Sunday, 24 January 2016

Thank You For The Music: Glenn Frey

Last week, another Musical Legend left us. Maybe not as high profile as David Bowie but just as talented. In fact, Glenn Frey, with his band Eagles and solo, has been played played many more times in Fleet Towers than Mr Bowie. It's just MY musical taste.

Glenn Frey was one of the lynchpins of one of the biggest bands ever to have emerged from the USA. The band was the Eagles. Together with songwriting partner, Don Henley, Glenn fronted the band for it's whole career. And within that group, wrote some of the best songs of the 1970s.

But, let's take a step back.

Glenn came to California in 1968 after a brief stint with Bob Seger aged 19 in his home town of Detroit. In California, he met up and shared a house with two fellow musicians who went on to have stellar careers in the Music Business, J D Souther and Jackson Browne.

And it was as part of a duo with J D Souther called Longbranch Pennywhistle, that Glenn first flexed his songwriting and vocal muscles. They released one album together. Good luck in finding one.

In 1970, fate stepped in - J D Souther had a girlfriend - a lady named Linda Rondstadt. She was a singer in need of a backing band. This band brought together Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Randy Meisner & Bernie Leadon. In 1971, they went on to form Eagles. The rest is indeed, History.

Glenn was on Vocals, Guitar & Keyboards - Don Henley on Vocals & Drums, Bernie Leadon on Vocals & Guitars and Randy Meisner on Vocals & Bass. 

Later to include Don Felder on Vocals & Guitars.

Eagles went on to produce 4 albums between 1972 and 1975 - that one a year. Eagles (1972) Desperado (1973) On The Border (1974) One Of These Nights (1975).

Glenn was the songwriter, with Jackson Browne, of Eagles first hit single in 1972 - 
the brilliant Take It Easy.

This started a run of classic hit singles which lit up the US charts in the early to mid 1970s.

All the singles were brought together for one of the biggest albums ever released - the seminal Eagles: Their Greatest Hits 1971 - 1975. This album alone has sold over 42 million records. And these were in the days where you physically had to make your way to a record store and buy a copy on either 12" Vinyl, Cassette or 8 Track Cartridge. In the 70s, it was absolutely everywhere. I think what sealed the deal in he UK was the fact that guys finally caught on that girls liked the album. You'd always see guys walking around with this album tucked under their arm heading to the nearest party. 

From their first album, Glenn had formed a formidable songwriting partnership with Don Henley and many of the groups best songs and hits contained the special (Henley/Frey) on the labels. 

This is one of those beauties - with Glenn on piano. Desperado.

Glenn was still writing with his first songwriting partnner, J D Souther and this is one is an absolute gem.

Although Don Henley carried the majority of the lead vocals, this just made it a bit special when Glenn took the lead.

Following on from the success of Greatest Hits - Bernie Leadon quit Eagles for pastures new and this brought in Guitar Hero, Joe Walsh into the fold and the recording took place of one of the biggest albums of all time  - The Majestic, Hotel California. Released on December 8th 1976, it went on to sell over 30 million albums. That's two of the biggest albums of all time - one after the other!

Again, the majority of the album was based around the songwriting duo of Henley/Frey - with one or two various co writers. Glenn had the lead vocals on one of the biggest hit singles on the album - New Kid In Town.

Although it's always given me a giggle that Eagles brought in a real rock n roll guitarist in Joe Walsh which, for many, signaled a toughening up of the band, and as his first song with his new group brought one of the sweetest songs the band ever recorded in Pretty Maids All In  A Row.

But the crowning glory of not only the album - but possibly of the whole Henley/Frey canon is the truly breathtaking The Last Resort

It was not until 1979 that Eagles got together again to record their follow up to Hotel California - it was a rather patchy album called The Long Run.
The songwriting duo of Henley/Frey came back yet again and Glenn provided lead vocals on Opening single Heartache Tonight.

The guys then called it a day until 1984 when the reunion album Hell Freezes Over - named after a famous quote by Don Henley about the band - was released with 4 new songs - one being Glenn Frey's The Girl From Yesterday with Glenn taking lead vocals.

Following The Long Run, Eagles disbanded to follow solo pursuits. And 1982 saw the first of 5 solo releases over the years with No Fun Aloud. 

In 1984 came the biggest success of Glenn's solo work with the album The Allnighter. It spawned two hit singles with Sexy Girl & Smuggler's Blues which was used in the Miami Vice show.

This year also saw Glenn contribute The Heat Is On to the soundtrack of Beverly Hills Cop - and was a worldwide smash hit.

1988 saw the album Soul Searchin again hit the charts and Glenn still had the knack of producing the hit single  with both the title track and True Love.

Many of Glenn's solo songs ( and some Eagles songs ) have been written with his old friend Jack Tempchin - a fine songwriter in his own right,

By the time Strange Weather was released in 1991 Glenn's solo work was finding itself a victim of the law of diminishing returns and his singles had now stopped troubling the charts.

The Eagles had re-established themselves as a band int he early 2000s and had finished several small tours before they got together to produce their last album with Glenn, 2007's Long Road Out Of Eden. But with 20  tracks on the double album, only 4 were written by that great team of Henley/Frey - all of the others were individuals bringing their songs for the band to perform. In my opinion it would have made a much better single album than the double it was released but perhaps the band felt they needed to get the songs out as they felt it could be their last Hurrah.

It was perhaps no surprise that the band returned to their Country Rock roots for lead off single How Long - written by J D Souther with Glenn on lead vocals - coming full circle and back to where they had all started.

But Glenn had one more solo album in him and 2012 saw Glenn go where many have gone before and produce an album of covers based on the Great American Songbook with a couple of songs by Brian wilson & Ranndy Newman thrown in for good measure. This album was After Hours.

So January 18th 2016 saw Glenn going to that Great Gig In The Sky but leaving us with a wealth of gorgeous music to continue to enjoy and probably now the final demise of one of the greatest bands ever to come out of America.

I, for one, salute you Glenn. You will be missed.

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