Wednesday, January 20, 2016

already gone

Just to illustrate my point about my relationship with David Bowie's work being one of interest and respect rather than the intense love that some people had, the death of Glenn Frey yesterday resonates much more closely with my listening habits over the last 30 years or so. Despite my Dad's record collection having some solid American rock stuff like the Steve Miller Band and Santana I don't recall him ever having any Eagles, so I couldn't say exactly where I was first exposed to them, although of course growing up in the 1970s I'd have been bound to have heard some of their stuff just through a sort of cultural osmosis. It's actually quite possible that I was aware of Frey through hearing The Heat Is On on Top Of The Pops before I'd even heard of the Eagles.

What I can say is that I owned this compilation album during my student years and played it to death, usually in Doug's company. Particular highlights that I can recall are the "hilarious" post-drink-consumption call-and-response routine we used to do to Lyin' Eyes, and a visit to our student flat on Redland Road by the local constabulary after we'd been playing Hotel California at high volume out of an open window at about 3am. Great days.

That compilation CD, and the copy of One Of These Nights (aka the one with the Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy theme tune on it) that I used to own both disappeared in the Great Bristol CD Disappearance of 1995, when a whole box of CDs went missing during the course of a move between flats (on the upside that did include my copy of Bridge Of Spies by T'Pau, which I can now plausibly deny ever having owned). I replaced the compilation with this (very) slightly more comprehensive one.

Frey did most of the lead vocal duties on their more orthodox country-rock tunes, which means that he sang most of the early stuff (Take It Easy, Peaceful, Easy Feeling, Tequila Sunrise, Lyin' Eyes) and was gradually replaced by Don Henley for the more straight-ahead rock stuff they got into later in their career after Bernie Leadon left and Don Felder and Joe Walsh joined (One Of These Nights, Hotel California, Life In The Fast Lane, The Long Run). There were various things I did a lot of at university that became so over-familiar that I don't do them all that much any more, including eating substantial quantities of mince and tinned tuna (though not at the same time), and listening to the Eagles falls into the same category. So I can't say I listen to a lot of Eagles stuff these days (though as with Bowie I daresay there's a couple on the in-car iPod selection*), but one of the side-effects of that is that it's nice to rediscover how great most of it is when I do listen to it, although Best Of My Love and New Kid In Town are still pretty dreary.

I saw the Eagles in concert on one of their many lucrative nostalgia tours on 17th June 2006. I can date it this precisely because having travelled down from Bristol with my friend Alex I then wandered off into the night after the gig to meet up with some friends in Fulham in order to go and see the tennis final at Queen's Club the next day. The Eagles line-up featured Henley, Frey and Walsh from the "classic" era - no Don Felder, who'd had an unrecoverable falling-out with Henley and Frey a few years earlier, and no Randy Meisner, who'd been replaced by Timothy B Schmit before the recording of The Long Run in 1979. They did actually have a new album to plug at the time, but mercifully kept that material to a minimum and focused on just doing a greatest hits package.

There's been a bit of a historical critical backlash against the Eagles, just because they were so unbelievably successful, and there are those who resented their gradual transition from country-rock band to orthodox rock band, and would have you listen exclusively to the Flying Burrito Brothers instead. As it happens I do very much like a bit of Flying Burrito Brothers, but you shouldn't be ashamed of listening to the Eagles too, no matter what the Dude says. Part of the criticism seems to be that the Eagles (and Frey in particular) were just a bit too interested in hits and money and success to be "proper" credible musicians. I don't know about that, but this lengthy and interesting Rolling Stone piece from 1975 reveals Frey to be a very shrewd and ambitious character, and one not afraid to steamroller others in pursuit of perfection. But, as he himself said, bands are not democracies.

[* actually, no - the current 172-song selection contains NO Eagles material whatsoever.]

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