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Thread: BBC 1981

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    Default BBC 1981

    Another unearthed Joe Walsh interview! I didnt know his mom was a classical pianist who played professionally for the New York ballet, or that he was inspired to play guitar in part by Rick Nelson, whom I know as the only musician that my mom has admitted to having a crush on. lol The interviewer has really done his research - I love that.

    But what's really bizarre - the interview was done in 1981 and Joe assured the interviewers that the Eagles haven't broken up! When did they bother to tell him differently?!!!

    And yet.... he was right when he said "We'll be back." :)


    Joe Walsh

    Stuart Grundy,John Tobler, BBC Publications


    In 1969, The Who toured Britain, dragging around a support act who were, to say the least, an unknown quantity to all but a very few British rock fans. Pete Townshend, however, extolled to all who would listen (a considerable number) the virtues of the James Gang in general and their guitarist Joe Walsh in particular, and by the end of the tour, Joe Walsh was on his way to becoming a household name. A dozen years later, his status is unquestionably that of a celebrity, although Walsh's appeal has somewhat altered from those heady guitar days of yore.

    Joe Walsh was born on 20 November 1947, in Wichita, Kansas, and not, as others have suggested, New York. The young Walsh was much travelled – "I spent three or four-year periods in Illinois and Ohio, and then I went to Junior high school in New York City, to high school in New Jersey, and then I went back to Ohio for college, so it's really difficult when I'm asked where I come from, because I don't know."

    The Walshes were a musical family, Joe's mother being a classical pianist.

    "Yes, she still is – she's an accompanist for the New York Ballet, and I really owe her a lot, because she forced me to play various instruments and always made sure that I grew up hearing important classical works, and that influence surfaced later – for instance, 'Pavane' was a piece I did on my So What LP, and that was something my mom was always playing when I was growing up. She'd play a whole bunch of stuff, and I'd ask what it was, so I became kind of familiar with various forms of classical music, which really helped later on."

    Although he is obviously best known as a guitarist, Walsh is no beginner on several other musical instruments, having dabbled in his childhood with piano, clarinet and trombone before playing oboe in high school.

    "Then I ended up playing guitar basically because I hated everything that I was forced to practise, and because guitar was my own little project, nobody forced me to practise, so that was really the instrument I enjoyed. It was kind of primitive guitar playing initially – I'm not even sure you could call it rhythm guitar, because it didn't really matter if I tuned it. Probably the reason I became interested in the guitar was because of watching a TV show in the United States called Ozzie & Harriet, which was about the Nelson family, of which Rick Nelson was the youngest. It was like a serial, and every so often they would show Ricky Nelson playing at his high school dance, and of course his band involved James Burton, who played on most of his records."

    Walsh's first band was known as the G Clefs.

    "Oh God! Where did you dig that up? That was a high school band. We had a piano player, a drummer and a trumpet player, and I played guitar, and that was the band. We did things like 'Exodus', 'Wonderland By Night' and 'Walk Don't Run', if you can conceive of a Wurlitzer electric piano, a trumpet, one guitar and a drummer playing 'Walk Don't Run' – it was a strange version. But that was the first band, and the most embarrassing thing about it was the name. We didn't know that there was another famous band called the G Clefs – it was just one of the two or three musical terms we knew, so that's what we called it. That had to be about 1962 or '63."

    The item which Walsh claimed changed his life was seeing the Beatles appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show on television.

    "I saw the Beatles, and I hadn't really listened to the album – they really surfaced over a period of four or five months in this country. I was a dumb kid going to high school in New Jersey in a band with a trumpet player, and I could play in one key, but I still have a really clear image of watching them, and my parents shaking their heads left and right and me shaking my head up and down, and that hit a spark inside me and I knew that was what I wanted to do. I thought, 'Those guys are cool', and I'd like to do that, and that stayed dominant in my thinking, and because of that, I kind of negated college and fitting into the straight world.

    "The next band I was in was called the Nomads – we had collarless jackets like the Beatles and tried to sound like them. Everybody did in those days. It didn't matter if you were good or not, if you could play some Beatle songs or songs from the English scene, you could play in front of people. If you had, for instance, a Gretsch guitar like George Harrison played, or a Vox amp, it didn't matter if you even turned it on, because if you had one, people would come. I was the bass player in the Nomads, although I didn't know anything about the bass – the only reason I wanted to play it was because I had two less strings to deal with. In retrospect, those were the good old days where it was really important to do the top 30, and very few bands were doing original music. There were a lot of clubs and dances, a lot of opportunities to play. It's vastly different nowadays, and I think that one of the things I've always been thankful for, and a lot of people from the United States of my generation will always be thankful for, was that there was just such an influx of energy from England. It made things easier over here, and also gave a lot of musicians that are around today the ability to go out and play in front of people.

    "We never played anything original – at that point, I didn't have an original thought in my head about anything. It was great training to be able to copy records for a period of two or three years and also have the feeling of being in front of people and playing just any music. Original thoughts came later...I was with the Nomads pretty much through high school, up until about 1965, at which point I graduated – I was going to try to say something funny about that, but it was a miracle that it even happened – and we all went our separate ways to various colleges. At that point in this country, Vietnam was dominant in the political outlook of things, and if you went to college, you got a deferment from military service, and if you weren't going to college, you went in the army. So I went to college – I was stupid, but I wasn't dumb! I went to college, and I didn't do well, but my creative energy was starting to focus at that point – I remember missing three and four days of classes and sitting in the dormitory practising guitar and listening to records, trying to steal every lick I could and writing a couple of very primitive songs, but at that point, I started to realise that I didn't have to play the top 20 note for note. Wait a minute, I can put this in here, improvise!"

    Eventually, Joe did join a local band, the Measles.

    "Oh boy! You're nailing me to the wall. Yes, that was the Measles, who were a local band who played downtown at weekends, and when the school year ended, I chose to stay in Kent, which is a suburb of Akron, Ohio, and play in the band in bars and clubs for the summer. I never really went home again after I left to go to college, and that was really the beginning of my career. I was starting to develop at that point, I think – I was writing more and more, starting to improvise, starting to get some licks that were my own that I hadn't stolen from other people. That was a good time – I was playing four sets a night, four nights a week, even if it was only fifteen or twenty dollars a night, and I was doing OK. Those were really good times, and even now when frustrated guitar players ask me what they can do to make it, I remember those times, when I really paid my dues. I played four and five hours a night, four and five nights a week for two or three years, and that's when you get good, that's when you get your licks, that's when you get comfortable, that's when you learn to fix your equipment when it blows up. So that would be my advice – 'Hey, go play in front of people, don't be in a hurry to make it because nobody does overnight, and God help you if you do, because you go down just as quick'."

    *

    The next step for Joe Walsh was joining the band with whom he made his major recording debut, the James Gang, with whom he stayed for two and a half years, beginning in April 1969.

    "The James Gang were good, a five-piece band who were one of the top acts in Cleveland, and by that time, I was one of the top guitar players in Kent or Akron. Their guitarist, Glenn Schwartz, was an amazing player, and to this day is kind of one of my gurus, and he left and I was invited to fill his shoes. So I joined the James Gang and we played about a year in various clubs around Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania, but we didn't get along that well with five of us, so it ended up being a three-piece group, a bit like the Jimi Hendrix Experience or Cream, which was the really popular way to be in those days. Again, it was training for me, because I was the only melodic instrument – it was guitar, bass and drums – and I learned to enjoy playing rhythm and lead at the same time, and I also had to sing. I learned a lot about how to play guitar effectively. Right around then, I met Pete Townshend, who was and still is a great and special influence on my life, and he patted me on the back and said 'You're doing pretty good, kid'. We were the local support band when the Who came to Cleveland, and Pete arrived early and said he enjoyed our show. He kind of took me under his wing, advice-wise, and gave me confidence, and told me that I was intelligently going about being the only melodic instrument in the band very well, which was obviously very encouraging."

    The Who were in fact admired by Walsh but his previous influences and favourites were somewhat diverse.

    "It's strange, because I really grew up listening to the singles of the '50s and early '60s – the Ronettes, Motown – and not really R&B, which was probably because of where I was geographically when I was open to that stimulus. Even so, my favourites were (Jeff) Beck and (Jimmy) Page in the Yardbirds – I thought they were incredible. And Clapton when he was in the Bluesbreakers (with John Mayall), Hendrix, of course, Mike Bloomfield, especially when he was with Paul Butterfield. At that stage, I was just beginning to get into B. B. King, Albert King, Freddie King, Albert Collins, those sort of people, but the only reason I was getting into them was because I had read everything I possibly could in terms of interviews with all these English guitar players who said that was where they got all their licks from. I feel silly that I wasn't into the American blues scene earlier than that, but I just wasn't."

    Things changed dramatically with the arrival on the scene of record producer Bill Szymczyk, whose name has continued to crop up in Joe Walsh's story to date.

    "It's a strange story – he just showed up one night, when we were playing in Warren, Ohio, I think it was. He was a kind of in-house producer for ABC Records, and was looking for rock'n'roll groups, and while Cleveland, Detroit and Cincinatti was kind of a pocket of very good rock'n'roll, nobody really had got on to record at that time. He showed up one night and really liked the James Gang, and he and I became very good friends and related to each other, and that started about a fifteen-year friendship which has gotten nothing but stronger to date. He signed the James Gang to ABC Records, and we made Yer Album, our first album, which did very well in Cleveland, Detroit and Cincinatti!"

    The precise history of the James Gang seems never to have been exhaustively documented – formed by drummer Jim Fox in 1967, the band also included Glenn Schwartz and bass player Tom Kriss, but had not recorded before Schwartz left and was replaced by Walsh. During the latter's time with the band, they recorded three studio LPs and a fourth live album. One aspect of that first LP, namely the title, has been disturbing these authors with its very Britishness. Yer Album – was the spelling of the personal pronoun intentional?

    "Probably subconsciously – having just met the guys in the Who, having spent three or four years studying the chemistry of various English bands, and having spent a period of time trying to develop an English accent, which helped if you were singing English songs...We couldn't think of a name for the album, and at some point we had to think of one – also 'Yer' is a small reflection of the midwest kind of accent. It's yer, not your – it's a strange dialect.

    "Just after that, we came to England for the first time, supporting the Who mostly, but headlining a couple of concerts ourselves as well. I really owe a lot to all the guys in the Who, because they believed in us and really took us under their wing – they gave us confidence and took us on tour with them, and that did us the world of good, just kind of showing us that we could do it. Europe was quite an experience in terms of gathering input which would help me write songs, and I really thought that I'd gain a lot musically from playing in Europe, but I didn't, although I did gain from playing in England and seeing the scene over there. I've always got a tremendous amount of positive input from visiting England, but Europe made me a little more mature, made me feel a bit more like a man of the world, instead of a dummy from Ohio."

    At this point in the interview, a rhetorical question was asked which presumed that Yer Album was actually Walsh's first released record – not so.

    "The Nomads made a record which sold four copies, because each guy in the band bought one, but that was very primitive and very silly. When it came to the James Gang records, each album did a little better than the one before. It was a means, really, a form of expression – during those times, I did a lot of experimenting and a lot of learning, about musical textures and how to put songs together. Of course, I studied Szymczyk a lot...I can't say that we were really that successful, but the fact that each album did a little better than the one before gave us an amount of acceptance with the record company, and allowed us to continue playing in front of people."

    Arguably the best-known track by the James Gang is 'Funk 49', which in fact first appeared on the second album by the group, James Gang Rides Again, released in 1970.

    "It's a good example of the James Gang. I came up with the basic guitar lick, and the words never really impressed me intellectually, but they seemed to fit somehow. It was a real good example of how we put things together, bearing in mind that it was a three piece group, and I don't think that there was any overdubbing. The only thing we really added was the percussion middle part, which the three of us actually played, putting some parts on top of the drums, but that's the three piece James Gang, and that's the energy and kind of the symmetry we were all about."

    While there may have been little in the way of overdubs on 'Funk 49', as time went on the group began to make more refinements in their recording, and that was one of the reasons for Joe leaving the band in November 1971.

    "Yes, it's got too wonderful. There was a lot of overdubbing later on, and it was difficult to reproduce the records on stage, but there were two or three reasons for my leaving. Logically, I was trying to develop at that point, and I was starting to hear textures that showed up later in my career – I've always been obsessed with textures and the symmetry of things. It was very frustrating at that time to be the only melodic instrument in the band, because I wanted to have some harmony, I wanted to have piano and rhythm guitar live, and once again, when I stopped playing rhythm to play lead, there was no rhythm, so it was hard live, although it was fun, and I learned a lot. The second thing was that I felt I was starting to be stereotyped into being a heavy metal, loud, fast, American guitar player, and I felt there was more to me than that. I didn't want to turn into a Blue Cheer (a notorious American band, whose main distinction was their ability to be heard several miles from where they played) or a heavy metal thing, and I was scared I might have that label for life. I didn't want to be a heavy metal flash lead guitar player. I didn't want to be known for that, I wanted to be known to the public and to my peers as more of a songwriter, more of a musician, so at some point, I decided not to express myself in a three-piece very loud group anymore."

    During this period, Walsh assisted B.B.King, playing rhythm to B.B.'s lead on several tracks included on King's Indianola Mississippi Seeds album, almost inevitably produced by Bill Szymczyk.

    "Yes, and I loved it! I was doing some session work at that time – not too much, most of it because of Szymczyk – but I did play for B.B. on a few things, and it really opened my eyes. I loved being able to play rhythm guitar without having to sing, and I loved being able to make records."

    At the same time as his departure from the James Gang, another guitarist, Peter Frampton, decided to leave Humble Pie, and Walsh was offered the chance to be Frampton's replacement, although he declined the position.

    "I'm amazed that you were even aware of that – that was something I really wanted to do, but I think the problem was that I had definite commitments, if not to the James Gang, at least to my management and to my record company, which were kind of negative to me moving to England and joining Humble Pie. I very much wanted to – I've always had a high amount of respect for Steve Marriott and Frampton, and that was something that I really wanted to do, but I just couldn't."

    *

    On leaving his band, the end of 1971 also saw Joe Walsh collecting together his belongings and relocating in Boulder, Colorado, a fairly intrepid move for a man whose prospects were, to say the least, uncertain.

    "Without dwelling on it too much, I found when I decided to leave the James Gang that both my management and record company were disappointed, I guess is the word, because we were starting to realise material benefits, shall I say, and they were not real happy that I had chosen to leave. And I didn't get much help from my management or record company at the start of pursuing a solo career. Moving to Colorado had a lot to do with my friendship with Bill Szymczyk, who at that point was an advisor who was helping me feel confident because I was scared to death.

    "So I went to Colorado, took an amount of time off, and began forming Barnstorm, which was an arrangement of players conceived in a way to express what I was hearing and what I thought a band should be. They were strange times and it was hard, but it took me back to basic survival, which is always very positive in terms of creative energy –when you have to get yourself together and you're talking in terms of basic survival, you play differently from when you're rich."

    Somewhat curiously, in view of what Joe had said about his creative frustrations being at least partially the result of the James Gang being a three-piece band, Barnstorm was also a trio, at least in its first incarnation.

    "That's a really good point, and that was the overall result of what I was trying to do – in other words, Joe Vitale and Kenny Passarelli were the two guys I could find who directly related to what I was trying to do. I would have had a ten-piece group, but I couldn't find the right people who would fit in, and believe me, I was in no hurry to form another group to cover myself. Towards the end of the first album, we found a keyboard player named Rocke Grace, who had played with Todd Rundgren, and really, that formed the foundation. Later on, there was another guy, Tom Stephenson, who added second keyboards, and Rocke and Tom really gave me the melodic content I had been lacking with the James Gang. I know it's strange to quit a three-piece group because it's a three-piece group and then form a three-piece group – I can't really justify that, but there was a chemistry there, and to this day I'm proud of having put together Barnstorm, and everything we did. I would have had more people in the band, but I didn't want silly people in the band, and as I found people, they were interfaced in – it was a slow process and it wasn't easy, but that's all I could really do. At one time, the first Barnstorm album was my favourite of all the stuff I had done, although it's kind of primitive in that we were very new to each other, and it was recorded in a primitive manner, but I wanted it that way – the magic of the three of us, and with Rocke, the four of us, the magic of no over-dubs, us being in a room and playing those songs, was there, and that's what I was going for. There are a couple of tracks from that album that I really like – I was always very happy with 'Birdcall Morning', with the way that got from my brain to the tape, and 'Mother Says'. Both of those are very gratifying when I look back in terms of getting the songs on tape the way I conceived them, without losing anything."

    Although the first line-up of Barnstorm played no live dates during the first six months of its existence, soon after Rocke Grace joined the band they embarked on a punishing schedule of roadwork which took in 330 appearances in one year.

    "The reason that we worked so hard came down to really basic survival. We were playing pretty much anything we could, just to be able to play and to be able to pay for the equipment – it wasn't particularly from choice, but it was good."

    During this hectic period, the band also found time to record a second album, which boasts the bizarre title of The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get, the significance of which has eluded the vast majority of those who have ever considered its meaning (or lack thereof).

    "Well – that's your problem! It's funny, I occasionally get asked 'What do you mean by that?', and it just speaks for itself. It was something I thought of late at night, and it makes sense if you think about it. I'd rather not try to explain what it means, but there is meaning there – it's very true, but I'm not sure what it means myself."

    So now we know...

    The album includes a song which more than any other has become Walsh's virtual signature tune, 'Rocky Mountain Way', whose origins Walsh recalled.

    "I always felt that was special, even before it was complete – we had recorded that before I knew what the words were going to be, but I was very proud of it. Again, it's a situation of performance – it was not a constructed record, like a lot of them are, that was pretty much one shot at it, all playing at the same time. The words came about – I got kind of fed up with feeling sorry for myself, and I wanted to justify and feel good about leaving the James Gang, relocating, going for it on a survival basis. I wanted to say 'Hey, whatever this is, I'm positive and I'm proud', and the words just kind of came out of feeling that way, rather than writing a song out of remorse. It was special then, and the words were special to me, because the words were like, 'I'm goin' for it, the heck with feeling sorry for this and that', and it did turn out to be a special song for a lot of people. I think the attitude and the statement of that have a lot to do with it – it's a positive song, and it's basic rock'n'roll, which is what I really do."

    *

    At the end of 1973, the group splintered, doubtless due to extreme fatigue following their on the road exertions.

    "Fatigue, and also me being a little naive, figuring that coming out of the James Gang I would immediately be recognised and all my problems would be over. Again, a band just really runs its course – nobody in the band has control of how long you stay together, and when you're done, you're done, and that's kind of up to fate. I'll go out on a limb and say that we were a very, very good band for a period of time, but unfortunately Barnstorm was only noticed and recognised as being a very good band after we had started to disband. The timing was just a little bit off."

    In view of Joe's feelings, it is particularly unfortunate that Barnstorm never released a live LP, although Walsh's next project, his 1974 LP So What, saw him making moves in a decidedly new direction and beginning to experiment with synthesisers.

    "That's another story – I had one or two rare guitars that I had come across, and I sent one over to Pete Townshend, and he liked it a lot. I think he played it on Who's Next, or somewhere around that period...All of a sudden, I got a package at my house, and it was a synthesiser, a kind of 'thank you' from Pete, so I plugged it in and stayed in the room for about three weeks straight! I got into synthesisers, and the texture again, and the sounds – the synthesiser is really an unlimited instrument, and the thing that really limits you on a synthesiser is you. So I kind of did homework and research on that, and I have subtly used synthesisers from around So What on. Not in the context of electronic music albums like Switched On Bach or Tomita or anything, but every once in a while, back in there underneath the guitars, you can hear synthesiser. And I like to tease with it, and there are textures you can get with synthesisers that are very teasing."

    One notable early example of the Walsh synthesiser technique is curiously enough the classical piece mentioned above and included on the So What LP, Ravel's 'Pavane' – an unlikely choice for a rocker?

    "Very strange, I know, but it's one of my favourite pieces of classical music. Maurice Ravel was an impressionist musician who wrote in the same time period as Debussy, and 'Pavane Of The Sleeping Beauty' is part of The Mother Goose Suite, which is almost a ballet, almost a fairy tale, almost a children's story, and it's one of the movements. I think it's very haunting and something that I always wanted to do – I know that's really kind of way out there for a rock'n'roller to do, but I loved it and just thought it was me, and I really wanted to share it with people. And it's all synthesiser."

    Equally significant as regards So What was the fact that Don Henley, Randy Meisner and Glenn Frey of the Eagles performed on the album, and within a year of its release, Walsh had joined that band.

    "I met Irving Azoff during the Barnstorm period, and expressed to him my concern that I wasn't getting much help from my management or the record company, although at that point, he was in no position to do anything about it. He was also from the mid-west, and liked my music and my general attitude about things, and at some point, I told Irving that I wanted him to handle my affairs, and that in return I would try to maintain integrity and make him proud to represent me, so he became my manager. We spent an amount of time both starving, but he has always had a personal direct line with artists that he has represented. Around that time, I was just fed up with a solo career – I didn't have the energy to do it, and it didn't really look like it was going anywhere. Irving met the Eagles, who were kind of disillusioned with their management and the way they were being represented, and they also had some internal friction – it was kind of being in the right place at the right time, but what ended up was that the Eagles asked Irving to represent them and formed kind of a little family. I got to know the guys in the Eagles, they helped me a little bit with So What, and I went to some late night jams with them when they were working on On The Border, and just helped out as a guitar player while they were writing some of that.

    *

    "Later, Bernie Leadon, who was the guitar player that I replaced in the Eagles, decided that he didn't want to be in the group anymore, and they kind of had a stereotype of the 'sons of the desert ballad' type – as the sun goes down over the banana trees and the cactus, you know – and they secretly wanted to rock'n'roll a bit more. We got together and talked about it for quite a while, and the chemistry was really there, but they were scared to death to replace anybody in the band, and I was scared to death to join a band, but it worked out, and we had Irving, who was representing me and them in the middle, so it seemed like the best thing to do, because I wanted to be in a group and they needed to replace a member of the band, and they wanted a dominant-type guitar player. So it kind of worked out, and we made an agreement to abstractly try to get that together. We ran away for about six months, and an intense amount of energy went around between the guys in the Eagles, I was interfaced in, and out of that amount of energy came Hotel California."

    Joe Walsh actually joined the Eagles at the end of 1975, and a year later, Hotel California was released and became a huge success. Joe also worked on many outside projects and this seems a suitable place to mention a number of them. 1974 had seen what appears to be the first Joe Walsh production for an outside artist, in this case a singer/songwriter named Dan Fogelberg. It's often true that a musician has more ideas in his head than he can easily use on his own records, but there must be a danger in sharing them with others in case they take the best ones...

    "At that point, I had been studying the art of recording for quite a while, under Bill Szymczyk, and I was running out of energy in terms of a solo career – it was very draining, and a lot of the benefits I thought I would get from leaving the James Gang I was finding out weren't necessarily true, and being in a solo career position and being the leader of the band, I was starting to feel kind of sterile, because I didn't really have anybody to write with and I was calling the shots. I think Danny Fogelberg is really a genius, really gifted, and I was in a position where I was pretty well drained as an artist, but I had a lot of energy in terms of getting someone else's brains down on tape – so I made a commitment to work with him on Souvenirs, although I'm not really sure, to this day, what a producer does. If I had to write it down, I would be at a loss, but basically, I think if you can get an artist's brains on tape without losing anything in the translation, you're an effective producer, and that's what I tried to do with Dan."

