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I loved The Eagles back in the 70's, especially after I finished my
military service. Now, watching this special, "The History of the
Eagles," and downloading lyrics, I can see that, even without the
music, the words are pure poetry. Having taught poetry for nearly 5
decades, that is my ultimate test of whether the lyrics are real,
authentic, if you can divest them of the music and they're still
poetry. Only the best artists can maintain that precious risk; take
away the musical safety net, which might even support a simple three
chord progression, and if what you have is still addressing key tenets
of the Human Condition, then you aren't merely experiencing
entertainers, money makers, or businessmen, you and dovetailing
delightfully with poets.
Joe Walsh utters one of the most honest speeches I've ever heard a public figure deliver, and he struggles manfully, painfully, as if ripping heartfelt wisdom from deep within his being, about how in the final analysis, our lives are like fine-spun, intricately-woven novels; however, along the way, what we sense and experience is like running into a sudden comet or meteor, delectable or horrifying.
Don Henley, who always seems to know just what to say in the moment or afterwards, described his immediate ambiguous feelings directly following the cessation in 1980 of the band's efforts: "Horrible relief." I have to wonder how much of a gifted artist's time, effort, soul, life and genius they must invest. Henley comments that he often wondered why he was successful when equally-talented artists did not reach the apex of Henley's success. Glen Frey sends out a desperate, impassioned plea to his wife and children to support him and hope that their "second act" did not change him too drastically.
I admired the coloratura guitar riffs of Don Felder, and I was deeply saddened, when I learned that he had been replaced in one furious collision of egos and cat fights, some borderline, behind the scenes; others, embarrassedly right on stage in front of cheering but partly bewildered audiences. Frey conjures up the perfect analogy between a good band and a baseball team. You are all aligned in teamwork, energy, synergy; however, you don't have the ball in your own hand all of the time. Felder craved more opportunities to sing. Frey himself admitted that the longer The Eagles were together, the less and less he sang lead. Why? Because they had Don Henley. Henley himself mused that Felder's insistence he sing lead on one song was tantamount to Henley's demanding to play lead guitar on "Hotel California." I've watched this special now three times. It is so completely honest that no one individual emerges unscathed, yet most of them proceeded, like "Hotel California" not only from innocence to experience; but, moreover from some degree of benightedness toward a larger sense of awareness, maturity, good judgment and enlightenment as human beings, as artists, entertainers, writers, and people who realized how their creations behind the scenes and before jubilant audiences, mattered far more than they ever dreamed or feared or ever imagined could be realized.
The deep lessons I derived focused upon Henley's efforts to save Henry David Thoreau's "Walden" from commercial vandalism and decimation; Joe Walsh's gratitude at being driven to rehab so that he, too, could experience "A Second Act" with his band mates.
I think that "The History of the Eagles" should be required viewing of any budding producers, agents, or artists. It is one slice of life, one sobering view of fame, celebrity, success and failure, of Phoenixes emerging from their own self-induced immolation, of a group of young men growing up as their country and citizens in it also evolved painfully, sometimes jubilantly, with a lot of luck and some daunting disappointments.
Watching the movie is almost like watching and listening to a magician explain patiently how the trick worked as well as disclosing those times when it didn't work.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Remember in THE BIG LEBOWSKI, when Jeff Bridges as "The Dude"
complained so much to his cabbie about turning off "Peaceful Easy
Feeling" because "he hates the F-ing Eagles, Man"! That rant got him
evicted from his cab and earned him a long walk home from Malibu to his
crappy apartment. Was it worth it? Well, The Dude just might change his
tune if he checks out the new documentary HISTORY OF THE EAGLES
currently running on Showtime.
I recently watched both parts over two days, and it was well worth the time spent. Even though I never really was a big fan, I can most assuredly say that these guys were truly the biggest American band of the 1970's. Pretty much every album from their 1st through Hotel California was a part of the soundtrack of my teenage years. And as Don Henley mentioned in the beginning of Part 2, with the advent of classic rock radio in the early 80's, they've been constantly with us all the way through 2013. The songs were so good that we just never get tired of them.
