‘But you can never leave’………..
I remember, as a child, lying in bed trying to sleep, as through the walls of our family home my neighbour played Hotel California by the Eagles. He played the entire album on a loop, all evening, every evening.
Years later, whilst taking my little nephew to the cinema to see the latest super-hero epic, the title track came on the car radio. When the song finished a little voice came from the back seat, ‘I like that, can you play it again?’ I had to explain the concept of radio v CD; that I didn’t get to choose what was played on the radio.
Next time I took him out, however, I took my CD of Hotel California. Like most children he had a great capacity for repetition. And like my neighbour, all those years ago, I found myself playing the title song on a loop throughout the journey.
After about the 25th rendition I suggested maybe we try some of the other tracks? He decided he liked Life in the fast lane and New kid in town. So we listened to each a few times. But sure enough after a few minutes of living in the fast lane we were back ‘on a dark desert highway’ on our way to the hotel California.
Last year I had the pleasure of attending a Q&A with the Eagles after a screening of ‘A history of the Eagles, part 1,’ at the Sundance Film Festival. The film was introduced by Robert Redford himself, the founder of the Festival and star of classics such as The Sting and The way we were.
The documentary provides a fascinating account of the rise to global success of one of America’s greatest rock/pop bands, as well as the Southern California music scene they came to represent. Early footage of artists like Linda Ronstadt and Jackson Browne is a treat.
The Eagles are known for high quality musicianship, tight vocal harmonies and great song-writing. All are on display to great effect in the film as are the acrimonious fallouts between band members. The latter meant that some of the original line-up was not on stage to join founders Don Henley and Glenn Frey plus Joe Walsh and Timothy B Schmidt. But all were up there on screen recounting the highs and lows of rock superstardom.
Inevitably the band had to answer one of the most asked questions in rock is, ‘what is Hotel California actually about?’
Over the years there has been much speculation, ‘most of it crazy’ according to Don Henley.
So, what is it about then, Don?
‘It’s about the journey from innocence to experience,’ said the lyricist himself. So now you know!
For British fans there was both good and bad news; bad that a new album was unlikely good: the band would tour the UK in 2014,.
And they didn’t lie. I saw them play the first of 4 gigs at the O2 recently. The arena was packed. Not just with men of a certain age playing air guitar in their head but a very age diverse audience singing along enthusiastically to the classics.
The evening started with Frey and Henley perched on stools singing two obscure songs from the early very days accompanied only by their guitars.
‘I love playing clubs’ quipped Henley at the end as he gazed around the sold out arena. Then, one by one the two founders were joined by other Eagles and the first big song began; Peaceful easy feeling. Witchy woman was given a new treatment while a truncated group harmony Desperado left some fans disgruntled until Henley performed it during the encore the way it’s meant to be.
In all the band played 31 songs of which at least 25 can rightly be called classics. There’s a reason why the Eagles have sold 120 million albums worldwide and earned 6 Grammys. Their Greatest hits 1971-75 alone has sold 29 million units while Hotel California shifted 16 million.
Equally remarkable was that the men’s voices still sounded as good as they do on the albums. Henley may get all the praise for his vocals but nothing beats Frey’s beautiful take on falling in love; you look in her eyes, the music begins to play. Hopeless romantic, here we go again.
If hell freezes over again and they tour next time, I recommend you buy a ticket to see The Eagles. Long may they soar.