THE EAGLES: THE STORY OF AN AMERICAN BAND
(directed by Alison Ellwood, 2013)
(**** out of 5)
> For better or worse, The Eagles were the seminal American band of the late 70’s. Theses guys were just everywhere you looked, up and down the radio dial. Their discs were spun at every party I went to in this heady decade- at least every good one. ‘Hotel California’ had no rival worth making an argument for as the touchstone hit of its era. Growing up, I must have heard it over a hundred times on KRLA and other L.A. contemporary rock stations. Whether their slick, impeccably produced country-pop appealed to you or not, one has to acknowledge the impressive output of hits from the songwriting team of vocalist/guitarist Glen Frey and vocalist/drummer Don Henley.
. I took a number of things away from this exhaustive 2-part documentary about the band whose Greatest Hits package was the biggest selling album of the last millennium:
1) I like this band a whole lot more than I thought I did. They are nowhere near as namby-pamby as I had painted them. What a great bunch of songs the produced!
2) Joe Walsh is THE MAN! This great band band got a whole lot better when they invited him to the party.
3) Even though I have always liked and admired Don Henley for his soulful voice, solid songwriting and important voice as an incisive social critic… the man is more a bit of an asshole!
and 4) So is Glen Frey.
. I had no idea there was so much bickering and acrimony in this band until they split up and I heard the evaluation of when they might reunite: when Hell freezes over. (Which, as we all know, it did, in 1994 to the great relief of their Machiavellian business partner/strident nemesis David Geffen- also a bit of a bastard. Is this what it takes to succeed in Amerika- to be a self-absorbed megalomaniacal egoist? Apparently, yes.) Former band members Bernie Leadon and Don Felder sure appear to have gotten short shrift from the arrogant, ego-driven songwriting duo. The Eagles are aptly described as a band of alpha males all competing for primacy. (Strange, I naively thought the band that sang ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling’ was living and modeling the hippie ethic of this famously “laid-back” time. I didn’t realize they were such calculating mercenaries.)
. Part 1 covers the pre-breakup Eagles and a more cursory but equally interesting Part 2 covers what happened after Hell froze over- through the LONG ROAD OUT OF EDEN double album that was initially sold only through those evil, nasty corporate bloodsuckers WalMart. Though they may have seen this as using the bad guys to circumvent the greedy manipulations of ruthless Svengali Geffen, I can’t help but see it as a total sell-out off a band that wants to have things both ways: They are the champions of the little guy- the voice of the silent American majority! And they are greedy, money-mad businessmen who put profit above their art. (Why not? Everybody is cashing in now. Why shouldn’t they be the ones to benefit from the fruit of their own creative labor? But hypocritical? I think so, yes.) I still admire Don Henley for his work with The Walden Project and for the important messages in songs like “The Last Resort” and “Get Over It” and “The Garden of Allah” and “Johnny Can’t Read” and “Inside Job” and “I Will Not Go Quietly” and “Little Tin God” and “Nobody Else in the World But You”! but it’s hard to reconcile the man who wrote these songs with a powerful conscience with the haughty, arrogant egoist we see here.
> EXTRA SPECIAL BONUS: a third disc featuring a complete Miami concert performance from the height of their powers in 1977. True, they didn’t open things up much in concert- slavishly trying to recreate their studio sound, robbing them of an energy and vibrancy they might have otherwise had- but watching the wonderful Joe Walsh trade guitar riffs with Don Felder on a fiery, intense ‘Hotel California’ is a stunner. Having heard the song far- far too many times, it’s a real revelation to hear how fresh and alive it sounded at its peak. It did. It resonated.
. And these dudes ROCKED.
© Kevin Paul Keelan and lastcre8iveiconoclast, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kevin Paul Keelan and lastcre8iveiconoclast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.