As far as the movie goes, much like the recent Scorcese long film about George Harrison and P. Bogdanovich's nearly 4-hour marathon on Tom Petty, it's all good. I'm convinced cable TV is the best way to show a rock doc., as you really get to tell and see it all with numerous interviews of those who lived it, without having movie theater time constraints and/or box office totals to worry about. And wow, did the Eagles have a whole bunch of video which I'd never seen. Some of it's great, much of it is "disposable", but almost all of it fascinating for fans.
I read some of the comments on the IMDb board bashing Henley and Glenn Frey for coming off as "pompous a-holes". And while they did seem a bit overly protective of their cut of the band's fame and fortune, they have the right to. THEY STARTED THE BAND!
Watch this film if you've ever yelled along while driving with the woo-hoo-hoos on "Already Gone", as it will flash you back nicely to the fun of the mid-70's.
P.S.-And Dude, I know you once did your wacky dance to The First Edition's "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)", but you may want to skip over the part in the film where Kenny Rogers discusses helping Henley's pre-Eagles band Shiloh try to get started in LA. You will not recognize Kenny and may be a bit frightened with the condition his face's condition is in these days!
After watching this again I still feel this was a monetary project from
start to finish. It is nice to sit back and enjoy some of the music
that you remember so well from the 70's decade. It is a pity that
today's kids have nothing in the form of music or an identity that I
had as a teenager in the seventies period. They have their phones and
social internet and nothing else. There is not a single musician today
that can even come close to entering the hero spaces musicians had in
my teen years such as Dylan, Lennon, Roger Waters, down home southern
poets like R.VanZant, and yes, Henley and Frey. For this reason I can
relax some of my initial reaction to their egomania which is still
painfully obvious. Don Henley's reaction to his very successful solo
career which led to some masterful music in my opinion he just blows
off with "I won some awards and had some hits" and finishes with his
usual bombardment of everyone else and their unwillingness or inability
to reach his own genius level-mainly producers, agents, songwriters and
other musicians. He comes across as a total a$$ and seems to know it
and not care the least-so be it.
The total highlights of the entire program belong to Joe Walsh for his honesty and in an indirect way to Linda Ronstadt and her blossoming sexually and "voice as big as a house" that I remember so, so well from that period. Again, there is nothing or no one today in terms of young female singers, that could match her talent or her effect on young men that I also remember so well- Henley's admission that she was "one of the boys" also reflects as an identical feeling I had about her at that time.
The star of the show is Joe Walsh as he seems so separated from the narcissistic love Henley and Frye have for themselves. His honest approach comes off as realist and sincere especially his reflections on how he remembers that era, as if it were a fiction novel, and using it for an example-brilliant! Perhaps some young people will take to heart what he has to say and use it to improve their own lives.
All the partying and some senseless nudity come across as flush material and the catfights between the former and current members of the group are nothing new to even casual fans of the band. I saw the Eagles live once during the Hotel California tour and their abilities as a live band, along with inspiring melodies and well rehearsed harmonies, were the impression I remember even today. Lynda Ronstadt was also touring with Jackson Browne about the same time and, of course, her show was unforgettable to say the least.
All in all this is a good production and I think people can use the ole saw "take what you want and leave the rest" and find this an enjoyable program to watch.
How can you write a spoiler for a music program about 40year old songs?
One might think that should there ever be a Mount Rushmore of country
rock, they may well etch the faces of the Eagles into the cliff side.
However, they might need some time, for there have been quite a few
comings and goings and line-up changes in camp Eagles over the years.
This documentary ventures into the first chapter of the band's
existence and provides evidence of the rifts, drifts, differences and
fallouts that have occurred. It is probably fair to say that the Eagles
are one of the most notoriously disharmonious of bands, who
inexplicably and ironically orchestrate some of the most harmonious
musical harmonies of any group since CSN. It is still a struggle today
to meet a band that matches up vocally.
Although they may not straddle the earth with an omnipresence that marked their original inception and 1970s heyday, the reformed country rockers are still synonymous with classic radio and the rock album format.
Running at 2 hours, there is a lot of ground to cover. For a casual viewer, there is a mercifully breezy skip through respective childhoods and the pace is pushed with momentum towards the inspiring and prolific late-60s underground music scene of LA that homed residencies of Poco, Buffalo Springfield, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt et al. There is acknowledgment as to the creatively incestuous backdrop of the times, of the area and of the era. The sort that enabled artists to shift, move and collaborate seemingly at will. As the late 60s moved into the early 70s and success increased for the bulk of the aforementioned artists, it is clear that all look back with giddy rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia. The creativity was clearly as intoxicating as the drugs that they were recreationally self-medicating.
