The One In Rhode Island

I’m thinking about starting a series of posts defending things that are popular in the real world, yet unpopular in the world of personal blogs.  I swear, there seems to be an incredible peer pressure amongst bloggers to present ourselves as mysterious, tortured geniuses.  I don’t know how else to explain the automatic hatred of anything embraced by the masses (WalMart, Olive Garden), or anything “bubbly”, like Rachel Ray, Kathy Lee Gifford, or Barney.

If you are reading this, I’ve most likely met you in person.  Trust me, you are not the dark, snarky person you present yourself as on your blog.  That’s why I say, it’s peer pressure that causes us to act this way.

When I do get around to defending Olive Garden, I figure there will be a move afoot to bring back crucifixion. 

But for now, I’m going to turn my attention to the Eagles’ 1976 album Hotel California.  It came up on my iPod the other day, and I had to think, “Why do people hate this album so?”.  There are a few legitimate reasons, I think.  Mostly, it was the world’s first glimpse of Don Henley’s insufferable preachiness.  But, even that, in context, was pretty darned good.

This was the first album without founding member Bernie Leadon, and with Joe Walsh.  Some might say that was subtraction by addition (Walsh’s voice annoys me, too), but I think the addition of Walsh helped make the Eagles into a first rate pop-rock band.  Did you know he played organ and electric piano on New Kid In Town?  He filled in organ and synth on many of the tracks.

And, although I consider Don Felder a better guitarist than Walsh, I think together they were dynamic.  The title track really highlights the two of them.  Even with Henley’s bad-poetry lyrics, the song rocks.  I have a soft spot for it because it’s the first song I ever learned to play in B minor.

New Kid in Town has that JD Souther feel to it (co written with Frey and Henley).  It had that particular Eagles style of using a wall of vocal “ahs” as strings.  This was popular at the time; for instance, most of Elton John’s recordings of the time had this same style (“Don’t Let The Sun Go Down on Me”).  It also has that achiness of unrequited love that had worked so well in Tequilla Sunrise.

Life In the Fast Lane rocks, to this day.  It’s got a CLAV part, for cryin’ out loud!  Joe Walsh’s opening riff is easily one of the most recognizable ever recorded (behind Sweet Home Alabama) .  The lyrics are top-notch, and paint a pretty stark picture of life in SoCal in the 70’s.

Wasted Time – oh, how do I love this song?  Sometimes, Henley can turn a phrase better than anyone: 

I could have done so many things, baby
If I could only stop my mind
From wondering what I left behind
And from worryin’ bout this wasted time

Combined with that torch-song melody, it’s heart wrenching. And I love a good heart wrenching.

Victim of Love was one of the few times Henley bothered to play rock drums.  The opening, with halted symbol crashes, is probably the most rockin’ thing the Eagles ever recorded.  And I just love the line “I heard about you and that man”.  I don’t know why, it just makes me happy.

Pretty Maids All in A Row –I know you’re going to think I’m crazy, but I think it’s one of the prettiest songs ever recorded.  Yes, Walsh’s voice is grating, but the melody (probably penned by co-writer Joe Vitale) is just beautiful.  The contrast between the verses and the middle and the chorus is perfect – just the right amount of flats to inject a sweet sadness.   The crescendo is unexpected, and beautiful.  I absolutely love this song.

Try and Love Again was Randy Meisner’s last stand.  Of all the former Eagles, he’s my favorite.  Take It To The Limit is still better, but this one is quite nice as well.

The Last Resort – OK, you either love this one or hate it.  Yes, it’s classic Henley preaching.  Yes, it’s dime store environmentalism, combined with an appalling lack of knowledge of native Americans and how their management of the land was intrusive, not passive.  Yes, it’s 7 and a half minutes long.

But, oh, that opening!  Soft piano, followed by the lyrics

She came from Providence
The one in Rhode Island
Where the Old World shadows hang heavy in the air
She packed her hopes and dreams
Like a refugee
Just as her father came across the sea.

I know it’s easy to hate Henley, but that’s good writing.  The song is filled with poetic flourish throughout.  I really love this line:

They called it Paradise,  The place to be.
They watched the hazy sun sinking in the sea.

I know it sounds hokey, but in context (the song tells a story), it’s beautiful.  Just beautiful.

When my kids want to know about the mid 70’s though pop culture, I’ll show them Rocky, a few episodes of Emergency, and have them listen to Hotel California.

What’s not to love?


22 Responses to “The One In Rhode Island”

  1. nm Says:

    What’s not to love? The complete coked-up stretched-outness of the sound. It was a look ahead to how plastic everything was going to sound with the abuse of ProTools. There’s not a note on there that wasn’t fiddled with until it died and was laminated.

  2. nm Says:

    Oh, and BTW, claiming to have idiosyncratic tastes isn’t exactly the same thing as claiming to be a mysterious, tortured genius. Although the sight of all those idiosyncratic bloggers falling into line to talk up Snakes on a Plane was kind of fun.

