An Eagles Sixpack

Eagles, circa 1976 (l-r) – Don Felder, Don Henley, Joe Walsh, Glenn Frey, Randy Meisner

“We were all reading books about the Hopis and in the Hopi mythology, the eagle is the most sacred animal with the most spiritual meaning. I think it’s a beautiful symbol. I would hope that the music would soar that high. Glenn likes the name because it sounds like a teenage gang.” – Bernie Leadon, after one too many peyote-driven trips to the desert.

Having grown up in Philadelphia on a diet of R&B, doo-wop, soul and rock ‘n roll, I’ve never been much of a country music fan. Sure there was some crossover country on the radio that I dug (Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell, Roger Miller, etc.) but there were no country stations and it was barely a blip on my radar.

When “country-rock” started to evolve in the early ’70s with artists like Mike Nesmith (a pioneer in this genre), Flying Burrito Brothers, Poco, etc. my response was pretty much a shrug. It all just seemed to me to be too wimpy and laid back. If a band wasn’t pounding me into submission, what was the point?

Now I wasn’t totally averse to country-rock as a genre. I was well aware of the Stones’ affection for Gram Parsons and I kinda dug their attempts at country in songs like “Country Honk,” and “Torn and Frayed.” And a friend of mine who was into all this stuff turned me on to the Dead’s American Beauty.

But when the Eagles showed up and released a song called “Take it Easy,” my basic reaction was meh. I’ll never like these guys says I. Never. (I have a standing joke with my son that I’ll wind up in a “dad band” with a bunch of fat fucks playing songs like that on a gazebo in the town square.)

But then a funny thing happened. They kept releasing songs. And they kept having hits. And then I’d hear them on the car radio. And the songs would get into my head. They were fucking … EARworms. And I liked them, begrudgingly. And then I really liked some of them.

And then Joe Walsh joined the band and Hotel California was released. And so I said, well, you guys have won me over. Now maybe they’re a highly commercial form of country-rock or maybe not even that at all sometimes.

So let’s put labels aside and I’ll just say they were a damn fine band with a lot of good, singable songs. Interestingly, while I would now consider myself a fan, I own exactly zero Eagles albums (not even California) and never went to see them. For me, they were a radio band pure and simple.

For a band that trafficked in country-rock and both celebrated and decried the American (or California) Dream, the original members of this band showed up from far-flung places. Glenn Frey – Detroit; Don Henley -small-town Texas; Bernie Leadon, Minneapolis; Randy Meisner, Nebraska.

These guys all landed in California in the late ’60s, early ’70s. Frey met and hung out with guys like J.D. Souther and Jackson Browne. Frey met Henley at the Troubador and both wound up backing up Linda Ronstadt on tour and on her eponymous 1972 album. Frey and Henley decided pretty quickly to form a band and with Ronstadt’s help and blessing, did just that. Meisner and Leadon joined and voila! Eagles.

Their debut album Eagles was released in 1972 and yielded three hit singles – “Take it Easy,” “Witchy Woman*,” and “Peaceful Easy Feeling.” Eagles (not THE Eagles insisted Frey) were in flight.

Now the thing about these six-packs (for the uninitiated) is that they are not a statement of the best six of a band or even the same six that would I have picked last week or might next week. They are just six that I dig. I tried to lean neither into nor away from the hits.

I left “Hotel California” off intentionally as A) I’ve covered it elsewhere and B) let’s face it, we’re all kinda sick of it. But I consider it hands-down one of the greatest no-shit rock songs of all time. If I wasn’t convinced that the Eagles were worth listening to before Joe Walsh, I certainly was after. Felder and Walsh made for a potent guitar mix and it’s too bad Felder is now persona non gratis with the band.

