Tag Archives: Glenn Frey

Rocks In The Attic #748: The Eagles – ‘Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975’ (1976)

RITA#748I’ve never been too much of a fan of pre-Joe Walsh Eagles. It’s all a bit too country, too many jangling guitars. I prefer the edgier twin-guitar RAWK of Don Felder and Joe Walsh, rather than this singer-songwriter stuff.

I’ll still love Hotel California to the day I die, but there’s a reason this greatest hits set has sold so many copies. For a very long time, it was the best-selling album of the twentieth century in the USA, until it was finally surpassed by Michael Jackson’s Thriller following his death in 2009.

Seeing the Eagles live recently – or what is left of the band, having lost Glenn Frey a couple of years ago – I was reminded just how good this earlier material is. When you’re listening to six guys blast out a wall of harmonies, it sounds unbelievable.

Frey’s death at the age of 67 left a gaping hole in the band. Don Henley’s voice is too smooth, too AOR in comparison, and Walsh’s voice is too weird, too out there. Would they get somebody else in to stand in for Frey?

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The answer is yes…and no. Established singer-songwriter Vince Gill was brought into the band to fill the gap left by Frey’s absence. His guitar playing and singing – particularly a standout performance on Take It To The Limit – more than earned his place alongside Felder and Walsh.

The band’s secret weapon though was a clone of Glenn Frey, in the form of his 25-year old son, Deacon Frey. Young and handsome (next to the old men he shared a stage with), his vocals and acoustic guitar on the songs his father used to tackle – Take It Easy, Peaceful Easy Feeling, Already Gone – was uncanny. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. And good on him – apparently his first show with the band was at Dodger Stadium, so very much launched into life in the fast lane.

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The big question though was how the guitar solos on Hotel California were going to be handled. Lead-guitarist Steuart Smith was clearly the replacement for Don Felder, but I was curious whether he would play the song on a double-necked guitar as per his predecessor. Worry not, a blast of Mexican trumpet led into the opening 12-string acoustic section of the song, with a solitary spotlight on Smith playing a double-neck. My favourite guitar solo/s didn’t disappoint.

RITA#748cI expected the Eagles greatest hits – and got it! – but what I didn’t expect was the various solo songs by Joe Walsh and Don Henley. This was just as good – Walsh’s In The City, Walk Away, Life’s Been Good, Funk #49 and Rocky Mountain Way, and weirdly as a closer to the night (much to the chagrin of the man sat next to me), Don Henley’s The Boys Of Summer.

I wasn’t sure about seeing the band with so few original members, and not only were the wife and I both sick with head-colds, but we were also sat about 50 seats in from the aisles, which made getting out for refreshments virtually impossible. Despite all of this, it was still fantastic.

Hit: Take It Easy

Hidden Gem: Already Gone

Rocks In The Attic #507: Prince – ‘Prince’ (1979)

RITA#5072016 has been a terrible year for celebrity deaths, particularly those from music, films and television. The year started off tainted by the death of Motörhead’s Lemmy Kilmister just a few days before New Year. Then things started to go crazy with David Bowie dying suddenly on the tenth of January. Following him, we’ve also seen the passing of Eagle Glenn Frey, Beatles producer George Martin, Keith Emerson, Merle Haggard, Elvis’ guitarist Scotty Moore, and many, many more.

Losing Bowie was bad enough, but any year where we lose somebody as iconic as him, plus Prince, plus Muhammad Ali is just plain crazy. It’s like the icons of the late twentieth century are falling off the planet. I’m half expecting a plane carrying Madonna, Tom Cruise and Bruce Springsteen to crash into the Hollywood sign, while Los Angeles succumbs to a devastating earthquake.

Prince’s death seemed to hit a little closer to home, only because he had just played in Auckland a few weeks earlier as part of his Piano And Microphone tour. I would have loved to see Prince, backed by a full band but I didn’t really like the idea of seeing him play unaccompanied. There’s a part of me that regrets not chasing down a ticket, just because it was my last chance to see him perform, but with his passing I’m even more glad that I didn’t go – I like to think that my seat went to a more deserving fan.

I can take or leave Prince. His Batman soundtrack was the first album I ever owned, and I like a good deal of his big hits; I just don’t like all the Sexy Motherf*cker bullshit that he descended to in the early nineties. His contractual dispute with Warner Brothers around that time – leading to him changing his name to the symbol and writing ‘Slave’ on his cheek also turned me off him. All of a sudden, just as I was getting into music in a big way, he didn’t seem to be about the music anymore.

His Greatest Hits album is superb though, and the song off that record I’ve always liked the best is the opening number I Wanna Be Your Lover, taken from this, his self-titled second album. The recent repressing of his back catalogue on vinyl has given me the opportunity to buy the album (I’ve never seen an original pressing in the wild), and it’s a great record.

The album version of I Wanna Be Your Lover sounds even better, being a few minutes longer than the single edit available on his Greatest Hits, and the other singles from the record are all worthy additions to his canon. I can’t remember the last time I liked a record so much from start to finish.

What’s not to like? All the upbeat songs are of a similar quality to I Wanna Be Your Lover, and the slower ballads don’t grate as much as some of the soppier ballads from later in his career. I might put my toe further in the purple water, and try out some of his other records now that they’re widely available again.

Hit: I Wanna Be Your Lover

Hidden Gem: Bambi

Rocks In The Attic #357: Neil Young – ‘After The Gold Rush’ (1970)

RITA#357Well I heard mister Young sing about her, well I heard ole Neil put her down, well I hope Neil Young will remember, a Southern man don’t need him around anyhow.

There isn’t enough sniping between bands these days. It’s fun and reminds you that everybody’s playing in the same pool. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like the level of antagonism on something like How Do You Sleep – John Lennon’s poison pen-letter to Paul McCartney. That’s taking it down to a schoolyard level (and anyway, McCartney’s initial snipe – a photograph of two beetles fucking each other on the rear cover of Ram – was far more tasteful).

But if it’s one band having a bit of a dig at another band, I usually love it. The above lyrics from Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama showed that the rednecks weren’t too enamoured of Neil Young’s song on this album. As usual, with these sorts of things, it all got blown out of proportion and became widely known that Neil Young and Skynyrd didn’t get on.

The same is almost true of Steely Dan and the Eagles. First of all, the mighty Dan include the lyric ‘Turn up the Eagles, the neighbours are listening’ in the song Everything You Did, off The Royal Scam. Glenn Frey then returned the compliment by including the line ‘They stab it with their Steely knives’ in Hotel California. Most people think the two bands were at odds, but the Eagles loved Steely Dan and perhaps most importantly Donald Fagen and Walter Becker both had a respect for the Eagles – that’s Glenn Frey, Don Henley and Tim Schmit you can hear singing backing vocals on the Dan’s 1978 single FM (No Static At All).

I was expecting more snipes from Jack White against the Black Key’s Dan Auerbach on 2014’s Lazaretto, but it’s okay. It seems White was more concerned with rubbing his ex-wife’s face in his new-found promiscuity – ‘I got three women, red, blonde, and brunette, it took a digital photograph to pick which one I like’ – on Three Women, his version of Blind Willie McTell’s Blind Women Blues.

Hit: Southern Man

Hidden Gem: Cripple Creek Ferry

Rocks In The Attic #260: The Eagles – ‘Hotel California’ (1976)

RITA#260Until very recently I wouldn’t have known who The Eagles were if I bumped into them on the street. Quite what they would be doing walking around East Auckland is beside the point, but the fact is I’ve been living inside a bubble. I really don’t know why, but given that they are one of the world’s biggest rock bands, I wouldn’t know them from Adam.

Sure, I’ve seen the music video to Hotel California, and so I know that the drummer sings that one; and I know that the Super Furry Animals sold a tank – purchased to promote their debut album on the festival circuit – to said drummer, Don Henley; and I know that Glenn Frey and Joe Walsh have each had relatively successful solo careers – but again, I couldn’t describe either guy other than that fact that they both have faces.

I’ve even seen an Eagles concert on TV – a rerun of The Old Grey Whistle Test – with a pre-Hotel California version of the band playing through their early hits; but again, their very absence of familiarity has clouded my memory and so all I can remember is a bunch of polite Americans playing some non-descript MOR. I’ve even read Barney Hoskyns’ book Hotel California, which covers the formation of The Eagles (amongst other things), but I’m still none the wiser.

So for some reason, even though I consider myself well-read in terms of musical history, and I’ve learnt the proper guitar parts to Hotel California (with a capo at the seventh fret), I’ve remained ignorant to who they actually are – until very recently.

A couple of weeks ago I watched the History Of The Eagles documentary on TV. Strangely enough, the film doesn’t really give a glimpse of the band at their heyday – it kicks off with the Hell Freezes Over reunion tour, and takes that chapter in their career as the jumping off point, occasionally looking back to the ’70s from time to time.

