Somehow I doubt that the sad passing of Glenn Frey, one of the founder members of the Eagles, will elicit the same response from the media that David Bowie did. Arguably, that may be right, as Bowie had a long career of self-reimagination and became a cultural and musical icon in the process. I doubt, for example, that Caitlin Moran will pick up her keyboard to claim that the release of the Eagles’ first album was a seminal moment in her teenage years, although it happened three years before she was born, in quite the same way that she did for Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and Diamond Dogs days. And anyway, Glenn Frey was just a guitarist in another band, wasn’t he? Well, maybe….
You don’t have to look very hard to see that I am an Eagles fan: where do you think I got the name for my blog from? The spirit of that title chimes perfectly with my aim in retirement, and was a natural for me to choose when I ‘rebranded’ two years ago. Take It Easy is the opening track on the Eagles’ first album, which was imaginatively titled Eagles. It is a song largely written by Jackson Browne, who gave it to Frey – a room mate in Los Angeles – to finish off and record with his new band. In a later interview Browne credited Frey with adding some words that he couldn’t have written himself, although they related to an experience of his own, and with arranging the song in the way that it came out. Browne also issued his own version the following year on his second album, For Everyman, but by then it was destined to play second fiddle to the Eagles, who had achieved a major hit with it. This version is from a live performance in 1977, and shows why the Eagles were such a huge breath of fresh air for music, at least until disco and punk came along to destroy the 1970s:
Don’t underestimate the popularity of this band. The Eagles have sold over 150 million albums, including 42 million for their first Greatest Hits compilation and 32 million for Hotel California. They disbanded in 1980 but reformed in 1994 and have toured consistently to huge audiences since then. They may not be fashion icons, and may have been reviled as much as revered, but they have kept a lot of music fans very happy over the years. I regret that I never saw them play live, but I did see Jackson Browne some years ago and he obligingly sang Take It Easy – it is one of those ‘hairs on the back of the neck’ moments that you never forget. As Don Henley says on the Hell Freezes Over live album, after the band reformed, ‘this is where it all began.’
Country rock, as this became known, has been a major part of my musical taste since the 1960s, starting with the Byrds, the Loving Spoonful, then passing through Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young in all their incarnations, Gram Parsons, Jackson Browne, Poco, the Grateful Dead, Little Feat and many more. Frey was one of the original four members of the Eagles and, with Don Henley, one of just the two who have consistently been a part of the band. So whilst the world may not be giving Glenn Frey more than a passing reference in the news broadcasts, I’m spending the day immersing myself in some of the best rock music ever made.
Rest In Peace, Glenn, and keep Taking It Easy.