The 2016 death march of rock icons continues to throw us from one day of mourning to another without a break in-between. Today sees the passing of Eagles founder and Michigan native Glenn Frey who passed at the age of 67 from a combination of pneumonia, colitis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Frey's last performance with Eagles was July 29th in Bossier City, LA, thus, those who attended the show thinking it might be the band's last (as they themselves announced it might be), are now able to say that they were, indeed, at the band's last show.
After bouncing around in a few Detroit area bands such as the Four of Us and Heavy Metal Kids (!) in the late sixties, a 19-year-old Frey wound up playing guitar on Bob Seger's legendary cut "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man".
|Frey and Ronstadt, 1971|
From the word "go", the Eagles became huge. Their success was on odd mix of natural response and diabolical behind-the-scenes orchestrations forced upon us.
For as immediately likable as those first few singles ("Take It Easy", "Witchy Woman" and "Peaceful Easy Feeling") had been, the promotional assault surrounding their second album Desperado was as misguided as the selection of singles. The album is best-known for the iconic track that would go on to become one of their most iconic, signature songs, but it was never released as a single while the inferior "Outlaw Man" was.
The people spoke by only buying two million copies of the album. Still, for all the money poured into it, for Desperado to miss the Top 40 was cause for concern. Third album On The Border saw the band make a conscious decision to rock harder, thereby parting ways with producer Glyn Johns in favor of Bill Szymczyk,
Of course, "rocking hard" still wound up meaning something totally different to the Eagles than it did to, say, Grand Funk or Black Sabbath. Their singles continued to garner heavy radio play, slowly working their way into the national consciousness. "The Best of My Love" would be their first #1 hit in '75.
Later that year, the band released One of These Nights and essentially took over the music business, becoming the biggest rock act in America after the title cut went to #1 and its follow-up single "Lyin' Eyes" went to #2. "Take It To The Limit" must have seemed a dismal failure for only managing a #4 showing.
The band was everywhere. There was no possible way they could get any bigger.
And then, three weeks before Christmas 1976, they released Hotel California. It was their most inspired record to date, by far, but also their most corporate. The album's success seemed almost predestined. Thankfully, the first three singles - "New Kid In Town", "Life in The fast lane" and the now-iconic title cut - were worthy of the hype.
To date, Hotel California has sold 16 million copies in the US.
But there would prove to be no topping that feat, especially with heated in-fighting and drugs ripping the band apart. 1979's The Long Run bid farewell to original member Randy Meisner and hello to Timothy B. Schmit. "Heartache Tonight" went to #1, "In The City" and the title track both hit #8, and the album spent eight weeks at #1, selling over 7 million copies.
Not bad for an album every critic in the country hated.
What better poster boys for 80's yuppie excess than Messengers Frey and Henley?
Frey, of course, reinforced this by popping up as a drug dealer on "Miami Vice" and lending his voice to the Harold Faltermeyer/Keith Forsey track "The Heat Is On" for the "Beverly Hills Cop" soundtrack.
The song dominated radio and MTV, landing at #2 on the charts. "The Smuggler's Blues" and "You Belong To The City, both from the Miami Vice soundtrack would reach #12 and #2 on the pop charts, respectively.
At roughly the same time, Don Henley was also riding high with his second solo album, Building The Perfect Beast and his two Top 10 singles "The Boys of Summer" and "All She Wants To Do Is Dance". For as different as they claimed to be, there didn't seem to be a whole lot of space between them, yet it was Henley who had initially declared that Hell would freeze over before the Eagles reunited.
Like all good brothers do, Frey and Henley mended fences, put the band back together, and have been delighting audiences ever since. It is this sense of brotherhood that Henley alluded to in today's statement:
" He was like a brother to me; we were family, and like most families, there was some dysfunction. But, the bond we forged 45 years ago was never broken, even during the 14 years that the Eagles were dissolved.
We were two young men who made the pilgrimage to Los Angeles with the same dream: to make our mark in the music industry — and with perseverance, a deep love of music, our alliance with other great musicians and our manager, Irving Azoff, we built something that has lasted longer than anyone could have dreamed."