When I first heard “Take It Easy” in the Summer of 1972, I had no idea that I was already having a line drawn for me which was tracing lineages of the Country-Rock movement before my very eyes. For myself, my first big connection to Rock and Country was through the “Chestnut Mare” single from The Byrds and Mike Nesmith’s “Joanne” (as well as the Magnetic South and Loose Salute albums of his) back in the Fall of 1970. The thing with me was that I would take years to learn that the lineage for that connection went back to Bob Dylan and then to The Byrds in the ’60s.
The amazing thing about California back then (after two years of being in Eugene, I moved back to the Bay Area in August of ’72) was that it became a more blatant combination of the leftovers of the ’60s and the then current time we were living in. The conservative and the liberal elements of both music and the combination of generational experiences were coming together in a unique blend. In other words, it was becoming a confused blur. My generation was developing a unique combination of all of our influences. From the time that first single of theirs came out in 1972 to the solid two year period where the entire Hotel California album dominated everybody’s lives from when it came out in late ’76 clear through most of 1978, Californians were Eagles fans whether they showed it or not. You didn’t even have to be from L.A. to be a bit possessive of them. The entire state eventually got really possessive of them. At the time that “Take It Easy” was released, you could not tell who were Eagles fans. They became more obvious as the decade wore on.
Yeah, there were the Country redneck guys who took them to heart because they decided they liked the Rock, but they didn’t like everything else that went with it. They always made me scratch my head because the Eagles were Rock and Roll and everything that went with it as far as stardom and culture went. But those guys always looked the other way when it came to realizing their own paradoxes. By the time the Joe Walsh Era of the band was already well underway in 1975, you could spot the guys with the cowboy hats who would tell you they loved the Eagles, but that they weren’t listening to Rock radio. Where I lived, most of those guys were listening to a station known as KFAT-FM in Gilroy, California and were taking Rock elements and forming what would be known in the early ’80s as Outlaw Country to go with the Country music they were already listening to and aligning it with their own brand of politics. In many cases, it was a scary combination-Rock, Country, conservative politics and a good share of heavy drinking and drugs to add spice to the proceedings.
It was the conception of what I would witness in the early ’80s everywhere-including Oregon. And then there were the guys like me who were combining everything they heard and formed it into a combination of everything imaginable. We were the music-heads. We were hippies. We were bohemians. We were artsy. We were politically liberal, but we grew up in generally conservative homes We were born in the ’60s and didn’t come of age until the ’70s. In that regard, we were lost in that we were stuck in between the ’60s and were pre-Punk at the same time. We were also not exclusive to any singular one of those descriptions of us I’ve just mentioned. We carried all of these elements around with us while a lot of people, knowingly or unknowingly, were beginning to take sides because of so much disillusionment which was permeating our lives back then. All of the music-heads just took what the Eagles were giving us as being something that was a long line of what became before us and was part of a great diversity we were lucky to have. The sad thing of it was that we all didn’t know that that very diversity was slipping out beneath us as radio began to undergo great changes by the time the decade ended. People began to choose sides-musical, personal & political because of the developing changes in radio and in our lives.
Unbeknownst to many, the Eagles became a dividing line for people as the decade wore on. And honestly, I consider it very lucky I got to live through the pre-Walsh Era if only because I remember the time period where people took the Eagles for what they were without their success being a signifier of some kind of political identity. I actually envy Glenn Frey in some regards. He didn’t have to see some of what was going on in the fan community. He likely became aware of it as time went on and the band’s staying power took hold. By the time Hotel California came out, I started seeing some of the division. There were the KFAT fan guys rejecting Hotel California but still listening to everything up to One Of These Nights. It was really strange. I kept up with the band clear through and including Hotel California and The Long Run and I just saw their music as their own evolution-no more, no less. Mind you, it was one hell of a great evolution. It had a pretty straight-forward trajectory which produced spectacular results.
Against all of this backdrop I’ve mentioned, I have to say that the Eagles really were a California band in my eyes. I viewed them through the unique California prism of having all of these elements colliding within myself and learning that I was going to have to examine each one of them for long periods of time in order to really figure out who I was. I can tell you that the songs where Glenn Frey had huge roles in them were ones that were major moments for me back in my California days. I do need to point out that the Don Henley-sung “Hotel California” would hold its greatest meaning to me for reasons which will be told in another column down the line. I can’t think of one of Frey’s that hit me bigger than “Tequila Sunrise”. I had all of those personal, musical and cultural elements slam into me when I used to be a hunter back then. I will still never forget this for as long as I live. It was the first time that it really started to hit me that I had to have the strength to reject some of the things that people were throwing on me occurred on a hunting trip down to an area down near King City which was in, I believe, Monterey County.
I got out of a small truck that a cousin of mine and my oldest brother were in as they started to get into a piece of property we were going to hunt in. It was1976 and yet the song from ’73 was going through my head. I had moment of clarity as the darkness was turning into the light of morning. I was watching the ground, in a very spooky way, light up in just the right way through trees. I could literally see a line from the sun forming on the ground and it was moving. “Tequila Sunrise” was playing in my head and I realized for a brief moment that perhaps I did not belong here out in nowhere and getting ready to do what I was going to do. It was the road to my realizing that I wasn’t a hunter and I had the music of the Eagles to thank for that. My own dividing line was beginning to develop. And I also used to really ruminate about the line where he sings about where “it’s a hollow feeling when it comes down to being friends/It never ends”. That line has grown on me over the years. With all of those girls, I never wanted to just be friends. Over time, the image of the sun that I saw creeping along on the ground became infused with the image of the adult sunrise of another hazy relationship and how so many people seem to think the ’70s was one long series of non-committal relationships for so many people.
When I think of “Lyin’ Eyes”, I heard a great song that introduced me to the women who were only out for financial security in a relationship. And damn! That song came to life before me as an adult decades later when I literally saw it happening to people around me. And when I used to listen to “New Kid In Town” either at home or on drives with my Dad to Santa Clara Broncos basketball games in ’77 and early ’78, I used to get reminded right there that Frey was harkening back to the earlier Eagles material from earlier in the decade. That song used to accompany me to the dances I used to go to in my first two years of High School when I was still in California. There’s a new kid in town? I felt like I was one when I was at those dances. Man! The competition was fierce. So Frey and Henley’s stuff was surrounding me through that whole time and the changes they brought. I hate like hell that the Eagles got caught in the middle of people creating divisions. Good music is good music. At least the music-heads got it right. We heard the liberal side line up with Country elements. And for the many heartbreaks we all went through, Glenn Frey gave us those small vignettes of hurt through some damned quality material. That’s where we all should have been paying more attention. Instead of those big issues dividing people, we should have been learning more about that girl in “Lyin” Eyes” so that we could have avoided her. That’s where people from all sides screwed up.
— Steve Talia