The Eagles swoop into Toyota Center Sunday for what the omnipresent radio spots (if not the band itself) say could be their last tour, and Rocks Off has been thinking about them a lot lately. It started more than a month ago, when C3 announced the Eagles would headline/close this year's Austin City Limits Music Festival, news greeted less than enthusiastically on ACL's Facebook page:
Of course, Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh, et al., did have a few defenders, such has this well-spoken young man:
The other reason Rocks Off has been thinking about the Eagles is that our little radio here at work is capable of consistently picking up exactly two English-language FM stations, the Eagle (107.5 FM) and the Arrow (93.7 FM), both of which play the band a lot. If you couldn't, you know, tell by one of those station's names. And the more we listen to the Eagles, the more we've grown to appreciate them critically.
That's right, critically. Since they were long gone down that seven bridges road by the time we started listening to and caring about music, it took Rocks Off a long time to discover who the Eagles were, and a longer time still to overcome the prejudices that were constantly being drilled into us from our hipster and critical brethren; namely that the band was the absolute worst thing to happen to both rock and roll and recorded music since Pat Boone bastardized Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti."
The freewheeling banjo lick of "Take It Easy," which Rocks Off stumbled across driving into Austin one afternoon not long after we graduated high school, was our first clue that maybe the band wasn't as awful as we'd been led to believe. Ten years later, when we reviewed the double-disc The Very Best Of for the Austin Chronicle, we had just about come around: "Critics are apt to dismiss their body of work as overproduced, coke-addled FM schmaltz, but it's been mighty influential over the years; consider, for instance, that without 'Already Gone' there would be no Drive-by Truckers."
It seems strange to think about a band that has sold as many bajillion records as the Eagles have as underdogs, but from this point of view, they really are. Although they always got along fairly well with Robert Hilburn of the L.A. Times, that was hardly the case back East. Rolling Stone magazine, especially, went out of its way to antagonize the band to the point that the Eagles challenged Jann Wenner's crew to a softball game. The band whipped the writers' tails, and was rewarded with its first (and only) RS cover story.
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Still, none of that would matter if not for the music. Rocks Off is willing to venture that no other American band of its time - and perhaps since - has put together a body of work as durable and diverse as the Eagles, who were just as adept at R&B and soul as country and rock. The only other group to even come close was Creedence Clearwater Revival, and "Fortunate Son" notwithstanding, they even had John Fogerty beat when it comes to social commentary. Go back and listen to "Life In the Fast Lane" again.
There's a reason the Eagles still get so much airplay and still so many tickets: Those songs, whether "Hotel California" or "Witchy Woman" (sorry, "Witch-ay Woman"), speak to people just as much today as they did when they were released. One of the most haunting and poignant things Rocks Off has ever seen at a concert is the look in this one middle-aged woman's eyes as the Eagles played "Lyin' Eyes" at Toyota Center in September 2008. That song meant something to her - we couldn't possibly begin to guess what, and we don't even want to know, but it was obvious "Lyin' Eyes" was the thread that bound together a very personal, very private memory for her.
But really, the real reason Rocks Off has decided that we are an Eagles fan is that, at that same Toyota Center show, we discovered firsthand that Don Henley shoots laser beams out of his eyes. Frankly, we don't want to think about what might happen if we should ever get on his bad side. On the other hand, when Hurricane Ike blew through about 48 hours later, we took it in stride because we had already stared down the devil.
So good luck Sunday, Craig. Just don't look directly at Henley, and remember that "Dirty Laundry" is better than Beethoven's 9th Symphony, and you should be fine. Hopefully.