NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Updated: Tuesday, January 19, 2016, 10:29 AM
No disrespect to Glenn Frey — whose death this week is a cause for genuine mourning — but the Eagles were, quite simply, the worst rock and roll band.
And hating the Eagles defines whether a music fan is a fan of music or just a bandwagon-jumper.
Through the early 1970s, the Eagles defined the “easy listening” genre, as if rock and roll is supposed to be a warm glass of milk to get you to bed.
Glenn Frey in 1977. He was a great man and a good musician, but he was part of a truly bad rock band.
Remember during the peak of this band’s fame — 1972-76 — Lou Reed put out “Walk on the Wild Side” and the LP “Berlin. David Bowie did “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.” The Stones did “Exile on Main St.” The Sex Pistols formed. Even Eagle-influenced Neil Young went on a bender with “On the Beach” and “Tonight’s the Night.”
But the Eagles kept churning out pop pap: “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” “Desperado,” “Take it To the Limit,” “One of these Nights,” “Already Gone” and “Best of My Love,” which to this day sounds even too soft for an elevator.
Even the band’s most-played song, “Take it Easy,” is a soulless take on Jackson Browne’s version, which at least suggests that the girl in rapidly decelerating flatbed Ford might have something on her mind than sharing a soda at the diner. Frey even co-wrote the song — which shows how poorly his Eagles bandmates did by him.
How generic where the Eagles? When the much edgier and much more musically inventive Steely Dan needed a band to mock, it chose the Eagles.
“Turn up the Eagles, the neighbors are listening,” a cuckholded husband tells his wife so that the people next door won’t think anything is amiss in the house.
Walter Becker and Donald Fagen captured it in one line: the Eagles were suburban conformity, writ large — the music you mom and dad would let you play on the living room hifi (you could go upstairs and listen to the Clash after dinner).
Even the Eagles’ signature hit, “Hotel California,” endures only because of its mysterious lyrics, which hint at political upheaval in the Golden State. But the song offers little for anyone but a small group of nerds trying to decode it. It’s the Eagles’ version of “American Pie,” a solid song, but ultimately a novelty one.
This diatribe has one caveat: Joe Walsh. The seminal Eagle always kept his soft-rock comrades at arm’s length, the better to maintain his sanity and his outside identity as a musician who had a pair (a pair of hits, I mean: “Life’s Been Good” and “All Night Long”).
The Eagles’ greatest hits — the album that everyone brought to college and no one wanted to listen to again.
There’s a reason Walsh wasn’t an original Eagle, but asked to join the band. He played guitar like a rock star. His solo (with Don Felder) in “Hotel California” is the only reason to listen to the song. His riff on “Life in the Fast Lane,” also on the “Hotel California” LP, marks the only good portion of the Eagles’ discography.
There is no greater example of the Eagles’ ultimate place in music history than an insult delivered in “The Big Lebowski,” the Coen Brothers’ icon of cool. In a seminal scene, The Dude (Jeff Bridges) gets into a cab only to be insulted by Frey singing “Peaceful Easy Feeling” over that countrified guitar. He asks the driver to change the station, saying, “Man, I’ve had a rough night and I hate the f—ing Eagles!”
He gets thrown out of the cab by the driver, who clearly doesn’t care about music, but just wanted to take it easy.
A sportscar with hot woman drives by playing “Viva Las Vegas.”
That’s all that the Coen Brothers needed to say.