Friday, 7 November 2014

Glenn Frey – Cowboy Casanova

‘I love the way he leans’
'He’s a good time cowboy Casanova/Leaning up against the record machine/Looks like a cool drink of water/But he’s candy-coated misery' ('Cowboy Casanova', Carrie Underwood)
I’ve got to admit that, before I was Schmitten, which was pretty recently (see my Schmitten blogs), Glenn Frey was my favourite Eagle and Don Henley was my sister’s. She bought Henley's solo material, I bought Glenn Frey's. This song sums up the Frey persona to me – a bad boy you’d do well to steer clear of (but don't want to), with tons of charisma and sex appeal.

‘You're struttin' into town like you're slingin' a gun/Just a small town dude with a big city attitude’ (‘Just Like Jesse James’, Cher)
Seeing pictures of him from the 70s on the EaglesOnline forum, I’m reminded of Angela’s (Claire Danes) comment about Jordan Catalano (Jared Leto) in my favourite teen TV drama My So-Called Life ‘I love the way he leans’. Glenn leans pretty well. Anyway, I’ve already covered the Frey sex appeal in another blog.

‘If you look at my vocal participation over the course of the 70s, I sang less and less. It was intentional. We had Don Henley.’ (Glenn Frey, HOTE)
Although this is true, although I love Don’s voice, it’s partly (perhaps mainly) the different vocalists (and particularly the blending of their vocals), their strengths and styles that create the diversity in the music and increase the band’s appeal. I’m crazy for Glenn’s voice. There's an edge to it. And he sounded great on this tour. Plus Glenn does much more than sing – he writes songs, figures out arrangements, decides who sings what and still finds time to exercise his inner Svengali and get people's backs up.

Glenn Frey: ‘It takes Henley for me to finish a song. And it takes me for Henley to finish a song.’
The creative dynamic between Glenn and Don was incredibly productive. We have a lot to thank Linda Ronstadt for.

Desperado who leans best?

‘I like the way your sparkling earrings lay/Against your skin so brown/And I wanna sleep with you in the desert tonight/With a billion stars all around’ (or in plain English ‘Like your earrings/Fancy a shag?’ but so much more persuasive the way Glenn puts it) ('Peaceful Easy Feeling', Eagles)
It was always Glenn – the hair, the attitude, the confidence, the moustache, the jeans, the smouldering gaze … need I go on? He was the ultimate 'Outlaw Man' for me. All that swagger and charm as epitomised in the above lyric.

‘Well, I'm standing on a corner/in Winslow, Arizona/And such a fine sight to see/It's a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford/Slowin' down to take a look at me … We may lose and we may win/Though we will never be here again/So open up, I'm climbin' in/Take it easy’ ( 'Take It Easy', Eagles)
Jackson Browne asks him to finish a verse and that was all (s)he wrote. It all comes so naturally to him. When we holidayed in the States, we had to go to that corner. I’m sure many Eagles fans have made the same pilgrimage and there we were when a cool-looking guy in a flatbed Ford (is that the same as a pick-up?) stopped to ask us directions to the Probation Office. Or was it the Parole Office? Well, two English girls in summer dresses – I guess we must have looked like we would know. He recognised the would-be bad girls in us.

Used car salesman on vacation?

In some ways, Glenn is the most altered (though still good-looking and wearing well) – possibly because he was the epitome of careless youth while Don always seemed more mature. The others simply look like older/rounder/balder/greyer/skinnier versions of what they were but Glenn now resembles a used car salesman on vacation except that he has managed to retain that slightly disreputable air and that ‘big city attitude’ in his persona.