    Before his first LP with the Eagles was released, there came another 'solo' album, a live LP with another intriguing title, You Can't Argue With A Sick Mind which was made by Walsh and a band of experienced session musicians, most of whom had backed Walsh for his appearance at a memorable concert held at Wembley Stadium on Midsummer's Day, 1975, the headline acts being Elton John, the Beach Boys and the Eagles.

    "That was a good band. At that point, I knew I was going to be in the Eagles, although it wasn't yet on paper. There was Willie Weeks, Andy Newmark, David Mason the keyboard player, and at various times Rikki Fataar, Bryan Garofalo, Paul Harris, Joe Vitale, Jay Ferguson...I had built up a bunch of songs through James Gang days, Barnstorm and post-Barnstorm, and I really had put together a pretty good group, although I was running out of energy to oversee it all. I was real proud of the band that played at Wembley, and that album was the live LP of that band, but it was also like my last statement, the end of a phase before I went back into a band situation."

    A notable track from the album is 'Walk Away'.

    "That was a James Gang song that was done as a three piece, and I wasn't particularly proud of it, but with Andy Newmark, Willie Weeks and Rick Fataar, we worked it out and it changed, it really caught a groove and got real funky, and came out differently from the way the James Gang had performed it, and even differently from the way I had conceived it. It changed round, and I was real proud to have written it, couldn't believe that I had written it, but that's a good example of the energy and where I was at playing live at that point."

    An artist whose name has continually come up in the context of both this project and its forerunner, The Record Producers, is Rick Derringer, himself a guitarist, which makes it interesting that Walsh should have played on two tracks of Derringer's All American Boy LP.

    "Rick was making a solo album and writing some songs, and possibly there were some parts that he couldn't quite figure out, or that he felt were weak, and wanted some external input."

    Why does any guitar player, even Eric Clapton, need another guitar player?

    "He doesn't, but there's a strength in that, an energy, that you could never think of. Another guitar player can come at you from angles that you could conceive in your train of thought, and although Rick can play circles around me, believe me, I think there were a few parts in his solo project where he couldn't quite figure out what he'd come up with and locked into, and weren't quite what he wanted to do there, so I was kind of involved on that as a specialist, kind of search and destroy."

    Another mid-'70s session project for Walsh was an album by Al Kooper, founder of both the Blues Project and Blood, Sweat & Tears, and also the keyboard player on Bob Dylan's highly influential 'Like a Rolling Stone'.

    "Al is amazing – he's another guru of mine. He's an old timer and he knows so much, and when I get in a room with him, I just shut up and listen. He had used various guitar players, and hadn't quite found what he was looking for, so he gave me a shot at that, and I approached it very melodically, kind of flowing, and I think – I hope – I helped."

    A very different project was Keith Moon's solo album, on half of which Walsh played, which brings up the question of whether drummers (even the Who's drummer) should make solo LPs, since in many cases, they are heavily reliant on musicians who play melodic instruments to provide musical, as opposed to rhythmic, assistance, something which also applies to one of Walsh's erstwhile colleagues, Joe Vitale, to whose pair of solo LPs Walsh has also contributed.

    "I don't like to pass judgement on that – if anybody wants to do a solo album, I think they should, and I think it makes them a stronger person. I think it's an outlet for people locked in various bands – if they can run away once in a while and make a solo album, they can blow off some steam, and that's good and healthy, rather than bad or anything, and I think it's very valid and positive."

    Another unusual undertaking was Joe assisting Ray Manzarek, keyboard player of the Doors, on one of the latter's solo LPs.

    "The Doors were an amazing group, and the way I look at things, I appreciate musicians, and if I feel that they're pure and good and not full of baloney, and if their priorities are right, I'm happy to work with anybody."

    A few years before the Manzarek project, Walsh was involved in an album by Manassas, a neosupergroup led by Stephen Stills, who, like Rick Derringer, is a fine guitarist but perhaps required some external input.

    "They were an incredible band, and that was all part of the Colorado scene, where we had a little family – Chris Hillman, Stills, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Kenny Passarelli, Rick Roberts, and I was there, of course...We kind of bumped into each other through various concerts and hanging out, and I met Stephen – a couple of college friends of mine ended up being in the Manassas road crew, and I guess there were some late night road stories about me being crazy in college. Again, Stephen had always been one of my heroes, and it seemed logical that we got together, although we didn't actually go in and record a song for the album. These were late night jams in Colorado, and we got a chance to play, and I tried to play intelligent guitar and stay out of Stephen's way, which I think he appreciated, and I think he got energy from it, and one or two things we did really worked out to be good tracks."

    Another artist for whom Walsh played sessions was Michael Stanley, who has only very recently begun to achieve the success his cult following has for many years felt he deserved. Walsh played on Stanley's first two LPs which were recorded around ten years ago

    "Michael was a very early project of Bill Szymczyk's, and Michael was from Cleveland, and I always thought he wrote very good songs. Backaways, when I was frustrated being in a three-piece group and wanted to do sessions and play with other people, Mike was in a position to do a solo album, and asked me to relate to some of the guitar parts, which was really fun – there's a song called 'Rosewood Bitters', which was my very primitive early days, learning how to play slide guitar or bottleneck or whatever. I played on his second album too, but he never realised a big hit out of that.

    'Another thing I did for Szymczyk was with a band called the Fabulous Rhinestones. Harvey Brooks, the leader of that group, was a real good old friend of Szymczyk's, and actually I got called into that as a synthesiser consultant. They wanted to use some synthesiser on their record, at the point where I was spending twenty hours a day playing my synthesiser, and I programmed the sounds, which can take hours. I came in, and based on what they said, programmed the synthesiser and played a little of it, although other guys in the band actually played the keyboard, but I got the sound together that they were looking for."

    *

    Three more famous names with whom Walsh played on record are Rod Stewart, Jay Ferguson (ex of Spirit and Jo Jo Gunne) and Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones.