From the aforementioned Hotel California, here is the crunchy (forget country-rock here) “Victim of Love.” (Eagles are one of those prick bands that pull some of their stuff off of YouTube. So, where available, live versions will be featured there.) Slide here by Joe Walsh who learned how to play directly from Duane Allman. (So, by the way, did Don Felder who used to lose battles of the bands to the Allmans when they’d play against then in Florida).**

Tell me your secrets, I’ll tell you mine.
This ain’t no time to be cool.
And tell all your girlfriends, your “been around the world” friends
That talk is for losers and fools.

Spotify link

Eagles’ 1974 album On the Border was the first one to feature guitarist Don Felder. The title song was one that I’ve always dug with its slinky, funky rhythm and R&B-influenced Frey’s guitar figure. Just a great, great groove. (No YouTube).

Spotify list

In thinking about which six Eagles tunes to feature, I knew I would have to consider at least one wildly overplayed song from “Already Gone,” to “Peaceful Easy Feeling.” Hell, it wouldn’t be an Eagles tribute without one. After much consideration, I somewhat arbitrarily decided on “Life in the Fast Lane.”

The background story is that Frey was driving down an LA highway with a drug dealer behind the wheel. The guy started speeding and when Frey told him to slow down he said, “Hey, man it’s life in the fast lane.”

So after surviving that incident, they had a new song title. The opening lick came from a riff Walsh was playing one day at rehearsal that they knew they somehow had to work into a song. So they married the two together and came up with this tune about a hot-shot couple partied out on blow. Henley said it was a bitch to learn how to play that syncopated bass-drum part and sing:

Spotify link

Desperado was the band’s second album. Despite the success of the title tune, at the time the Old West concept album never really took off sales-wise.

Henley: “The basic premise was that, like outlaws, rock and roll bands lived outside the laws of normality, we were not part of conventional society. We all went from town to town, collecting money and women, the critical difference being that we didn’t rob or kill anybody.” Keith Richards has often thanked his fans for living within the rules to allow him the lifestyle to live outside of them.

The track “Bitter Creek” from this album is a deep track hidden gem. Written and sung by Bernie Leadon, it took its name from the nickname of an outlaw they were all reading about at the time.

This song has a nice old-timey feel:

Spotify link

The Long Run (1979) was the band’s final album for like, a million years. Nobody will ever mistake the Eagles for a hard-rock band. But with Felder and Walsh on board, this album continued the trend towards a funkier sound. Like “Hotel California,” “Those Shoes” is a Henley-Frey-Felder composition:

Spotify link

I think one of the best covers the band ever did is of Tom Wait’s “Ol’ 55.” “It’s such a car thing,” Frey said. “I loved the idea of driving home at sunrise, thinking about what had happened the night before.” Waits wasn’t a fan of it, but well, tough shit, Tom. I dig it. You may be perceived as “cooler” but I stopped caring about who is and is not cool somewhere around high school.

Frey and Henley share vocals, Leadon on pedal steel:

And now the sun’s coming up
I’m riding with Lady Luck
Freeway cars and trucks

Stars beginning to fade, and I lead the parade
Just a-wishing I’d stayed a little longer
Lord, let me tell you that the feeling’s getting stronger

Spotify link

Social note – We went on a cruise a couple of years ago where – for some reason – I decided to sing a karaoke version of “The Best of My Love.” That went about as well as it sounds.

*Impossible to think of “Witchy Woman” without reference to the classic Seinfeld episode.

**I talk about the Leadon/Felder/Allman Gainesville connection in my series on Tom Petty.

Sources: Wikipedia; Eagles: The Ultimate Guide, Rolling Stone.

68 thoughts on “An Eagles Sixpack

  1. Good choices. I totally have mixed feelings about this band – some great musicians, excellent harmonies, and Henley’s a very good lyricist and singer.

    Have you seen the documentary. There’s a charming moment when Felder, who wrote a lot of the music for Hotel California and Victim of Love, was taken out to lunch by the band’s manager so Henley could sing the lead vocals behind his back for Victim.

    I like how you have two songs from on The Border. It’s my favourite Eagles record and often gets overlooked.

