Well, I have decided to take my cultural education of my children more public. For a couple years I have shared with them weekly my thoughts about the music I grew up on–the classic rock of the 70s. With my first post on this newly minted blog, who better to honor than the Eagles and Jackson Browne, especially with the recent passing of original Eagles band member Glenn Frey.
This YouTube video is of Jackson Browne doing Take It Easy just after Glenn Frey passed.
As he mentions, Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey wrote this together. The Eagles released it as a single on May 1, 1972. I was not quite 11 years old then and really not listening to this stuff yet. That would come later. Eventually I became a solid Eagles fan, my favorite album of theirs is Desperado.
According to various sources, including the liner notes on the Eagles’ first album, Jackson Browne was writing the song and Glenn Frey, then a neighbor, heard him working it out. Jackson was stuck on the second verse–and Glenn impulsively added the now famous words–“I was standing on a corner in Winslow Arizona…” And history was made.
Interestingly, apparently, the corner was not in Winslow, rather in Flagstaff. But Winslow sounded better and was on Browne’s mind as he had recently broken down there. Now in Winslow is a corner dedicated to the song–with a mural of a girl driving by in a flat-bed Ford. Meanwhile, the corner in Flagstaff goes on with normal life, the Der Wienershnitzel now replaced by the Dog Haus. Apparently, there really was a girl that drove by and checked out Jackson Browne, but she wasn’t necessarily driving a flat-bed Ford, and it was at the corner of Highway 66 and Switzer Canyon in Flagstaff. (Source: http://www.route66news.com/2010/12/30/so-who-wrote-take-it-easy/)
Some sources indicate that Frey and Browne share writing credits, but all Frey did was contribute the second verse. From what I can learn, it sounds like the Eagles were putting their first album together and Frey really wanted to include the song so he pushed and pushed Browne to finish it, and finally, Browne just gave in and let Frey finish it.
The Eagles did record it and include it on their first album, the self-titled, Eagles. And Jackson Browne included the song on his first album as well, releasing it later. For a long, long time I knew that Jackson Browne was one of the authors of the song, but I figured he wrote it for the Eagles or that he had been part of the Eagles and left the band. Stupid, I know, but that’s the early teenage years for you.
One of the unique things about the Eagles’ recording is that it includes banjo so it evokes the country rock sound that the Eagles made famous. I have always believed that this is one reason why I later took a liking to country music–because the country music of the 90s and turn of the century sounds more like the old Eagles, Browne, America and Ronstadt that made what was sometimes referred to as the California Sound.
The members of the Eagles that recorded that first album and the iconic song? Glenn Frey on lead and backing vocals as well as acoustic guitar, Don Henley on drums aand backing vocals, Bernie Leadon on lead guitar, banjo and backing vocals and last, but not least, Randy Meisner on bass and backing vocals.
Meisner was one of the founders of the group Poco, a countrified, folk sounding band. He later played with Rick Nelson (“Went to a Garden Party”) and then teamed up with the other members of the Eagles as part of the large cast backing Linda Ronstadt. Meisner left the Eagles in 1977 while on tour supporting Hotel California and was replaced by Timothy B. Schmitt who had been his replacement when he left Poco. He later went solo and also teamed up with Rick Roberts from Firefall for the Roberts-Meisner Band.
Bernie Leadon came to the Eagles from the Flying Burrito Brothers (see, they had pretty cool band names back then too). He had the bluegrass background that was incorporated into the Eagles’ sound. He left the band in 1975, apparently pouring a beer over Glenn Frey’s head, because he wasn’t happy with the band’s move away from their bluegrass roots. Joe Walsh replaced him in the band. Since the Eagles, he did play for a short time with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
Both Glenn Frey and Don Henley lasted together with the band until it broke up in 1980, after the Long Run album. Both had pretty successful solo careers in the 80’s doing some pretty decent stuff, though some of it was, in my opinion, sort of too much Top 40 for my taste by then–too Hollywood 80’s pop. I kind of wish the original Eagles had stuck together because they could have put together some better stuff. In my opinion anyway. But maybe they would have gone the same route and that was precisely why both Leadon and Meisner left.
They reunited to reform the Eagles in 1994.
One of the first albums I bought once I started buying them was the Eagles Greatest Hits. And my friends and I all learned the chords for a bunch of the Eagles’ songs like Tequila Sunrise, Best of My Love, Peaceful Easy Feeling, Take it to the Limit and, of course, Take It Easy. (My very first album was Elton John’s Greatest Hits–more on that in a later post. Early on I was more into the hits and wasn’t until later that I would get into the prog rock that didn’t lend itself to Top 40 hits.)
Local bands used to play tons of Eagles’ songs at high school and Stake dances. We enjoyed listening to them, and I think they were pretty easy to perform. There was even this group at my high school that played mostly Eagles, Steve Miller and those sorts of songs.
I still love listening to the Eagles when I am in right mood–usually it’s good traveling music.
To end this, here is the Eagles’ version of Take It Easy performed on the BBC in 1973, with an a capella intro that is a little bit different.