  3. bridgett Says:

    I ate at Olive Garden last week and it was just fine. I don’t like Walmart because their stuff breaks too easily and I define “value” as something that gives me a good “cost to wear” ratio. All crap stores are evil — thinking Target has magic immunity from complicity in Chinese labor camps and treating their American employees poorly because one likes their cute and well-designed lamps is just wishful thinking.

    Hotel California is not my favorite Eagles album (that would be On the Border, which I loved so much as a kid that I embroidered the album cover on the back of my jeans jacket), but about half of it is on my Ipod.

    What do you think? The right balance of contrarian and contra-contrarian? It’s hip to be square, I’ve heard. (Another band that’s better than everyone thinks….)

  4. nm Says:

    I’ve got no problem with people thinking that the food at Olive Garden is good (I think it’s too cheesy and too salty, and yet bland, but that’s just me), just so they don’t think it has anything to do with anything they might be served if they went to Italy, or even to an Italian-American neighborhood.

  5. Ford Prefect Says:

    I love Olive Garden and since I seriously doubt I’ll ever get to Italy I’ll gladly enjoy my endless salad and breadsticks!

    Hotel California is one of the defining albums of 70’s culture, take it for what it is, it is a portrait of the times along with albums like Jackson Brown’s “Runnin On Empty”, Tom Petty’s “Damn The Torpedos”, Styx’s “Grand Ilusion” and Supertramp’s “Breakfast In America”. The Beatles were done, Elvis was on his death bed and people were sick of The Clash so these groups steped forward with what would later be dubed “Corperate Rock” and changed the music scene and in the process they created music that would define that generation. You ain’t got to like it but don’t dis-it.
    I suggest you search out a movie called “FM” crank up the surround sound and go back to that era for a couple of hours then come back and revisit “Hotel California”.
    Keep On Turckin’

  6. jim voorhies Says:

    People recorded music after the 60s? Really. Hmmm. Why?

    Olive garden is not evil, it’s just not exciting. But then, if you live in the Rivergate area, what else is there?

  7. Slartibartfast Says:

    nm, I see you know your way around the studio, I see. There is much I have yet to learn about you. 🙂

    It didn’t even occur to me to critique the production values (the songwriter in me sometimes forgets that part). Yes, it’s slick -although Victim of Love was recorded in 5 “live” parts without overdubs.

    Some of that was just a product of the times. “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” was of the same vein. And if you’re going to diss on early to mid-70’s Elton John, it’s on. 😉

    I must love overproduced pop/rock – most of my favorite albums are from the early to mid 70’s: Rumours, Born To Run, Turnstiles (Billy Joel), Yellow Brick Road, Dreamboat Annie.
    Come to think of it, I’m the driving force behind overproducing X-Alt’s music, too. 😉

  8. Slartibartfast Says:

    jim – those of us toward Bellevue envy the choices of those in Rivergate. 🙂

  9. Slartibartfast Says:

    Oh, and look:

    nm, I see you know your way around the studio, I see

    That’s like “Tonight I’m gonna rock you tonight”

  10. Slartibartfast Says:

    bridgett – I actually saw Huey and the News TWICE. They were extremely talented as a band (probably more than Huey was as a songwriter).

    On the Border – that was the one with Already gone, right? Great album.

    I should quit now. I’m taking over my own comments.

  11. nm Says:

    Oh, and look:

    nm, I see you know your way around the studio, I see

    That’s like “Tonight I’m gonna rock you tonight”

    Sigh. That’s just another example of the overproduction I’m talking about.

    I don’t exactly know my way around a studio — I couldn’t record you and get you to sound the way you wanted, or the way I wanted you to, either — but I know what it is people have done to get the sound that I’m hearing. And what I dislike about the Eagles is first the high ratio of “women suck” songs to “baby I love you” songs and second the way their sound evolved from something rather attractive into something rather soulless. IMO, YMMV, etc.

    Ford, trust me, just go to San Francisco, St. Louis, Chicago, Philadelphia, NYC, or Boston, and eat in the Italian neighborhoods there. You’ll see what I mean. It won’t change your feeling about Olive Garden, but it will change the category you put it into.

    Jim, there’s always Koreana and a couple of Mexican places.

  12. Busy Mom Says:

    I swear, there seems to be an incredible peer pressure amongst bloggers to present ourselves as mysterious, tortured geniuses.

    Love that.

  13. Ginger Says:

    Ford Perfect, how could you forget THE defining album of the 70s???

    Saturday Night Fever!

  14. LeBlanc Says:

    I really enjoy Hotel but disagree in your assessment of Felder being better than Walsh. I do; however, prefer the more mellow version of the Eagles on Desperado (the album).

