soundstreamsunday #101: “Those Shoes” by the Eagles

eagles3The dark end of late 70s rock culture makes for strange bedfellows on the weekly infinite linear mixtape.  One week after Judas Priest released Unleashed in the East in September 1979, a career milestone kickstarting broad commercial success, the Eagles issued The Long Run, a (mostly) career-ending album that took too long to make, wore on too many nerves in a group of too many egos, and while feeling generally sapped of energy was still a giant hit.  Go figure.  They were a beloved band at the end of their (Seven Bridges) road.  But while the album may not have been as strong as its predecessor, 1976’s Hotel California, pieces of it shared qualities with those other California-centric, dark star rock albums of the era, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours (1977) and Steely Dan’s Gaucho (1980).  The party goes unexpectedly wrong, and as night sets in the sparks that fly leave an even darker fringe.

The Long Run’s spark is “Those Shoes.”  As an airtight funk backs a story parallel to Judas Priest’s “Victim of Changes” — delivered with icy remove by Don Henley — Joe Walsh and Don Felder twine their talk-boxed guitars together in a dual attack as hard-hitting, in its way, as anything delivered by K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton.  It’s the swing of it, still in the late 70s a rock’n’roll staple embraced by blues to punk, country to metal, and too soon largely abandoned by the harder end of rock, that moves both songs forward.  Just as Priest’s rhythm section, with Les Binks drumming, made you pump your fist and shake your butt, when the Eagles got down to business they were masters of the hard groove.  But this is no good times, party-on disco boogie.  The song’s power is multiplied by its downer lyric, a troubling view of the predator-prey club hookup scene, ringing at once with compassion, cynical chauvinism, and studious intention.  If it’s revealing of the seamier side of the west coast lifestyle as the 70s limped to an end, in it also is the last flash of a band who commanded the era.

soundstreamsunday presents one song or live set by an artist each week, and in theory wants to be an infinite linear mix tape where the songs relate and progress as a whole. For the complete playlist, go here: soundstreamsunday archive and playlist, or check related articles by clicking on”soundstreamsunday” in the tags section.

A Quick and Dirty Rockumentary Review – History of the Eagles: The Story of an American Band

ImageI love “rockumentaries” as they are called.  A short while back, I watched one of the best rockumentaries I have ever seen, History of The Eagles: The Story of an American Band.  As these things go, I have to give this one two thumbs way, way up.

Before I go on about it, I did want to say something about objectivity here.  Mainly, that I am very confident in the objectivity of my review on this one.  If I was reviewing something like Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage or YesYears: A Retrospective, it would be more than fair to question whether I’m capable of being objective in my review.  After all, I am both a huge Rush fan and a huge Yes fan.  As for the Eagles?  While I’m not exactly Jeffrey Lebowski, aka “The Dude”, who (ahem) “hates” the Eagles.  I generally liked a number of their songs that I frequently heard on the radio during my youth, when they were at both their artistic and commercial peak.  At the same time, they were never a band who I followed closely or whose next release I waited for with baited breath.  I did drop about $15 to see them in concert in 1979 on their tour supporting The Long Run.  But prior to seeing this documentary, my music library included a grand total of three – 3 – Eagles/related songs: Dirty Laundry by Don Henley, The Confessor by Joe Walsh, and Get Over It by the Eagles themselves.  And while I’ve purchased about 10 Eagles songs in the wake of seeing History of the Eagles, I still don’t own any full albums of theirs.  You’d be hard pressed to call me a fanboy.

Now that I’ve got that out of the way, I can objectively say … this is a fantastic documentary, one that I strongly recommend unless you just absolutely despise The Eagles.  Part 1 covers the band’s history from their origins to their break-up in 1980.  Part 2 covers their post-breakup solo careers, re-uniting in 1994, and career since then.  While I like Part 1 much better than Part 2, the latter concludes with footage from a 1977 concert in Washington, DC.  Altogether, eight songs are performed, including their biggest hit, Hotel California.  The highlight of that part is the camera work toward the end of the song, focusing on Joe Walsh and Don Felder as they play off one another in some of the most iconic guitar soloing of the 1970’s, if not the rock era altogether.

Part 1 included a number of anecdotes regarding the creative genesis of a number of different well-known Eagles songs, including Take It Easy, Lyin’ Eyes, and Life in the Fast Lane.  Former Eagle guitarist Bernie Leadon explains to us why Take It Easy became such a big hit in the context of its time and place.  Jackson Browne explains to us why he got stuck on that song, and the understated brilliance of the way Glenn Frey filled in the rest.  Frey explains how an observation one night at a bar gave rise to one of the hits mentioned above, and how a crazy car ride with a drug dealer resulted in another.  He also explains how an overheard coordination exercise being performed by Joe Walsh became one of the most recognizable guitar licks of the late 1970’s.  And finally, there is an absolutely hilarious anecdote involving Walsh, John Belushi, and an upscale restaurant in Chicago during an Eagles visit to that city.  Ferris Bueller, you’ve got nothing on these guys.

My only lament here is personal.  It seems that their late-70’s producer, Bill Szymczyk was a former navy sonar technician, as am I … perhaps I missed my true calling.  Sigh.

In summary, I’ll restate what I said above – unless you absolutely despise The Eagles, unless you have a Dude-like hatred for these guys (more notable since The Dude wasn’t a hater), then you really owe it to yourself to see this.  I will have to warn those with small children to put them to bed first, as there is a brief bit of nudity (when a crazed female fan runs on stage) and a few F-bombs scattered throughout.   Don’t let that stop you, though.

If there is anything that is a testament to the excellence of History of The Eagles, it’s that despite having at most a moderate interest in this band, I was completely mesmerized.  I’ve encountered a similar phenomena once, reading the book Moneyball by Michael Lewis.  That book is about baseball, a sport of which I only have at most a passing interest.  And yet the book was so well written and so fascinating that I could not put it down.  This documentary is akin to that.  It is so well made that I couldn’t stop watching it, even though the band that was its subject is nowhere near close to being my favorite.  If you are an Eagles fan, I don’t need to tell you to watch this, but even if you’re not … you still owe it to yourself.  Happy viewing.

By the way, here’s the trailer: