Who wears an Eagles shirt to a wedding!? We were all thinking it. Actually, a bunch of us were saying it too. Friends of mine were getting married in gardens next to a beach on New South Wales’ Central Coast a couple of years back and amidst all the suits and gowns was a good Aussie bloke in jeans and a T-shirt.
But not just any T-shirt. A T-shirt of the biggest selling American band in history. A band whose sustained impact over five decades is so internationally huge that they were selling out stadiums in far flung places like Australia and New Zealand as recently as nine months ago. A band who are now almost certainly no more. If I had a wedding today I think I’d have to find an Eagles T-shirt to wear.
I can’t quite believe the news about Glenn Frey. The co-leader of that most American of bands – The Eagles – has died aged 67, his bandmates having released this statement on their website eagles.com:
“It is with the heaviest of hearts that we announce the passing of our comrade, Eagles founder, Glenn Frey, in New York City on Monday, January 18th, 2016. Glenn fought a courageous battle for the past several weeks but, sadly, succumbed to complications from Rheumatoid Arthritis, Acute Ulcerative Colitis and Pneumonia.”
Coming just a week after David Bowie’s death, this a depressing (I want to say “crap”) reminder for fans of popular music that their heroes who came of age musically in the 60s and early 70s are all pretty close in age. And that age is about 70.
Frey was one half of one the defining American songwriting partnerships of the 70s. Alongside joint Eagles bandleader Don Henley, the two of the them co-wrote the bulk of the most famous Eagles songs. Tracks like Desperado, Best Of My Love, Lyin’ Eyes, One Of These Nights, Hotel California and New Kid In Town all bear the Henley & Frey writers’ credit.
|Joe Walsh, Timothy B. Schimdt, Don Henley, Glenn Frey.|
It’s not that the other Eagles couldn’t all sing and write too. Don Felder has a co-credit for Hotel California’s famed guitar solo, Bernie Leadon’s gorgeous Bitter Creek is my favourite barely-known Eagles song, it’s Randy Meisner on Take It To The Limit and Timothy B. Schimdt on I Can’t Tell You Why. And Joe Walsh, well everybody knows Joe Walsh.
But it was Henley and Frey who drove the band, controlling everything from its creative output to its finances to its personnel (with some considerable acrimony in the case of Felder). Henley and Frey weren’t just good singers either. Frey has deferred to Henley as the more dynamic vocalist and when you consider just how deceptively soulful Henley’s strongest vocals were, from the torchlight standard Desperado to the R&B-inflected One Of These Nights to the late-period masterpiece Waiting In The Weeds, you realise Frey may’ve been both modest and had a point.
Only it wasn’t Henley who sang lead on Take It Easy, nor Tequila Sunrise, nor Peaceful Easy Feeling, nor Lyin’ Eyes, nor New Kid In Town, nor Heartache Tonight. All Frey leads, all some of the most loved and most played Eagles songs. In Frey the Eagles possessed one of the smoothest voices in rock and a more country-styled yin to Henley’s soul-influenced yang. And together they could sing harmony as well as anyone in the business. It wasn’t enough for the vocals and harmonies to be good, for the Eagles they had to be perfect.
Imagine how Henley will be hurting right now, losing a brother in life and in harmony. This from a just released Henley statement that rollingstone.com have published:
“Glenn was the one who started it all,” he wrote. “He was the spark plug, the man with the plan. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of popular music and a work ethic that wouldn’t quit. He was funny, bullheaded, mercurial, generous, deeply talented and driven.”
It’s late March in 2013 on Australia’s Central Coast and the wedding party has moved indoors to the surf club for the reception. Talk turns to the chap in the Eagles T-shirt with the bride and groom revealing they were in such a joyous nuptial blur they couldn’t remember seeing him. We scan the room and he’s not at the reception. Who was he? Was he just some guy? Did he get changed into a suit for the reception like some kind of wedding Batman? Did he hear me laugh at him and leave? I never found out.
Wherever this mystery man is, whoever he is, forgive me! I hope you’re wearing that T-shirt again today, I loved that band too mate. From Don Henley, said just a few hours ago:
Read more of Don Henley’s tribute to Glenn Frey at RollingStone.com, or click here: