Sunday, March 28, 2010

in which I admit to not liking the Eagles

They aren't the worst band out there but for reasons I don't feel like getting into I have been exposed to a hefty dose of the Eagles in the last week and I have become more aware of a line from the Dude in The Big Lebowski. I don't need to quote the line if you have seen the film and understand the sentiment Jeff Bridges' character expresses about the Eagles. I am, at any rate, not in a situation to be ordered to get out of a cab for expressing the sentiment.

Decades ago (really) Musician published a great skewering of Don Henley's lyrics by pointing out that the man had such a way with poetry, such a way with turning a lyrical phrase that you would have thought that those phrases had ALWAYS EXISTED IN THE LANGUAGE. True that!

I remember hearing the song "Take it Easy" and the whole premise of the song just seemed absurd in a way that could only, perhaps, happen in the 1970s. This song was co-written with Jackson Browne? Seven women on his mind and looking to be saved by the "love" of an eighth one?

The Eagles' songs are not exactly terrible but they represent a banality of musical and artistic direction that is respectably self-contained but just doesn't hold up in many details. "They stab it with their steely knives but they just can't kill the beast" stands out as one of the great howlers of Eagles' lyrics. Why, yes, they grabbed the steely knives because plastic cutlery just wouldn't get through the pot roast. The Eagles' creative output in songs like Hotel California or Life in the Fast Lane particularly constitute what in television we would call the "very special" episode of a comedy. That would be the scenario where the comedy proposes grandiose pretentions to being "serious" without a particularly compelling basis for it. Think Alex P Keaton going on in soliloquoys about death for this one.

It's not that comedies cannot touch upon serious issues or that drams can't be broadly comedic. I hardly ever watch TV but to pick two shows that I think broadly balance comedy and drama House and Scrubs come to mind. These are the only two shows about doctors I have seen that I can actually enjoy because the characters are not just plausible in their "good" traits they are even MORE plausible in their pettiness and their varying inexplicable weakness. Dorian's capacity for empathy is equalled by his absurd self-regard and narcissism. House has a similar capacity for craven self-regard without the oft-extended capacity to empathize with people. If the show starts off mixing drama and comedy that mixture is more readily retained.

In music I have mentioned earlier (much earlier) in this blog that a musician like Elton John can plausibly transition from pop songs to Broadway because of common connections. Billy Joel didn't make the transition from rock/pop to classical so effectively because he hadn't really stayed connected to it. I can't speak to Elvis Costello's attempts to get into classical music but in many cases that addition of classical to pop is often as ineffective as the transition from classical to pop.

I consider it unlikely that people who read this blog with any consistency are necessarily Eagles fans but they have stuck around for the long haul. My not liking them doesn't mean I can't respect their longevity. There are people who actually enjoy M.A.S.H. for some reason and people still flock to see Wagner performances even though I have found both his music and his person to be loathsome. But so it goes. For all I know after I'm dead and buried there will still be someone who hears those lines "They stab it with their steely knives but they just can't kill the beast" as some sort of profound utterance.

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