'Outlaw Man'

'We gave Glenn a nickname, The Lone Arranger. He had a vision about how our voices could blend and how to arrange the vocals and, in many cases, the tracks. He also had a knack for remembering and choosing good songs.' (Don Henley)
So if Don is the main singer and writer, the soul of the band – the angst, bitterness, anger, world-weariness; Glenn’s the pumping heart, the motor that keeps it all going, the somewhat schizophrenic, one-minute romantic dupe (‘What Do I Do with My Heart?’ rivals the tortured love songs usually reserved for TBS), the next ranting paranoid with villainous past ('Somebody') – my favourite Glenn incarnation:
'There's a jack-o-lantern moon in the midnight sky/Somebody gonna live, somebody gonna die/But down in the graveyard on that old tombstone/There's a big black crow and it's callin' you home' ('Somebody', Eagles)
Unfortunately for us all, 'Somebody' is not available as a link anywhere.

'When you said goodbye, you were on the run/Tryin' to get away from the things you've done' ('You Belong to the City', Glenn Frey) 
I love the seedy side of Glenn: the romance of the illicit in 'You Belong to the City'. Always one step ahead of the law, restless, dangerous. That sultry atmospheric sax intro; Glenn's intimate vocal on the verse before the chorus kicks in and he steps it up.

Happy days
'Somebody's gonna hurt someone/Before the night is through/Somebody's gonna come undone/There's nothin' we can do' (‘Heartache Tonight’, Eagles)
Don Felder on The Long Run:
‘We realized that Glenn had nothing to sing on the record except …  "Teenage Jail" … we just had nothing in his genre. So we called Bob Seger, and Bob had started about 60 or 70 percent of "Heartache Tonight", which was perfect for Glenn … .We couldn’t put out a record without Glenn singing a hit on it.’
This relates to the 'Glenn singing less and less' syndrome (something I really really don't understand). The general feeling is that Don is trying to put Glenn down here. It didn't come across like this to me to begin with but I sort of get it now, as it sounds as if he and the the others had to find a way to help Glenn out.  But he’s right about one thing: this song is entirely within Glenn’s vibe. (I wouldn’t say Glenn has a genre though, that he can't step out of – he’s perfectly capable of singing anything but this is something he excels at – uptempo, rocky, a song with a bite for a Saturday night): an obvious single and a sure-fire hit.

Glenn rocks 70s fashion like no one else
Bernie: This is a song that I used to hear a lot of on the radio last summer. Right around Halloween.
Glenn: Yeah round Halloween. That ain’t the summer.
This 1973 exchange between Glenn and Bernie at the beginning of ‘Witchy Woman’ sums up their relationship. Backbiting. You have to hear the tone of his voice as he delivers this line. How much he enjoys it. So quick. He ain’t going to be a diplomat any time soon. By the end of the song though, it’s the playing that counts and I’m glad they were able to get back to that for the latest tour.

Glenn Frey: ‘There's a lot of compromise involved in a rock band and trying to make people happy and feel a part of everything that you're doing. It demands a lot of sacrifice and a lot of compromise and a lot of patience and diplomacy.’
Patience and diplomacy were perhaps not Glenn’s strong suit. This may be why Bernie ended up pouring a beer over his head.

‘A rock band is not a perfect democracy. It’s more like a sports team. No one can do anything without the other guys, but everybody doesn’t get to touch the ball all the time.’ (Glenn Frey, HOTE)
Glenn’s attitude has undergone a bit of a sea-change. Love the way he expresses this, with a touch of venom. You can almost hear him adding ‘So get over it’.

Hair looking extra cool
Glenn's never been given to wordy avoidance or justifications (the sort that Don’s so good at). Witness this from HOTE:
Don: In the context of the times and the profession, the way we behaved wasn’t all that remarkable.
Glenn: It was the 70s. There were drugs everywhere.
Leave it to Glenn to tell it like it is and there's little doubt that his blunt attitude led to much of the creative tension. Ok he can be objectionable but I love that about him, that he doesn’t attempt to excuse or rationalise. Sometimes I feel like I’m surrounded by people who hedge their bets and are afraid to have an opinion.