The Eagles were always a band that stood apart from their peers. They did so for a few reasons. One, is that they were massively successful in a way that the others could only dream of, another is that they had a steely core that made them efficiently consummate and business-like. Both of these aspects are highlighted by the documentary. The band reflect openly upon their motivations and inclinations, with a mix of new interviews and footage that dates back to the period. To see how much and how little they've changed is part of the joy of the feature. Around the mid-point, Joe Walsh arrives into the frame and is spotlighted in both the past and the present as an impassioned guitarist who is part-talent, part-court jester. His phrasing exudes a humorous hybrid of Keith Richards and Stephen Stills along with a healthy dose of his own breezy personality. For a music film, the tone is more or less consistently serious throughout, so his appearance offers some light hearted respite.
On the downside, there is not as much insight into the studio processes as a fan may want, but the band members are all given a fair hearing from both time periods and talk candidly about being in the epicentre of the Eagles whirlwind.
Understandably, Part One ends on a decisively sour note; their downfall and break-up. Although the pressures of topping the totemic Hotel California engulfed them all to a certain extent, it is clear that decisive fractures of the intragroup relationships had crippled the band. It is also evident that the distractions around the process was a demon that gobbled them up. Power may corrupt and absolute power may corrupt absolutely, but I am sure there is a pithy equivalent for success. Life in the fast lane had brought this group crashing into a ditch.
This is a tale that has enough acrimony to give Pink Floyd a run for their money. They may have been back together since 1994, as they will happily testify, but in case you're wondering, they only speak to Don Felder through lawyers. Some things don't change and won't be taken easy.
The reviewers before me have pretty much summed this film up. I would
put my money on 80% of the viewing demographic will have grown up with
the Eagles and many of them, like myself, would know them first and
foremost for their music. All of us have heard snippets of stories and
probably read differing opinions as to how they imploded and
reassembled and then generally just came and went again at random. Many
of us would have been to a concert, possibly more than one and seen
them in the flesh, marveling again at their magical ability to blend
voices and instruments into some of the best music produced in modern
times. This documentary knits it all together. There will be millions
of words written online over the coming months and perhaps years
critiquing this film for better or for worse.
I have adopted the stance that this is a group of musicians that are just as human as all the rest of us, extraordinarily gifted in their chosen fields and were at the intersection of preparation and opportunity just at the right time.
The addition of a copious amount of personal home movie footage, some never aired before adds the essential layer to the production and wraps the package up like a tightly constructed wine. I'm sure there are many who will be watching this who will see themselves in the background of some of the footage, even at the third encores and will will be gasping in their living rooms grateful for the fact that the passage of time is the best camouflage for human recognition. Could you just imagine..." OMG Mom, I don't believe you did that ! How am I going to explain this to my friends !! "
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Don't walk into "History of the Eagles" expecting an actual history of
the band. This is a story steeped in revisionism, told from the
perspectives of Glenn Frey and Don Henley. And you don't get far into
the film before you start to wonder what's been left out. This is a
band with an almost legendary period of drug use, infighting and
unchecked egos, and only a fraction of the bad stuff is paid any lip
service; just a formality so they go back to self-praise.
Randy Meisner and Bernie Leadon don't receive any attention once they've left (no insight or commentary). Two integral founding members are but a memory. But the film's biggest disappointment is the short shrift given to Don Felder. We don't get much in the way of input from him as Frey and Henley continue telling the story. He had legitimate issues with the way the band was being handled (power being taken away from himself, Timothy B. Schmidt and Joe Walsh, getting screwed out of song credit and royalties), but they're summed up with "Felder was unhappy".
But I was surprised to hear the audio between Frey and Felder as they were figuratively at each other's throats in 1980. Equally surprised that David Geffen flat-out stated that Don Henley is a malcontent (not that anyone else was lining up to say anything less than flattering about the man).
The Eagles are the quintessential American band, and their story deserves to be documented in full. This is little more than a puff piece. Which is hilarious because Glenn Frey still comes off as a dick.