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    1. I did see the documentary when it came out. Showtime I think. However, Delving into the band’s catalog makes me want to see it again. As to the Felder thing, yes that one is fresh on my mind as that lovely anecdote is recounted in the Rolling Stone special tribute I read and used for much of my source.

      I’d forgotten – or maybe never realized – how good ‘On the Border’ is. There were so many good songs from it I wanted to use that halfway through writing the article I almost abandoned the sixpack idea and went to featuring that as album. Also, they have such a deep catalog I could easily have picked six different ones.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I feel like the logical conclusion to that Felder story would be to take Henley out to lunch, and get someone like Jim Gordon to lay down all the drum tracks.

        I wouldn’t call it a deep catalogue – I think they made three pretty good albums in a row (On The Border, One of these Nights, Hotel California). You could certainly pull together another good six pack of mostly album tracks, but at some point you get down to stuff like ‘Chug All Night’ and ‘The Disco Strangler’.

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        1. Heh! Henley and Frey ruled that roost with an iron hand. But good bands can’t be run as democracies ‘coz it just doesn’t work.

          As to their catalog, I’m going to have to disagree with you pretty strongly on that. Over the past week or so I listened to all the studio albums through ‘The Long Run.; and I found a lot of good stuff, some of which I’d never heard. (‘Bitter Creek’ was a discovery.) Of course there’s chuff. Every band has it. But I think it’s a pretty deep bench for what, half a dozen albums? Songs I could have done but didn’t just to name a few: “Already Gone,” “Desperado,” “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” “New Kid in Town,” “One of These Nights,” “Best of My Love,” “Lyin’ Eyes,” “Heartache Tonight.” “Tequila Sunrise.” “Take it to the Limit,” “James Dean,” ‘”Try and Love Again,” Saturday Night.,” “Get Over It.” And of course “Take it Easy.” Plus at least a handful more that I didn’t know and would like to hear again. And I never even got to ‘Long Road out of Eden.’

          Maybe we disagree on the term ‘deep catalog.” But a lot of bands would kill for half that stuff.

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        2. Most of those are singles though. I think you missed a few good tracks on One Of These Nights too – Journey Of the Sorcerer is an amazing Leadon instrumental, Meisner’s Too Many Hands has dumb lyrics but cool tabla, and I like Hollywood Waltz.

          Still think their bench is a little thin – they’re in this weird position where they’re hugely popular in terms of sales and get lots of radio airplay, but are often critically despised. I think they have lots of good cuts, but didn’t make great albums like Pink Floyd or Big Star did. They had masses of talent – feel like they could have made better use of it if they’d got another drummer and made Henley focus on lyrics and singing.

          We’re probably not going to agree on that though.

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        3. Agreed that they’re singles but not sure why it’s relevant. Good songs are good songs whether they have great albums or not

          Yeah, I don’t get the critical opprobrium at all. What exactly is it they don’t like? I save that for turkeys like Journey and Bon Jovi. They had neither good songs nor good albums (for the most part.) Empty arena rock. As to Henley, sure I don’t argue there.

          I find it humorous that I wind up in the position of defending a band I didn’t like in the first place. I think the critics are just wrong.

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  2. “A bunch of fat fucks playing at a gazebo”. I’ve seen that band.
    I just had so many other bands that I listened to that were in the same ball park that other than a few songs I heard from them I just never got with it. I had the same feeling that you described when you first heard them. I have never made it to Joe Walsh’s solo that you like so much on ‘Hotel California’. So take it easy Doc

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    1. Actually it’s a Walsh/Felder dual solo. Felder wrote that music and pretty much did the solos on the demo. Boy I love those fucking solos. You’ll be pleased to know I can (and do) play both of them. I have no idea what to do with them other than sit in the house and play them. But I find it very rewarding.

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      1. I like a good guitar solo as you know. I’ll have to get by the vocals to the meat. How old is that song and I had no idea the guitar was there. It’s like I told you before, I heard a very cool piece of music and it was a Rush instrumental. Total surprise. Certain sounds and voices just don’t mix with my ear.

