R.I.P. Glenn Frey
“the difference between a melted ice cream sandwich laying on the sidewalk and Baked Alaska at a five star restaurant”
by Jeff Smith
from his Facebook page
The “corntroversy” has died down a little and I’m not attempting to reignite it, just attempting to add a little clarification. I bore no malice against Glenn Frey other than that he was part of The Eagles. In light of all the other recent tragedies surrounding people I actually knew and/or greatly admired I can’t say that his death was even a blip on my emotional radar, but having experienced many such recent losses my heart goes out to his family and loved ones. I was reminded via a comment that having just experienced the loss of a bandmate and best friend I should have been more sensitive…perhaps that is so, but I’ll get to that in a bit.
First, let me state that I didn’t just jump on “The Eagles Suck” bandwagon. I’m not here to claim I was the first one on the train, but, history will show as much, and I have physical evidence in the form of the Hickoids 1986 release “Hard Corn” on Toxic Shock Records. A close inspection of the run-out band of the 45 (the blank space at the end of a vinyl record) will reveal the phrase “Bring me the head of Don Henley” etched into the vinyl. This was no accident and was three full years before Mojo Nixon would release the song “Don Henley Must Die” for Enigma Records on his “Otis” album. So, I’ve got a solid three decades in the club.
Now, you’re probably asking yourself “where does someone whose best-selling release (around 10,000 copies) get off saying that The Eagles suck, and why?” Well, having come of age in the late 70’s and early 80’s punk scene it was a prerequisite to dislike anything that was popular. Some of that I equate with the hubris of youth. Some of it is qualified. Some is unqualified. Indeed I have often revisited music that I disliked only on punk principle and changed my opinion, or at least found some qualities about the recording in question that I can say “that is smoking production and playing even if I don’t like the artist or song” — a couple of notable cases of this would be Steely Dan, early Led Zeppelin and especially Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” and “Dark Side Of The Moon” albums. I think that any human being who has lived in the United States for the past forty years and is not hearing-impaired can attest that you don’t really need to “revisit” The Eagles as they are omnipresent. It is nearly impossible to go a day or surely a week without hearing one of their tunes. They’re oppressive – that’s part of the problem.
How and why did they become omnipresent and oppressive? That’s a bigger part of the problem. Without going into a detailed history of radio programming, payola and the rise of FM Radio in the United States I will just say that FM and especially the AOR format (album oriented radio) represented the death of variety in radio for a number of reasons…longer songs, fewer artists in rotation and album releases remaining in the rotation for longer periods of time. It brought about the rise of the blockbuster multi-platinum album and subsequently the multi-year stadium tour. This is an oversimplification, but I hope you’ll see my point: more, longer songs by a more limited number of artists equals less variety.
And for me at least, The Eagles dripped, exuded, were and still are the penultimate amalgam of the blandness required to sell ads on radio. They represented the end-game and final death knell in the mainstream’s co-optation of the hippie movement. There were some exceptional artists who benefitted from all this, most notably Tom Waits (who in spite of a lack of chart success was able to make a catalog of great albums in this industry environment.)
I’ll forego picking apart lyrics, business plans, etc… Suffice it to say that in my opinion (and again, it is only my opinion) that The Eagles possessed almost as much soul as their slightly more rocking cartoon counterparts, The Archies. They are/were more an elaborate cash-flow device than a rock band. They miserably failed to deliver on the promise offered by The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers.
SO – back to my original point – when someone tacitly implied that Glenn Frey was somehow an equal to David Bowie, I took great exception. Both were very successful songwriters and rock stars, but, Glen Frey made things more the same, not more different. Frey was a well-paid artisan and Bowie a visionary and artist. Thomas Kinkade to Andy Warhol or Salvador Dali.
FINALLY – back to my recently departed bandmate and friend Davy Jones…Davy took great relish in telling me how much he hated (yes, hated) The Eagles on many, many occasions. He was forced to play them on the commercial station that he DJ’ed at in Little Rock in the 70’s, and his refusal to continue to play them and other artists ultimately led to his departure.
I remember one particular incident in the early 80’s when Davy lived on Lafayette St. in Austin. Dick Hays had been dating, well, we’ll just say she was a semi-professional lady of the night named Brandy…everyone had been tripping on acid all night. Finally everyone had gone to bed except for Brandy who continued drinking and listening to records in the living room. Around 8 or 9 am Davy had finally had enough when Brandy put, you guessed it, “One Of These Nights” from “Eagles Greatest Hits” on the turntable, and foolishly cranked it up. Davy stormed into the living room, ripped the offending volume off the record player and threw it at the wall, smashing it into many, many pieces causing the young strumpet to bawl inconsolably.
I can say with absolute certainty that even on his death bed, somewhat chastened by the high-hard heat life had throw at him, Davy Jones would not have hesitated one millisecond to exclaim upon Frey or Henley’s death that “The Eagles suck green fucking donkey dicks!” I’m still here to say it for him. The Eagles suck green fucking donkey dicks.
I hate the band, not the man. R.I.P. Glenn Frey.
[Editor’s note: Jeff Smith owns Saustex records and fronts the longstanding San Antonio, TX, y’alt-punk band The Hickoids. This missive was in response to a barrage of criticism against Smith, some perhaps less than sincere, for a post on Facebook following the recent death of Glenn Frey, wherein Smith said, “No disrespect to Glenn Frey’s family and friends but the person on TV who just mentioned him in the same sentence as David Bowie, implying that there was anything comparable about their talents, would not know the difference between a melted ice cream sandwich laying on the sidewalk and Baked Alaska at a five star restaurant.”]