Tag Archives: The Eagles

Rocks In The Attic #814: Linda Ronstadt – ‘Living In The USA’ (1978)

RITA#814Living In The USA is Linda Ronstadt’s seventh studio album, released in September of 1978. Its cover image, of Ronstadt standing in a corridor wearing a pair of roller-skates, is credited with increasing the popularity of skating in the United States.

It was a different time.

In fact, the album looks like an advertisement for roller-skates, with the front, rear cover and inner sleeve depicting Ronstadt either putting on her skates, struggling to stand up in them, or struggling to skate in them.

I’m not quite sure why I have any of her records at all in my collection. I’m sure she’s seen as some of national treasure in her native America, but she always felt more like an imported curio in the UK. She seems to get a fair bit of radio airplay here in New Zealand, but it’s the kind of middle-of-the-road AOR that fits the Dad-Rock demographic of the Kiwi stations. Perhaps if she had done a Bond song, she might have ended up with the kind of longevity that Carly Simon has.

RITA#814aLiving In The USA features songs made popular by Chuck Berry (Back In The USA), Elvis Presley (Love Me Tender) and Elvis Costello (Alison), but ultimately, the fact that Ronstadt doesn’t write her own songs is a major limit to her credibility. She’s essentially a cover-artist, a pub-singer who got lucky, the Jane McDonald of the 1970s. Her only solid contribution to popular culture was bringing together musicians Glenn Frey, Bernie Leadon, Randy Meisner and Don Henley together to play on her second studio album, Silk Purse. The band gelled so well on stage, they stayed together and called themselves the Eagles.

Hit: Love Me Tender

Hidden Gem: Mohammed’s Radio

RITA#814b

Rocks In The Attic #779: Various Artists – ‘FM (O.S.T.)’ (1978)

RITA#779Is there a worse film with such a great jukebox soundtrack? I don’t know what went on with the production of this film, but they managed to amass a who’s who of AOR tracks – courtesy of many different record labels – on the soundtrack.

It’s amazing to see the ident of the film studio, and the opening credits roll over a Steely Dan track. Their title track is one of the band’s only tracks not to appear on any of their studio albums, and serves as a great reason to own this soundtrack. Within the bands discography, it falls between the recording of 1977’s Aja and 1980’s Gaucho. The instrumental reprise of the title track, unavailable anywhere else, makes it essential for any diehard Steely Dan fan.

The plot of the film – a hit radio station staffed by a plucky bunch of rebels, faced with interference from their corporate owners – is about as interesting as the trade dispute storyline from The Phantom Menace.

The cast – of mostly unknowns – aren’t particularly bad, or unlikable, it’s just that the story is so damn uninteresting. It plays more like a soap opera than a feature film, and the claustrophobia of the radio station offices is really only punctured by two concert performances, by Jimmy ‘Great Spread’ Buffett and Linda Ronstadt.

RITA#779aWhat a corker of a soundtrack though. Alongside the Dan’s FM, we also get their groovy Do It Again, the Eagles’ Life In The Fast Lane, Foreigner’s Cold As Ice, the Doobie’s It Keeps You Runnin’, the Steve Miller Band’s Fly Like An Eagle, Tom Petty & The Heartbreaker’s Breakdown, Queen’s We Will Rock You and the full 8-minute cut of Joe Walsh’s Life’s Been Good To Me. It really is the American Graffiti of late ‘70s rock music. My only criticism is that it’s comprised entirely by white singers and bands, and I can’t imagine any radio station in the late 1970s being so blind to African-American artists.

In fact, the hits come so thick and fast, the film feels more like a 2-hour trailer for a much better film, given how used we are to hearing big songs flip between one to another so rapidly. It’s just a shame the film doesn’t live up to the quality of the music.

No static at all, but a whole load of white noise.

Hit: More Than A Feeling – Boston

Hidden Gem: FM Reprise – Steely Dan

Rocks In The Attic #629: America – ‘America’ (1971)

RITA#629You’d be forgiven for thinking that the band America was from that side of the Atlantic. Aside from their name, they also sound a lot like an American proposition; not a million miles away from the soft-rock and smooth harmonies of the Eagles.

Formed in 1970, the trio (one British-born, two American-born) met each other while studying in London where their respective fathers were stationed in the U.S. Air Force. They wisely named themselves America to avoid people thinking they were a British band trying to sound American.

