Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Forgotten Hits Remembers GLENN FREY

When The Eagles asked to postpone their Kennedy Center Honors last year due to Glenn Frey's health conditions, the hope was he would be able to go through the "major surgery and lengthy recovery period" necessary to return to form and be so honored in 2016.  He was evidently in worse medical condition than any of us released ... and passed away yesterday from "complications from Rheumatoid Arthritis, Acute Ulcerative Colitis and Pneumonia" according to the statement released by the band on their website.  

Frey co-founded The Eagles with Drummer Don Henley when both were still members of Linda Ronstadt's back-up band, which also included Randy Meiser, an original member of Poco and bassist for Rick Nelson's Stone Canyon Band and Bernie Leadon, late of The Flying Burrito Brothers.  Those four players formed the nucleus of what the world would come to know as The Eagles.  

I'll never forget seeing Ronstadt when she opened for Blood, Sweat and Tears here in Chicago in 1971 and she set aside a portion of her show to allow her back-up band to share the spotlight with her and perform a couple of songs they had just recorded for their first album.  That night they played "Take It Easy" and "Witchy Woman" and I remember making a mental note, "I'll have to keep an eye out for these guys."  Trooper that she was, Linda wished them well in their upcoming pursuit of success knowing full well that she'd now be tasked with finding their replacements.  (She also recorded a version of the first song that Frey and Henley ever wrote together, "Desperado", a track never released as an Eagles single but one of their best known songs nevertheless.)  

Both of the songs I heard that fateful night in 1971 went on to become Top Ten Hits for The Eagles in 1972.  ("Take It Easy" peaked at #6 and "Witchy Woman" at #8.)  More hits followed ... fifteen Top 40 Hits in all before the band called it quits in 1980 and Henley and Frey pursued solo careers.  (See The Eagles Hit List at the end of today's posting)  

The popularity of the group seemed to grow with each new album release ... as did their abilities as songwriters and song-crafters.  The line-up changed from time to time ... Meisner and Leadon were eventually replaced by Don Felder, Timothy B. Schmit and Joe Walsh ... and then, years later by a cast of side musicians once Felder was ousted from the band.  (Schmit and Walsh, along with Henley and Frey, became the "core" members of The Eagles.)  

It was a bitter break-up in 1980 that prompted Frey to declare that The Eagles would perform together again "when hell freezes over" ... so when they decided to regroup in 1994 to release a mini-album of new material it was apropos that they called their reunion tour the "Hell Freezes Over" tour.  

The timing couldn't have been better ... Classic Rock Radio had just been born and the music of The Eagles was all over the airwaves.  (The Eagles' first Greatest Hits Album, 1971 - 1975, has been certified platinum 29 times over ... and continually ranks as the #1 best selling album of all-time, alternating that position with Michael Jackson's "Thriller" album on a regular basis.)  Although only a couple of their new songs charted with any significance ("Get Over It", #31, 1994 and "Love Will Keep Us Alive", #22, 1995), their Hell Freezes Over Tour, their Eagles Reunion Tour and their History Of The Eagles Tour kept the band on the road for the majority of the next 21 years.  

Without question, second to The Beatles, The Eagles were the most important band in my life ... I devoured their music and was fortunate enough to see them perform half a dozen times ... never a cheap ticket ... but ALWAYS a breath-taking performance.  They were often criticized for reproducing their best-known songs note-for-note on stage ... but to my appreciative ears, that just paid even higher praise for their ability to do so.  

When the band first split, Frey hit the charts quickly and often with hits like "I Found Somebody" (#23, 1982); "The One You Love" (#12, 1982); "All Those Lies" (#37, 1983); "Sexy Girl" (#20, 1984); "The Heat Is On" (from the Eddie Murphy film "Beverly Hills Cop" ... and also my cell phone ringtone ... #2, 1985); "Smuggler's Blues" (#12, 1985); "You Belong To The City" (#2, 1985) and "True Love" (#13, 1988).  Frey even took a stab at acting, doing a couple of TV spots, most notably on "Miami Vice" which featured his hits "Smuggler's Blues" and "You Belong To The City" prominently on their television soundtrack.  He was in the best shape of his life at the time ... buff, clearly working out to almost Joe Piscopo proportions.  

Rumors of health issues have plagued him for years.  In fact, many said at the time of The Eagles reunion in 1994 it was because Frey had cancer and they wanted to go around one more time while Frey was still able to do so.  (No substantiation of this ever materialized to the best of my knowledge ... although more health facts may come to light now due to his passing ... but I remember it being a widely-circulated rumor at the time.)  

If you haven't already seen it, be sure to check out the three hour "History of the Eagles" documentary put together by Showtime a few years ago and now available for home purchase on DVD and BluRay.  It's an AMAZING story of an AMAZING band ... TONS of vintage footage and plenty of "no pulled punches" interviews with the various members of The Eagles over the years.  On it, Frey comes across as the defacto leader of the group ... as well as the biggest asshole ... but he knew what he wanted ... and he went out and got it.  As lifelong partner Don Henley stated after news of his death went public, "Rest in peace, my brother. You did what you set out to do, and then some."  

