In Defense of the Eagles
"One of These Nights" and "I Can't Tell You Why" are abominations, even by disco standards. The latter was written and sung by Timothy B. Schmit, who, like Randy Meisner before him, the Eagles simply poached from Poco (like the Eagles, only worse and less successful) when they needed a vocalist who could hit super-high notes. He came along when the band was on the equivalent of a coke comedown, and one suspects he was permitted to record the track because Henley and Frey no longer gave a shit. "I Can't Tell You Why" went on to become a radio hit, but sullied the band's artistic credibility.
But you know who else dabbled in disco? The Rolling Fucking Stones. Only the difference between the two bands is that while the Eagles' disco output is limited, the Stones really went there, and the results were mostly atrocious. And instead of just taking Gram Parsons' sound and polishing the hell out of it, the Stones aped him before literally partying the alt-country icon into the ground. Yet the Stones get a pass, while the Eagles are crucified.
Therein lie two other factors that feed into Eagles-hate: appropriation and affectation. For many, they'll never be authentically country or Southern enough. But Americana is nothing if not a mutt's genre (or, put another way, a genre that prides itself on being anti-genre), while The Band, save for Levon Helm, hailed from Canada. And if you still want to go there, Don Henley grew up in small-town East Texas. Necks don't run no redder than that.
It's impossible to listen to up-and-coming bands like The Maldives or Moondoggies and not discern the Eagles' influence in their layered harmonies and dueling guitars. At the end of the day, all that matters is the music, and most of what the Eagles put out was pretty exceptional. I defy anyone to listen to "Seven Bridges Road," "Desperado" or "Hotel California" and claim otherwise.
Clearly what fueled early Eagles hatred was the band's enormous--and enormously unexpected--success and their shameless enjoyment of it, for nothing breeds thunderous criticism like jealous rage. And what's perpetuated such hatred in later years is, simply, Glenn Frey's continued existence. He's a prickly jackass who was exposed as artistically vacant without his collaborators alongside him. But with those collaborators, he was a vital cog. Had he simply taken it easy in the '80s instead of gravitating toward Harold Faltermeyer and South Florida chic, the Eagles, upon careful reexamination, might already be the Hall & Oates of Americana.
This essay originally appeared on the website of No Depression and has been reprinted with permission.
Mike Seely is a former staff writer for the Riverfront Times.