**picture taken houseofhair.com
It’s been a tough couple of weeks here at BourbonAndVinyl. While I was not a huge Motorhead fan, I understood the influence and importance of Lemmy. Then Scott Weiland overdosed. I was shocked that happened, but I have to admit I was not surprised. Sad, but true. Then Bowie passed after dropping the brilliant “Blackstar” and everything turned upside down. I was up in Minneapolis this week, sitting in my hotel room, when Lester Holt announced Glenn Frey of the Eagles had died. It was at that exact moment my buddy B.J. texted to tell me the sad news. Coincidentally my wife texted me shortly after to tell me that Don Henley had died. Sigh… Well, the Rock Chick, like the Big Lebowski, was never an Eagles fan. The next thing I know, I’m reading on-line that Rolling Stone thinks “classic rock” as we know it may be “over”. Well, at least coming to a sad end.
It’s a new thing for me that people I know contact me when rock stars die. My passion for classic rock music and this blog probably have a little to do with that. I had several friends I hadn’t heard from in years contact me after Bowie, because they knew how much he meant to me (and to everybody). Frankly, I welcome everybody’s comments/shared grief when this stuff happens. Music conjures powerful memories. I was thrilled and surprised to hear from an old high school friend of mine, Brewster, when Glenn Frey passed…Brewster was a dear friend but he saw Springsteen on “The River” Tour and didn’t take the time to call me and ask if I wanted in and apparently did the same on “The Long Run” Tour. There was also a Who tour we were supposed to go to together, but for legal reasons, I can’t go into the details.
He said, “The one and only time I ever saw The Eagles was in Kansas City at Kemper Arena Circa 1980… Pretty sure (it was) “The Long Run” Tour. I remember the opening song was “Hotel California” and it was awesome, as was the entire show. Glenn Frey wore a Royals’ jersey with “Frey”on the back (Jim Frey was or had recently been the Royals’ manager). Kept thinking over time, I would make a point of seeing them again. (Now,) if that ever were to happen, it couldn’t be the same, obviously.”
In his defense, after not inviting me to some great concerts in the ’79-’80 era, at least Brewster had the kindness to say, “Anyway, assumed you would be reflecting – if not lamenting – upon these losses, and just wanted to briefly share a couple of memories.” I appreciate the sentiment. And like I said, I’m getting a lot of these notes/texts these days. If you feel the same folks, let me know by commenting.
The Eagles were a divisive group almost from the start. Hell, even in my own house, my wife hates the Eagles. Gram Parsons, who helped inspire the Eagles brand of hybrid country-rock described them a “plastic dry fuck”. I’m not sure what that is, but it certainly doesn’t sound pleasant. They were criticized as soulless craftsmen but their music sold in the millions and is woven into the fabric of our lives. I can’t help but think that there has/had to be a bit of jealousy involved in all this criticism. Sure, they lived like debauched French royalty, but they sang about it like they regretted it. Haven’t we all been there? I once predicted my tomb stone would read, “Party, Party, Party, Regret, Regret, Regret”.
Glenn Frey’s voice was amazing. That’s one thing about the Eagles that is beyond reproach – those harmonies. He was friends with Bob Seger from the early days and played a brilliant guitar solo on Seger’s hit “Till It Shines”. His nickname was “The Lone Arranger” for the brilliant way he could produce a song out of an idea. Listen to “Take It Easy” by the Eagles and Jackson Browne and you’ll hear the “secret sauce” that Frey brought to a song.
When I heard the news, the first song I put on was “After the Thrill Is Gone”, which was one of those beautiful Frey duets with Henley that define the Eagles. It expresses that amazing longing and jaded regret that was the Eagles stock and trade. “Best of My Love” wasn’t a cheesy song about loving your gal, it was an admission that you’d fucked up and you were going to try harder. Sometimes their craftsmanship may have confused some of those who weren’t listening closely. The second song I put on was “It’s Your World Now” which was posted on the Eagles website and is a beautiful epitaph for Glenn. Then I listened to Glenn’s great duet with B.B. King “Driving Wheel”. I love when rock stars sing the blues. It’s the root of where everything comes from. What struck me was Glenn’s diverse abilities – the guy could sing anything.
The Eagles have been around my whole life. I remember going over to my high school girlfriend’s house after school. Her parents both worked and we’d raid their liquor supply and do what high school kids do… She only owned 2 records, The Knack (horrendous) and “Hotel California”. I can’t hear that song without hearing the skip on her album during the phrase, “On a dark des-des-desert highway…”
I didn’t see the Eagles until 1995 on the “Hell Freezes Over” tour. It was a driving rain that night and I was standing on the lawn of a huge amphitheater with a trash bag over my head when Glenn Frey stepped forward. The Eagles were supposed to play the previous October but had to cancel because of Frey’s intestinal problems (who knew, even then, how serious the issues were). The April date I saw them was the make-up concert. Ever charming, Frey said, “Sorry about the original show being delayed, totally my fault. Sorry about the weather, not my fault.” I had recently gone through a break up with a woman who I later realized was a sociopath (again, who hasn’t been there) and that night, in the rain, listening to the Eagles sing the song “Learn to Be Still” was the first night I’d felt happy and free of all the crazy in a long time. It was a fabulous concert.
A few years back the Eagles put out “The Long Road Out of Eden” a double CD. Like all double albums there was probably a fantastic single album in there somewhere. I still love that album, despite a few too many Timothy B. Schmidt songs. I kept hoping that they’d put their personal issues aside and put out some more new music. Alas, that appears to be a non-starter now. There are no Eagles without Glenn Frey.
As I find myself saying too much these days, my condolences to Mr. Frey’s family and friends. My condolences to all Eagles fans out there -and remember there are a lot more of us out here than you think. Classic Rock has lost another giant but I certainly don’t think the medium is dead or dying. Hang in there folks, it’s a dark ride. Tonight, I forgo my usual wintertime Bourbon and perhaps, just this once, I’m having a Tequila Sunrise.