Other "Rock And Roll Brothers" in Frey's life would have to include Jackson Browne (with whom he wrote The Eagles' first hit "Take It Easy", J.D. Souther, a friend and frequent songwriting partner and Bob Seger, dating back to Frey's Detroit days.  (Listen closely and you can hear Glenn Frey singing background vocals on Seger's first big pop hit, "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man".)  

This has been a rough week for rock and roll.  First David Bowie ... then Gary Loizzo of The American Breed ... and now Glenn Frey of The Eagles ... all big contributors to the soundtrack of our lives.  A sad way to begin 2016 ... but another reminder to appreciate this music while we have the chance to do so.  
Kent Kotal
Forgotten Hits

Here's the official Billboard Magazine report on Glenn Frey's death ...  

Glenn Frey, a founding member and guitarist of the Eagles, one of the most popular and commercially successful artists of the 1970s, has died. The band confirmed the news on Monday (Jan. 18) with a statement on its website.  

"Glenn fought a courageous battle for the past several weeks but, sadly, succumbed to complications from Rheumatoid Arthritis, Acute Ulcerative Colitis and Pneumonia," read the statement. "Words can neither describe our sorrow, nor our love and respect for all that he has given to us, his family, the music community and millions of fans worldwide."  

Frey had been battling intestinal issues that caused the band to postpone its Kennedy Center Honors. A statement from the band said then the recurring problem would require "major surgery and a lengthy recovery period."

Eagles drummer and vocalist Don Henley issued the following statement:  

"He was like a brother to me; we were family, and like most families, there was some dysfunction. But, the bond we forged 45 years ago was never broken, even during the 14 years that the Eagles were dissolved. We were two young men who made the pilgrimage to Los Angeles with the same dream: to make our mark in the music industry -- and with perseverance, a deep love of music, our alliance with other great musicians and our manager, Irving Azoff, we built something that has lasted longer than anyone could have dreamed. But, Glenn was the one who started it all. 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. He loved his wife and kids more than anything. We are all in a state of shock, disbelief and profound sorrow. We brought our two-year 'History of the Eagles Tour' to a triumphant close at the end of July and now he is gone. I'm not sure I believe in fate, but I know that crossing paths with Glenn Lewis Frey in 1970 changed my life forever, and it eventually had an impact on the lives of millions of other people all over the planet. It will be very strange going forward in a world without him in it. But, I will be grateful, every day, that he was in my life. Rest in peace, my brother. You did what you set out to do, and then some."  

Frey was born on November 6, 1948 in Detroit, and grew up in nearby Royal Oak. He grew up on both the Motown sounds and harder-edged rock of his hometown. He played in a succession of local bands in the city and first connected with Bob Seger when Frey's band, the Mushrooms, convinced Seger to write a song for them. Frey can also be heard singing extremely loud backing vocals (particularly on the first chorus) on Seger's first hit and Frey's first recorded appearance, 1968's "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man."  

But it wasn't long before warmer climes called and Frey followed then-girlfriend Joan Silwin to Los Angeles. Her sister Alexandra was a member of Honey, Ltd., a girl group associated with Nancy Sinatra producer Lee Hazelwood, and she introduced Frey to her friend John David Souther.

It was a portentous introduction. Before long the two were living as roommates in East L.A. with another aspiring songwriter named Jackson Browne. All three quickly became deeply involved in the burgeoning L.A. country-rock scene centered around the Troubadour nightclub that started with the Byrds, proliferated with Gram Parsons and the Flying Burrito Brothers and would, in softer form, dominate American airwaves for the bulk of the 1970s. But first Frey and Souther would pay their dues as an unsuccessful duo, Longbranch Pennywhistle. The pair released a self-titled album on the short-lived indie Amos Records in 1969, but soon split up.  

In 1971, fellow future country-rock superstar Linda Ronstadt was seeking a backing band and, on the advice of Souther, her boyfriend, hired Frey along with drummer Don Henley, ex-Poco bassist Randy Meisner and former Burritos guitarist Bernie Leadon. The band gelled so well that they broke off on their own after completing the tour and became one of the early artists signed to David Geffen's then-new label, Asylum. The group was an instant success, riding on the back of its first single, "Take It Easy" -- a song written almost entirely by Jackson Browne, with some lyrics added by Frey. 

