From the Desk of Steven Ward

[Steven Ward started an interesting thread on Facebook recently with the following inquiry, and we thought we’d bring it to the, uh, masses as well via]

OK rock critic friends. I have to ask. Why oh why do you hate The Eagles so much?

It can’t be that they are so popular/loved by the public? If so, you would hate Michael Jackson and Prince for the same reason and critics go on and on about Jackson and Prince (and rightfully so).

It can’t be that all The Eagles ever did was make music that was a more mainstream, top 40 version of what The Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers did years before them? Otherwise, you would attack Michael Jackson for the same reason, saying he amplified what Marvin Gaye did before him?

What about now versus then? Critics hated Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin during the ’70s but love them now. Not so with The Eagles.

It can’t be that The Eagles are prog, because they aren’t.

It can’t be that The Eagles are too technically proficient on their instruments like Rush. (Critics like them too now all of a sudden.) The Eagles played in a style almost as basic as the Sex Pistols and The Ramones. (I know about Joe Walsh, but he is an exception)

The Eagles crafted really well done songs with amazing harmonies.Why oh why do you hate them so?


Supplemental reading:

1. Quit defending the Eagles! They’re simply terrible (Stephen Deusner, Salon)

2. Rush: How I learned to forgive — and even like — the most hated band of all time (Rob Sheffield, Salon)


11 thoughts on “From the Desk of Steven Ward

  1. Ha! A couple months ago, my old CREEM colleague Gene Sculatti critically embraced Elton John in a Rock’s Backpages blog post, and now I read on here that Rob Sheffield’s finally decided he likes Rush, and that Chuck Klosterman is beginning to go soft for the Eagles, among other later-day reconsiderations. What is this, a pop-music remake of the HUAC hearings of 60+ years ago, when a lot of former domestic leftists proclaimed that they were actually 100% American patriots all along?!?

    That said, I agree with Rob Sheffield that one’s own advancing age (and I’ve got twenty years on him) makes yummy/yucky band choices seem less crucial all the time. I’ve never much liked the Eagles, but I don’t recall actively “hating” them either — I never got them as a review assignment at CREEM, so there’s no documentation of my youthful feelings about them available now. I didn’t care for the slowassed whininess of a lot of the songs from their early country-rock phase, especially “Take It to the Limit,” whose every hippie-in-a-drug-nod-trying-to-peel-himself-off-the-floor musical note baldfaced-belied its lyrical message. A few years later, I actually kind of liked the Eagles’ “Life in the Fast Lane” (the music matched the lyric this time) and “Hotel California,” which made it seem like they they might have a future with quasi-Dylanesque symbolic-bullshit tunes, anyway good enough to hear on a car radio. That’s it.

    As for Rush, I was prejudiced against that poutiner trio for years, as I understood them to be followers of Ayn Rand and her poisonous philosophy of selfishness, though I guess (per an earlier discussion on this site) that Rush may have moved on from that particular sociopathy by now. Still, my daughter got her grad school education in Canada, and she doesn’t care for Rush, so there’s no substitute for that fabled Canadian Dis-Content they program on the airwaves Up North.

  2. I’m glad you connected the dots up top, Richard (HUAC made me laugh), as my first thought about the Eagles piece linked to was that this sort of thing is now becoming a *genre* — the extended double-take. It usually takes the form of a critic warming up to (or anyway, grappling with) stuff they previously hated (i.e., the Sheffield, Klosterman — and I’d add Carl Wilson on Celine Dion — approach). This seems to have caused a counter-reaction, stuff like the linked Eagles piece, which insists on asserting that “no, no, no, we were right the first time.” For sure, for me, the warming-up crowd has the better argument; does anyone really have, or need, to spend their adult life hating a band just because they suffered through them on the radio during their youth? no one’s jamming this stuff down your throat anymore… let it go.

