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?