The Big Lebowski, one of the most enduring movie comedies ever, features the memorable line of “I’ve had a long night and I hate the ……. Eagles, man.”
The Eagles are an easy target, and in many ways they make themselves one. Hey, even I see plenty of things to hate about the Eagles too as I described at this link.
But there’s no denying that the Eagles were, and are, a huge commercial success. Nearly forty years after their first album, they still sell out arenas everywhere and sell millions of albums every year.
While music critics and snobs will likely never be convinced,the Eagles deserve far more credit from the Big Lebowski and others, and here are the top ten reasons why.
10. The Brilliance of One of These Nights In many ways, I believe this is the most underrated song in the Eagles’ catalogue. It combines the blue eyed raspy voiced soul of Don Henley at its absolute best, combined with nasty guitar riffs from a very underrated Don Felder, the rhythm and blues Detroit sensibility of Glenn Frey and the impossibly high background singing of Randy Mesiner. In some ways, that might be part of the problem for rock critics and the Big Lebowski as the ‘mutt’ aspect of the Eagles meant that they would never be the thoroughbred that the music intelligentsia always seems to crave.
9. The Hotel California Album Yes, you’ve heard the title track 19 million times by now, and I’m not a big fan of Life in the Fast Lane, but this is simply one of the all time greatest classic rock albums. Some of the supposedly “second tier” songs on this album are its best: New Kid in Town, Try and Love Again, and The Last Resort are all brilliant while simple. This was a band at its zenith.
8. Victim of Love was Recorded Live In my opinion, the hardest rocking song ever by the Eagles was done all at once and recorded live, with no overdubbing, according to the notes on the record itself. Thank Joe Walsh and a new producer, Bill Szymczyk, for the Eagles much harder, and welcomed, edge on their later work and Victim of Love was the best of it. That they did it live with no over dubbing is an example of how this band COULD rock, but just chose not to quite often.
7. Don Henley’s Solo Career Whereas Glenn Frey either just mailed it in or couldn’t do it, Henley provided some of the cornerstone music of the 1980’s. Boys of Summer is every bit the masterpiece that Hotel California was, Dirty Laundry, if anything, was BEFORE its time and little known nuggets such as Driving With Your Eyes Closed and Talking to the Moon are better than anything Billy Joel could ever conceive of.
6. Waiting In the Weeds Since only fans buy cd’s anymore, and there’s no slot for new Eagles music on the radio anymore, a relative few have heard this gem off of theLong Road Out of Eden album. This ranks with the best they have ever done; it’s build and pay off are worth all seven minutes and 45 seconds. Put it on in your car when alone and absorb it. This is an incredible piece of songwriting with a pacing and patience that only come with maturity; which the Eagles certainly have now.
5. Eagles Concerts In my “other” list of the top ten reasons the Big Lebowski was right to hate the Eagles, I listed their lack of spontaneity and scripted feel to their concerts as one of the reasons. And while I DO hate that aspect to it, what I have always appreciated is the fact that the concerts are almost completely about the music and the playing. Back in the 1970’s, the Eagles avoided all the special effects and laser shows and today, there are no soapbox speeches at an Eagles concert. Yes, I wish they’d loosen up while they still can, but if their tight schedule and pacing is part and parcel of a focus on just the music, then I can live with it. I will say this too, while they set the bar for extremely high ticket prices years ago, like the New York Yankees, they certainly reinvest into the product. The concerts are flawless, long and professional. It’s not as if we’re getting charged a high price only to watch them mail it in and pocket the dough.
4. Two Words: Joe Walsh There’s something to be said for the Eagles in the 1970’s swallowing their pride and signing this free agent. While behind the scenes it wasn’t all peaceful and easy, like the Yankees of that era signing Reggie Jackson, the Eagles saw a need and filled it. And it gave the band legs to get to the next level. While plenty love the early Eagles stuff (heck, I do), the sound was played out and Walsh gave them the shot they needed to bring it home across their final two albums and certainly gave their concerts a whole other dimension. Oh, and he just happens to be one of the greatest guitar players of all time.
3. The Eagles Survived By all accounts, the Eagles were the cocaine cowboys of the 1970’s, with enough partying, arrest, all night flights and fist fights to kill anybody. But they hung in, survived, got sober and moved on. Dying in a bathtub or offing oneself is the easy way out. Here they are, forty years later still on the road as sixty-somethings and getting it done. There is an undeniable toughness to these guys; though that’s not something you’d hear much about them.
2. The Eagles Live Album This has to be one of the most criticized live albums of all time, and I don’t understand why. While it might be not as ‘live’ as advertised, how do we really know? And it actually featured some of the script moments, such as “All Night Long” and “Saturday Night” that gave it a freshness at times lacking from the Eagles’ studio work. And the simple, confident intros (such as Glenn Frey’s intro of Joe Walsh) show the confidence and big time nature that the Eagles knew they cold afford. There’s a coolness that comes through from the band while it allows the music to carry the day.
1. The Eagles kicked Rolling Stone Magazine’s Ass in Softball As rock critics and journalists continued to denigrate and criticize the Eagles all through their heyday, in 1978, the band finally had enough and in a humorous fashion told them to meet them on the softball field, whereupon the Eagles and their roadies whupped up on the Rolling Stone geeks 15 to 8. How big were the Eagles then? Well, California governor Jerry Brown showed up to watch from the stands and cheer on the Eagles. And he wasn’t the most famous person in attendance.
So, Mr. LeBowski, please rethink your position. The Eagles rock, they’ve lasted and they actually do have a sense of humor.