Monday, 10 June 2013

Take it Easy Rimbaud

I was gripped by the Eagles film shown over the weekend on TV. I've never been a fan, they were way too stale for me even in 1977. That's saying something. I liked Dire Straits, Little Feat, Steely Dan..and the Doobies if I wanted cowboy outfits. But The Eagles are important, not least, for those involved, in creating the biggest selling record of the twentieth century (above). Last night David Geffin described Don Henley as a 'malcontent' and when Henley wanted to leave Asylum in his solo years, apparently sued him for $30 million. That seemed not only a little excessive, but a bit weird, and it might be pertinent to any discussion of what The Eagles, well, mean.
After all it was Geffin who traded malcontent, there's Joni, Jackson Browne, all of them on Asylum. I guess he was real pissed at a real malcontent rather than one who just mewed about it. Not that Henley seems a real malcontent at all, he did not, could not, change the world as Jim Morrison had, the flawed genius who inherited (or assumed) the mantle of Rimbaud. Don's songs of malcontent, after all, are excellent; Dirty Laundry, Boys of Summer, Age of Innocence, all terrific. Jim's are not, they are definitively inconsistent. The point is Don couldn't be real no matter how he tried because the real no longer existed by '75. The reason The Eagles sound so much like a business is that they were a business, but a business that really believed in it's own authenticity, a business that might be valued at approximately $30 million, and by last last night's showing, rather tiresomely still is. As such they are truly great, but they are hyperreal. And they are really significant; they prefigure everything else going the same way.
Now I'm not moaning about this, it's just a fact of life as we live it, we have to live, make the best of it, but it does rather put in to perspective why I might have intuitively liked the Steely Dan of the same period more (still the most deceptively subversive material you might hear in a decent cocktail lounge) and took a long time to appreciate the true sardonic quality of Randy Newman, whose
Short People (1977) I'm still inclined to sing to myself walking down the street.
However on checking the sleeve notes of Little Criminals, the album, I note with sinking heart The Eagles might as well have been Randy's backing band. Then I listen to it. There's one track where Newman shows he knows the harmonies are too perfect; 'Rider in the Rain' a parody in itself of course, has that moment when Newman leads them in with 'Take it boys...' he might as well have winked at them.

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