Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Eagles: More Than A Plastic Dry...

The Eagles, "the fucking Eagles," as the Dude said. The band you love to hate. The same that prompted Gram Parsons to say listening to their music was like a "plastic dry-fuck." Hathos alert. According to Andrew Sullivan;
"Hathos, a noun. Hathetic, an adjective. Meaning: something so unpleasant you can't help but be riveted by it. As in Lou Dobbs, Bill O'Reilly, Hugh Hewitt and the smell of one's own farts."
Add to that list my completely sincere devotion to the Eagles.

Whenever I hear "Already Gone" or "Take It Easy" I go to a place where shag rugs litter the floor and everyone is clad in plush velour; a place where Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham still share the mic and where their bleached harmonies spill out of Firebirds burning rubber outside the Ocean Beach Hotel on Marine Drive through the heart of a Saturday night in White Rock.

When they formed in 1971, the burgeoning country-rock scene that included Parson's Flying Burrito Brothers, Neil Young and Linda Ronstadt was just lifting off. After releasing their debut the following year with the insta-classic "Take It Easy" (co-written with Jackson Browne) and the spooky "Witchy Woman", they came fast and plenty: "Desperado", "Lyin’ Eyes", "Hotel California" and, more recently, 2007’s "How Long" from their first studio album in 28 years! - Long Road Out Of Eden. For better or worse, their influence has been huge with contemporary Cashville stars Taylor Swift and Keith Urban direct inheritors of their legacy.

The numbers are staggering and inspire the same sense of befuddlement as the popularity of Sarah Palin or Justin Bieber. The Eagles have sold more than 120 million albums, earning five No 1 US singles and six Grammy Awards. Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 has exceeded sales of 29 million units and vies with Michael Jackson’s Thriller as the best-selling album of all time. Hotel California and Greatest Hits Volume 2 have sold more than 16 and 11 million albums respectively. The band is the embodiment not only of decadent solipsism, but of whorish corporatism.

The Eagles emerged at a time when rock had been devolving away from the baroque pop of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper to the more rustic and rough-hewed Americana of the Band's Music From Big Pink. It was roots based, with the emphasis on country rather than blues. They took the twang from the likes of Richie Furay's Poco and melded it with two other southern California bands that on first listen seem diametrically opposed - the Beach Boys and Doors. By blending Brian Wilson's rich harmonies and sunny pop with Jim Morrison's jaded hedonism, the Eagles were able to create their very own aesthetic, as all-American as trans fats and oil slicks.

After the blockbusting success of One Of These Nights, former James Gang outlaw, Joe Walsh, hopped aboard their good yacht of excess and in December 1976 they released their magnum opus: Hotel California. Shortly before its release Henley told the British magazine ZigZag:
“This is a concept album, but it’s not set in the old West, the cowboy thing, you know. It’s more urban this time ... It’s our bicentennial year, you know, the country is 200 years old, so we figured since we are the Eagles, and the eagle is our national symbol, that we were obliged to make some kind of a little bicentennial statement using California as a microcosm of the whole United States, or the whole world, if you will, and to try to wake people up and say, ‘we’ve been okay so far, for 200 years, but we’re gonna have to change if we’re gonna continue to be around’.”

Don Felder first introduced the track to the band as an instrumental and it got dubbed “Mexican Reggae” before Henley and Frey added the lyrics and some finishing touches. It has since become one of most universally recognizable songs in the world with Rolling Stone placing it at No 49 in its list of the “500 Greatest Songs Of All Time,” between Jimi Hendrix’s "All Along The Watchtower" (No 48) and Smokey Robinson’s "The Tracks Of My Tears" (No 50).

With their seventh studio album, Long Road Out Of Eden, the Eagles proved they still have the ability to blend MOR rock with lyrical themes that confront contemporary issues, such as the disillusionment of the Bush years, while keeping it all about the money - in this case, a "Strategic Marketing Partnership with Wal-Mart".

The Eagles are playing the Hong Kong Convention Centre, March 11, 2011. Tix go from HK$588 (CAD$77) to HK$2088 (CAD$275).

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