Unfortunately they’re the type of band that is now relegated to charity shops. Future singles A Horse With No Name (later added to this album upon its release as a single) and Ventura Highway are both fantastic and still sound great today.

Produced by Ian Samwell, the man who wrote Cliff Richard’s Move It, the band’s self-titled debut is a nice slice of somewhat melancholic folk pop. More than anything, they follow the template set down by Crosby, Stills, Nash (and Young) – in fact, the lead single on this record, I Need You, bears more than a passing resemblance to CSNY’s Our House from their Déjà Vu album.

As an aside, surely Neil Young’s sometime-membership of that band should compel us to refer to them as Crosby, Stills, Nash Or Young…

Hit: I Need You

Hidden Gem: Riverside

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 #475: Stevie Nicks – ‘Bella Donna’ (1981)

RITA#475If American mattress-actress Belladonna started a musical career and called her debut solo album Stevie Nicks, well that’s just going to cause a headache for everybody. Let’s just all hope that that doesn’t happen.

This is Nick’s debut solo album, placed between Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk and Mirage. It doesn’t sound a million miles away from the Mac, and hit single Edge Of Seventeen is as strong as anything that you might expect from that band. The production just sounds a little more ‘80s; a tad more Tango In The Night than Rumours.

Away from the confines of a musical partnership, Nicks gets the opportunity to indulge herself here. You wouldn’t hear a song as countryfied as After The Glitter Fades on a Fleetwood Mac album, and she gets to entertain Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers on Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around – the only song on the record not to be written by Nicks. Even chief Eagle and professional nasty Don Henly makes an appearance on the subdued Leather And Lace.

While most songs could be lifted of any Mac album post 1975, there’s one moment on the record that would definitely have peaked Mac guitarist Lindsay Buckingham’s interest. Waddy Wachtel’s guitar riff on Edge Of Seventeen is the greatest moment on the album. Soon to be appropriated by Survivor on Eye Of The Tiger (released a year later in 1982), and sampled by Destiny’s Child on Bootylicious in 2001, it’s a thunderbolt of a hook.

Hit: Edge Of Seventeen

Hidden Gem: Bella Donna

Rocks In The Attic #453: Genesis – ‘Genesis Live’ (1973)

RITA#453I’m rather partial to a bit of Watcher Of The Skies – presented here in its live glory as the first song on this ‘inbetween’ record to fill the gap between Foxtrot and Selling England By The Pound. That’s not to say I’m a huge Genesis fan. I’m not. There’s just a bit too much in the way of keyboards on the earlier Peter Gabriel material, and I’m afraid to say that the Phil Collins years speak more to me, as disposable as they are.

I recently watched a documentary about the band (Genesis: Together And Apart), and not being a huge fan, two things really struck me. Firstly, how integral Tony Banks was (is?) to Genesis (the band was effectively built around him, not Peter Gabriel as I naively thought); and secondly, perhaps due to that very fact, how much of an absolute arsehole Tony Banks was (is?). Some people just shouldn’t let themselves be filmed. He single-handedly presents the band in a negative light, which I wouldn’t have any idea of if I hadn’t seen the documentary.

I now put Tony Banks in the same middle section of the Venn diagram (‘talented vs. complete arse’) as Don Henley from the Eagles. In the Eagles’ documentary History Of The Eagles, Henley’s recollection of the reasons why he fired guitarist Don Felder simply disgusted me. There are some people who are just so uptight, so against the spirit of rock ‘n roll, that you wonder how anybody in their right minds ever wanted to be in a band with them.

Hit: Watcher Of The Skies

Hidden Gem: The Return Of The Giant Hogweed

Rocks In The Attic #369: Ry Cooder – ‘Bop Till You Drop’ (1979)

RITA#369There are some real gaps in my record collection, which I’m not really proud of. Ry Cooder is one such gap. I’ve seen Buena Vista Social Club, where Cooder is treated as a slide-guitar playing God, but before that I’d never listened to any of his albums and only heard of him by name. I picked this up at the Auckland vinyl fair late last year and I love it. I didn’t know what to expect – something a bit less mainstream sounding, I guess, to account for that fact that he’d flown under my radar for so long; but it sounds like it belongs on the charts, alongside the AOR likes of Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles.

Wikipedia tells me that this is the first major label pop record to be recorded digitally. Wow – 1979 – I didn’t even think the word ‘digital’ was even uttered before the 1980s.

Note to self – buy more Ry Cooder.

Hit: Little Sister

Hidden Gem: I Think It’s Going To Work Out Fine

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