Wednesday, 27 August 2014

'Kick 'em when they're up':* Backlash Lashback: Response to Eagles' Detractors

Long Road out of Eden era
* 'Dirty Laundry', Don Henley

This is really a rejonder to the general press’s reactionary response to the Eagles. Obviously the band don’t need me or anyone else to defend them but that won't stop me.

‘And still all the critics keep saying/Are they still around?/When are they gonna stop?’
(‘The Road’, The Kinks, the rest of the song is also pertinent)
I’m struck when I read the press reviews of the Eagles UK gigs that no one is saying very much. They’re very short and somewhat grudgingly appreciative but the common tenor is that the band have just been going too long. I was originally going to write a review but this rant got too long so I'm going to publish it as a separate blog.

'I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour/But heaven knows I'm miserable now' ('Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now', The Smiths) Miserable and not afraid to sing about it! Plus you can't knock a song with the lyric 'What she asked of me at the end of the day/Caligula would have blushed'
Prior to this tour, I read a really negative piece (worth reading for the cutting ripostes in the comments) in The Guardian (one of my least favourite papers) championing the new over the old and advocating that the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac and the Rolling Stones, if they couldn’t do the decent thing and chuck it all in to let the new bands have a chance, should at least pay a tax to finance the development of such bands. It is possible to like old and new bands. So-called 'old' music does not prevent so-called 'new' music from existing. Much of the new music sounds like either generic rock posturing or is unimaginatively derivative. Friends go crazy for the Scissor Sisters, Arcade Fire and their ilk who ‘are all about fun’ and the current stand seems to be that you can't be any fun unless your songs are a melee of different styles, all rehashed with a sardonic ‘aren't we clever, look what we’ve done?’ knowingness, with a general emphasis in the lyrics on ‘having fun’ as if, if you don't say it every second, you're suddenly miserable and being miserable is a crime. They sound anything but original but are more like a fusion of several styles I never particularly cared for in the first place. The word that always comes to mind is ‘ersatz’.

I think hell's just about to freeze over
‘We set out to become a band for our time. But sometimes if you do a good-enough job, you become a band for all time.’
(Glenn Frey, HOTE documentary)
But why should liking current bands prevent anyone from appreciating older ones? After all, although of its time, truly great music is timeless. It isn't finite. There’s always room for more. If someone is successful, it doesn’t stop someone else being successful. Instead of criticising the Eagles who have created (and we hope will continue to make) so many beautiful songs, how about noticing the fact that much of popular music these days is lyrically drivel and musically limited? Most songs that get to Number One have the same words rearranged plus some often quite objectionable and/or childish rap inserted for the sake of it. I’m not saying it’s all like that but shouldn’t we fight against this endemic deterioration in standards, where there’s a sample of a previous song (sometimes a good one – not so bad – at least it’s bringing it to another generation) and if we’re lucky one original but ever so slight melodic refrain? See my previous blog for more on this, and, in particular, the Black-Eyed Peas.

Anyway, who’s to say what’s new or old? If it’s new to you, does it matter if it was made in the 60s? What’s that got to do with whether it’s worthwhile or not? I’ve just discovered Poco and Gene Clark as well as more recently, Citizen Cope, Christian Kane, Shakey Graves. None of these acts have had the acclaim or success they deserve but I’m sure they don’t blame the Eagles for this.

‘I decree today that life/Is simply taking and not giving/England is mine - it owes me a living’
(‘Still Ill’, The Smiths, a band that seemed totally different to anything that had gone before, replete with passion and pathos, memorable tunes and witty, evocative, thought-provoking lyrics)
I fear this bleating, which is typical of the wishy-washy, bleeding-heart liberals at The Guardian, always ready to jump on the next musical bandwagon but always a couple of years behind the times; they just about grab onto it as it disappears into the sunset and the credits roll, as with Jackie Leven or the Fleet Foxes, or just after an act has become a parody of itself and ever so quick to denigrate something they think is passé, is all part of this ‘the world owes me a living’ attitude. It doesn’t.

It’s not only journalists who indulge in this kind of carping. Robert Plant (of Led Zeppelin) says he knows why the Eagles still tour: ‘It’s not about the money. It’s because they’re bored.’ Always amazes me when somebody has the gall to claim they understand someone else's motivation. Henley (never a shrinking violet) has hit back at this in Rolling Stone but also at the London shows when he said they don’t do it because they’re bored but because it’s the best job on the planet or words to that effect. Sort of reminds me of when Oasis and Blur gloved up in the 90s.

‘You don't want to work, you want to live like a king/But the big, bad world doesn't owe you a thing’ ('Get Over It', Eagles) 
It’s always been difficult for new artists to break through and the talented don’t always thrive while the screechers and flavours of the day (according to the papers) such as Paloma Faith and Ed Sheeran (although I do like ‘I See Fire’) make it. Whether they do or not has nothing to do with whether Fleetwood Mac are touring or not. The two are not mutually exclusive.

The Mac
I hate this labelling. The Eagles songs and harmonies and ideas would still sound fresh and exciting if you were to hear them for the first time today. Same with the Stones. And there’s a reason that ‘The Chain’ is still used as background build-up for all the Formula 1 events on UK TV. It’s as exciting now as it ever was. A couple of years ago I finally discovered the Kinks who became a fairly long-lived musical obsession of mine. Not new but new to me.

So I say ‘live and let live’. Stop bitching and moaning. Good music is good music and it will endure. That’s not a fault, that’s a virtue. I like this comment on The Guardian article from MickGJ: ‘If it wasn't for these old acts there wouldn't be any 30-year old records for them to sound a bit like.’ I’m discovering new and old music all the time.That's how it should be.

The thrill ain't gone