Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time
I recently had an email conversation with my good friend Alan Kennedy regarding The Eagles. He and I used to work at the same record company and that’s where we became friends more than 20 years ago. Alan is now a teacher and he was surprised to learn from some younger colleagues that not everyone enjoys listening to The Eagles. In fact, there’s a large contingent of music lovers who proudly claim to hate them, often citing issues with the personalities of their two key singer-songwriters, Don Henley & Glenn Frey, as the main reason for their hatred. They also mention the fact that other “more deserving” artists started the subgenre of “country-rock” but didn’t receive the kind of recognition & widespread acceptance that The Eagles have enjoyed for more than 4 decades. Perhaps that’s true, but they can’t be blamed for garnering the success that others might have achieved under different circumstances. The bottom line for me has always been the music, and The Eagles have written & recorded too many fantastic songs which have stood the test of time (and have been enjoyed by generations of fans) to simply be dismissed because “they didn’t do it first” or “they’re money-hungry jerks who overcharge baby boomers for concert tickets.”
Earlier today, Alan posted an excellent comment on the About KamerTunesBlog page about this subject and I wanted to share it here where it would hopefully get more exposure. Following is Alan’s complete commentary (which includes a few of my comments from our recent email correspondence), with a couple of my follow-up comments at the bottom of the page.
Hi Rich – Since you’ve expressed willingness to engage in this topic with me in the past, I wanted to share some thoughts on The Eagles.
In 1972, The band released a record called “Take It Easy” on which band co-leader Glenn Frey sang this line that he wrote:
Well, I’m a standin’ on a corner
In Winslow, Arizona
Such a fine sight to see
It’s a girl my Lord
in a flat-bed Ford
Slowin’ down to take a look at me
Come on, baby, don’t say maybe
I gotta know if your sweet love
Is gonna save me
Now I’m not going to say that ALL rock fans like that song, or know that line, but I will wager that almost everyone in my age bracket (40s) knows it and likes it and can sing it. What’s so special about that song? Well, it’s country, but not too country for rock fans, and it’s rock, but not too rock for people who might not like AC/DC or Zeppelin. Furthermore, it subverted the typical “male gaze” trope that feminists of the time were unhappy about. The guy is not checking out the girl, it’s the reverse. A female friend of mine from college actually stood on a corner of Winslow, Arizona recently and had her photo taken, just to pay tribute.
The Eagles took the hard-living vibe of country greats like Waylon Jennings and Hank Williams, and added in the glorious harmonies of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys (just listen to “Lyin’ Eyes”) , and interesting guitar textures (who can say Joe Walsh is not a good guitar player?) and came up with a sound that most American pop music fans liked. And for those who were not particularly fans of any kind of rock or country, there were those glorious ballads to win them over . Nowadays, we hear “Desperado”, or “Tequila Sunrise”, or “Best of My Love” or “I Can’t Tell You Why” or “New Kid in Town”, and they are (for my generation anyway) like oxygen – just factual realities that seem to have always existed. And yet they didn’t. Someone – members of The Eagles in fact – wrote them.
So it was with great surprise that I received the news from certain much younger, much respected colleagues of mine, that the Eagles were regarded as a punchline, as phonies, as the epitome of corporate rock, as not cool. I have never based my opinion on what constitutes good pop music on what is cool or not, but the extent of the perceived “not-coolness” of The Eagles was an eye opener for me. I went on the web to try to get support for my view, and could only find sites like “The Eagles Suck” and “Why the Eagles Suck” and “Stop Defending the Eagles”, etc. etc. This was quite a shocker. One good friend even suggested (jokingly) that his respect for me diminished a little bit done when I said I liked them. I quickly found solace from members of my own generation. But I think people are railing against the idea of the Eagles. It’s hard for me to believe that a real fan of good pop music could say that, for example “”New Kid in Town”, is a “bad” song. You, Rich, who to me are both a voice of reason and a popular and credible/authoritative music blogger, reassured me that you felt that the songwriting partnership of Glenn Fry and Don Henley was “musical gold” and said this:
I’ve read many comments & articles over the years by people who hate The Eagles and I’ve never quite understood it. I think the fact that they’re not as “legitimate” as other, more deserving country-rock artists but have achieved massive success makes them easy targets for hipsters who want to have a musical enemy. The bottom line is that they’ve written & recorded some of the greatest songs of the last 40+ years. A lot of people hate them because the songs are “overplayed” but I don’t buy that. Just because a song has gotten a lot of exposure doesn’t make it bad.
I’ll end with this: listen to Don Henley’s signature honey-on-sandpaper voice singing Desperado, and tell me that all you hear is a cocaine-addled, rich, corporate-bolstered phony – and not a man with something to say about the human condition and gorgeous voice with which to articulate it. Go on, I dare you.
I think Alan did a great job stating his case and I agree with everything he wrote. I can understand why some people might not enjoy The Eagles’ music, but the vitriol that is often aimed at them by so many music lovers is something I can’t fathom. I wouldn’t necessarily want to work with Glenn Frey or be Don Henley’s friend, but their songwriting is superb and their voices (especially the “honey & sandpaper” vocals of Don Henley, as Alan so eloquently stated) continue to make me smile after all these years. One of these days I will revisit their discography & write a series about it here, where we can discuss details of their songs & albums, but right now I’m asking my readers what their general feelings are about The Eagles. Even if you don’t own any of their albums, do you enjoy hearing them on the radio, or will you immediately change the station as soon one of their songs starts playing? I’m eager to hear your opinions. Thanks to Alan for requesting that I make this a public conversation.