I settled on Not The Eagles for this week’s playlist because the James Gang’s “Funk #49” blared from the speakers of this week’s story. My goal was to put together a list of deep cuts that demonstrated just how brilliant the individual Eagles were. By the time I finished, I remembered why I don’t really like the Eagles.
The Eagles are target practice for every music fan who wants to demonstrate their hipness. They are the ’70s version of Nickelback: enormously successful purveyors of accessible vanilla pop music that your mom likes. On top of that, they were in the middle of that laid back, countrified California rock thing that punk rock tore to shreds.
There are songs in the Eagle catalog that I really like, mostly from Hotel California and The Long Run. The version of “Seven Bridges Road” on Eagles Live is a stunning example of harmonies. But overall I just really don’t like the Eagles, and this trip through the individual members’ catalogs didn’t change that.
It comes down to this: The Joe Walsh and Don Henley songs are great, the rest of the band simply isn’t my taste. But hey, we’re here and it’s Wednesday, so let’s listen to some deep cuts:
“I Still Miss Someone,” Linda Ronstadt. This is where it all begins for the band that became the Eagles. The original lineup of Don Henley, Glen Frey, Bernie Leadon, and Randy Meisner backed up Ms. Ronstadt on her self-titled 1972 album. This cut is a Johnny Cash cover.
“Sing Me a Song,” Ricky Nelson and the Stone Canyon Band. Randy Meisner played bass with Ricky Nelson just prior to the Eagles, appearing on one studio album: Rudy the Fifth.
“Man in the Fog,” The Flying Burrito Brothers. Guitarist Bernie Leadon wrote this cut with the legendary Graham Parsons while the two were Burrito Brothers. Leadon left the Eagles in 1975, which made way for Joe Walsh.
“Walk Away,” The James Gang. Picking a favorite James Gang cut is pretty much impossible, but if you listen to this list in order you can see what Walsh brought to the party. Did you guess “balls”? You are correct.
“Heavy Metal (Takin’ A Ride), Don Felder. Joe wasn’t the only spark plug who jolted the Eagles out of their country rock doldrums. Guitarist Don Felder brought some chops when he joined the band in ’74, and the Walsh/Felder guitar battles became the centerpieces of cuts like “Hotel California.”
“Keep On Tryin’,” Poco. When Randy Meisner left the band, he was replaced by bassist Timothy B. Schmit, who had replaced him previously in the band Poco. “Keep On Tryin'” was Poco’s biggest hit during Schmit’s tenure.
“All Those Lies,” Glenn Frey. In the wake of the Eagles post Long Run breakup, Glenn Frey and Don Henley were the only former members to enjoy mega-solo-star status. Joe Walsh continued recording great solo albums, Timothy B. Schmit gave it a run, Felder had a couple of solo albums and some soundtrack singles, but Frey and Henley were top of the charts during the ’80s.
Trying to pick a solo Frey cut for this list was like revisiting the site of a horrific accident. “The Heat is On,” “You Belong to the City,” “Smuggler’s Blues”—Sweet Sonny Crockett’s Ferrari did I hate those songs. Flipping through the Frey oeuvre leads me to think that his songwriting is what I really dislike about the Eagles. If you like those tracks, cool. Millions of music buyers can’t be wrong, right? I’m willing to admit that I’m in the minority on this one.
I feel terrible kicking the guy when he’s up, kicking him when he’s down. Sorry, Glenn.
“Heart of the Matter,” Don Henley. On the other hand, I’ve always admired Don Henley. His music doesn’t always grab me, but as a lyricist the guy is amazing. I’ve said it before, but “Heart of the Matter’s” observation that forgiveness is what really matters once the love is gone is dead on. Too many people need to embrace that notion. I’m probably one of them.
“Rocky Mountain Way,” Joe Walsh. Okay, one more track from Joe, because it’s simply one of the coolest classic rock tracks ever.
Categories: Deep Cuts