I do not comprehend the constant bashing of the rock band The Eagles. The Eagles are arguably the biggest, and dare I say, most influential American rock band in history.
Before the hate mail starts, note that I said AMERICAN band. I’m not putting the Eagles on the same level as the Beatles.
Let me repeat that. I’m not putting the Eagles on the same level as the Beatles. Okay?
We can argue whether The Eagles are worthy of being mentioned as possible competitors to bands such as Pink Floyd, U2, or, even Radiohead. They are very different from these anyway, but in terms of cultural impact, commercial success and overall respectability, some will say they are far better than these bands and others will say they are a marginally more talented version of Hootie and the Blowfish.
But I, for one, am sick of The Eagles hating.
The Eagles are not immortals. And as with all of us other mortals, they have their faults. Glaring, crippling, annoying faults. But what I don’t think can be disputed is that the Eagles belong in the conversation as one of the overall biggest products of American rock and roll history. Some may say that’s an indictment of American rock and roll. Others will pull obscure bands out of the mix and say that they were better than the Eagles.
I frame this discussion around a rock and roll band that sold a ton of albums and that at the end of the day , doesn’t truly suck in any sense of the word.
Yes, I know, plenty will say “the Eagles, suck, man!”, but I defy anybody to tell me, even if they are purely anti-Eagles, that the band wasn’t better than 95% of the bands that produced gold albums over the past 40 years. Had they not sold five albums to every man, woman and child of the last three generations of the entire world, would people still resent, er, I mean, hate them?
Memo to typical clichéd Eagle hater: If you could go to Antarctica without hearing One of These Nights on a faraway radio station’s signal skipping along the ice, would you hate the Eagles as much you do?
If today you listened to early Eagles’ stuff, with Bernie Leadon burning up the banjo and Randy Meisner singing in an otherworldly voice, and you had never heard about Glenn Frey’s solo career, would you trash the music? Honestly…would you?’
I want to hear from you if you think the Eagles aren’t better than Billy Joel. I want to hear from you if you think The Eagles aren’t better than Celine Dion. I want to hear from you if you think The Eagles aren’t better than anything that American Idol has produced. I want to hear from you if you think The Eagles aren’t better than Bon Jovi, Bryan Adams, Tom Petty, Journey, REO Speedwagon, Huey Lewis and the News, and the aforementioned Hootie and the Blowfish.
I want to hear from you if you think The Eagles aren’t at least equal to Fleetwood Mac.
If a good number of people argue that those bands are mostly equal to the Eagles, well, then, I’ll admit I’m lost.
But let’s take it up a level. Was Pearl Jam, who to me is the Eagles of grunge, intrinsically better than the Eagles? Is Eddie Veder inherently more talented than Don Henley? Or is he basically the same thing: a driven perfectionist blessed with a great voice and a solid musical sense? Was Guns ‘N Roses better than the Eagles? Axl Rose sang backup on a Don Henley solo album, for chrissakes, and by all accounts was like a kid in a candy store while doing it. While the Eagles have put out stuff as syrupy and overproduced as November Rain, the song doesn’t hold a candle, try as it might, to Hotel California.
I was in a freakin’ Dunkin’ Donuts the other day in New York City. As we stood there amid the grime and sticky floors and signs espousing egg white on English muffin specials, Hotel California came on. There stood an older teenager, dreadlocks and all drumming along with his fingers, subconsciously it seemed. An old man of 65 bounced his knee. An attractive 40ish soccer mom stood by and mouthed the words along with Henley. At least one of these three, and probably two of these three and quite possibly all of these three couldn’t tell you who wrote or sang that song.
Explain to me, then, how badly can this band can truly suck at the end of the day? They DID write this, you know.
Also, I don’t understand the arguments about ‘talent’ and how that relates to The Eagles or any other major act. I’d venture to say that if I were to stroll the subway tunnels and sidewalks in most major American cities, I could find people as talented as Don Henley…and as talented as John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan and all other grandfathers of rock. Success comes when people are lucky enough, and industrious enough, to meet it, grab it by its balls and own it.
Tragically, so many ‘true’ geniuses wind up dead. Elvis, Jopliln, Cobain, Hendrix. They are misfits, in my way of thinking anyway, whose insight, perspective and emotions cannot be contained and ultimately die in a flash of unforgiving light. It’s completely sad, and easy to romanticize, when a talented singer/songwriter/guitar player ends up depressed or dead.
Of all the Eagles, Joe Walsh has walked that line the most precariously. He has been able, thankfully, to pull himself from that edge and while he’ll never really join the so-called pantheon of rock greats, he is regarded by people in the know to be a helluva lot closer to immortality than conventional wisdom would have it. He seems, at least, to have worked a lot less hard than Henley, had a lot less commercial success, but probably enjoyed it a whole lot more. A fair trade on either side, I would argue.
Walsh, of them all, seems to have live in that nether region. He could have easily ended up there, as a supporting, though respected, cast member in a great tragedy. But perhaps, his will power was just enough to overcome his genius, or his genius not quite enough to overcome his willpower, and he’s been able to stay the course and still play Life’s Been Good (which is only a middling song for Joe Walsh) for 20,000 people paying an average of $100 a pop whenever he’d like.
I’d say that the Eagles probably had less luck than most, at least in the early stages. They were not randomly ‘discovered’. They had a plan, by all accounts. Glenn Frey, easily the least talented member of the band (what does he do exceptionally well, exactly?), nonetheless stayed the course, paid the price, recruited the right members, fired them when they became wrong (at least in his view) and sang, played and wrote decently enough to keep it all on track and become the most commercially successful American band ever.
At the end of the day, it’s Glenn Frey’s band, and well, who reading this wouldn’t trade places?
The Eagles, despite their supposed commercialism, have never stooped to the level of the Rolling Stones (who I actually like as well). The Eagles last album, Long Road out of Eden, may have been uneven, and may have been bloated, but it was an honest effort. It wasn’t put out under a brand name and as an excuse to tour. Not one extra ticket was sold because of the album.
But at least they tried. And really, there’s more good music on it (albeit a double album) than what could be found on the Stones last five albums combined.
Somehow, work and art are supposed to stay separate. If you dare combine the two, you hopefully are better at the art than the business side. If it’s the other way around, God help you.
The Eagles are one of the best bands, if not the very best band, that America has ever produced. It’s good enough for me.