BEST OOH’S IN THE BIZ
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Wordless choruses are emotionally powerful. A smart-ass DJ once asked Glenn Frey about the Eagles having “the best ‘ooh’s in the business”. Frey deadpanned: “‘Ooh’s for bucks, Larry. That’s our motto…. The only difference between boring and laid back is a million dollars.”
BEST OOH’S IN THE BIZ
The Eagles came to the hotel…and then they left. And while they had only three shows at the MGM Grand, they made history. For the first time, Eagles performed the complete Hotel California album live as well as a selection of their all-time hits. High demand resulted in the addition of a third show.
It’s easy to see why. The Eagles are one of the most recognizable bands in the world, with their songs deeply embedded in the American psyche. Of course, everyone has their favorite Eagles song, but there are two that define the band – “Take It Easy” and “Hotel California.”
Destined for glory. . .
“Take It Easy” is a masterpiece of songwriting and a here’s how of band performance dynamics. But the song does anything but take it easy. Even though it’s ostensibly a low-key road trip, lines like “Don’t let the sound of your own wheels make you crazy” epitomize “the feeling of trying to get a grip on your life as tight as the one you have on the steering wheel….” – Andrew Unterberger, SPIN.
Jackson Browne wrote a lot of the song, but got stuck on the second verse. Frey pushed past sublime with the line “It’s a girl, my lord! / In a flatbed Ford / Slowing down to take a look at me.” This single line stands the entire cruisin’-for-chicks pastime on its head and Frey finished the writing from that line on.
A different time in America. . .
Ultimately, “Take It Easy” is about the Eagles trying to convince themselves. And despite a volatile career that included one of the ugliest breakups in rock history, they were, in their prime, the most popular band in America. Their influence on country music continues to grow, along with their reputation. “Take It Easy” came out on Eagles, the band’s debut album. It was 1972, and. . .
. . .Americans had increasingly lost trust in government. Hippies were the largest counter-cultural movement in American history. Average monthly rent was $165.00, and a gallon of gas was 55 cents. HBO launched the first subscription cable service and Atari released PONG. Pictures from NASA’s Landsat 1 changed our view of the world. Meanwhile, the Dow closed above 1000 for the first time and The Godfather was the top-grossing film of the year. And the music scene was blowing up – a perfect mirror of social and political angst, reflecting the hopes and fears of a generation – from ABBA to Zeppelin.
Legacy connection from the start. . .
Few bands approach the combination of instrumental and vocal talent that came together in the Eagles. The Don Henley-Glenn Frey songwriting team is one of the gems of the era. Joe Walsh and Don Felder are two of the finest guitarists in any genre. These guys are the heirs to the country-rock pioneer legacy of Poco, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Dillard & Clark, and the Flying Burrito Brothers.
. . .and a common goal
Converging on the L.A. music scene, the original band members then playing for other bands, shared a common goal to make their name in country-rock. Henley and Frey met doing backup for Linda Ronstadt. Then in 1971 at a Disneyland gig, Leadon and Meisner sat in. Shortly after Ronstadt’s third album was completed, Eagles was born.
Right place, right time. . .
Country rock was all over the airwaves and Eagles immediately hit big with “Witchy Woman” and “Take It Easy.” Then Desperado became a major hit and the single “Desperado” marked the beginning of the Henley/Frey songwriting partnership. Rolling Stone readers voted it the #2 favorite Eagles’ song and Western Writers of America listed it in their Top 100 Western songs of all time. This immaculate ballad has been covered numerous times over the years – most hauntingly by Linda Ronstadt – yet, incredibly, the Eagles’ recording didn’t chart on Billboard until 2016 upon the death of Glenn Frey!
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Taking it to the limit. . .
Four years after their groundbreaking debut, Eagles released Their Greatest Hits. It was 1976. . .
. . .and the Federal Hourly Minimum Wage was $2.30. The TV sitcom Laverne & Shirley premiered and the US Intelligence Oversight Board began investigating illegal spying on citizens. Apple Computer was founded and the first woman entered the US Air Force Academy. America celebrated 200 years of independence and Hank Aaron hit #755 against the California Angels. While the US stock market began a 42-month long 27% decline, the Sex Pistols used profanity on TV and were branded as “rotten punks.”
In the midst of greatness. . .
In 2018, the RIAA certified Their Greatest Hits 38x platinum, surpassing Thriller as the highest selling album of all time. The third highest. . .is Hotel California. Released just months later that same year, it won the Grammy for Record of the Year in 1977. The band didn’t show up to accept because Don Henley did not believe in contests. Instead, they watched the awards while continuing to rehearse.
California was the backdrop, but “Hotel” reflected the material excess that was starting to overwhelm American culture. Everybody could identify. The hotel is the Beverly Hills Hotel (Pink Palace) and the cover photo was shot from a cherry picker 60 feet in the air over Sunset Boulevard in rush hour traffic.
Some believe the song is about the journey from love to marriage and then divorce, and the impossibility of going back to a life of happiness. It is one of those songs that opens the imagination of anyone who hears it, which is what the band intended.
The Hotel California album is #37 on the Rolling Stone list of the 500 Greatest Albums of all time. At the time, the AM format was a song three to three and a half minutes long and everybody wrote to this formula. “Hotel California” is six and a half minutes long with a musical break in the middle and a two-minute guitar solo ending. It broke the mold and changed everything.
Trouble in paradise. . .
Even before the third album, On the Border (1974), there was dissatisfaction over the direction the band was taking as it segued from country rock to pop rock. Leadon was on the brink of quitting. Felder became a permanent new member after wowing the band with his guitar solos. And the guitarist Joe Walsh replaced Leadon. Then, after recording the iconic Hotel California in 1976, Meisner also left the band, worn ragged by the pressure.
The Long Run album that followed, intended for release in 1977, consumed two contentious years of increasingly bitter studio sessions. When it was finally released in 1979, the Eagles were over.
The long way back. . .
Henley and Frey enjoyed big solo careers for nearly two decades, refusing continuous pleas to reunite the band. Finally, they did so in 1994 for a live album titled When Hell Freezes Over. In 2007, an album of new material titled Long Road Out of Eden was released and the Eagles have been touring ever since.
Sadly, Glenn Frey died in 2016 but his legacy continues through his son, Deacon, who takes his place in the band.
The shows in Las Vegas were the only North American performances by the Eagles in 2019.
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