Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Eagles and the only truth about pop music

The first album by The Eagles in 1972 took a long time to finish because David Geffen, who managed them and was their record company boss, wanted another song by Jackson Browne with a lead vocal by Don Henley to follow up the first single "Take It Easy" and to bolster their album.

Browne supplied another song called "Nightingale" but the producer Glyn Johns didn't think it was as good as "Take It Easy". They recorded it a few times but it was never strong enough to walk on its own. Geffen insisted on Johns coming back to the United States from Britain to have another go at recording it. They tried again but it never worked.

Both songs are on the first album. Both songs are tuneful. Both are the same tempo. One lifts off and the other one doesn't. Geffen couldn't believe it was as simple as that but it is.

In the present melancholy season I keep getting rung up by radio producers and asked to explain why certain careers happened in the way they happened. Was this person a genius? Was this person a hack? The truth is underneath it all it's a business about hits and hits are all about catchiness.

These two records had the exact same inputs. One flies. The other doesn't. All the work in the world wouldn't change that. In the words of Carol Kaye, one "pops", the other doesn't. It's the only thing that matters.

It's not cool, it's not clever, it's not the kind of thinking they encourage on the arts shows; nevertheless, it's the only true thing you can say about pop music.


  1. Wrote a thing about Bowie for me blog and at the end said all the conceptual, gender-bending cleverness in the world would mean nothing if he couldn't write a great pop song.

  2. Poor Glenn Frey. He's only been dead 5 minutes and yet it appears he's already being robbed of the lead vocal credit for "Take It Easy".

  3. That was my mistake and I've now corrected it.

  4. I'd never heard Nightingale until today. While it begins promisingly parts of it sound downright awkward, or like they've been bused in from other songs. It sounds overworked. There's certainly nothing to compare with long reach of the chorus of Take It Easy.

  5. Good pop songs just magically lift. The majority just keep trundling down the runway.

  6. I didn’t read David’s comment as “it was Henley not Frey”. I thought he meant that Geffen wanted another Don Henley vocal on the album, which meant finding another song. And this was it.

    I listen to some Eagles on a regular basis, but not this. I’d forgotten all about it. I’ve got the vinyl album somewhere. I think this is okay, very catchy and better than a fair few of the Eagles recordings, but there’s other stuff I prefer. The song sounds to me like Jackson Browne trying to write a hit, which, being an Artist, is not normally his style.
    Oh well.

    I totally agree regarding “catchiness,” trouble is what’s catchy? The number of one-hit wonders must be eternally wondering the same.