I don’t know that I’d ever listened to this all the way through in one sitting until recently. Despite carrying a vinyl copy of the album with me through several flats and two houses, sometimes it would be locked up for years in a cupboard, other times it’s there to flip through and maybe – just maybe – someone else played my Eagles Hotel California LP in a flat in the past. But I know I never did. Until very recently. And I know now what I always figured – I’ll never listen to it again.
I hate The Eagles. I really hate them. And I think it’s okay to have an irrational hatred of some things. But, also, The Eagles give you plenty of reasons to hate them. Glenn Frey and Don Henley being the main reasons; those smug coke-addled assholes – they’re nasty-minded money-hoarding fame-whores. But that’s a charge that could be levelled at so many famous musicians. There’s just something heartless and artless about so much of what The Eagles did – and do.
And Hotel California – their biggest-selling album, their huge triumph – is the one that’s going under the knife. Because, you see, much as I hate The Eagles they can excerpt rather well. I can listen to most of the One Of These Nights LP and really dig it. I like a wee bit of The Long Run too (I Can’t Tell You Why is a great song even if I can’t tell you why, even if Timothy B Schmidt is a bit like some female extra from Dallas got dressed up as Skeletor and is slowly disintegrating with each performance). And there’s some lovely stuff on that debut self-titled Eagles album – even if it’s also got Take It Easy and Peaceful, Easy Feeling. It’s impossible to take it easy or cop a peaceful or easy feeling during either of those songs. They just make you want to kill. They make you want to see dead things quickly, preferably Eagles.
The playing is polished, the vocal harmonies – lush, lovely, warm – etc. But I just don’t believe The Eagles. I don’t believe it was ever about anything more than money after 1975. And again, that alone is not really grounds to complain. It saddens me too that the thing that killed The Eagles, really, is Joe Walsh. And I love Joe Walsh. But exit Bernie Leadon and enter Mr Talkbox James Gang and the troubles are clear. Bernie was in fact the heart and soul of The Eagles. Seen a picture of Glenn Frey recently? Dead behind the eyes. And Don Henley? A life support system for narcissism.
I would have liked to hear The Eagles with a good drummer.
Hotel California is a top-heavy album – side one is chock full of “the hits”, the title song – which no one ever needs to hear again, New Kid In Town (a better reading is J.D. Souther’s solo version), Life In The Fast Lane, which is Henley and Frey hoping to tap into the James Gang and failing; Walsh flailing and almost saving it with that turnaround-riff. And then Wasted Time – a sub-Desperado ballad that Frey and Henley were so pleased with they started side two by reprising it. Arrogant shits. All it serves to do is show up that side two is totally fucking lost and left wanting.
So is there anything redeeming here? Yes, almost. I’ve always had a soft spot for Walsh’s Pretty Maids All In A Row (a co-write with Joe Vitale, a better drummer than Henley by actual miles).
Randy Meisner, reduced to just one song on this album, walked shortly after. Smart move.
Until I saw The Big Lebowski I thought I was alone.
My mother, brother and father all love/d The Eagles. I grew up with the greatest hits albums taking me on road-trips. And I survived. In fact they alternated with Cat Stevens – and I still made it through. But by high school – despite the occasional air-guitar thrill, a little marvel at the lick and curl of the bass intro to One Of These Nights and then its disco-pomp audacity – I really didn’t get what it was to love about The Eagles. Then they reformed and marketed themselves squarely at the squares: the yuppie cuntbuckets who trotted out silly lines about “if you could remember the sixties you weren’t really there” and after yelling at someone on the other end of a brick-cellphone to sell high and buy low they threw further platitudes about being there “the first time” whatever the fuck relevance that actually had. All the while polishing their Greatest Hits albums as if some kind of trophy, nodding along to the trite sub-par country noodlings and being thrilled by it all if only because it was a drop in the ocean in an attempt to fill the profound vacuity that was the cultural void otherwise referred to as a life. And thank god they had that, it stopped them looking back to see they’d become the thing they hated – but then, don’t we all do that. Eventually. The Eagles certainly did.
And then one line from The Big Lebowski made it all okay.
“C’mon man, I’ve had a really rough night and I hate the fuckin’ Eagles”. That really rough night was my teenage years on the Napier-Taupo road, it was the part of the set in a covers band at uni when I nodded-along-to-save-myself-from-nodding-off as we trotted out a hideously lapped-up version of Peaceful, Easy Feeling; that really rough night was any time I played an Eagles record – or bought one for $1 and kept it with me for several years without listening to it; that really rough night finally found its release: I too hate/d the fuckin’ Eagles. And it was okay to say it. Because The Dude abides.
There’s nothing in Hotel California, the album. The songs check out despite deciding to never leave. They linger like that taste of cruel medicine with no water to wash it down; empty gestures of spiralling sonic architecture that crumble as soon as someone slams the door. No heart, no soul, no (real) substance. Big fucking deal that there’s some lovely singing and a guitar solo or two. Big fucking deal.
These faux-cowboys had been out riding lines of white powder rather than fences.
They weren’t the real deal they said they were.
You imagine Glenn Frey cutting a waist-height hole in a mirror so he can poke his dick through. Anyone telling him to go fuck himself is just conjuring up a favourite image, his lifelong hobby. The tiny white arcs of dribbled-out DNA he collects from the mirror’s blow-hole are shaped into songs. Simple, easy songs. Boring, ghastly songs.
Hotel California hurt to listen to. If it pains you to read this that’s because it pains me to write it; I now have a fresh memory of hearing an album I never needed to hear. Because, as is the way with empty gestures from swollen sacs, you know what it’s going to be like before you bother. You know they shouldn’t have bothered. You know you shouldn’t have bothered. I preferred hating The Eagles for all the irrelevant and illogical reasons: I had never met them but knew, somehow, they were total cunts. But now I have a fresh seed of hate, grown from listening to an album that far too many people bought simply because everyone else was buying it and it was everywhere.
Who could ever listen to the Hotel California album in this day and age? And if you tell me you do – often – and you even make it through side two then I want nothing to do with you. You bought in far too low and it’s too high now for you to sell. You probably named your kid Henley. He’ll grow up to be a total cunt.