    "The Rod Stewart thing happened during the time we were recording Hotel California, or maybe between the time we finished it and the point it was in the shops. It was one of the sessions where I felt extremely humble, and almost got hung up – I could have played better if I hadn't felt so little playing for him, because of that incredible band with Rod and Ronnie Wood and Jeff Beck and Mickey Waller. Those first couple of Jeff Beck albums, when Rod was the singer in Jeff's band, really influenced me and my way of thinking about bands."

    Not only is Joe credited with playing on Jay Ferguson's Thunder Island album, produced by Bill Szymczyk, he also gets a 'special thanks' mention on Ferguson's All Alone In The End Zone album for 'saying stop'.

    "Yeah, that's a good one! Jay and I are really good friends, and he's been involved with me a lot, and we really are close to being brothers. I wanted to help him with his record – of course, I loved Spirit and I loved Jo Jo Gunne, and Jay is a really good keyboard player. Again, he shares my frustration in being the leader of a band, or pursuing a solo career that's hard, but we think a lot alike, and we also conceive keyboards and guitars a lot alike. He had a list of things to be done when he was putting his album together, and I went in and listened to it – we were trying to figure out parts that I could play – and I felt that he was done. You lose perspective on a solo project, so I said, 'Hey man, I think you're done – I think this list of eight things that could go on your record don't need to be there, and I think it's fine like it is', so that's my credit for saying 'Stop'.

    "I've had some pretty interesting credits on various people's albums, besides even playing. The Bill Wyman record was another one that made me proud to play, because Bill's very wonderful and he's kind of a big brother. It's amazing to me that he's so normal and down to earth. His solo projects didn't really make it in terms of selling a lot of records and stuff, but I think it was really good music and I enjoyed doing it. I would much rather pull out an album like that, of really good playing, but not with a hit single in mind. After all, he can worry about the hit singles in his band – I don't think he particularly wanted to make an album with commercial potential in mind, he can do that in his day job, you know."

    *

    Which finally brings us to the epic Hotel California, the extremely successful fifth album by the Eagles, and the first by the group with Joe Walsh as a member. No doubt it can be said that the end justified the means in this case, although the album took many months to complete, and presumably this was hardly what Walsh, whose previous LPs seemed to possess a certain spontaneity, would enjoy. Did he find making the album frustrating?

    "It did take quite a while, but you have to realise that when I joined the Eagles and it was announced, I think probably 80 per cent of people said to themselves 'That's stupid – how can that work? That's just downright silly and there's no way it's going to work.' Before the album was released and I was in the band, there was no product out, and they had replaced a major creative force and we were all a little scared. Also, we were playing live concerts, so it wasn't like we took six months and went in to work on the album – we worked in the studio for a period of time, then we'd have to go out and play some concerts to make some money. So it did take a long time, but that to me was the essence of a band, and the magic. When Hotel California was done and we delivered it and it came out, I don't think anybody in the band had any idea that it would receive the recognition that it did. We were all so into it and we'd been working on it for such a long time that we weren't quite sure what was on tape, although we did know we were proud of it, and two years later, without a big head or without coming from a position of ego, it really was a kind of landmark project, but it was perfect chemistry, and that's the essence of a band situation."

    The two tracks on Hotel California which particularly featured Joe, and which he also co-wrote, are 'Life In The Fast Lane', a showcase for Joe's guitar, and 'Pretty Maids All In A Row', which he sings. The former song seems to in many ways reflect Walsh's penchant for comment on the often unreal lifestyle adopted by many residents of Los Angeles, and may even be the first of his songs to take this stance.

    "I'm not really sure – I'd have to go through my record collection about statements on lifestyles – but 'Life In The Fast Lane' kind of expressed the stereotyped LA 'run around in your Porsche' 24 hour boogie mode that unfortunately is too true for a lot of people. It wasn't really a statement about the guys in the band, or about anybody in particular – just it's kind of disturbing to see the extremes that the bourgeois jet set will involve themselves in. For instance, disco almost turned into a lifestyle, and it's such a non-meaningful thing on which to base one's life."

    Several British rock critics would say that some of Walsh's colleagues may have been very symptomatic of the syndrome explored in the song.

    "Yeah, that's probably true, and I think it was healthy, though, that we realised that running around and parties and fast cars are really not the answer – it's kind of a shallow way to approach why we're on this planet, and it probably came as a band consciousness."

    'Pretty Maids All In A Row,' by contrast, is gentler, and features Joe on piano and synthesiser rather than guitar, and seems not to be very typical of the Eagles, who were expected to perform songs reflecting the 'cosmic cowboy' influence.

    "To make the Eagles really valid as a band, it was important that we co-write things and share things. 'Pretty Maids' is kind of a melancholy reflection on my life so far, and I think we tried to represent it as a statement that would be valid for people from our generation on life so far. Heroes, they come and go...Henley and Frey really thought that it was a good song, and meaningful, and helped me a lot in putting it together. I think the best thing to say is that it's a kind of melancholy observation on life that we hoped would be a valid statement for people from our generation."

    Arguably the most impressive concerts which Joe Walsh has performed before a British audience were those which comprised the spring 1977 tour by the Eagles – no one present at Wembley could possibly forget the sound and spectacle of a vast string section being revealed from behind a curtain at the rear of the stage, and providing a sublime backing to 'Take It To The Limit'. Hotel California was certainly a successful album, but could it have been so profitable as to allow every city around the world to be similarly devastated?

    "No, that was unfortunately too hard to do everywhere. We did it in Los Angeles, New York and London, and it was quite an experience – I got goose-bumps just being on stage being a part of it. It was fairly overwhelming...I played 12-string guitar and sang background on it, but that was a special song, and that experience is really a fond memory, something I'll have for a long time. I would turn around and look at forty strings behind us and just forget what I was doing! It was really fun."

