You Mourned David Bowie, But You Mock Glenn Frey. Why?


(vie The Guardian)

by Everett True

I am not an Eagles fan.

I know little of their output beyond the omnipresent Hotel California, Take It Easy, One of These Nights, Tequila Sunrise, and so forth. Their delivery is too laidback for me, too easygoing. Give me Neil Young any day. I do not deny their popularity, however – the album Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) alone has sold more than 42m copies – nor the fact that their music clearly means a great deal to a great many people. Like all music that has grown in stature over time, their songs come laden with associations – emotional, personal and communal – for the individuals concerned…

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9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. mvcoogan
    Jan 27, 2016 @ 11:30:05

    A “top of my head” answer is that Glen Frey never set any trends, cut any edges or broke any ground, just for openers. He made a lot of very pleasant music, which most of us can sing along with. So he gets credit for that, but it doesn’t compare to David Bowie in any way at all.
    On the other hand, Louis Armstrong said something along the lines that there is good music and bad music. Good music is the kind you can tap your toes to. (Louis would know, right?)
    Now you can tap your toe to most of the Eagles songs, but you can get up and dance to a lot of Bowie’s songs as well.
    Maybe the main difference is in the question of creativity, which is different from whether it is pleasing or not.


  2. Ed Cyphers
    Jan 27, 2016 @ 14:33:34

    I get a little itchy when people assume one artist’s superiority over another because of their supposed greater lever of “creativity”. I suppose most would consider John Cage more creative and edge-cutting than the pop-rock Bowie, but I doubt his music really inspires many by comparison.
    A couple points:
    There’s a quote by Don Henley in the Eagles documentary in which he describes Glenn Frey finishing verse two of “Take it Easy” for Jackson Browne, whose muse had stalled after the line “I’m standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona”. Frey wrote the rest of the verse, which goes “Such a fine sight to see/It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford, slowin’ down to take a look at me/Come on baby, don’t say maybe/I’ve gotta know if your sweet love is gonna save me…”
    Henley marveled at the economy of that verse fragment, into which Frey had shoehorned girls, cars, God and salvation–all the stuff of rock and roll condensed into one casual-sounding verse. In fact the rest of it, “we may lose and we may win, though we will never be here again/So open up, I’m cliimbin’ in..” is nicely metaphysical too.
    I think Frey’s stuff sounds more ordinary, but is really a cut above that. It’s polished to perfection. There’s little fat, few throwaway lines. He was a craftsman.

    Bowie was (in my perception) the more mercurial artist–more subject to mood, state of mind, etc. And he wrote LOADS of what I’d consider dreck in between those classics (or more accurately, SINCE those classics).

    But danceability as criteria for greatness or creativity? Even if Bowie has more than a song or two that would get people on a dance floor (which I highly doubt) I reject that notion completely, with my exhibit “A” being KC & the Sunshine Band. Their music is far more danceable than Bowie’s, but they wrote lyrics like:

    That’s the way, uh-huh uh-huh,
    I like it, uh-huh, uh-huh.
    That’s the way, uh-huh uh-huh,
    I like it, uh-huh, uh-huh.
    That’s the way, uh-huh uh-huh,
    I like it, uh-huh, uh-huh.
    That’s the way, uh-huh uh-huh,
    I like it, uh-huh, uh-huh.

    Anyway, trend-setting is overrated in my book. I don’t care who the first punk band was, or who invented rap, or formed the seminal grunge band. The Eagles were simply the best country rock band there ever was or is likely to ever be because they wrote better songs than any other country rock band–just as Lynyrd Skynyrd is the best southern rock band, and for the same reason. The Beatles are the best band of all because no one wrote better songs. Now, you may not be a fan of California country, but it’s still impressive that the Eagles are at the top of that particular heap. And for people who are a fan of that style, their music touches them deeply, just as country songs touch country fans and a rap fan thinks Jay-Z is way more important than Bowie OR the Eagles.

    I think the above article was slamming another writer or writers who derided Eagles fans for mourning Frey. And I agree with his being taken to task for his musical snobbery. You can use “creativity” or “edginess” to argue Bowie was the more important artist, and I could use sales numbers to counter that the Eagles were. The bottom line is they both made excellent music and no one should be shamed for grieving for one guy over another.


  3. mvcoogan
    Jan 27, 2016 @ 15:42:55

    Going back to the article, I now see that it was more about the mob mentality in social media, than comparing the two artists.
    As for creativity compared to sales numbers… I don’t think you would call McDonald’s a better restaurant because of its sales numbers.
    On the other hand I agree that the Eagles came up with loads of really fine lyrics to go with very pleasant and comforting songs. (I even own and like that greatest hits CD. I play it.) I have marveled out loud a few times at the “economy” of lyrics conveying so much emotion in Lying Eyes, and the dark mystery of hotel California. And I give Jackson Browne credit, maybe more than he should have, for take it easy.
    However I like America better than the Eagles, even if they didn’t sell as much. And trendsetting all by itself maybe of minimal value, but consider the rippling, widespread influence on other artists, of a creative trendsetter and innovative artist like David Bowie, compared to Glenn Frey.
    Anyway, a lot of this is taste and opinion, don’t you think?
    Ask yourself, two, which of the two of them got more accolades from other artists in the last couple of weeks?


    • Ed Cyphers
      Jan 27, 2016 @ 16:37:52

      I agree that the sales numbers = artistic value argument is a limited one. I’ve always been mystified at the sales numbers of that Hootie & the Blowfish album for example.
      As for a trend-setter’s ripple effect, that can cut both ways. The current dominant forces in pop music are rap and watered down “bro country”, two trends I wish had never been set.


    • Ed Cyphers
      Jan 27, 2016 @ 17:16:32

      Btw, I don’t think it’s such a slam dunk that Bowie is getting or will continue to get the most accolades. I think it depends on sources/outlets, geography etc.
      In urban/affluent places and in England, on public radio, etc. certainly Bowie is being celebrated more.
      But the reason I mentioned sales figures (that Eagles greatest hits is the 2nd highest selling album of all time) is that there is a whole generation of non-urban (and non-urbane) music fans and musicians for whom the Eagles are almost akin to the Beatles. They just aren’t critics darlings. They never were.
      But on a personal note, I will miss Frey more than Bowie. And I don’t even think he was a particularly nice guy. It’s just his style of music speaks to me more than Bowie’s artsy/glam thing.


  4. Ed Cyphers
    Jan 27, 2016 @ 17:33:54

    I’m laughing at myself now. One of the bands I had in mind when I spoke of the Eagles’ influence was a favorite of mine, the Jayhawks.

    Well I just happened to come across a video they just posted on Facebook…performing Bowie’s “Starman”.

    So what do I know?


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