Tag Archives: Crap Rock

RIP Glenn Frey, 1948-2016

What a strange and sad start to this new year…

Glenn Frey, one of the founders of the Eagles who, along with Don Henley, was a core member for the band’s entire existence, has passed away. He was 67. The NY Times Obituary is here.

Below are some of the most Glenn Frey-centric Eagles hits. Yes, they’re certainly straight ahead Album Oriented Rock that you’ve probably heard 8 million times by now. But they exhibit pretty damn good musicianship, wonderful harmonies and the hooks still catch 40 years on. There’s also a certain 70s zeitgeist infusing the music that few other bands have retained without seeming terribly dated or bombastic.

Frey served as singer, songwriter and guitarist for the Eagles, one of the most successful Rock acts of the 1970s, a radio staple and still one of the biggest selling bands ever. Frey, a Detroit native, and Henley, a Texan, apprenticed in the burgeoning early 1970s California singer-songwriter scene, including stints together in Linda Rondstadt’s backing band, before striking out on their own and founding the Eagles. Their genius was to mainstream Gram Parson’s “Country Rock” fusion and turn it into Top 40 radio gold. Frey admittedly learned much of his songwriting craft from Jackson Browne, perhaps the ultimate singer-songwriter of that period, famously living above him in LA and absorbing his hard working compositional technique, which featured endless repetition on piano and endless cups of tea. The two would later go on to co-author one of the Eagles biggest smashes, “Take It Easy”.

What hasn’t been said about the Eagles already? For one of the best documentaries on their big time Rock ‘n Roll lifestyle, as well as the particular disfunctional dynamics of their ever-changing membership through the years, check out the epically comprehensive History of the Eagles. And for one of the funnier and most obsessive analysis of any documentary you will ever read, check out the great Bill Simmons take on History of the Eagles over at his Grantland site. His OCD dissection of the film and the band is the definitive take and probably one of the most enjoyable pieces of Rock journalism that I’ve read in a long time, even if it is all vicarious.

So another Rock ‘n Roll great has exited the stage. Even if the Eagles divided critical opinion back in the day, with New York and Mid West-based pundits regularly bashing them for their slickness, perceived sexism and very California-ness, such arguments seem quaint in era where a music magazine like Rolling Stone regularly puts American Idol winners on its covers. Take away the carping of the critics and the band controversies and the music remains solid, well made and enjoyable because it’s generally not going for grandeur just excellence. It survives and still thrives on its own merits and a greatest hits compilation belongs in any serious Rock fan’s collection at the least. Looking back, the Eagles go down as one of the very best of their hedonistic and slightly paranoid era and if they had only made “Hotel California,” actually an atypically dark and cryptic song for them, they would still have an entry in the Book of Rock. But they had a ton more hits and great tunes and so they’ve surely earned their own chapter. And Glenn Frey was a big, big part of that.

What we’re listening to — I’m In Love With My Car by Queen

I’m not that big of a Queen fan — they were played to death on the radio when I was a kid and there’s something about the rococo pretensions of a song like “Bohemian Rhapsody” that makes me want to do violence to the local jukebox. But I do like this song, probably because it isn’t one of their big hits and also it doesn’t really sound that much like Queen for the simple fact that it’s a Roger Taylor composition and not a Freddy Mercury. Also, I’m sensing a theme around here so this one goes out to Graham while we wait for his report from Down Under. And really, all of us around here are in love with our cars whatever the make or model. Aren’t you?

Earworm of the day — Take It to the Limit by the Eagles

I have been playing this song lately as if it were brand new instead of nearly 40 years old. Between the hooks, the polished perfection of the band and the melancholy wanderlust, it feels like the ideal warm weather driving song. Here’s a primo live performance from ’77 with Randy Meisner singing his classic composition shortly before he quit the band.

Meisner didn’t write many Eagles tunes but “Take It to the Limit” is a beauty. The Eagles get a tough rap in “serious” rock criticism as being somehow too polished and slick, too SoCal for their own good, as if massive popularity somehow made the band unworthy of respect. But maybe all those millions of record buyers knew better than the critics after all. I think with the perspective of time and not hearing their songs every 10 seconds on the radio one can now appreciate just what kind of chops they had. Their lyrics are sharp, the vocal harmonies are Byrds-level good and the hits still sound fresh after all these years due to the super-crisp production. The Eagles gave the people what they wanted and they did it damn well. The next time you’ve got a long road trip go ahead and cue up Greatest Hits Volume I & Volume II. Despite the fact that it’s all the same band, the songs are so diverse I bet you’ll keep coming back for more on the way home.

What we’re listening to today — Harry Nilsson

Just saw a really good documentary last night via Netflix streaming on singer/songwriter and soft rock superstar Harry Nilsson called Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?. As implied by the title, Nilsson is somewhat forgotten today but was fairly omnipresent in the late 1960s throughout the 70s, with several big hits recorded by him or written by him and recorded by other artists. You’ll probably recognize his tunes if not his name, which fall into what I lovingly call the “Crap Rock” genre (America, Player, Ambrosia, Bread, Bob Welch, etc). His own breakthrough was the theme song from 1969’s Oscar-winning downbeat classic Midnight Cowboy, “Everybody’s Talkin'”:

Although “Everybody’s Talkin'” was ironically not actually written by Nilsson, it was clear a major vocalist had arrived on the scene after many years of cult status earlier in the 60s. Of his own material, “One” is arguably his best known and also most successful single.

Even so, it wasn’t a huge blockbuster for Nilsson but rather for AOR staple Three Dog Night (as well as a ton of artists subsequently). Their signature blues-rock version reached #5 on the Billboard charts.

Having established himself in a short period as a hot commodity, Nilsson went on to have a huge commercial and critical success of his own with 1971’s Nilsson Schmilsson. Continue reading