I Can’t Tell You Why

For the last two nights, we have been watching a new documentary about the Eagles. I have tested my husband’s patience by repeatedly asking “Which one is that?” I still can’t tell them apart. I always thought Don Henley was the other guy, Glen Frey.

The sound of the Eagles triggers a cascade of uncomfortable emotions. As an entity, they make me sick.  The “laid-back” sound, ugh,  awful. The song “Tequila Sunrise” represents everything painful about the 70’s. The mustaches and bad hair, the bandannas, the glowering expressions, the very idea of the Eagles is just lame. The 70’s marked a divisive era in rock music and I was repelled by the “Southern California Sound.”  I recall being contemptuous of my upstairs neighbors who loved The Doobie Brothers.

Remember being young and taking music so seriously that it could be a deal-breaker if a new person in your life turned out to have bad taste? An awful record collection was nearly impossible to forgive. If someone owned an obscure record that I loved, I probably slept with them. Actually, I slept with them, regardless, but that’s a whole other topic.

The Eagles wrote such catchy songs that when I hear them I can’t help singing along. But familiarity is no measure of quality. The Eagles evoke nostalgia without being exciting or satisfying. It’s just elevator music. I don’t care if they’ve sold a billion records. I wouldn’t take one to a desert island even if was my only choice.

The 70’s were the decade of my young adulthood. I had a baby, in the happiest moment of my life. I also had a bad marriage,  a two-pack a day cigarette habit, and little capacity for self-examination. Music was the background for everything. Elvis Costello, Patti Smith, and Townes Van Zandt were the rays of light in the bleak cloud of my domestic life. Bands like the Eagles remind me of anomie and macrame.

Some punk band wrote a song called “Don Henley Must Die” and I still admire the sentiment. even if I can’t tell him apart from Glen Frey or those other guys. Now that I’ve seen the documentary, I hate the Eagles with a deeper sense of their awfulness as people who can’t stop arguing about money and their own importance.

Eagles fans or detractors, jump in!


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27 Responses to I Can’t Tell You Why

  1. mimi says:

    hotel california is one of the most creepy songs ever. i have no idea why, but i find it really unsettling and maudlin. like as the song continues im filled with a sense of impending doom.

    please tell me im not alone on this, haha.

  2. ann hooker says:

    Mostly detractor. I say that because there has got to be a B side lurking somewhere in time that does not evoke such painful memories and bodily reactions of the Eagles. I too, grew up suspicious of the California sound of the 70’s and Hotel California has a particularly strange effect on me when I hear it. Being in 8th or 9th grade with some boy as a distant party goes on and luckily being able to stop the nightmare that was getting ready to happen. Now, if only the music of Ted Nugent, Rush, and Aerosmith could be eradicated along with the Eagles, I would not lose any sleep over it. This division of rock in the 70’s you speak of has reminded me that I have definitely pushed over to the Brits bands plus Fleetwood Mac and Levon Helm!

  3. Bessie the Cow says:

    Don Henley (or was it Glen Frey) had an office next door to the office I worked at, near Doheny and Beverly Glen. I worked for a director and his production house, the director that was responsible for that Pepsi commercial where Michael Jackson had his hair burned (but that’s another story). The Henley/Frey was hardly there and if he was he rarely answered his door (he kept the outer door locked always). And when I needed to get info to him re/ the small parking lot/issues with the building/ or a huge casting call/ packaged that arrived to us that should have gone to him/ etc., he seemed contemptuous. Uninvolved. Removed/aloof and CREEPY. Not a friendly smile, a good word, nothing. Just creepy and reclusive. Of course they could sing about Hotel California because they lived Hotel California. Just damn creepy.

  4. Sam says:

    You’ll get no argument here.

  5. Candy says:

    The Eagles make me sad when I listen to them. Hotel California is creepy, like Mimi says, it leaves me dread. I felt that way even before i even knew the meaning of the song.

  6. Bevitron says:

    Eagles, ick. I was involved with a radio person who loved them, which taught me to hate them. That, plus the fact that about 10 years ago there was a juke joint two streets over from my house where they would have “Desperado” karaoke contests and sing that fucker all night long, the sound screaming out over the neighborhood until the cops shut them down.

    For me the 70’s were set to Motown and R&B. Everything else was just a far-off hum.

  7. mudwerks says:

    at the time – I hated the Eagles for pretty much the same reasons you enumerate…

    I’m a little less militant about it now (totally avoiding the discussion about what kind of people they are or the fact that Don Henley has a fucked up medieval concept of what online music is), and ironically the one song I actually like of theirs is the title of your post. I Can’t Tell You Why is the one song that makes me react in a positive way to their music.

  8. Sister Wolf says:

    mudwerks – You know, I like that one too, and I’m glad to know that the singer is that guy they hired, the pretty one, so I don’t consider him a real Eagle. He’s just on their payroll.

  9. Bonnie says:

    Recently I heard someone describe the Eagles music as the top choice of Yuppies when they’re hanging out drinking Chardonnay. I was in high school in the ’70’s and we just thought of their music as bad top 40 crap. I Can’t Tell You Why is the only song I can tolerate too. I think that guy’s voice is amazing.

  10. JK says:

    Sister Wolf?

    I think you’d get better responses if you’d just point out what you’ve pictured isn’t The Buzzards – it’s Journey.

    Look closely at the moustaches.

  11. Brandyjojo says:

    Several years ago, when the LA Times was still a newspaper, there was a headline in the Calendar section, or whatever it was called then, about Michael Bolton. It read ” 5 Million People Can Be Wrong”. Kind of remains me of the Eagles and others of their ilk, except Joe Walsh, his guitar is brilliant. but he isn’t a real Eagle.

