, 1972). The quintessential Eagles song of their country rock phase, “Take It Easy” is the perfect cruising song as you were trying to pick up girls. “Oh, my Lord! There’s a girl in a flatbed Ford slowing down to take a look at me.” Man, I always wished that happened to me!
3. “I Can’t Tell You Why” (The Long Run, 1979). Easily the sexiest song the Eagles ever recorded. And, Timothy B. Schmit proved he was a worthy successor to Randy Meisner.
2. “Take It to the Limit” (One of These Nights, 1975). Speaking of Meisner, this was his song. That high note he hit at the end is stuff legends are made of. This is the Eagles’ most beautiful song.
1. “Hotel California” (Hotel California, 1976). THE emotional and thematic centerpiece to the band’s long-playing masterpiece is a rock monstrosity right next to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” This is the sound of Classic Rock in the Seventies, from Henley’s abstract poetry to the soulful rhythm section to the soaring guitar god duel at the end, this is a song that truly deserved the Grammy Award for Record of the Year. Nothing else will ever compare to this song in the band’s catalog.