Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Walsher I Play, The Liker I Get





Some time in the late eighties, I went to see Joe Walsh play a very rare midnight show at NYC's Beacon Theatre. Walsh was dressed in a big floppy hat not unlike something worn by Porthos. He had thigh-high fishing boots and overalls, and seemed only a bit less drunk than Brett Somers on any episode of the Match Game. For every sloppy song the band attempted to play, Joe told a 5-10 minute Myron Cohen joke. It was painfully unpleasant. I couldn't believe the spectacle. It was a horrible experience that put me off Joe for a long time.

Joe Walsh has a reputation for being a bit of a buffoon. Not only that, but he will forever be associated with two of the most odious men in music, Don Henley and Glenn Frey. Now, I happen to be a fan of The Eagles, but I can recognize just why so many people are not. And I'm not just referring to "Life In the Fast Lane." But this is not about Henley & Frey.

I revisited some of Joe Walsh's solo records this weekend, and while I've always enjoyed them, it took this particular go around to realize, just how much I enjoyed them. Both "Barnstorm" and "The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get" are incredibly unique albums, that cater to not only the classic rock sounds of the day, but showcase both Walsh and Joe Vitale's abilities as both songwriters and arrangers. And I never realized just how often the influence of the Beach Boys turns up.

Like on this track, from "The Smoker You Drink..."  This wouldn't have been out of place on "Holland," I don't think.



Or, on this one, from a few albums later, 1981's "There Goes The Neighborhood":



Like many artists who have been around for what seems like forever, the most-popular songs in their catalogue are not always the best representatives. If I never hear "Rocky Mountain Way" again, it will be too soon. But what about "Birdcall Morning," from Walsh's debut?








For everything uncool about The Eagles, there is just as much cool to be found in The James Gang. And while "Funk #49" might be on everyone's "Do Not Play" list by now, "Funk #48" still sounds as fresh as ever. So does, "Take A Look Around." Here are both.












Hope my Joe Walsh appreciation isn't an imposition. Maybe you'll listen and agree, Joe is alright!

18 comments:

Alan said...

Excellent post, Sal. I love the crack about Brett Somers. Love Joe Walsh, sloppiness and all.

allen vella said...

That's why I love you Sal...I would have/could have never heard some of those tunes...I dug Joe in the 70's, now I remember why. Thanks for the reminder..

Albert said...

Ok...I'm one of those cowpokes who only likes a handful of Walsh's non-Eagles output primarily because I've bothered to listen to only a handful of his non-Eagles output....but I will say Life of Illusion is a marvel to behold, and radio hit at that...my Walsh moment of nirvana: on Celebrity Jeopardy, pressing his buzzer and staring blankly into space on EVERY QUESTION!....while Trebek straight-faced would say " No Joe, that's not it."....

wool said...

I would looooove to hear a rant about the "most odious men in music, Don Henley and Glenn Frey". I love the Eagles but also enjoy a good smack down of ego boys Henley and Frey.

Albert said...

Odiosity or odiousness (take your pick) comes with the territory....particularly in the '70's musical landscape....jeez if it weren't for Henley there'd be no Eagles.....cut the windbag some slack.....now Frey on the hand....his best work was that brilliant star turn on the old Wiseguy show....he can go...with my blessing...ps Rosewood Bitters is the shit....sent to me on a mixed tape many moons ago by Sal BWT himself.....informing even then....and I thank him......

Bob Busby said...

Sal I can't believe you posted about this. Someone recently offered me the opportunity to write a blog piece on anything I want and I was considering doing it on Joe Walsh.
I can't overstate how high my regards for this man is and the influence his music had on me during my impressionable years.
It's always amused me that with his wild rocking reputation and skills, seeemingly half of his catalogue is extraordinarily mellow to heart wrenchingly beautiful. Barnstorm, The Smoker You Drink, So What, and even But Seriously Folks - definitely wins the best album titles award - are all monumental classic efforts. Dreams, Mother Says, Falling Down...as a fifteen year old Joe made me realize how lovely and grand rock could be. Also, the first three albums have tracks that are a window to the vibe of that era. I've always listened to these albums at least a couple to few times a year.