Everyone talks about how funny Joe is (and he has some classic moments in HOTE), such as:
 ‘The first thing that happens is that you get some kind of label, and you gotta live up to it, and you just get caught up in that, and I forget what the second thing is’
but with Joe I always get the feeling that he sometimes only realises he’s said something funny halfway through or just after he’s said it whereas Glenn is much more self-aware and just as entertaining and his throwaway lines in the HOTE  film are classics. He’s always been the master of the soundbite, hence ‘Life in the Fast Lane’, ‘Lyin’ Eyes’. Here are a couple of classic Glenn lines:

Did I mention the hair?
'These songs are so old that when they were written, the Dead Sea was only sick.'

‘Detroit, where mother is only half a word’ or ‘Detroit, the city that gave us Ted Nugent … and won't take him back’
There’s a reason Glenn gets to tell the jokes at the gigs, albeit the same ones night after night. He delivers them way better than Don could. My favourites are the Detroit ones above.

‘I own a lot of guitars. And the reason is, I'm looking for one I can play.’ (From glennfreyonline)
Never afraid to be self-deprecating, Glenn happy to participate in a joke guitar duel with Joe Walsh every night of the tour, in which he gets to showcase what he can do but never really win.

Glenn wins the battle of the moustaches

Not quite finished but it seems appropriate to post this today. Well, it's the 6th in the USA but the 7th here. Happy birthday, Glenn!

Some quotes and images lifted from GlennFreyOnline. Thanks, guys!


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  2. I enjoyed this. There's some quote of JD Souther's about spending his first six months at the Troubador learning how to stand. I bet he mastered leaning, too. Unfortunately, leaning doesn't work quite so well for men in their sixties and it's a little sad to think they can outgrow their coolness. I still have trouble reconciling the differences between the long-haired, sunken-eyed bad boy and the fiftyish man in a shiny green suit (specifically some Tiger Woods charitable event in the 90s). Regardless of this, he sounds great whatever age.

    What you really captured, for me, is the appeal of a flawed individual. Instead of someone who is tactful, considerate, all-round-nice-guy, we have bluntness, bravado, ruthlessness and even a hint of malice. He likes to win and sometimes his methods aren't pretty but that doesn't mean he's wrong just that he can't be bothered to wrap it up in fancy paper. And he has that wicked sense of humour which probably works better in person (not that I know from experience).

    To pick you up on one point, part of my objection to Felder's Heartache Tonight comment is he described the song as being 60-70% written by Bob Seger which appears to diminish the part played by Glenn and JD in the creation of the song. The versions told by JD and Glenn credit Seger with providing a chorus for a song they'd been working on.

    I look forward to the second installment. If you can find a way to explain why he seems so reviled in many places online, I'd love to read it because I don't get it.

    1. Totally agree with your comments. Nicely put. I admire Glenn's forthrightness and his casual putdowns immensely. Yes - I see what you mean about DF's downplaying of other people's contributions. I think people think it's 'cool' to revile Glenn simply because he doesn't pretend to love everyone all the time. They think he can dish it out so he can take it. Too bad that he dishes it out better than them though and he can take it.

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  12. I always had the impression that, in many ways, Glenn WAS an all-around good guy. But he had a finely tuned BS meter and he didn't deal with it. I don't mind that. I have the feeling (borne out by people who actually did meet him), that he was warm and kind, especially to his fans, and that really says more about the kind of man he was than anything else. He mellowed a little as he got older, as do most of us. Apparently, he was a devoted husband and father, which also speaks volumes about him. I never heard a whisper of gossip about him and his wife, and in that business, that's a rarity. I always got the impression he got along much better with women than he did with men. Some men are like that. My husband is much more at his ease around ladies. And he loved women, in general. Most straight men like women, but there are some who just love women, and find something attractive in nearly all of them. I worked with a man like that, and Glenn always struck me as being the same way. The only woman I ever heard him say anything about that was less than kind was his first wife. And he usually settled for calling her "Plaintiff" and that was it. The man had his faults. He wasn't perfect, but good Lord, he makes me have thoughts that are utterly unbecoming to a happily married woman like me! :D

    1. Ditto. Thanks for your comment, Amy. I never meant to imply that Glenn was a ladies man as I know little about his personal life. But his image as a bad boy was really appealing to me. The looks, the rebellious attitude,etc.