Natural Progressions Update – The History of the Eagles – Part One

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Part One

Some initial thoughts

1.      Another trip down revisionism street. Like “Greatest Hits Vol.2” and “Selected Works 1972-1999”, this is another version of the Eagles’ biography as told by Don Henley and Glenn Frey. Of the four original members, it is them that we meet first and their childhoods and adolescence that is sketched out in detail for the consumers. The songs that are dwelt upon positively are theirs and the directors are kinder to the contributions of the former members than it would have seemed if Don and Glenn’s thoughts had been heard in isolation. The problem with this view of the band’s development is the debut album. Any listener coming to that album without the received wisdom of the official history’s viewpoint would conclude that Don Henley was a relatively minor player for the first eighteen months of the band’s existence and that he and Mr Frey spent little time working together on songs at that juncture.

2.     Spare a kind thought for Randy Meisner. For my money, Randy Meisner had, at his peak, the best voice of anyone in the Eagles – better even than Don Henley. He was also the one who felt left out when he was not invited to join the “resumption” in 1994. To see him now so aged and so obviously unwell and able to take such a small part in “Part One” – events which he was such an important part of at the time, – should make anyone sad.

3.      Kindness and compassion. One of the touching moments in the documentary was Bernie Leadon feeling so awkward and embarrassed about his falling out with Glenn Frey and the day he poured a beer over his fellow guitarist’s head.

4.      Count them. Sit and watch the DVD again and count how many people blamed their leaving the Eagles’ circle on tense moments and fights with Glenn Frey. Glyn Johns, Bernie Leadon, Don Felder, Randy Meisner……… Then sit and wonder why that was……

5.      Don’t lose sight. Don’t let any of this distract you from the fact of how many great songs Don Henley and Glenn Frey co-wrote or helped to craft into something like masterpieces. Also, remember that for all that is said about “The Long Run” being a difficult album, it accounted for more songs in the Eagles live set in the last few years than any other record, even Hotel California. Henley and Frey were the ONLY ones that made that record a good album and a vastly under-rated set.

6.      Cowboys. Stop and imagine how much fun it must have been to dress up as cowboys and create that promo footage for Desperado, right in the era when Butch and Sundance and Alias Smith and Jones were being filmed. I wouldn’t have chosen to be at the Joshua tree but I would have liked to be on that film lot.

7.      Wonder. Wonder who worked on that live album. The received wisdom in 1980 was that the Eagles worked so hard at punching in vocal parts and adding overdubs to Eagles Live that it was barely a concert recording at all. Now, the documentary tells us that no-one in the band could bear being in the same room as each other during the months that the album was being prepared for release. Both things can’t be true… they’re mutually exclusive and contradictory.

8.      Why wasn’t this better…… In all honesty “Part One” is very good but no better than many documentaries that you see on Sky Arts and “Behind the Music”-type shows. And some of the footage was of a poorer quality than equivalent copies that I have on my bookshelf. Makes you wonder why…… Very good but perhaps, it could have been better.

I’ll be back with some random thoughts on Part Two further down the line.

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