In Memory of Glenn Frey (and in defence of The Eagles)

Being in Samoa and having only a small amount of data on my phone, I haven't been on Facebook much. I went on tonight for a quick scroll to see if anything worthy of a screenshot had been posted and instead was met with the terribly sad news of Glenn Frey's passing. Glenn Frey ringing a bell? Probably not. As one of the founders of The Eagles and writer/performer of some of my all-time favourite songs, Glenn Frey is a name that brings up only fond memories for me. For me, yes, but not for everyone.

Twitter was awash with David Bowie tributes last week. Twitter was awash with Alan Rickman tributes just a few days ago. Tonight, the only tribute I saw for Glenn Frey on my Twitter timeline was a horribly cringe one from Dr Ben Carson (seriously?) that a comedian had ironically retweeted. What is with all The Eagles hate? I once googled “Why does everyone hate The Eagles” and far too many depressing articles popped up for my liking. Apparently they were “cokeheads of the worst kind” and disgustingly shallow. They tried to be rockstars and cowboys but were really just hippie liberals. People have struggled (and continue to struggle) to separate an artist's persona from their music and this has meant a lot of hate for The Eagles. Luckily for me, when I was a small child and heard The Eagles playing on my brother's stereo every night, I didn't know or care that those fabulous songs were being performed by cokeheads of the worst kind.

By fifteen, I was as big a fan of The Eagles as any sixty year old Republican. They had just released their first new album of original music in twenty years and it did not disappoint (critics said it did, the Chapmans respectfully disagreed). When they announced a farewell tour of Australia but not New Zealand, I was determined to go. This was to be their umpteenth 'Farewell Tour' (another reason people give for hating them) and of course they would inevitably come to Auckland on another one just last year, but how was I to know. For me, this would be the one and only chance for me to see these men, who had sung the soundtrack of my childhood, perform live. Being fifteen and broke, I turned to my parents. In a genuinely surprising decision, Mum said she would pay for me and Ken to fly to Melbourne and go to the concert. Keep in mind, Mum considers going to the movies a waste of money. And so a plan was put in motion. We would fly over with Rosie and her husband Stephen, and once there they would essentially keep us alive and fed (a huge act of kindness, I now realise, having travelled and paid for my own food since then) then fly home having witnessed a night of pure magic. And that's exactly how it went down. Just a quick note: The Eagles will forever be one of the few rock outfits who truly sound as good today as they did in their prime. Elton John? Please. (I do love Elton John though). I cautiously asked my mum why she was willing to pay a lot of money for my brother and I to see a concert. Her response: “If it were any other band, I wouldn't even think about it. But it's The Eagles.” And The Eagles weren't just any other band in our house.

Almost anyone my age who enjoys music from an earlier time credits their exposure to their parents. My parents never really played music at home when I was growing up. Mum didn't because she didn't and still doesn't know how to work a radio. Dad didn't because I have no idea. And so, with a house full of people but not a lot of noise, an opportunity for power presented itself and my brother Jerome stepped up to the mark. With a very impressive stereo for that time, Jerome suddenly had control over the music in our house. He went through his twenties while I was going through primary school so one would assume that there was a lot of nineties rap/pop being played out of those speakers and one would assume wrong. Chicago, Doobie Brothers, Air Supply, Hall & Oates, but most of all, The Eagles. The Eagles were on more than any band, probably every other night. Us younger siblings would hang out downstairs listening to whatever he played and just enjoying not having to go to bed yet. I genuinely thought that everyone at school also listened to The Eagles with their much older brother when they went home. One night I asked Jerome who his favourite artist was and he said “I dunno, probably The Eagles.” It was settled then, The Eagles were my favourite band. As I got older I realised that a lot of my friends had no idea who The Eagles were and every time I excitedly played them a song they were less than impressed. Yet still my love grew. Like any great artist, I kept discovering new (old) songs that quickly became my favourite only to be replaced by one that I had heard hundreds of times yet only then had truly begun to appreciate. It was just the other week that I realised in this line from Hotel California, they meant spirit as in alcohol, not spirit as in gusto.  "So I called up the Captain, 'Please bring me my wine.' He said, 'We haven't had that spirit here since 1969." It only took me 13 years and a thousand listens to get it. I am a smart person.

And so, my love for The Eagles has mostly been shared only with my siblings, and that's fine. We have a habit of loving artists who everyone else loves to hate, The Eagles and James Blunt being at the forefront. But listening to Glenn Frey sing “Lyin' Eyes”, it's hard to believe that more people aren't mourning the loss of a true legend.