Monday, July 14, 2014

"I had a rough night, and I hate the f$*#ing Eagles"

I think the Dude said it best: "I had a rough night, and I hate the fucking Eagles."  Of the many baffling facts in the world, perhaps the most baffling is that the biggest-selling album in American musical history is The Eagles' Greatest Hits, 1971-1975.  In recent years it has edged out Michael Jackson's Thriller, once thought to be the undisputed champ forevermore.  That album is by no means perfect ("The Girl Is Mine" anyone?), but it is really damn good.  If you ever needed more proof of America's love of mediocrity, look no further than Jay Leno's two decade run at the Tonight Show, the success of Two and a Half Men, or an Eagles compilation outselling Michael Jackson, The Beatles, and Led Zeppelin.

Over the years my once monastic rigidity when it comes to music appreciation has softened, and I have learned to love artists I used to despise, like Steely Dan, ABBA, and Fleetwood Mac.  The Eagles have not, and never will, undergo such a revision in my eyes.  It is not that they are flat-out bad, it's just that they are pretty average, and yet have achieved the absolute pinnacle of success, as clear an indictment of this nation's culture as anything.  "The Long Run" is kind of catchy, but is this a song that ever changed anyone's life?  For that matter, have any of their songs ever changed anyone's life?  "Hotel California" sets a good mood and has some great Joe Walsh guitar, but also contains some of the most ridiculous lyrics ever uttered on the radio.  For the most part the Eagles made music that inspires no one, but also is pleasant and mellow enough that it very easily becomes a kind of soothing wallpaper.

Above all, their music is completely lacking in any kind of soul or feeling.  It embodies the death of the 60s by the time of the band's mid-1970s heyday.  The Eagles epitomize how peace, love and revolution devolved into doing lines of coke backstage followed by meaningless sex with Quaaluded groupies.  The social revolution just becomes a license to "take it easy" with a "peaceful easy feeling."  The lack of inspiration can best be seen in the fact that the early, countryfied Eagles claimed to be following in the footsteps of Gram Parsons, when there is more depth of feeling and emotion in "Return of the Grievous Angel"alone than in all of The Eagles' songs put together.  Or you can take their cover of Tom Waits' "Ol' 55," which in their rendering is turned into easy listening.

Again, they're not bad, but the Eagles are not good, and in no conceivable way good enough to warrant their popularity.  It might seem strange for me to be getting uptight about a long-vanished rock band from the 1970s, but this nation's warm embrace of mediocrity needs to be unsettled from time to time.  The Eagles' popularity is once instance that particularly bugs me.  Anybody else have their own?


Brian I said...

"You can stab it with your steely knife, but you just can't kill the beast."

I like the Eagles more than you do, but I don't necessarily disagree with your assessment.

For me, the tragedy is that the Eagles were simply the poppy, successful version of Poco. Although Poco was not as consistent or radio-friendly as the Eagles, they were a much more artistically engaging band with talented musicians and some absolutely marvelous songs.

Anonymous said...

The Eagles

Barbara Walters

Jay Leno

Ronald Reagan

Lorne Michaels

my local weatherman

Charlie Rose

Werner Herzog's Bear said...

@Brian: I figured you'd have something to say about this. And yes, Poco was doing California country rock at the same time, and doing it better. It doesn't hurt to have a member of Buffalo Springfield.

@Anonymous: I like your list, although I think Charlie Rose was once great.