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        1. CB’s probably listening to it right now and thinking to himself “you know what? That’s a helluva solo”.

          What do you think, CB?

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        1. Ok “thick head” did it. I might have caught bits and pieces over the years but it had my full attention on this listen and when they kicked in, yeah it grabbed me. My “babyhead” was boppin.
          Here’s the deal. The song is over 6 minutes long and they give Walsh and Felder 2 minutes. Good thing I wasn’t in the studio it would have been the whole side of those two, ABB and the Outlaws style.

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        2. I know you’re not an Eagles fan or a guitarist. But how you avoided those solos for 40 years is beyond me. Even non-Eagles fans love those solos and they’re on the top 10 or 12 of any list I’ve ever seen. Perfection.

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        3. I think you know by now I’m not a top 40 guy if that term is relevant and you know by the amount of music i listen to that i was getting my music fixes elsewhere.
          Like I’ve said before you are way more opened minded with a lot of this stuff than i am. When I read lists about solos on such tunes like Michael Jacksons, I don’t doubt it but I probably have 100 other solos I dig that make no lists (I’m mulling a take on solos I love similar to Gonsalvas’s beauties with Duke).
          And .. I’m just not a fan of certain music and artists (see Docs, Rush, Mettalica quote) but I know others get something from it. Cool
          And … I enjoyed a nice little surprise from a song that I would turn off 5 seconds in for the last 40 years.
          And some of those Eagles tunes you listed i don’t mind but well .. enough of my bullshit.

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        4. I see your point on that. Probably some dude will come on here one day and say, “How could you not know that solo from Bittlefixes song “Day at the Beach” or whatever. And I’ll have no fucking idea what he’s talking about and yet it’s his favorite solo of all time. Even better, there’s probably a bunch of people who say, “Man, I love Hotel California right up until that fucking boring solo kicks in.” But at least now when CB goes to a party he can, “Man, Eagles suck but you gotta love that HC solo.”

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        5. Another chuckle for the day.
          Here’s one you’ll relate to Doc. Back in the 70s CB was in a trendy jeans store buying his usual pair of Levis. “Born To Run’ came on the radio in the store. It had just been released. The young woman (older than CB) serving me heard the opening of the song and pretty well screamed “Who is that guy? I hate that song!’. She meant it. Bruce was not a household rock star yet and CB was probably one of his biggest fans in the world. I actually started to laugh and so did she. I didn’t even bother to let her in in the joke.

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        6. This is why I can’t get too wrapped up in whether people love or hate the Eagles. Like I told J, I’m not their defender or spokesperson. Let them deal with it.

          ‘Coz bands I love like Bruce, Allmans, even Beatles and Stones have detractors. Hell, for every person I know who loves the ABB, there’s another person who can’t stand blues and for whom their long jams are just endless boring noodling. So I just dig what moves me and let it be. There’s no accounting for taste as they say.

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        7. I just read a piece by a blogger I’ve been getting into. He takes the Top Lists (movies/albums from well established sources and gives his honest opinion. I think he’s a young guy but it’s refreshing. He just did his take on ABB at Fillmore and did not like it. He’s his own man and is not being swayed by popular thought. I think you know how I feel about that album.

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        8. You? How the fuck YOU feel about that album? Have you ever read my posts? If you make another statement like that ever again on this site I’m coming up there. And then so help me we’ll abandon the other halves for a week and go on a club-going, booze-drinking, cigar-smoking adventure through the Great White North. With some time in there, of course, to watch old movies! So as Elvis Costello says, you better watch your step!

          As to that blogger sure. If you are neither into the blues nor long-form guitar-based stuff, that album is either going to convert you or turn you right off.

          I read a blog for a while where a young couple (guy and gal) proceeded to go through a series of classic rock albums that they invariably hated, misunderstood and tore into. By the time they got to ‘Layla’, I couldn’t take it anymore and asked them why they were bothering since they’d be better going home and listening to Bieber. (Thanks SO MUCH for him BTW.) The guy responded by telling me to go read my classic rock magazines. It was by far the nastiest exchange I’ve had on the blogosphere and I loved every minute of it.

