Many people born in the second half of the 20th century would tell you that The Beatles are the greatest rock ‘n;’ roll band of all time. I sharply disagree. I’m one of a rare breed who thinks John, Paul and their merry band of blokes were vastly overrated. Others might argue that The Doors were the most innovative band. I like “Light My Fire” as much as the next guy, but a little bit of Jim Morrison goes a long way.
Those born after 1975 could claim that Metallica represents the pinnacle of rock/metal. Me…I think that the thunderous power chords and James Hetfield’s growling vocals are merely the mask that covers for a bunch of crybabies.
Led Zeppelin. Aerosmith. The Rolling Stones. Van Halen. Cream. You could make a case that any one of them might be the greatest band of the 20th century. Music is subjective and interpretive. No one is really right or wrong. They all have excellent resumes to pedal.
For my money, the best band of the late 20th century is The Eagles. God bless the late, great Glenn Frey!
When I was in college back in the ‘90’s, you would hear an eclectic mishmash of music floating down the hallway. We all had Mariah Carey, Counting Crows, Garth Brooks, Ace of Base, Nirvana, the soundtrack of The Lion King and a lot of other stuff in our CD players. But, almost without exception, every guy on our floor had a copy of The Eagles’ Greatest Hits somewhere in their room or car. There’s a reason why it is the bestselling album of all time in the U.S. I got both volumes as a birthday gift from a woman who is now passed on. The Eagles ushered me into my college-born love of classic rock.
The Eagles are distinctly American. That’s not a criticism; quite the opposite. Critics derided them for being, “slick,” and “Unadventurous.” As usual, critics often miss the forest for the trees. The band represented, not just the pinnacle of American music, but the best of what human beings can achieve when the proper chemistry is at play.
Neither Glenn Frey or Don Henley were particularly good singers. They never would have made the final cut on The Voice or American Idol; at least, not without a generous helping of autotuning. But when their harmonies kick in with the rest of the guys, I still get a slight chill. Listen to “Lyin’ Eyes,” or “One of These Nights,” and tell me I’m wrong.
Their group vocals, plus the guitars of Frey and Bernie Leadon (later Don Felder and Joe Walsh), the percussion work of Don Henley and the bass underpinnings of Randy Meisner (later Timothy B. Schmit) are never overblown or gaudy in the vein of more high-energy rock stars. Rather, they typified the laid-back emotional feel of the southern California sound circa 1971. Their lyrics were simple, but never simplistic. Their sentiments have a way of sneaking up on you, delivering relatable messages without being conspicuous.
The Eagles are accessible to a wide audience. Whether you like hard rock, soft rock, country, blues, progressive rock or bluegrass, they have something that will appeal to your ear. As proof, I offer you two tracks from their 1994 revival album, Hell Freezes Over. Play “Get Over It,” and “Love Will Keep Us Alive,” back to back. The former reverberated again on again on many rock and metal stations, while the latter was heard on easy-listening radio in many a doctor’s waiting room and in the aisles of the grocery store.
The biography of The Eagles plays out like any other celebrity rock band in recent times. The band forms, has moderate success, tweaks their style, has more success, starts to win awards and is soon famous worldwide. Then, egos grow, tempers flare, agendas clash, members leave, new members come in, members get into a physical altercation and the group disbands with promises that hell will freeze over before they reunite.
Decades later, tempers cool, egos shrink, solo careers blossom and wither, many members go broke and suddenly, the reunion tour is on. From all public appearances, Glenn Frey mended fences with Don Henley and the rest of the guys before he left. That’s a lesson we could all take to heart.
As to the true meaning of Hotel California, we will never know until we get to where Glenn is now. Don Henley claims it is about American excesses, but I think he’s full of cowflop. He’s just trying to attach his political agenda to something that can’t rationally be explained by anyone in a sober frame of mind. It will be one of those eternal mysteries, right up there with the true meaning of “Lucy in the Sky (With Diamonds.), the real location of the Malaysian Airliner and how much Donald Trump paid for his toupee.
Rest in peace, Glenn. Thank you for the musical memories. Take it easy, brother.