Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Henley vs. Frey: The Bloody, Brutal, Post-Eagles Battle For Yuppie Rock Supremacy

The Eagles without the '70s would have been like a bagel without cream cheese. There just wouldn't have been any point. Besides, the band's whole "swaying palm tree" image wasn't all it was cracked up to be. They may have looked mellow and easy-going on the outside, but on the inside, they were as vicious as the most homicidal gangsta rappers:
On July 31, 1980, in Long Beach, California, tempers boiled over into what has been described as "Long Night at Wrong Beach." Frey and [lead guitarist Don] Felder spent the entire show telling each other about the beating each planned to administer backstage. "Only three more songs until I kick your ass, pal," Frey recalls Felder telling him near the end of the band's set. Felder recalls Frey making a similar threat to him during "Best of My Love." "We're out there singing ‘Best of My Love,’ but inside both of us are thinking, 'As soon as this is over, I'm gonna kill him'", recalled Frey.
Well damn. I used to always chuckle to myself whenever I'd hear Frey sing, "Somebody's gonna hurt someone/Before the night is through," but apparently, he wasn't fucking around.

It appeared to be the end of the Eagles, but the band still had a commitment with Elektra Records to make a live record from the tour. Eagles Live (released in November 1980) was mixed by Frey and Henley on opposite coasts; the two decided they could not bear to be in the same state, let alone the same studio. "The record's perfect three-part harmonies were fixed courtesy of Federal Express," said producer Bill Szymczyk. With credits that listed no fewer than five attorneys, the album's liner notes simply said, "Thank you and goodnight."
And that was different from any of the Eagles' other albums ... how? At any rate, the news must have been a terrible blow to suburban housewives everywhere. It was the day the '70s died. Forty-year-old ex-hippie real estate developers drove their Mazdas to the levee but the levee was dry. The Beatles breaking up in 1970? Yeah, that must have hurt. But the Eagles breaking up in 1980? Who was going to lead Baby Boomers into self-absorbed narcissism now?

Fortunately, all was not lost, for as the Beatles' break-up demonstrated (at least until about ... 1975?), a time of loss was also a time of gain. You see, instead of having just one artist to follow, Eagles fans now had two. It was like that scene in "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" where Mickey tries to destroy the mop but instead the mop only multiplies. You couldn't kill the Eagles. Nevertheless, things were going to be different. Former allies were now preparing to be adversaries. It would be ugly. It would be brutal. It would be ... Henley vs. Frey.

The heat was on, as they say. This was the end of the innocence. Henley and Frey became engaged in an epic battle to see who could outdo the other in yuppiness. The first step was to smear their glistening, laid back Southern California bodies in gallons of yuppie oil, as both country-rock icons proceeded to erase any last remaining whiff of "country-rock" from their music. The '80s couldn't have come fast enough for these two. But if they both sucked up the '80s like a sponge, they absorbed their music from entirely different pans of dishwater. While Don Henley re-imagined himself as some sort of cross between John Mellencamp and Devo, Glenn Frey saw himself as a strange hybrid of Gerry Rafferty and Barry White. Henley wanted to lecture you on the state of the world; Frey just wanted to get laid.

In the end, although Frey may have won a couple of battles, I'd say Henley won the overall war - not that anyone cared. For in a sense, we all won.

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