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        9. Get you ass up here. We will hit every shit hole in the north and get some great CCR/Eagles covers. Bad Moon A Rising over Hotel California with a side dish of Johnny B Good.
          The guy I mentioned is good. I like where he’s coming from. He just did a recent take on ‘Hotel’ but I didn’t bite.
          I would have like to read some of those exchanges you cantankerous old bastard.

          https://thetop100.blog/

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        10. Those kids just didn’t get it. Now, i don’t expect everyone to like classic rock or blues, not even by half. But don’t gripe about how the song is fucked up because they play guitar solos. In some ways I would like to be younger but I’m glad I lived in the musical era I did.

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        11. The only “lists I’ve read since the old “Playboy Polls” are bloggers like you I’ve found since i started the whole CB thing.
          A good solo that I never get tired of and I guess it would be one of The Allmans more radio friendly tunes is Betts’s bit on Ramblin Man. Every time I hear that, it sends me. It would make my solo take for sure.

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        12. This kind of addresses your previous post. I sit on Ramblin Man and wait for Dicky to do his thing. I never get tired of hearing that piece of music. Just to set you straight fella, that is CB’s kind of country music.

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        13. I meant to add in this post that Brad Paisley was quoted as saying how important Eagles were to the current generation of country players. I bet this generation got more out of Burrito Brothers, Byrds, Poco, Allmans, etc. than they did out of Johnny Cash. Or at least as much. Hell, Willie Nelson inducted the Allmans into the Hall of Fame.

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        14. I have heard the Paisley name but no idea of his music. i don’t go anywhere near new country. CB is probably doing his close minded thing but I’ll pay the price.
          Now the Willie introduction thing is new to me but makes sense. I’m not a huge Nelson guy but he has grown on me over the years and has written some pretty cool tunes, I do like how he was instrumental in taking that music in a new direction with a few of his cohorts like Waylon and Jerry Jeff.
          Good convo Doc.

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        15. We would have been like the guy who unplugged Yoko Ono when her and Lennon played with Chuck Berry.
          I did enjoy the solos but I wasn’t kidding about the length. I would have been fanning that baby until they dropped.

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        16. Heh! Great idea in theory. In practice, not so much. Zappa was asked to do such a thing and came up with three volumes of nothing but solos. I’m a guitar player, love Zappa and I can’t get through them. Gotta have that offset between solo and song.

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        17. One day you’ll be driving down the street and find to your horror you’re singing “Peaceful Easy Feeling” to yourself. And then you’ll be faced with a dilemma.

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        18. I actually know a guy who backed Chuck up on one of his fly in and gigs. He had a great time.
          If they would have left her plugged in there was no saying what Berry would have done. Something nasty.

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        19. Is that right? I don’t pay attention to members, but I just assume these guys have all been successful elsewhere- either solo or with bands.

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        20. Well, I’m probably exaggerating. But there’s a big difference between being Felder solo and Felder as part of Eagles. Lindsey Buckingham recently woke up to that reality.

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        21. One hopes he’s been around long enough. In Donald Fagen’s book “Eminent Hipsters,” he talks about – just for one example – the not-so-great hotels he has to stay in when touring with, say, his “rock ‘n soul revue” or whatever it was called. “You wanna stay in better places?” his manager tells him. Tour as Steely Dan.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m a big fan of strong vocals, as you know, especially harmony singing. That’s one reason why I dig bands like The Beatles, The Beach Boys, CSN&Y and the Eagles.

    When great harmony vocals are combined with rock, I oftentimes find it even more intriguing. As such, it won’t be a big surprise that I’m particularly into the Joe Walsh era.

    Yes, “Hotel California” has been overexposed, and I must have listened to it 100 million times myself, but that Felder/Walsh guitar solo still excites me every time I hear it – one of the most epic guitar solos, in my humble opinion. I also really dig the tune you highlighted from the album: “Life In The Fast Lane.”