    *

    Alone of the members of the Eagles, Walsh continued to pursue a solo recording career, albeit a fairly sporadic one. Was it a question of wishing to preserve an individual identity, or a kind of insurance, or was it a question of the other Eagles keeping quietly active between group projects but preferring not to rock the collective boat by releasing unilateral albums?

    "Well, I can't say I had it in mind to pursue a solo career – I wasn't able to deliver what I was required to deliver in terms of solo recordings, which is an album every year, and a tour, then another album and another tour. I'm just not that fast – I suppose I could sell out and write a bunch of baloney and maintain that pace...I feel lucky that I have the option to go out with my own band or do a solo album, but that's really the way I am, and I don't think I need to apologise for it, and I think the guys in the Eagles knew that when I joined."

    In fact, Walsh's next solo LP, But Seriously Folks, released in 1978, was very successful, not least because it contained a substantial hit single in this autobiographical and wryly amusing 'Life's Been Good'. 'I wanted to make a statement involving satire and humour, kind of poking fun at the incredibly silly lifestyle that someone in my position is faced with – in other words, I do have a really nice house, but I'm on the road so much that when I come home from a tour, it's really hard to feel that I even live here. It's not necessarily me, I think it paraphrases anyone in my position, and I think that's why a lot of people related to it, but basically, that's the story of any rock star – I say that humbly – anyone in my position. I thought that was a valid statement, because it is a strange lifestyle – I've been around the world in concerts, and people say 'What was Japan like?', but I don't know. It's got a nice airport, you know...so it was kind of an overall statement."

    Another fascinating aspect of But Seriously Folks was its sleeve photograph, showing Joe eating a meal...under water.

    "I had to do that a couple of times, but I did go down to the bottom of the pool, and almost drowned...but it was fun. Not at the time, but it was fun to do. We weighted everything down, but it was very involved and it took a long time, and I was real proud of it. As long as you have access to art, or visually presenting something with your record, I would like to use that, pursue it and try to make it an integral part of the music. It was hard to do, but when I look at it, I can't believe it either, I can't believe I was stupid enough to do that, but I was proud of it. I won't be repeating it, I can assure you!"

    The next move for Walsh, and a very major one it became, was in his Eagles' guise, creating a follow-up LP to the monumentally successful Hotel California. The Long Run was released nearly three years after Hotel California, and was even more of a problem to complete.

    "It's hard to explain. I think we felt a burden in that Hotel California had really gained public acceptance beyond our wildest dreams, and we felt a burden in terms of how we could top it. That was a non-musical thing that kind of interfered for the first couple of months of working on The Long Run and I think we got a little hung up in that, and that slowed the process down a bit. At some point, we realised that we didn't particularly have to top it, or at least that that wasn't on the list of priorities, and if we could go in and make a good Eagles album, that was really all we needed to do. We were slow getting started, but I think that The Long Run is a really valid statement.'

    One track included on the album, 'In The City', also appeared as part of the soundtrack to a New York street gang movie, The Warriors. The Eagles seemed one of the least appropriate choices to play music for a very urban film...

    "That came out of having spent about three years of my life in New York City. The Warriors was made about gang-type city situations, and I related to that, having grown up in New York City, so again it was a positive statement to go against the desperation of miles and miles of concrete and growing up in a city – that really can affect you, and we thought it was a valid thing to put on The Long Run, and so we chose to do it."

    Another item from The Long Run, 'Those Shoes', features Joe playing the talkbox, the guitar attachment which allows an amplified guitar sound to be altered by diverting it into the player's mouth via a plastic tube, the effect being of an electronic voice. Jeff Beck, another of our subjects in this volume, also at one time used this device, although it has been mentioned by those who have used it frequently that too frequent use has a disturbing tendency to loosen the teeth of the player.

    "Well, that depends. There's a country singer from Nashville named Dottie West who's a longtime friend of mine, and her husband is a pedal steel guitar player named Bill West, who actually came up with the concept of the talkbox, but never really got the credit for it. There was a record which I think was called 'Forever' by Pete Drake in the late '50s, and they used it on that and various people used it. I met Bill and Dottie in Nashville, and Bill showed me this talkbox and gave me a prototype that he had, which I used for 'Rocky Mountain Way', and Don Felder and I pursued that in the Eagles and worked out some double guitar parts, and it turned into a song, which was 'Those Shoes', and that's actually both of us playing through talkboxes, which hadn't really been done. It's an old idea, but that was a new innovation."

    Joe's teeth, by the way, show no sign of rattling out of context...

    *

    At the time of writing, the most recent Eagles LP has been a live double with the highly imaginative title of Eagles Live, which attracted a certain amount of critical flak, firstly because it seemed like a filler, released as a last resort since life might have been too short to await the completion of another album like The Long Run, a view to some extent reinforced by the fact that some of the tracks were four years old by the time the record was released, and secondly because the album was so musically perfect that it was widely assumed that a major part of the recordings were the result of subsequent studio overdubbing sessions.

    "Well, it might have seemed like a filler, but the only real thing I can say is that I think it's very valid, because I think the Eagles are a very good band live. I know we're kind of into mega-production at this point, but that's not really our fault and – to my knowledge, no one's gone away from a live Eagles concert disappointed, so it's part of a phase, but I think it's valid to represent the way the band played live, as opposed to all the precision and attention to technical things in studio albums. There really weren't many overdubs, just a few patch ups, a few things that were re-done in the studio, honestly because there was feedback or one or two mikes hadn't been plugged in right, or there was a terrible hum. Really honestly, that is the essence of an Eagles' performance live, and any tinkering with it in the studio, which was really very minor, was based on things which were not representative because of technical problems. I think it's a good representation of the way we are live, and I feel good because I hope that we pointed out that we're not solely a studio band, and that we can represent our efforts live onstage."

    An intriguing potential future project in which Joe has expressed an interest was once described as a remake of Fantasia, the Walt Disney cartoon classic, although apparently Walsh himself sees it in slightly different terms.

