Sunday, October 3, 2010

All the Debutantes in Houston, Baby

Dueling 70s Action in my Brain

I think I gotta get some more sleep.

For days now, I've had two songs dueling for attention in my brain. Both songs were big hits. Arguably one of the songs is some kind of classic. But both are ultimately insipid and have unspeakably stupid lyrics. And both feature a ridiculous use of the word "baby" in their lyrics, baby.

You can nearly hear the excess dripping out of the speakers when you listen to "The Long Run" by the Eagles. Nothing about the song seems finished -- the lyrics might have been dashed off in a coke-fueled 4am surge; the music never quite goes anywhere, and the groove isn't really that great. (The bass line, however, is pretty freaking great.) Joe Walsh's guitar playing is nearly great, but just a pale shadow of what he'd done before. And even if the harmonies are pretty, when you're repeating some of the more inane lyrics in rock, it's hard to be cool.

Maybe the problem was that, by 1979, the partying had become so much more important than the music that paid for the partying. But even the partying wasn't much fun and the band called it quits after the tour to promote this record -- although they did produce a live album with Glenn Frey and Don Henley mixing and doing overdubs 3000 miles apart form each other. (The credits for the live album include five different attorneys -- which is both hilarious and sad.) Listen here.

In another corner of my brain from the opposite end of the 70s is Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds. With another song filled with insipid lyrics.

Where the Eagles were largely a self-contained group of musicians, singers, and songwriters, Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds were the last gasp of old-school pop (with music written by outside writers, shaped by producers, and made glossy with strings and horns). The band would have one more (even bigger) halfway through the decade (the far sappier "Falling in Love") -- and even though Reynolds had left the band and been replaced by Alan Dennison, the group retained the unfathomable name "Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds"

And while I never could figure out how big this band was (apparently it's a trio -- Hamilton and Reynolds are the last names of two of the members and Joe Frank is the first and middle name of the other one), the horn part in this song is one of those amazing hooks that is instantly identifiable.

I've always thought a slightly edgier version of this song that kept the amazing horn parts would be a huge hit. Listen here.


hobbitt said...

Man, what an ugly recording of the Eagles. I hope it's just my connection, but the whole thing sounds like it's underwater.

Alex said...

Hobbit, it doesn't sound great to me, but it doesn't sound *that* bad. (It was the only non-concert video of the song I could find -- if anyone has a better one, I'd be happy to sub it out...)

On the other hand, Eagles Underwater sounds like it could be a new National Geographic Channel series...