Sunday, January 31, 2016
Track of the Week: Glenn Frey "Party Town"
With all of the deaths of celebrities in the field of music this year, it's been interesting to note the difference in the reactions to the deaths of David Bowie and Glenn Frey. Bowie's death brought a much, much greater outpouring of grief and tribute, even though he was far less successful (in terms of records sold) than the Eagles were in America. In fact, the Eagles have the biggest selling rock record in American history despite the lack of a passionate following (something I tried to explain in a previous blog post.) There probably isn't an hour that goes by that "Hotel California" isn't played somewhere on a classic rock station in America. The Eagles made middle of the road music, and their fans were the kind of people who aren't nearly as passionate about music as the fans of David Bowie.
Now I don't want to speak ill of the dead here with any of this. The Eagles did have some real high points, and their greatest hits album has sold so well because of them. I am just young enough (born in '75), that I learned about the band through the solo careers of Glenn Frey and Don Henley. From about 1983 I was listening to Top 40 radio daily and well aware of the big hits of the day, which is where I first their names. In the autumn of 1984, both artists were vying against each other for chart supremacy with two very different songs: Henley's moody and elegiac "Boys Of Summer" and Frey's bright shiny sax-driven stab at 80s pop cheese "The Heat Is On." Frey's song went higher on the charts, but Henley's is probably more beloved today.
The Frey song that I remember best is probably one few people even know these days: "Party Town." It's from his first solo album, the lamely titled No Fun Aloud. As is usually the case with the first solo album by a major member of a major rock band, it's much more uneven that what he was able to do once he got his footing as a solo act. I know the song because the local hits station would play it every Friday at 5PM. When I was still in school it was a happy signal that the weekend was about to begin. It took on a much deeper meaning the summer that I worked the day shift at a rubber parts factory while I was in college. I'd worked the evening swing shift the summer before, but nothing could prepare me for the sheer force of the daytime summer heat outdoors combined with the hot air around the machines I tended all day. I brought a jug of water with me to work every day, which would be drained before lunch, when I refilled it, only to be drained again in the afternoon. Some days my jeans were falling down my hips after all the sweating I'd done.
We always had the radio going at work, and when "Party Town" came on as the shift was ending, it was a kind of deliverance. My week of toil and sweat was finally over, with a summer weekend stretched before me and some money in my pocket. (We got paid every Friday) And hey, it's a fun little song using that tried and true Chuck Berry guitar with a bit of "take this job and shove it" sass. I like to remember Glenn Frey not as the dude from the Eagles, but as the guy responsible for such a happy memory.