Wednesday, April 22, 2015

History of the Eagles: The Story of An American Band-Allison Ellwood, dir.; 2013


Owing to a recent ER visit and subsequent emergency surgery, Disaster Amnesiac has been lain up in bed for half a week now, and likely to remain so for at least a few more days. I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't doing a ton of 'flix'ing. Along with an epic binge watch of Californication, a show I'd never had the slightest interest in, two-plus hours were spent delving into History of the Eagles, Alison Ellwood's detailed film about the band.
Detailed and fascinating, I should say. The film is filled with scads of interesting archival footage of the band; the sometimes painful slog of Sunset Strip sidemen Glen Frey and Don Henley to massive FM-based star status is illustrated with the kind of obsessive attention that most musicians will only ever fantasize as being possible for their careers.
Career is a key word that came through to Disaster Amnesiac as I watched History of the Eagles. You just have to hand to it to them: they played every step up the ladder, every move, brilliantly, using even their failures and misfires as growth and learning opportunities. This ability of Frey and Henley is incredibly admirable in its pragmatism. They chose a path. They took the path. They overcame the path. In career terms, they won.  If you watch the film, you'll surely understand how this could have only ever been the outcome for any venture headed by Frey and Henley. One would be hard-pressed to find more driven people: Frey comes across as a consummate music biz magician, with his mixture of wild eyed abandon and overt schmooze. Henley's steely gaze would probably make Socrates seem like Stiv Bators. Paired within the business venture that was the Eagles, they took the Lennon/McCartney template, threw off the art school affectation of it all and replaced it with a post-Revolution MBA vibe (this is copped to, by Frey, in off-hand remarks about "the '70's"), and partied all the way to that great Private Lear Jet in the Sky, swooping down to hockey halls across the the U.S. to croon their way into the hearts, wallets, and pudendum of the lumpen. Wouldn't any musician do the same, given that set of personal will and ambition? I mean, you just gotta be honest!
And, to be honest, the Eagles wrote great songs. They are catchy. They stick to the side of your perceptions like good ad copy. The American perception was primed, ready for their oeuvre when it started to emanate from The Radio. Disaster Amnesiac is just old enough to recall being aware of their steady stream of hits, Crazy Horse without the crazy parts, as they arrived. Their tunes remind me of trips to the grocery store in the back of a huge green Chevrolet and parental bridge parties that I'd have to listen to from behind a closed bedroom door. The Eagles music defined the lifestyle, a point that is assuredly made within the film.
A point that I'd like to make is that, underneath all of the gloss, there struck me as being something really gross. The best way that Disaster Amnesiac can define this feeling is by paraphrasing Keith Morris, who shared those Los Angeles streets, but from quite a different vantage point, with the Eagles, when he suggested that Punk Rock was inevitable in the face of the continuous mellow onslaught from pro teams such as the Eagles. This viewer got to a point where I felt as though all of it, I'm talking reality itself here, was being staged managed, massaged into some pulpy mush by the kind of force through which the Eagles gained their worldly glut. I'm not blaming Frey Henley et al here. Again, they saw what they wanted, and got it. That said, there is a scene in which Glen, after being offended by what Disaster Amnesiac felt was the only appropriate remark a musician could make to a politician at a "benefit", from class-A smirkin' guitarist Don Felder, lets go with a string of expletives that pretty clearly shows what's really going on behind all of that Takin' It Easy; to watch it and think about it is, for me, to see the veil lifted on pretty much the entire Fantasy Factory. I gather that the early Punk Rockers like Morris sensed as much, but, hey, don't worry, many of them have been co-opted themselves now, too.
History of the Eagles is divided into two parts, the second of which features the band doing the Big Reunion victory lap 1990's style. Disaster Amnesiac simply scanned forward through most of that footage, as I'd grown pretty weary of it by then.
I wonder, did it all feel as Pyrrhic to them as it did to me?

5 comments:

Pig State Recon said...

". . . all of it, I'm talking reality itself here, was being staged managed, massaged into some pulpy mush by the kind of force through which the Eagles gained their worldly glut."

The Eagles as Lovecraftian time/space masters, ala Yog-Sothoth! YOU MIGHT WELL BE ON TO SOMETHING VERY DEEP HERE

Mark Pino said...

Hahaha! But...yes....

Dan Maguire said...

His other dingbat politics aside, I really respected Frey when he insisted that he and Henley get paid more than the others upon the reunion. All the others were like, "Hey, it's a sweet gig and I'm better off for it, so yes I'll take relatively less." Except Felder, who for some reason apparently believed himself worth as much as Frey/Henley. Must still be in the haze of anarcho-communism. So he pouted until he was kicked out, and is now making less than he would have, and having less fun. Hey Felder, wake up. You're only worth what other people are willing to pay you. Anyway, I really enjoyed that documentary as well.

Mark Pino said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark Pino said...

Who knows what Felder saw/heard/put up with behind their walls?
His comment at the Cranston event was probably the most honest thing said that evening, at that venue.
That absolute blinding honesty of the Marketplace is indeed the ultimate standard by which a sales force is to be judged, but it doesn't make having to hear any of their tunes, for me, any more pleasant or moving at this time.