Another Friday, another 70s era rock star gone. I can't pretend that Glenn Frey compared to Lemmy or David Bowie, but I would also be lying if I denied his importance in my life. The Eagles were the first records I ever bought - Life in the Fast Lane single (not Glenn Frey, though - Joe Walsh), then Hotel California itself. Not long after, I added their greatest hits - and for a year or so, listened to them, quite a lot. And then? my friends and relations were more Kiss or Aerosmith fans, so that's who I listened to more - then I discovered Styx, and though that's hardly a huge step forward, for me, it served as an invitation to more - what? AOR rock? I guess. Better anyway: it wasn't long before I was listening to Led Zeppelin and the Who - real music...
The Eagles went on their way, and I laughed at them with everyone else. But still - they weren't half bad. That isn't high praise - and if you want an honest critical opinion of them, at this late date - sure: they come off like a third or fifth generation copy of Untitled era Byrds - mushy country inflected rock-pop, catchy enough, but without a lot of character, smug and professional to a fault.... But they still aren't half bad. Even watered down Byrds is pretty good, and they were undeniably talented - they could play, they could sing, they wrote some songs that get in your head and don't come out - songs that come close enough to being great song as not to matter. So - no: I can't love the Eagles, or ever not snicker a bit at them - but I also can't help but like more of their songs that I care to admit. They aren't half bad.
And finally - whatever else the Eagles did, they were inspiration for the best TV show I saw last year. That might not sound so impressive if I admit I only watched 2 new TV series all year (Mr Norrell and Jonathan Strange, and Documentary Now!) - but still. The Blue Jean Committee episode of Documentary Now was really fantastic - parodying that California soft rock sound, but gentle and soft - parody that doesn't deny its pleasures, and gets all the little details - the look, the sound, the gaps between the musicians' roots and their ultimate sound, or their on and off stage personalities - all that stuff. It's fantastic. Playing around with all the sources - The Eagles and the Band, the Byrds (the singers being named Gene and Clark might be a hint), all the west coast bands (no matter where they might actually be from), from CCR to America to Poco, to Martin Scorsese, VH-1, Spinal Tap - all in an hour of television. And it's mix of mockery and affection - well - that's not far from how I feel about the Eagles now. They're a bit of a joke - but they're also pretty damned good.
And so? we need a list - so here's what Genius gives me from the only Eagles song I have on iTunes:
1. Eagles - Hotel California
2. CCR - Up Around the Bend
3. Steve Miller Band - Fly Like an Eagle
4. Beatles - The Long and Winding Road
5. Bruce Springsteen - Hungry Heart
6. Beach Boys - Good Vibrations
7. Pink Floyd - Us and THem
8. Rolling Stones - Ruby Tuesday
9. Led Zeppelin - Good Times, Bad Times
10. Neil Young - The Needle and the Damage Done
Here they are trying to rock out - actually, no - this is a heck of a song:
And from 74 - James Dean - a low down bad refrigerator... I'm not sure what James Dean ever did to deserve this, but still...
And Mojo Nixon's thoughts on the Eagles' legacy:
And here's America with Gene Allen (Fred Armisen) from the Blue Jean Committee...