Via a long string of mid '70s hits like "Peaceful Easy Feeling," "Desperado," "Tequila Sunrise," "Best of My Love" (No. 1, March, 1975) "Witchy Woman", the funkier "One of These Nights" (No. 1, August, 1975) and the harder-edged "Already Gone" (many written by band members in collaboration with Souther), the Eagles became the standard-bearers -- and Asylum Records became the epicenter -- of the California soft-rock explosion. Guitarist Don Felder filled out the band's sound in 1974, and after Leadon left the following year, guitarist Joe Walsh joined – beefing up the band's sound and lofting them to even greater heights with the 1976 "Hotel California" album, which spawned No. 1 singles with the title track and Frey's "New Kid in Town," possibly his defining song. Along with Fleetwood Mac's Rumors, those albums defined the denim, drugs and decadence of the jet-setting late '70s California rock scene. 

But drugs, egos and success soon took their toll, and it was some three years before the Eagles released a follow-up album with The Long Run. Spurred by the Hot 100 No. 1 single "Heartache Tonight," the album was a commercial success -- and helped bring the music industry out of a post-disco sales tailspin -- but the band succumbed to infighting and split in 1980. 

Frey embarked on a successful solo career, enjoying a series of '80s hits, the biggest of which were tied to soundtracks like Beverly Hills Cop ("The Heat Is On") and Miami Vice ("You Belong to the City"). 

But the Eagles' solo hits began to dry up in the 1990s, ad before long a reunion tour was masterminded by Irving Azoff, the group's longtime manager. The tour's title mocked the acrimony with which the group split up: "Hell Freezes Over." The group continued to tour periodically -- and lucratively -- over the past two decades, releasing just scattered new material and focusing on solo works. In 2012, Frey released his first solo album since the 1990s, a collection of pop standards called After Hours. 

While the Eagles were reviled as much as they were revered during their heyday, there's no questioning the enduring quality of their hits or the freshness of their sound, particularly the keening harmonies of Henley, Frey and Meisner. But more lasting may be its success:  For years the group's 1976 collection Their Greatest Hits 1971-75 regularly swapped places with Michael Jackson's Thriller as the top-selling album of all time -- and has been certified a whopping 29 times platinum by the RIAA. 

Discussing the superb 2013 History of the Eagles, Part 1 documentary with Billboard, Frey said: "You couldn't have asked for a better script for a bunch of guys in their 20s trying to make it into the music business. We were young, we made mistakes, we still make mistakes. It's the story of an American band, but it's also the story of the songs we wrote and what those songs did to [people]. We're here because everybody likes the songs."

Ron Smith's oldiesmusic.com website reports it this way ...

Glenn Frey, guitarist, songwriter and vocalist with the Eagles, died Monday (January 18) a month after his health sidelined the group from receiving Kennedy Center Honors. He was 67. 

The cause of death was attributed to Rheumatoid Arthritis, Acute Ulcerative Colitis and Pneumonia. 

Born in Detroit, he worked in several local bands and even sang and played on Bob Seger's recording of "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man", which led to his move to Los Angeles. There he worked with J.D. Souther and met Randy Meisner, Bernie Leadon and Don Henley, who eventually were hired as Linda Ronstadt's touring backup band. In 1971, they formed the Eagles and their success rivaled even Linda's, with hit singles like "Take It Easy" (#12 - 1972), "Lyin' Eyes" (#2 - 1975) - both with Glenn on lead and five #1 hits - "Best Of My Love" (1975), "One Of These Nights" (1975), "New Kid In Town" (1976) - again with Glenn on lead, "Hotel California" (1977) and "Heartache Tonight" (1979). 

The group broke up in 1980 and Glenn went on to a successful solo career, with recordings like "The One That You Love" (#15 - 1982), "You Belong To The City" (#2 - 1985) and "The Heat Is On" (#2 - 1985). As an actor, he had a recurring role in the NBC-TV series, "Miami Vice" and appeared on the series "Wiseguy" and "South Of Sunset," as well as the movie, "Jerry McGuire". 

The Eagles reunited in 1994 (the album was humorously entitled "Hell Freezes Over") and continued to tour to record-breaking crowds. They were inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 1994, the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2001 and their first Greatest Hits album was honored as the Best Selling Album of the Century in 1999.

(National Peak shown for each entry)

1972 -   Take It Easy - #6
             Witchy Woman - #8

1973 -   Peaceful Easy Feeling (#18)
            Tequila Sunrise (#40)
            Outlaw Man (#49)

1974 -  Already Gone  (#17)
            James Dean  (#49)
             Best Of My Love ( #1)

1975 -  One Of These Nights  (#1)
            Lyin' Eyes  (#2)

1976 -  Take It To The Limit  (#4)

1977 -   New Kid In Town  (#1)
            Hotel California  (#1)
            Life In The Fast Lane  (#11)

1978 -  Please Come Home For Christmas  (#18)

1979 -   Heartache Tonight  (#1)

1980 -   The Long Run  (#4)
            I Can't Tell You Why  (#7)

1981 -   Seven Bridges Road  (#21)

1994 -    Get Over It  (#31)

1995 -    Love Will Keep Us Alive  (#22)