“I like the way your sparkling earrings lay against your skin it’s so brown and I wanna sleep with you in the desert tonight with a billion stars all around”
In 1972 these words and this guys voice made all us “tough” guys feel something that we knew we felt all along, it just took us all a while to admit we liked it, and more importantly, why we liked it. This was a cool guy singing about something sensitive that we all felt but would never admit to each other. Glenn Frey looked like he was one of us, or at least how we wanted to look. He had long hair. He wore ripped up jeans. And he was from the second coolest place on the planet – LA. The first coolest place was England. That’s where all our favorite bands were from.
I bought The Eagles debut album because I heard “Witchy Woman” on the new radio station in Ft Lauderdale that was on the FM dial; WSHE. Listening to WSHE in 1972 was almost scary. The DJs spoke close to the mic in a low pitch. No screaming and shouting or wacky routines. They played the music that the older brothers of my friends listened to. You felt like you were part of a cool club. I had the album right there by my stereo with all my favorites: Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, Deep Purple… and The Eagles? Or as Glenn would always correct people, it was just Eagles no “the”.
Glenn is gone now and it got me thinking about why his music had such an impact on me. Now, I always thought I liked the Eagles because of the drummer and totally bitchin’ singer /songwriter Don Henley. I thought it was Don that really drew me into liking the band. Especially since he had all those fantastic solo hits in the 80’s. “End OF The Innocence” and “New York Minute” especially were amazing tunes. I always hated watching him play the kit though; it looked like he was barely hitting the skins. But, as I went back and started to try to understand what it was about this music I loved so much as an angst-ridden teenager. What about it felt so personal?
“Peaceful Easy Feeling” stuck out. The lyrics, the imagery, the feeling of letting go, the romantic idea that no matter how much you surrender to the all encompassing, intoxicating feeling of being with a girl you liked and the idea that “she can’t take you any way you don’t already know how to go.” The concept of surrendering and having the faith to believe that with the right person you can get to places you will never have access to by yourself
Did I get all that profound shit out of this one song? Not at first. It seeped into my consciousness, like really great songs always do. I even found myself in situations when I was a teenager where I would recall the overall feeling of dreamy, idealistic sentimentality that this song evoked and it made me aware that it was ok to accept and appreciate that awareness. Not always easy to do at 14.
Jack Tempchin wrote the song. As the story goes, Jack was a singer/songwriter living in San Diego. A friend had created a poster to advertise his performances, which included fake quotes from famous individuals attesting to Tempchin’s talent. That’s pretty Badass and pretty insurrectionary for a mellow folk artist in the 70’s.
That poster got him the gig at a place called El Centro. Tempchin slept on the floor of the club the night of his show, and wrote an early version of “Peaceful Easy Feeling” on the back of that poster. Jack explains via Wikipedia what his inspiration for the tune, “We’d sit in front of the picture window and watch the beautiful girls on the bus stop bench and fall in love with them until their bus came. We talked in those days about how love never seems to show up until you stop looking for it. But, as young guys, we were unable to stop looking for love even for one day.”
The real interesting thing about all this is how Jack met Glenn Frey when he moved to LA. Jack got himself involved with a group of musicians who were all doing the same clubs. They were elite, very talented and phenomenally broke. The group included Glenn, Jackson Browne and JD Souther. Jack put “Peaceful Easy Feeling” on a cassette for Glenn because Glenn heard the song and could not believe how great it was. Glenn asked if his new band could do an arrangement of the tune. Glenn came back the next day with song all fleshed out. Glenn recognized what a hit “Peaceful Easy Feeling” was and decided, even if he did not write it, the song was so great his band had to put it on their record. In those days it was just important that you had the best songs – period.
What I connected with was Glenn’s vocal delivery. Glenn had the ability to make you believe that these romantic, dreamy, passionate ideas could actually be true. You could experience it yourself. It was possible.
Glenn was the driving force of the Eagles. He was the one who needed to be successful, he had to be successful. He came from a blue-collar background in Michigan and had no illusions that music had to be the way for him to create a life that had no limits. this is a reoccurring theme with successful groups; there is always one person who seems to be the forceful, propulsive entity that drives
He was the guy who insisted everyone show up on time. He was the guy who pushed. I don’t know first hand, but I have heard that he was probably the guy who could be a real asshole if you were a slacker or not giving it your all. Yet, there are also plenty of stories about Glenn being a really giving and generous guy. Once again, I have no idea. What I do know is that Glenn’s interpretation of Jack’s fabulous tune allowed me feel that this mysterious, sentimental awareness was possible, conceivable and available to me. That is what great music does; it makes you feel that there are possibilities. It makes you feel that the artist is articulating your feelings. And sometimes the music makes you aware of feelings you did not know you even had.
As a music creator who wants to find and connect with an audience, it’s no longer about creating songs where you are constantly feeling like you are compromising and creating music everyone will love. You have to feel like you’re risking everything. In other words, be honest.
Sounds easy doesn’t it?
It’s not. In fact, it’s one of the hardest things you ever have to do.
It’s hard because you have to find the honesty internally, inside yourself. You have to decide that extrinsic motivation – motivation that comes from outside an individual. – is not the path to your being successful. This is really difficult because we have been taught that to be successful we have to please others. Our work needs to be approved by the boss. Our school projects have to be graded by the teacher. All of this is put in place by the institutions that make a living from providing us with external motivation.
If you expect to reach an audience, you have to build trust with them. You build trust by putting yourself out there. By exposing yourself emotionally. By being HONEST.
The easy choice is not always the most honest choice.
“Peaceful Easy Feeling” is a pretty simple song with an incredibly honest message. Jack Tempchin wrote the song and Glenn and the band brought it to all of us. Seems pretty simple doesn’t it? It is if you do it without the fear of arrogance, without the fear of audacity or pretension then you do it with the proper intent. We only want to connect with those who show us their genuine humanity.
Glenn and the Eagles put their best into the world by being honest. They changed our lives by creating music that we loved. Glenn’s honesty and his ability to change the way we feel about our possibilities will be missed by the 14-year-old in all of us.
Thanks, Glenn. Your voice showed me there were possibilities. I feel it everytime I hear those great songs.