    As for the artists in question. I’ve never really changed my mind much about the Eagles (I suppose when I was a teenager, and a punk-or-nothing kind of guy, I went through a phase of hating them, but that doesn’t really count to me because all my musical hates then were thoughtless and purely kneejerk, and I grew out of that mindset — thank god — pretty quickly). I’ve always loved a few songs by them but have never considered myself a fan of the group per se; I’ve never read a single article about them, for instance. I’ve gotten plenty of use out of their music as a wedding DJ, of course, and they do have songs which sound as good on the radio now as they did then. They also have some tunes which blow, and always did. I’ve never felt that I wanted to know more about them, and I doubt that new movie about them would change my mind, at least based on what I’ve heard about it. If “Already Gone” — which doesn’t get played on classic rock radio nearly often ENOUGH — comes on tomorrow, I will turn it up.

    As for Rush: was a fan, briefly, in those uneasy listening years when I’d made the move towards punk but hadn’t completely let go of my prog tendencies (saw them live in, I think, ’77). I didn’t maintain my interest, though. Was never a particularly committed fan to begin with, and I’ve grown to accept them as good for what they do but not my cup of bacon. I’ve tried a bunch of times in the last ten years to re-evaluate parts of their catalog, but nothing has really taken hold (I think I have two songs by them on my iPod). My oft-repeated Rush refrain is that there’s only two things I don’t like about them: Geddy Lee and Neil Peart. Everything else about them is awesome!

  3. And btw, regarding the double-take genre, were I ever to chime in with one myself, the person I’d likely tackle would be Frank Zappa. It would be much less a “I love this guy’s music which I used to hate” sort of thing — because neither of those statements is, strictly speaking, true — but much more a reconsideration of the entire Zappa project (including his politics, etc.), which for me, when dealt with (dare I say it) holistically, is incredibly rewarding on various levels, even IF I still grapple with and am not a fan of many parts of his music. (The fact that he’s still so loathed by so many critics I respect would provide the impetus to turn said essay into a personal manifesto kind of thing…. but Christ, that would be a lot of work, so it’s unlikely to ever happen.)

  4. I didn’t like that old lousy one-line joke “She’s got a Mercedes Benz” they stuck in one of their first songs. Redone to a music background. Complete with (“umph!” like someone in the band had the bends, he caught on to the the joke and it’s not so funny … Remember “Peaceful Easy Feeling”? There’s a wine by that exact name near where I live produced by a company that’s in huge and very expensive winery and shopping mall building development and expansion , like they have a huge infusion of recording company riches as somebody’s longterm tax deductible write off (refer to ag products schedule). They aspired only to rise far enough to be bougeoisie all along, right from that first record, see. Or so it seems to me.

  5. Barbara, I wouldn’t deny for a second that that context exists, and if I’d listened much closer (or existed in a context where it hit me on that level), I might’ve been repelled by it, too (don’t get me wrong, though, I do find some of their hits appalling — “Witchy Woman,” “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” maybe a few others). I’m guilty to some degree of just filtering that stuff out, probably, and enjoying the bits of them that I enjoyed when I was 10, 11 years old. Pop music can, and does, get under my skin that way, and I’m guessing I’ve lapped up lots of reprehensible crap in my time. But I don’t/can’t disagree with anything you say!

  6. Oh Lordie, Scott. And the way the publicity was geared straight from the onset to appeal to teens straight away as teens grew up and would continue following them and buying their records … First album on the airwaves, and they were on a local tv broadcast in LA vicinity (huge media center) and the station had put out a call prior to the appearance on tv for all teenage girls to send in their photos, and the photos were stuck on a bulletin board and panned to when the Eagles were performing on tv (and this WAS the oldest trick in the book back then) as if to say, you’re our fans now and YOU’RE on TV, and individualized to you’re the one we’re really singing to, to better form longterm commercial attachments. It was sick.

  7. Barbara, I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be outraged, or shocked by all this? I mean, you could be describing any marketing campaign by any pop band from time immemorial. Is there something vile here I’m not getting that’s particular to the Eagles?

  8. Ha again! And don’t forget that any given 54-year-old (and-up) “former rock critic” is undoubtedly out of work thanks to the friggin’ Internet . . .

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