    "I would love to get involved with movies – there's a trend right now, I think, with the movie industry starting to realise that music is an important part of movies, where before, they didn't really care. One of my pet projects for the future is to be involved with a movie where the music is as important as what you see. Fantasia has been mentioned because nobody since then has combined what you see and what you hear so overwhelmingly. I don't know whether my project would be animated or not – I've been involved with a few movies in a minor role, but the frustration is that musically it's very hard at this point to have any quality control over the overall presentation. I would very much like to do a soundtrack and come up with the music during the process of filming the movie, instead of watching it and trying to think up 32.7 seconds of music to go between this scene and that scene."

    Another film idea which has been mooted was a cinematic version of the Eagles classic second LP, Desperado.

    "I don't feel that I can make a precise statement about that. It's been in the works for a long time – at this point, it's almost so old and so in the past in terms of the Eagles that it may be obsolete. Probably a good true Western where the good guy doesn't necessarily win, truthfully showing that period in America, might be justified in a film, but I don't think the Eagles want to pursue that unless it can be presented well and presented truthfully: and the good guy very seldom won. I don't know – that's really still up in the air, and really you should ask the other guys in the Eagles about that."

    When this interview took place, Joe had just completed work on a new solo LP, once again opting for an unlikely title, There Goes The Neighborhood.

    "When you see the cover and hear the songs, it'll make sense."

    Presumably making a solo album involves a different process from writing a song for the Eagles to record?

    "A lot of my ideas are presented to the guys in the Eagles, and a lot of them are used, but a lot of them aren't. Basically, me releasing a solo album does not infer that I have chose to pursue my solo career – I just feel that I have a group of songs that are new and that are an organised statement of where I'm at right now, and it's a little outlet for me, and I think it's time to put out another solo record. That doesn't mean that I've left the Eagles or that we've broken up or anything. I've got Joe Vitale on the record, who was in Barnstorm, and was also involved with the bunch of Eagles' dates in the States, a bass player named Chocolate (Perry) from Miami, and Jay Ferguson and myself. That's the foundation for what I've been doing."

    It sounded like a very basic uncluttered sort of line up...Did Joe feel he wanted to do that after the lush sound of the Eagles, and make a 'New Wave' record?

    "That's a hard question, and I'm not really sure what category it is, although I'm sure that it's new songs, and it indicates that I'm progressing musically, and possibly maturing, although I'm not sure about that. It's a group of songs that really represent where I'm at right now, and I really think it's some of the best songs that I've written, and some of the best words, and I think it's presented well, and I think I'm singing better than I ever have, thanks to a couple of years of vocal coaching from Henley and Frey. I'm real proud of it. There's a track called 'Things', and I heard the music before the words: I couldn't quite think what to write the song about, so I made a list of things that there were possibly to write a song about, and I ended up with a list about ten pages long, so I thought I should write this song about all the things there are – did you ever stop and think of how many things there are? So that turned into a song, and it's a little overwhelming to hear the first time, but if you listen to it three or four times, I think I covered most of the things there are. And there's another song on the album called 'You Never Know' – I've spoken a lot about various non-musical things, and hype, and it's kind of funny how people will make something out of your songs, or your music, or you, that really isn't there, and 'You Never Know' is about word of mouth, gossip, backroom whispering. Non-musical things which I don't particularly endorse."

    In fact, the name of Jay Ferguson is conspicuous by its absence on the album, and its fate in Britain and Europe can hardly have been helped by the fact that Joe was unable to tour on this side of the Atlantic due, apparently, to economic restrictions. He also predicted, most accurately, that the Eagles would be inactive for some time.

    "We're going to take a period of time off and relax – we really worked hard in 1980, and I think we're going to try to reflect, meditate, and think about things that are important. We're five pretty dominant guys, and we don't want to keep going for anything more than purely musical reasons, and I think we've worked hard and earned and deserve a period of time off for each of us to get into side projects, and take a big look around, but at some point, we'll get back together and there will definitely be more from the Eagles, but for the moment, I think it's going to be research, relax, think, search and destroy atmosphere, and I think that's very healthy at this point. Various people are going to try various things – we're going to get together in groups of twos and threes to write. I think Glenn would really like to do a solo album, and I think he should, and Don Henley is very interested in movies and screenplays – we'll just see. I don't think there'll be too much from the Eagles for a while, but we've definitely not broken up, and we'll be back – you'll know."

    A very positive way to end an interview.

    Certainly...regrettably, the ensuing months have carried rumours of apparently unbridgeable rifts developing between the members of the group, although solo albums by various members are scheduled for summer 1982 release. It would be rather tragic if a group who have produced as much good music as the Eagles were to splinter acrimoniously, although disagreements are obviously inevitable. However, Joe Walsh will continue to make music for many years to come, whether in or out of the group, and his fans will be able to look forward to much more of his unique vision and masterly musicianship in years to come.

    © Stuart Grundy, John Tobler


    ~

  2. #2
    Stuck on the Border
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    Default Re: Interview with the BBC 1981

    The only people Glenn informed he was leaving the band at the end of 1980 were Don and presumably Irving. It would not surprise me at all if the other three didn't find out officially until 1982 because that was when the official announcement was made. Glenn presumably didn't feel he needed to make it more obvious than he thought it already was.

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    Default Re: Interview with the BBC 1981

    Now that I think about it, according to Don, Glenn didn't even tell Don that the Eagles were over per se in 1980, just that he wanted to do his own thing for a while. It's just that Don knew Glenn well enough to tell he meant for good (at the time, lol). And it seems Irving was still holding out hope that Glenn would change his mind right up until the end.


    ~

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    Default Re: Interview with the BBC 1981

    I've just had time to read this in full. It's interesting to read of the rumours of the impending break up.


    Joe comes across here as a very intelligent man. His mother particularly contributed to his musical upbringing wih music lessons and exposure to classical music.


    ~~~



    This way to happiness...

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Interview with the BBC 1981

    Do you see where he talks about the 'search & destroy' atmosphere? That was how Glenn described his (Glenn's) guitar playing in 1982. Trivia, eh?

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