I remember the Eagles as a kid when they had a few hits in the British
charts but it was not the music I grew up with. By the time I was a
teenager they had already broken up.
They were a band I got to know retrospectively through their hit songs and then later their new songs after they reformed in the 1990s.
So I arrived to this two part documentary rather fresh knowing little about the band apart from band members Don Henley and Glenn Frey had pop hits as solo artists in the 1980s.
Part one focuses on the formative years of the musician from being kids onwards, the early days of the band until they hit the big time and their creative tensions leading to their breakup. Its a fascinating and informative story for me. I had no idea that such a Californian sounding rock/country/blues band recorded their early work in London and how much they were in awe of the music of The Who, Beatles, The Rolling Stones.
The band has gone through lineup changes with disputes among band members. Joe Walsh with his past demons comes across as the most honest in the documentary, Frey and Henley as the victors and the defacto leaders of the Eagles get to write their version of the history.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There was a lot of speculation on the "Why the Eagles split up" and
without giving too much away this does answer a lot.
Some people have said in musical fields that Glen Frey is an ego- maniacal, glory-seeking, talentless musician. The reality is between Glen Frey, Don Henley, Timothy Schmitt, Randy Meisner, J.D. Souther and Jackson Browne, the Eagles possibly have more hits than most bands could hope for since the Beatles.
There is a feeling of an arrogant man in the way Glen Frey presents himself and as the movie clearly states it was not until Frey decided he was ready that The Eagles could reform and play again. The different ventures each went on and the use of musicians in Henley's solo career such as Pino Palladino certainly give Henley more musical kudos in some circles than Frey will ever get, but the reality is together they wrote great songs. The same was said of Lennon and McCartney in other ways.
Simply as the title of this summary says, he that writes owns. Any musician ever involved with any label or record company as it used to be known, knew that "He that pays owns". This is no different. So basically,they can do whatever they like. The glue that holds them together is the songs and if I was to pick the most likable person and peacemaking soul that holds the band together, where humanly possible, it would be Timothy B Schmitt who Frey could take some humility lessons from because he comes across as what his critics say in paragraph #2.
All that said and done, it is one of the better historical and pedagogical films made and worth watching if you liked the Eagles music which I did. There are sad moments and one cannot help but feel sadness at youthful ignorance and the pitfalls of the industry, but it is a great eye opener and worth the money to buy the DVD. :)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Eagles - History of the Eagles (2013) All songwriters and musicians should see this Eagles documentary. Seem like they tell the truth however it does feel like Don Henley and Glenn Frey decided what goes in the film. They barley talk about Henley feeling that songwriter should get their monetary share if they are not in the Eagles, but does not apply to Eagles members. The whole time Don Henley sounds like William Shatner with his expressions and flowery words. Don Felder is the outcast that Glenn Frey cannot stand. Bernie Leadon just wants to play country music and like Don Felder cannot expand their talents. This is one of the best documentaries out there. (2013) 10-Stars.
It wasn't until Glenn Frey died that I discovered that he and the rest of the band members-past and present-did this documentary in two parts a few years ago. So I ordered both discs from Netflix. The first part covered the Eagles' heyday in the '70s with many of their hits accounted for like their first one-"Take It Easy" which is always my favorite of theirs-or "Take It to the Limit" which Frey mistakenly ID's as the group's first No. 1 single. (It was actually "Best of My Love" which, strangely, was one of the few hits not showcased in the film. "TITTL" actually went to No. 4.) In both parts, the emphasis is on Frey and Don Henley since they wrote most of the songs, were in the band for both runs, and had successful solo careers in between. Other current members Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit also frequently comment alongside former members Bernie Leadon who recently returned to the fold, Randy Meisner, and Don Felder. While I'll always admire Frey as a songwriter and artist, I can't help but think that he's the main reason some members left. I'd like to think they've all made peace with him before he passed. Certainly, I was very glad when Don H., Bernie, Joe, and Tim appeared on the Grammys several weeks ago in tribute to Glenn and performed "Take It Easy" with Jackson Browne-who co-wrote the song some 44 years ago-singing lead even though Browne forgot some of the lyrics. Anyway, I highly enjoyed History of the Eagles so that's a high recommendation.
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