So…I talk on social media a lot about how I don’t like the Eagles. Or rather, I don’t talk ABOUT it, but I tend to mention it a lot.
Some people really, REALLY like the Eagles and can’t for the life of them understand why I don’t. That’s fine; some people don’t like the Beatles and I don’t really understand why they don’t. I have had people tell me that I have “shitty taste in music” and argue until they are blue in the face about the greatness of Henley, Frey et al. I usually try to explain…
…that I did like them at one time. When I was 14, “classic rock” emerged as a new radio format, and suddenly swathes of bands/artists from the 60s and 70s that were too new for oldies radio but too old for pop radio had a renaissance. Many of these artists had barely been gone 10 years or less…some of them were still making records. A lot of them had (and continue to have) a legacy and influence that is undeniable, and the Eagles certainly fit into that category.
I didn’t take as immediate a shine to them as I did a lot of other classic rock bands, though. The Beatles and Led Zeppelin were my bedrock; I came into the “classic rock radio era” having loved the Beatles since early childhood, with my love experiencing a resurgence in middle school. My love for Zeppelin was newer, but still predated my entrance into the broader world of “classic rock” by a year or two. From there, the next handful of classic artists I felt drawn to once I heard their songs on the radio were mostly British: Pink Floyd, The Who, The Kinks, Jethro Tull. I did not, at this time, possess any particular dislike for American classic rock, but it was not the stuff that I got most excited about. I didn’t turn the radio off when the Eagles or Lynyrd Skynyrd or Steve Miller came on, but if I’m truly honest, sometimes I was just waiting for the next Who song. It should be noted also that I spent the school year of 1989-1990 in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., and that the classic rock radio station there tended to favor a lot of the British stuff that I really liked.
This era of my musical development coincided with an effort on my part (and eventually my brother’s) to use music as a way to connect with my dad. I don’t know that either of us ever felt particularly DISconnected from him, but it was definitely around this time that we started giving him music as gifts for Christmas and birthdays, and that we started making him the occasional mixtape.
To be fair, music had been a place we’d connected with our dad when we were younger children as well. We spent a lot of time on long car trips when we were very young listening to a mixtape he had made of his old 45s from the 50s and early 60s. This was always our template for “music Dad liked.” If a song or artist could somehow be traced back to the material on that mixtape, it probably would float his boat. Mind you, not ALL the 45s he had were from the aforementioned era; he had several that he had obtained throughout the 70s, including “Two More Bottles Of Wine” by Emmylou Harris, “Let Me Be There” by Olivia Newton-John, and “American Pie” by Don McLean (where the original 9 minute track was split over the 2 sides of the record). So there were other stylistic elements we knew he gravitated towards besides just early rock n’ roll.
The first music I ever remember giving my dad was a cassette single of “Jealous Again” by the Black Crowes, whose debut album had just been released. It was clear when he heard it the first time that I had hit the mark. Soon after that, some sort of mixtape followed; I believe I put “Jealous Again” on it for good measure. I also remember putting “The Apartment Song” by Tom Petty on it, and by doing so introduced my dad to Tom Petty’s music for the first time (he would obtain his own CD copies of the Wildflowers and She’s the One albums a few years later and become quite the fan).
I had intended to purchase some music by the Eagles for a while when I finally obtained both volumes of their Greatest Hits from the Columbia House CD club some time in the fall of 1990. I had finally “gotten around to it.” I enjoyed those CDs quite a bit for a while…at least 6-8 months. I loved “Hotel California” and a number of the other songs. Also, some time that year (maybe for Christmas at the end of 1990? Maybe 1991? I don’t recall) I made my dad another mixtape and included “Already Gone”, thinking it was probably a track he would appreciate.
And then, at some point in the next two to three years, I got tired of the Eagles. I’m not sure what the exact catalyst was…it could have been how beloved they were by people in my high school whose opinions I desired to run contrary to. It could have been that the classic rock radio station in Oklahoma City (where we had returned to in the summer of 1990) tended to favor American stuff over British stuff, possibly due to the tastes of Oklahomans, and this cultivated a dislike for the Eagles and other American classic rock. Or, it could have just been that the music of the Eagles didn’t (and doesn’t) have the staying power for me that the music of other bands of their era does. I am not sure.
Funny thing, though…The song “Already Gone” didn’t fall out of my graces the way their other stuff did. And I can’t help but think this is because of my dad, somehow. I have positive memories of hearing it with him, of being happy that I had once again correctly identified a song that my dad would like. I mean, it has always made me happy to share music with people that they turned out to really enjoy, and I think it makes me even happier when that person is someone in my immediate family.
Many of you know that my dad passed away suddenly a little over three weeks ago. At least twice since then, “Already Gone” has come on the radio and I have changed the station quickly both times, because it’s a song that I’m not ready to hear yet. I’ve heard other ones that my dad liked and I’ve been okay, but for some reason that one has to wait.
My dad loved how much I love music. I remember one Christmas in high school, I had received a new stereo system from my folks. He came upstairs to my room and we stood there as “Everyday Sunshine” by Fishbone played over the speakers, while I grinned from ear to ear at how great my gift sounded. He said something to the effect of, “I am just so glad I have a son that truly loves music.”
I feel lucky that he felt this way. Being that he was a scientist, I was always glad he wasn’t disappointed that I didn’t truly love science (or if he was disappointed about that to any degree at all, he never expressed it. I think it’s likely he wasn’t disappointed at all). I think he was just proud that I had a passion that was on par with his, and that my drive to do the work I felt was important was also equal to his.
He kept his Eagles’ Greatest Hits CD, and probably listened to it regularly. I sold mine long, long ago. It’s okay, though. Through our determined and regular contributions to my dad’s CD collection throughout the early 90s, we spurred in him a desire to start buying music for himself again, and he did. He would discover a number of records on his own that he ended up truly loving, some of which my brother and I still sort of shake our heads at (Jimmy Buffett, A Pirate Looks At 40, anyone?). Despite that, though, it has become clear to me in the last few weeks how grateful I truly am to have shared things like this with my dad.
I miss you, Dad. Wherever you are, I hope there’s a tailor-made jukebox full of 45s there just for you.