  12. JK says:

    Ahh Brandyjojo (don’t tell Andra… please?):

  13. kate says:

    The Dude said it best. “I hate the fucking Eagles man!”

  14. D.R. says:

    I wouldn’t have crossed the street to hear them, neither would I have closed my windows so not to hear them. SW, please tell me why you spent two nights watching “bad tv”. Also please tell me that the 70’s produced great music……Pink Floyd, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, Queen, Uriah Heep, Steely Dan, Lynyrd Skynrd, Zappa, Grateful Dead, Santana, Sly and the Family Stone, Blue Oyster Cult, The Band, The Clash, Fleetwood Mac, and “thank God for ZZ Top….it goes on and on and on. FORGET Elvis and The Beatles. Sigh….I’ve been drinking. What do I know.

  15. Andra says:

    Too late, somebody told me.
    James Gang is good.

  16. Dru says:

    ugh the Eagles and fucking Hotel California (my hometown has this weird adoration of bad 70s rock, and it has continued into the present day), and their dickhead fans trying to tell me for the last 15 years about the supposed satanic messages in that song if you play it backwards or something.

    Sure, the 70s did produce some good music but what I love most is disco (and Queen). I do like baseball shirts though, like the one middle dude is wearing in that pic.

  17. Jaimi says:

    I think of them as a slightly more respectable Jimmy Buffet. There seems to be a rather significant fanbase crossover. My experience of them has always been that they are loved by grasping middle class Republican voters with enough disposable income to own or rent speedboats on lakes and their equally reprehensible progeny. An ex-girlfriend of mine described a horrific experience with 50-something men hitting on her while forced to attend a ‘family’ event at a Jimmy Buffett concert in which dad bands covering Eagles songs were part of the festivities. And ‘Hotel California’ is creepy as fuck. It sounds like bottoming out in a bad motel with a backing band full of idiots with no emotional depth whatsoever.

    Also I have to say that I while I don’t love any Eagles songs, I do love some disco. Arthur Russell produced tracks are my favorite.

  18. Sister Wolf says:

    D.R. – I watched it because I defer to my husband on TV, except for “Californication” where I must draw the line.

    Dru – Hotel California is especially painful. The lyrics are bad played forward or backward.

    Jaimi – God, you paint a vividly nauseating picture! I like some disco, too. Donna Summer was a goddess.

  19. Iron Chic says:

    I sure hope you are working on an Oscar’s Exegesis. I wasn’t brave enough to watch it and I am counting on you to be the sacrificial lamb!

  20. ali says:

    The Eagles are one of those things I can’t be bothered to hate… but give it some time, maybe.

  21. thriftstorelawyer says:

    I also visited in hopes of seeing an Oscars exegesis. And to say that Don Henley in that pic is the very embodiment of 70s hotness. Seeing that denim workshirt part over chest hair and a gold medallion almost made it worth getting “Desperado” lodged in my head.

  22. Marky says:

    I fucking hate the Eagles. They make me sad.

    I once heard some guy talk about accompanying Don Henley on some mega-long mountain bike ride to raise money for the environment. He said Don Henley rode in the truck most of the time and barely touched his $4000 mountain bike.

  23. Debbie says:

    I agree. Hotel California, very creepy. I never understood that song. In the 70’s I was listening to disco, Donna Summer, Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes, Tower of Power, Average White Band … the Eagles had no soul. Period.

  24. daisy says:

    “Remember being young and taking music so seriously that it could be a deal-breaker if a new person in your life turned out to have bad taste? An awful record collection was nearly impossible to forgive.”

    I’m Still Like That!

  25. Sister Wolf says:

    daisy – God bless you!

  26. ODYSSEY says:

    I was never a fan of the Eagles. I always received strange looks (disbelief?) when I would admit this to anyone “back in the day”. There was something about their music that made me cringe. It was too catchy, too mainstream, whiny, empty… I could go on but clearly I am in good company so no need for that!

  27. PCL says:

    Reading all this, I am reminded of their more laid-back songs, most of which were like watching paint dry. There was “I can’t tell you why.”, “Tequella Sunrise”, “Desperado”, and some thing about a coconut grove (with Linda Rhondstat in the background, maybe?). All very boring. But I normally don’t remember them by that stuff. “Peaceful Easy Feeling”, “Already Gone”, “Best of My Love”, “One of These Nights”, “Lying Eyes”, “Take it to the limit.” and yes, even “Hotel California” all struck me as solid pop songs, with a bit of country mixed-in here and there. I’m surprised that there are still people who wonder what “Hotel California” was about; it was about the drug culture that was slowly enveloping them at the time (“You can never leave.”). I’ve always suspected that people hated them more because of what they represented than the quality of their songs; even if they were not the worst of it, they were the epitome of the corporate rock that was slowly transforming free-form album-oriented stations into the stale echo-chamber that became “classic rock”. But I just found them too good, albeit in a bland way, to hate. Acts like Journey, Ted Nugent and Ozzie Osbourne were so much more deserving of that kind of animosity; they didn’t just fit into the classic rock cliche all too well, they were genuinely bad. I was content to take groups like the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Boston and even Lynyrn Skinnard on an ad-hoc basis; if they did something worth hearing, I was willing to listen. Sure there was a certain soullessness about an US radio culture that locked in this tried-and-true Wonder bread and kept anything that reeked of Punk or New Wave (other than the Cars) at arm’s length, but I blamed the stations themselves more than I did the Eagles.

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