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.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Thank You For The Music: David Bowie

This is NOT an obituary. Top Journo's write the obituaries. This is just one Music Lover's acknowledgment that today we have lost a shining light - not only in the field of Music but all aspects of the visual arts too.

I will say here and now that I am not a total fan of David Bowie. I had a few of his albums - together with ChangesOneBowie & ChangesTwoBowie but a lot of his material left me cold. But some was truly remarkable.

I first came across David Bowie by hearing my cousin Belinda's copy of Hunky Dory. 

I couldn't afford to buy a copy - so I taped it. That was about 1972 I think. I loved its theatricality looking back. I was just getting into Prog and Hunky Dory has some killer songs. Little did I know at the time that Prog God Rick Wakeman is all over the album.  Anyway, I know it was before Bowie's breakthrough performance on Top Of The Tops - his performance of Starman.

It was one of those Iconic moments that only Top Of The Pops could produce. It was the talk of the schoolyard the following day. And it started a spate of haircuts that must have kept the local hairdressers and barbers in hairspray and product for the whole year. I was lucky - Belinda was a hairdresser. The 'Bowie Cut' cost me and cousin Peter nowt. 

From this magnificently camp performance came the Ziggy Stardust album. I didn't enjoy this as much as Hunky Dory and the following several albums left me cold - save for the occasional songs and hit single such as The Jean Genie, Sorrow or Golden Years. And I let my hair grow long.

Where Bowie really got me back into the fold was on the next 3 albums - the Berlin Trilogy of Low, Heroes & Lodger.

This was music I was more in tune with. This was David Bowie at (up to then) his most experimental


Bowie was often great at finding the right collaborator and in Berlin he found a kindred spirit in Brian Eno. They brought the best out of each other at the time to produce three extraordinary albums.

If it was just for his career up to this point, David Bowie would be forever remembered. But there was so much more to him. He was a producer, songwriter for others such as Mott The Hoople, he was a painter and an actor.

Bowie never captured my Imagination to the same extent again. Yes he produced the occasional song that was superb out of leftfield. But by this point it was expected rather than surprising.

I have vivid memories of the great song that Bowie produced with Queen - Under Pressure.

1985 brought Live Aid and Bowie was one of the performers who played a blinder that day. 

He even gave up one of his songs to let the broadcasters play the video of the cars Drive. That one decision by Bowie apparently generated millions of pounds just by showing that one video with one selfless act. Nobody who saw that at the time will ever forget that moment.

Bowie did join forces with my favourite guitarist Pat Metheny for a song from the soundtrack of the film The Falcon & The Snowman called This Is Not America.

But, David Bowie went on to produce more varied and original work.

He was Fearless, He was an Innovator, He was an Inspiration.

In 2013, after a health scare and a ten year absence, Bowie returned to rave reviews with his album The Next Day. This one I liked. It was stately, elegiac and somewhat nostalgic and majestic in places.

And finally, just two days ago, he released his Swansong, Black Star. 
David knew his time was short. He knew it would be his last album. It got rave reviews before it's release. Now it will be dissected in a totally different light. 

He had time to plan his own goodbye. Black Star IS that goodbye. Make of it what you will. It still sees an artist working to push boundaries right up to the final moment.

That is how I will see and remember
David Bowie

Above All - As An Artist.