    I’m glad I got to see the Eagles once during their History of the Eagles tour in July 2015 – about six months prior to Glenn Frey’s untimely death. It took a road trip to Atlantic City to make that happen, but it was absolutely worth it.

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    1. The Walsh era is great but don’t overlook the stuff before it. Bear in mind he only joined on “Hotel California,” practically at the end of their initial run. There’s a lot of really good pre-Joe stuff.

      I agree with you 100% on the song and the solos. As mentioned to CB, I learned how to play both solos (a bitch, but worth it). and so “hear” the song quite frequently. Felder came up with not only the music but also much of what you hear in the solos when he did the demo. He doesn’t get nearly enough credit. And for me, the icing on the cake is that both guys were students and fans of Duane Allman.

      That’s cool you got to see the.m. It was never really on my bucket list so unlike say, missing seeing Led Zeppelin, it doesn’t feel like a lost opportunity.

      I am by now priced out of those guys. But I’ve already informed my wife we are one day going to one of the Eagles tribute bands. Has the Grand Emperor of all Tribute bands seen an Eagles one and can recommend?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I actually also like the early Eagles, but the Walsh era generally is my favorite.

        As for tribute bands, I believe I’ve seen two or three. One I liked in particular is called EagleMania. They are a national band and their tour schedule is here: http://eaglemaniaband.com/events/

        They are playing the Cabot Theater in Beverly on June 22, which I guess should be not very far from you.

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        1. Yes, I’ve been to the Cabot a couple of times, recently to see Bessie Smith tribute, prior to that to see Los Lobos. Nice theater. However, I haven’t changed my mind on my hiatus from concert-going so I’ll keep that in my back pocket. I also hope that they show up a smaller more intimate venue which would inspire a nice sing-along. I’m usually not a fan of that but how can you not sing along to “Peaceful Easy Feeling?” It’s amazing how I’ve turned around on this band over the years.

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  4. I guess my biggest takeaway from your essay is that you like them yet have none of their albums, and I strongly dis-like them yet have their debut. (Though I never listen to it.)

    I’ll let the Harmony Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock sum up my view of the Eagles (and I’m paraphrasing here): “Safe, soft rock for young marrieds to sip wine to after the kids have been put to bed.” They’re all great musicians, and seem to be nice guys, but pre- and post-Hotel California, their music has just never grabbed me.

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    1. If that’s your biggest takeaway, I must have done a lousy job of communicating. 🙂 Interestingly, I never much gave a shit about seeing them live. I pay money to go see bands that stretch out and I don’t believe they ever do or did. I wanted J. Geils to BLOW MY FACE OUT>

      That said, I will almost definitely go see a tribute band so I can sing along. But I will NOT drink wine, instead choosing Jack ‘n Coke just to add some balls to the whole thing. (Old married.)

      But your statement at the end nails it perfectly – “their music has never grabbed me.” We’ve talked about this before I think – you either fall in love with a band/song/album or you don’t. I’ve tried to, e.g., fall in love with Rush, Metallica and a whole host of other bands but it just ain’t happening.

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  5. I’m not sure if this has come up before (maybe not), but I just can’t get with this band. I accept that they crafted some really good tunes, but there’s always been something missing for me. I’ve wanted to like them… and I have tried… but I just can’t sit through more than a few songs in one sitting (Life In the Fast Lane is a good tune, though).

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      1. Quite possibly. I know folk who would say they they are one of the greatest ever… I just don’t hear it. But, hey, it’d be boring if we all hated the fucking Eagles, huh?

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        1. I suppose. It’s all the same to me whether people love ’em or hate ’em. Doesn’t sway my opinion one way or the other nor do I consider myself their defender or spokesperson.

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  6. One of the things I hate (but should probably love) about this getting old BS is the songs and bands I despised the most in my youth all sound so much better to me now. Especially for some reason, the bands I used to sneeringly refer to as ‘California coke bands’.

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