Joe Walsh is immediately lovable – a teddy-bear of a drunk who now looks more like the sort of old man with jam-jar glasses you’d expect to see sat on a porch rocking-chair in a trailer park. Don Felder is equally non-threatening – a quiet soul, happy to be playing guitar to adoring fans. The real threat seems to come from the band’s two chief songwriters, guitarist Glenn Frey and drummer Don Henley. It’s very clear that they call the shots, and without them there wouldn’t be such a thing as The Eagles.

In one cringe-inducing moment Glenn Frey, speaking directly to camera, recounts – almost proudly – the conversation that led to Don Felder leaving the band: “I said ‘If we’re going back on tour, I’m getting more money than you.’” Hmm.

Felder (and Walsh for that matter) both agreed to terms that would give a higher proportion of profits to Frey and Henley. Eventually, the relationship soured to such a point that Felder left the band and was replaced by another guitarist for touring duties.

This wouldn’t be so strange if Felder was just a guitarist without any input into the band’s songs. But Felder brought the band their best-known song – a demo tape he brought along to a recording session contained the original instrumental idea for Hotel California – so for me, he’s just integral as Frey, Henley or Walsh.

Hotel California really is a fantastic song, and well worthy of the plaudits it regularly receives as the best guitar-based rock song, or the best guitar solo, etc. For a long, long time I tried to ignore the genius of the guitar-parts, instead preferring Jimmy Page’s solo in Stairway To Heaven, but I always find something new in Hotel California every time I hear it – it’s just magical. However, heard alongside the rest of their material (except maybe Life In The Fast Lane or Victim Of Love), the song sticks out like a sore thumb, more in line with something you might expect from the twin lead-guitar attack of Thin Lizzy.

I’ve never been an avid listener of lyrics, but they’re so ‘front and centre’ in the song, that it’s not hard to hear them. One aspect of the lyrics had always slightly annoyed me though – and I’m glad I’m not the only person to pick this up…

In a 2009 interview, Plain Dealer music critic John Soeder asked Don Henley about the lyrics: “On Hotel California, you sing: ‘So I called up the captain / ‘Please bring me my wine’ / He said, ‘We haven’t had that spirit here since 1969.’’ I realise I’m probably not the first to bring this to your attention, but wine isn’t a spirit. Wine is fermented; spirits are distilled. Do you regret that lyric?”

“Thanks for the tutorial,” Heney replied in a self-important and humourless tone he displays all the way through the History Of The Eagles documentary. “And no, you’re not the first to bring this to my attention – and you’re not the first to completely misinterpret the lyric and miss the metaphor. Believe me, I’ve consumed enough alcoholic beverages in my time to know how they are made and what the proper nomenclature is. But that line in the song has little or nothing to do with alcoholic beverages. It’s a socio-political statement. My only regret would be having to explain it in detail to you, which would defeat the purpose of using literary devices in songwriting and lower the discussion to some silly and irrelevant argument about chemical processes.”

It might be hard, but going forward I’ll still try my best to enjoy Hotel California, ignoring the fact that Glenn Frey and Don Henley are seemingly such terrible human beings.

Hit: Hotel California

Hidden Gem: Victim Of Love

Rocks In The Attic #199: Various Artists – ‘Beverly Hills Cop (O.S.T.)’ (1984)

RITA#199They don’t make comedies like this anymore – and they don’t make soundtracks like this anymore either (which I’m sure is quite a good thing to some people). They really got good at putting pop music soundtracks together in the ‘80s. Looking back, you can sort of see how much a gamble it was to put an orchestral score on the Star Wars films, if the trend of the times was to use a pop music soundtrack. Still, I’d like to have heard Harold Faltermeyer have a stab at a Luke S theme.

As far as ‘80s soundtracks go, this isn’t the best of the bunch – there’s still quite a lot of filler on here – but there’s a fair few decent songs too. Ex-Eagle Glenn Frey’s The Heat Is On is the big single, followed by Axel F by Harold Faltermeyer; but there’s also Neutron Dance by the Pointer Sisters and a couple of decent songs by Pattie LaBelle – New Attitude and Stir It Up.

The soundtrack is good at evoking that ‘80s West Coast vacuum that Axel Foley discovers in the film, and it also reminds you of a genuinely enjoyable comedy back in the days when Eddie Murphy was still funny.

Hit: The Heat Is On – Glenn Frey

Hidden Gem: Stir It Up – Patti LaBelle