Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I used to hurry a lot, I used to worry a lot

I have a confession to make: I don't like The Eagles.

But Lance! I knew you in high school! You used to play them in your car!

That was then; this is now.

But Lance! They're one of the greatest bands of all time!

Ummm...no. They aren't, unless your definition of "great" revolves solely around financial success and not artistic merit.

Here's the thing, it's true, I did used to like The Eagles. My mom would listen to them, and I grew up with their music. I remember liking all of it, with the possible exception of "I Can't Tell You Why". I'm not sure, but for some reason that song always rubbed me the wrong way. So yeah, when I was in high school and I joined BMG (the "Buy 10 for the price of 1" music club), I got the first volume of their greatest hits, and later I got the second volume because I just had to have "Hotel California".

I listened to them both. I admit it. I even enjoyed them. I remember even thinking how cool it would be if they ever reunited and went on tour. Eventually, the day came when they did get back together for the "Hell Freezes Over" tour, and they did that concert for MTV (or VH1, perhaps). I was excited about it. Little did I know, it was the beginning of the end.

To put it mildly, the concert was an exercise in passionless drivel. It was so obvious that these guys were in it solely for the money, as there was absolutely no feeling in any of the performances. It felt like they were calling it in. And then there was that new song -they let that "I Can't Tell You Why" douche do another song - an even worse example of sappy adult contermporary drivel called "Love Will Keep Us Alive." The title alone makes me want to vomit.

Of course, people tried to convince me that it was good. I had a roommate who thought that the "Get Over It" song was cool. Well, I'm sorry, but Don Henley is the last person in the world to be telling anybody to be getting over anything. And it was just so faux-rockin', if you know what I mean. They were a bunch of soulless middle aged men who were trying desperately hard to sound cool - and the song was forgetable. I can't even remember how it goes.

I basically attributed it to them no longer being cool, but they were so definitely cool at one time. While I didn't know the movie at the time (in fact, it probably hadn't come out yet) there's a scene in Trainspotting that wonderfully illustrates this phenomena:

Sick Boy: It's certainly a phenomenon in all walks of life.
Mark "Rent-boy" Renton: What do you mean?
Sick Boy: Well, at one time, you've got it, and then you lose it, and it's gone forever. All walks of life: George Best, for example. Had it, lost it. Or David Bowie, or Lou Reed...
Mark "Rent-boy" Renton: Some of his solo stuff's not bad.
Sick Boy: No, it's not bad, but it's not great either. And in your heart you kind of know that although it sounds all right, it's actually just shite.
Mark "Rent-boy" Renton: So who else?
Sick Boy: Charlie Nicholas, David Niven, Malcolm McLaren, Elvis Presley...
Mark "Rent-boy" Renton: OK, OK, so what's the point you're trying to make?
Sick Boy: All I'm trying to do is help you understand that The Name of The Rose is merely a blip on an otherwise uninterrupted downward trajectory.
Mark "Rent-boy" Renton: What about The Untouchables?
Sick Boy: I don't rate that at all.
Mark "Rent-boy" Renton: Despite the Academy Award?
Sick Boy: That means fuck all. Its a sympathy vote.
Mark "Rent-boy" Renton: Right. So we all get old and then we can't hack it anymore. Is that it?
Sick Boy: Yeah.
Mark "Rent-boy" Renton: That's your theory?
Sick Boy: Yeah. Beautifully fucking illustrated.

While there are some artists who continue to be cool (Bob Dylan, They Might Be Giants, Martin Scorsese) long past what should be their prime, this idea is pretty much dead-on. A lot of people once had it, and then they lost it. However, we continue to support them based on the good stuff that they used to do, even though their new stuff is pretty much "shite". A great example of this is The Who. I actually tried to convince myself that the album they released a few years ago was good. I listened to it many times, and I can't remember a damn track. The fact is, if it was a cd of a brand new band, I wouldn't have gone past the first listen.

Anyway, back to The Eagles, I soon started to get the feeling that maybe they weren't ever really all that great to begin with. I found myself wanting to listen to them less and less. One of the main reasons is that they're just so damned ubiquitous. Go ahead, I dare you to go to a bar that's doing karaoke. There is no way that at least one person won't do an Eagles song. NO WAY. And don't get me started on 70s cover bands.

I believe that they even released some new song a few years back, and I seem to recall somebody trying to tell me that it was good. I heard it once, and it was ass. I'm going to give that person a break though, and assume that they were suffering from the same delusion that I was with The Who's latest cd. If I'm not mistaken, it was yet another song by that one guy who really sucks the most - and it was the most vanilla-sounding piece of Wonder Bread blah that I can remember - that is, if I could remember the actual song and not the overwhelming feeling of indifference that overcame me.

Some time ago, when I was clearing out the cd collection, I found myself not even hesitating to get rid of both of my Eagles Greatest Hits volumes. I knew that there was no way that I'd ever choose to listen to them again, because no matter what you do, you're bound to eventually heard all of those songs somewhere - unless you plan on living in a cave. I suppose that I could have just walked up to a random person on the street and gave them away, but then again, any random person probably already owns both of them.

Look, I'm not saying that The Eagles suck. They don't. Their music is perfectly serviceable, and some of their tunes are even somewhat catchy. But it's all just so middle-of-the-road. There's nothing clever, nothing creative about it. It all feels like a watered-down version of something else (and all of their reunion stuff sounds like a watered down version of THAT!)

Personally, I chalk it all up to them just being very familiar and inoffensive. There's nothing too extreme about anything that they do, that you're pretty much safe putting in their music and nobody will get upset. Shoot, I know I wouldn't. I can't bring up enough emotion about them one way or the other to even care. They're kinda the musical equivalent of a bologna sandwhich. There's nothing wrong with it, but there isn't anything special about it either.

I remember in college when my roommate used to tell me about how he and his friends would all hang out and drink up in Stockton. He would talk about how they all were having a great time, and they'd all stand up and air guitar to "Hotel California." I always thought that was kinda sad, even when I was a fan. I mean, is that really the best that you can do? Have you never heard of that Jimi Hendrix fella?

Shoot...if you have to have at least one of The Eagles involved, why not Joe Walsh? He's cool.


Ingrid said...

Lance, I just got a copy of the latest Eagle CD from Reinhart, who got it from Sandra. It doesn't do anything for me.
I still love their old songs though and listen to them, it brings up feelings and memories from long ago. You never related to their songs the way I did, which is understandable. (Lyin' Eyes, Life In The Fast Lane)some of my favorites.
Of all the old groups, there is not one I would pay to see today. They should all retire. Dylan is the only one who still has it, he was always special anyway.

Lance Christian Johnson said...

I think that Dylan's music still works because he was always such an old soul to begin with. That, and his music wasn't "sexy", so it's not like he's lost something with his latest songs.

Anonymous said...

I’ve never been an Eagles fan or even actively listened to them, so I couldn’t say, but is it possible that the reason you feel, thirty years after the fact, that they are (paraphrasing here) middle-of-the-road or don’t-add-anything-creatively is because they were so popular that they’ve been overly copied to the point that the knock-off bands have shifted the center towards the Eagles?

- The Jakes

Lance Christian Johnson said...

Hmmm...perhaps! Although, I think that their biggest influence into today's music is actually the "new" or "young" or whatever the hell it's called country music of today. I don't really get a strong Eagles vibe from recent rock music.