I too saw Joe at the Beacon once in the '80s. He drank half a bottle of Jack during the first acoustic set ending with The Confessor. Came onstage for second set held up the now empty bottle, put on his electric and totally wailed finishing the second rowdy part of the song, preceeding for the remainder of the set to rattle everyone's fillings with the volume.

As for the Eagles - I had already been a fan but I've long maintained that them getting Walsh was akin to the Bulls getting His Airness. And talented as they are Henley and Frey have always come off as assholes.

I so appreciate the great Joe Walsh.

Sal Nunziato said...

Glad this is resonating.

Oddball trivia--

Original version of "Rosewood Bitters" by Michael Stanley, features Todd Rundgren on clavinet.

I thank you.

Shriner said...

When I break out my axe (which isn't nearly enough these days), "Walk Away" and "Turn To Stone" almost always come flying out. Great, great tunes.

Albert said...

Just had to throw in a Todd reference, hah?....forgivable......now Shriner mentioned Walk Away and Turn to Stone....I know these as ELO songs....well, Don't Walk Away to be exact....am I that obsessed or maybe I should give Look What I Did a second listen....or a first listen to be precise....

Sal Nunziato said...

@Albert

Any thoughts on the songs I posted?

buzzbabyjesus said...

The first songs in the post sound remarkably like Dennis Wilson in a good way. Once Brian punted Dennis was responsible for many of the highlights on Beach Boys albums like Sunflower and Holland. On the basis of this I'm interested in giving Joe the time of day in spite of Rocky Mountain Mountai Way and Funk #49.
I bought that first James Gang album from you and I've never been able to get through more than 30 seconds at a time. I hate the way it sounds.

Albert said...

Wish I could tender an opinion...clips aren't accessible at the moment on my "dumb"phone...have no clue what they are....I will listen, when able....

Unknown said...

The live album is pretty fine, too. "Turn to Stone" came on my shuffle just yesterday, as a matter of fact...flute solo and all. Sterling.

It is an ongoing source of hilarity to me that Don Henley, Mr. Walden Woods himself, would burn untold gallons of jet fuel to fly Stevie Nicks to dine in Paris and return the same night (as the story goes). At least when he wasn't plonking 14-year-olds.

steve simels said...

Uh excuse me, Sal?

You're back?

And nobody told me?

AAAARRRRGGGGGHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!

Oh well, welcome back, obviously.
:-)

WHT said...

Telephone rings and Joe Walsh answers a banana on the Drew Carey TV show.

Indian Summer: "And you never needed bait where we used to go, Just a safety pin hook on a bamboo pole, Take the big ones home; let the little ones go" is like where did that come from?

The credit on Rosewood Bitters of course says (Throw Money).

Anonymous said...

Joe's early stuff is just brilliant. As with Todd R., I'm waiting for Joe to put out an album that harkens back to early solo dayz. I'm not nearly as familiar with his later elpees due to not being able to handle the sound (ne production) of them. Awhile back I heard news of a new record partly produced by Jeff Lynne. God help us all.

Fielding said...

Was recently telling someone I found "Got Any Gum" and "You Name It You Bought It" on vinyl... proudly, that actually completes my Walsh on vinyl collection, including The James Gang Era LPs and Dan Fogelberg "Souvenirs" Love the guy more than ever. Nice piece, SJ.

HaroldGlenn22 said...

Sal, just discovered your blog and loving it. Especially enjoyed this piece as a recent appreciater of solo Joe Walsh and James Gang. A co-worker handed me a copy of the Player you Get the Smoker you Drink. I don't believe I would have ever thought to delve into that vein. So beautifully complex is this stuff. Wish I could have lived this when I was fourteen. How did i miss it? Great blog Sal, keep up the enlightenment.