Early last year when the news broke that Glenn Frey of the Eagles had died (aged 67) I was quick – perhaps too quick – to share a post I wrote a couple of years back about the Classic Album, Hotel California. It’s really a piece about how much I hate the Eagles. I really hate the Eagles, in the Lebowski sense. I loathe them. And I shared that piece, tongue-in-cheek to a degree, the point being that I was the wrong person to pen any sort of tribute to Frey. Music writers seem to line up to “pay tribute” whenever someone dies. They serve platitudes, talk about the influence and respect – even when they felt none or had none themselves. I can’t do that. I won’t.
I not only hate the Eagles – and Frey and Don Henley remind me of Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley from KISS in the business-first/music-second focus – I wasn’t impressed with Frey’s solo career. I hated his last solo album – because, like so much of his material with the Eagles it felt hollow and seemed to exist only to milk a buck or five.
Plenty of other people heard and felt depth and loved his songs and his singing. And fair enough of course.
I get that people love the Eagles. And that it could seem, well, bandwagon-esque to jump on the hate train and ride it all night long.
And yet, somewhere within all of that I have a fondness for the double “live” album they released the first time they broke up (it’s built from studio overdubs, is barely live – as such – and is as cynical as anything they ever did, so go figure). And I really love I Can’t Tell You Why even if I can’t quite tell you why…
It’s sad that Frey died – it’s sad when almost anyone dies, right? – and we’re having to face up, now, to a lot of heroes dropping off their perch. The baby boomer stranglehold on the world continues in oh so many ways, but these pop-culture deities are dying, they’re falling, they’re getting old and frail and the drugs they did and the tales we know about them – the ones they actually lived through – are all catching up. And we are forced to contemplate our own mortality as a result. And we lament the loss of these people we never met, never knew and who, in so many cases, if we did know more about them, would find – like you and me – they’re riddled with confusions and contradictions, have made mistakes and done terrible things. As well as bringing some joy to the world too.
A new fear is no doubt emerging – so many people of an age and stage seem so focussed, still, on the lie that there’s no good modern music. It’s a good time to refresh your browser, to head back to the store and ask a question, to reconnect, to get connected…
I’ll always hate the Eagles – but I can admire their abilities. One of the best books I’ve ever read about music was this band biography of the Eagles. They sounded like jerks, complete pricks – especially Henley and Frey. You can see that in the History of the Eagles documentary. Frey even says that the reason he and Don deserved to earn more around the reunion was because they were the ones with the solo careers, the flag-flyers for the Eagles Brand.
I’d take even the worst Joe Walsh solo album (something like this colossal turd, a record so lazy he told the fans it was their job to name it, their prize for buying it apparently) over the best of Glenn Frey solo.
And when you hear Frey as backing vocalist with Linda Ronstadt or Randy Newman you hear a guy who could sing. A guy who knew music and placement. And when you hear one of the good Eagles songs, in a weak moment, you are (usually) hearing something Frey had a hand in.
He had a fabulous life up until the last year or so it seems. He cared mostly about himself and his band and, particularly his brand. Well, that’s the picture of him I’ve assembled. I’m wrong of course – I didn’t know him. I’m more than okay with that.