I noticed that even as 99% of my Facebook friends were eulogizing the late David Bowie in reverential terms, there were a few dissenters. Aside from a non-musical issue*, the most negative thing I saw about Bowie was along the lines of "I never cared/listened/ understood the attraction." It's kind of passive-aggressive, since there's not much point to alerting us all to the fact that you are apparently apathetic yet somehow still feel we all need to hear from you on this trending topic, but it's pretty low-key, so whatever.
Then Glenn Frey died, and a much larger portion of the internet decided
that this was the perfect time to remind us how much they hate the
Eagles, how bad the Eagles' music is, and how clueless the rest of us
are for apparently being deluded into liking them.
Hey, it's okay to not like the Eagles. It's also okay to shut up about
it for a few days when one of them dies. You're not going to lose your
I am not faultless in this regard. Right after Pierre Boulez died two
weeks ago, I wrote something snarky about his Mahler conducting on
somebody else's Facebook thread. But then I saw one of my acquaintances
thanking Boulez for giving him a big break early in his career, so I
stopped being snarky about Boulez. It reminded me that the whole
six-degrees-of-separation thing is real (and in the music biz, it's
usually fewer degrees than that). And then, seeing the intense
outpouring of feeling about Bowie, I was reminded of how strong the
bonds can be between an admirer and the object of admiration even if
they have never met, even if they're not in the biz and the degrees of
separation don't come into it. So there's definitely the it's-too-soon
But more than that, people are over-reacting. Somebody I know just got
'unfriended' for liking "Hotel California." Think about that. If your
reaction when you find out that somebody you know likes a song you don't
like is a disgust so strong that you don't want to interact with that
person anymore, you've got a very warped perspective.
Look, I'm full of opinions, especially when it comes to music, and
certainly I have occasionally used strong terms in expressing some of my
negative opinions. But they're just words, they're just opinions.
People who act as if taste is a moral issue are either really horribly
misguided or full of themselves. Make no mistake, that is what they are
doing. These are people who really need to ponder the wisdom of de gustibus non est disputandum ("there's no disputing taste").
Leaving aside for the moment the issue of whether or not people's
feelings are hurt, the real problem with this rampant hatred of the
Eagles is that it's all couched in absolute terms, as if it's objective
fact. Sorry, it's not. It's subjective. And when you try to make it
objective, you run up against the problem that the Eagles were, for a
period of at least five years (1972-76, from their eponymous debut album
through Hotel California), extremely good at what they were
doing, when measured as objectively as it is possible to measure such
things. You may not like what they were doing, but the skill and success
with which they did it is undeniable by any reasonable person. If you
prefer to instead trumpet the virtues of the Sex Pistols, that's fine,
but blaming the Eagles for not being the Sex Pistols is like criticizing
a pork sandwich for not being a chicken sandwich.
Some people get this. Robert Christgau clearly despised them, but he
was upfront about their skills. That's good criticism. But some people
don't, such the New York Daily News' Gersh Kuntzman, who wrote today on
their website that the Eagles were "the worst rock and roll band" and
then went on to further overplay his hand by proclaiming that "hating
the Eagles defines whether a music fan is a fan of music or just a
The problem with this article is not that it's too soon (though
obviously it is; just as obviously, posting it today is shamelessly
cheap click-bait), it's that he tries to play the music-snob card
without realizing how many musicians even outside of the Eagles' genre
admire their work: their skillfully precise vocal harmonies, the
catchiness of their tunes and hooks, the adeptness with which their
lyrics skewered fame games and the California Dream.
But Kuntzman doesn't really dispute the Eagles' prowess on musical grounds, as the lameness of his attacks shows. His first objection is, "Through the early 1970s, the Eagles defined
the 'easy listening' genre, as if rock and roll is supposed to be a warm
glass of milk to get you to bed."
First, his chronology is off by a few years. Second, the Eagles didn't
define "easy listening" because they were never considered as such;
first they were country rock, later arena rock. They had a few soft-rock
ballads, sure, but that genre is distinct from easy listening.
Lesson: don't judge an album band by the singles radio chooses to play.
Or, more likely, don't judge a band without actually listening to its
Later he writes, "How generic were the Eagles? When the much edgier and
much more musically inventive Steely Dan needed a band to mock, it
chose the Eagles." The reference is to a line in the Dan song
"Everything You Did": "Turn up the Eagles, the neighbors are listening."
Guess what?: Dan co-leader Walter Becker's girlfriend played the Eagles
a lot; he was drawing on real life.
Eventually Kuntzman gets around to what he seems to consider the coup de grace: quoting The Big Lebowski
re: The Dude's hatred of The Eagles. Because fictional characters are
always solid testimony. Hey, I look like The Dude (as strangers inform
me on the subway every week or so), and I like the Eagles. Fictional
I also like the Sex Pistols, and Karlheinz Stockhausen, and Albert
Ayler. These things are not mutually exclusive. Nor do I feel obliged to
file the Eagles under "guilty pleasure." I don't think music
automatically becomes uncool because lots of people like it, either.
I have a good friend, very knowledgeable about the '70s L.A. scene, who
seriously dislikes the Eagles. She hasn't been dissing them on Facebook
today. She is civilized and has manners. Here's hoping some other
people learn some manners before the next pop star dies.
*A few feminist friends attacked him for once having had consensual sex
with a 15-year-old groupie; I also saw pushback from other feminists who
didn't like the groupie being denied agency -- it was actually a pretty