  15. rockcritic Says:

    I don’t even really like the Eagles in general but anybody disputing the greatness of Hotel California is either not paying attention or is trying to hard. This is the definitive album of the 70’s and far better than anything Led Zep or Floyd or anybody put out.

    Granted, it might be the best of a bad decade, but if you don’t have HC as one of your definitive albums of rock and roll, then you’re not getting it. The Eagles showed brilliance in spite of themselves. They mucked themselves up too much for the most part, but this one is a top 10 of all time.

  16. nm Says:

    Hmmm … Joni Mitchell, Janis Joplin, Allman Bros., Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, The Ramones, Elvis Costello, The Clash, Blondie … nope, no Eagles on that list. 🙂 Not trying hard at all (well, maybe with Blondie — I actually never listen to them any more); I just can’t stand that sound.

  17. rockcritic Says:

    Blondie better than the Eagles? Elvis Costello? The Allman Brothers? Joni Mitchell?

    I think at times people confuse talent with output. Those acts may have been more naturally gifted. In fact, I’m pretty sure they were….

    But none of them put out something, imho, that equals Hotel California. If Hotel California hadn’t sold 2 billion albums or whatever and hadn’t been pushed so hard on the radio, the music snobs would be whining/bragging how great this under appreciated album is.

    I can’t believe I’m actually defending the Eagles. But to deny this album and pieces of their other stuff should be among the top tier of rock music of all time is a bit much.

  18. nm Says:

    none of them put out something, imho, that equals Hotel California.

    Well, that’s the thing. Your humble opinion is yours. Mine, as I was careful to state above, is mine. I think it’s a shame that you can’t see any legitimate reason for anyone to have taste different than your own, and have to assert that it’s due to snobbery. I’ve given pretty specific reasons for disliking a specific album. If you disagree, that’s cool. There’s no reason I can see for you to attack my motives, but that’s your problem.

    I mean, you don’t really think that there’s any objective measurement of the top tier of rock (or any kind of) music, do you?

  19. rockcritic Says:

    I never said that I don’t see any legitimate reason for anyone to have a taste different than my own. And no there is no objective standards for music, art, beauty whatever.

    I don’t even like the Eagles that much. Not really my taste, actually. I just think the album, and the band, is trashed because people hear “Eagles” and they think of Glenn Frey’s solo career, the ridiculous ticket prices, the smugness of their interviews, Walmart, their aloof attitude during concerts and the truly bad imitators they inspired (Richard Marx, Hootie, Garth Brooks, Matchbox 20). Even those hating the Eagles (which I don’t) would admit that the vast majority of big time acts post 1980 or whatever couldn’t carry the Eagles jock.

    And yeah, I said imho for a reason. Because it is simply mine. But to me, saying that HC isn’t an all time great album is kind of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. IMHO. 😉

  20. nm Says:

    I guess that when I say that I don’t like HC, and you respond that if HC hadn’t been so popular music snobs would call it a neglected masterpiece, I see that as an accusation that my reaction to it is snobbish.

    I just can’t hear HC as a great album. Influential, yes. Unfortunately (IMO). But that’s the album that turned me from a casual Eagles fan into an Eagles dismisser, so there’s no way it gets even “great in its own time” from me. I mean, here’s Slarti saying all these positive things about it, and I’m realizing that half of the details he’s mentioning I never even noticed, because the production got in the way of my being able to hear them. [shudder] Man, do I hate that sound!

  21. rockcritic Says:

    Understood. I wasn’t saying you are a ‘snob’, though I can see how it was taken that way. The reason I think the Eagles get bashed is that some of the deeper cuts that haven’t been played a zillion times are actually better than their better known hits. If I were to put this album on, which I haven’t in a very long time, I would skip to things like Try and Love Again, The Last Resort, and Pretty Maids all in a Row. Arguably to me, and the blogger here I guess, the three best songs on the album and perhaps the three least known. Even “Wasted Time” is syrupy and predictable, but it’s a GOOD syrupy and predictable. And Victim of Love is probably the only true rock song these guys ever wrote and it gets on millionth the recognition of its “older cousin” Life in the Fast Lane…

    Same holds true on The Long Run album….I know I’m in a very small minority, but The Greeks Don’t Want No Freaks was just a fun song to listen to and very un-Eaglelike that they seemed to not give a shit and actually just play. I mean, hardly a masterpiece, but something I would turn up if it came on the radio. Which it won’t. But it should well before the title track and that god awful Heartache Tonight. Why Don Henley could sell more records when teamed up with Glenn Frey than he could on his own is completely beyond me.

  22. Lynnster Says:

    I am too the dark & snarky person I present myself as on my blog!!!

    That’s why one my old bosses used to call me Bubbles, dang it.

    Oh wait… 😀

    Oh, and someone gave me a gift card for the Olive Garden recently. I haven’t been in probably 16 or so years and am actually kind of looking forward to it.

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