'Life in the fast lane --
surely make you lose your mind," the Eagles sang in 1974, crooning a tune
co-written with guitarist Joe Walsh.
Looking at the ticket prices for the current tour by the legendary
California country-rockers -- or pondering why they're calling this reunion
jaunt "The Farewell I Tour" when they have a new album due next year -- you
may think that they have indeed lost their marbles.
*8 p.m. Tuesday
*Allstate Arena, 6920 N. Mannheim, Rosemont
Otherwise, though, the band is once again intact (albeit with several key
veterans missing; the focus of the group is now Don Henley, Glenn Frey,
Timothy B. Schmit and Walsh, with the likes of Randy Meisner, Bernie Leadon
and Don Felder confined to the history books). And it is once again set to
bring favorites such as "Peaceful Easy Feeling," "Lyin' Eyes" and "Hotel
California" to Chicago fans when it performs at the Allstate Arena on
I spoke to Walsh by phone from his home in California shortly before the
start of the current leg of the tour.
Q. I've always been curious about this: When an organization
like the Eagles comes back together, is it as simple as Don or Glenn giving
you a buzz and saying, "Hey, Joe, do you wanna go out and play?" Or is it an
endless round of conference calls between agents and managers and lawyers
A. Well, it's not simple, but it's simpler than you say. A lot of
it is logistics and the availability of the guys in the band. Usually we're
fairly available. We get the call three or four months before anything has
to happen, and then you have to look at who else is going to be touring, if
it's time to tour, and availability of the halls. If it's basketball and
hockey season, a lot of the venues you just can't get. Heck, we wanted to go
to New York, but Bruce [Springsteen] was there for a week, and then Bon Jovi
was there a week later for a week, and what's the point of going to New York
when them guys are there?
Q. It's like planning a military campaign.
A. Exactly. You just throw everything possible out on a big table
and put it all together like a big puzzle.
Q. What is the chemistry like within the band these days? We're
talking about it in business terms, but do you get a personal kick out if it
when they call you?
A. It's great fun. It's lovely to be an Eagle at this point
because there's a new generation of kids that show up that weren't there
when the records first came out. There's one of everything in our audience,
and it's a great feeling after all these years -- they're so familiar with
the songs, and people are really glad to see us. But I also like to get lean
and mean and go out and do solo stuff; we all do.
Q. One of the long-standing critical knocks against the Eagles
is that when the band performs live, you guys are standing still on stage,
rigid and not moving or interacting a lot.
A. To some degree, that's true. I don't know if you've really seen
us lately, though.
Q. I have not seen the band since the first reunion tour in the
early '90s. But it was true then, and it was true when I saw the tour
supporting "The Long Run" in 1979.
A. Well, we've come into our own kind of a little bit of late. But
I tell you what, because it's a vocal group, we have to be on mike. I would
love to just run all over the stage and be nuts, but I've got to sing a lot,
and you've got to kind of stand still. That's just the way the band is. To
do the songs right, it requires a lot of attention. And the band always did
just kind of stand there.
Q. But you say it's a thrill to play those songs?
A. Yeah, it's fun or we wouldn't do it. You should come out and
see us now. It's a new show -- we've rotated some stuff, and we have [the
new song] "Hole in the World."
Q. Tell me how that came together.
A. Don and Glenn wrote that as a kind of a post-9/11 song, but it
probably would have gotten written anyway due to their frustrations with
current events and current policy and all of that. That just kind of came
together and got written as part of the new album, which is a work in
progress. We're more than half way done, and it will probably be done next
year, but we're not working on it full-time. It's every six weeks for 10
Q. When we read the stories of recording some of those classic
'70s albums, there seems to have been a lot of Sturm und Drang in the
studio. Is the recording process different these days? Is it looser?
A. Yes, but it still takes forever. Part of that is because we
don't have a label, so we don't have a deadline. That's the worst thing you
can do to a band, but that's OK. When it's done it will be done. Anyway,
"Hole in the World" is the first thing that was really close to being what
we would consider finished, and we just wanted to put something out.
Q. It was encouraging to see the Eagles put it out the way you
did, floating the tune on the Net. Rock veteran that you are, what do you
make of the state of the music industry today? Here you have one of the
biggest bands in rock history without a label, and it doesn't know if it
needs a label anymore.
A. It's certainly stuff I never thought about in the old days. It
would be really hard to be a young musician in a band nowadays, based on
what I know. Everything I know is obsolete. There is some good young music
out there that I really like -- I can't name anybody special -- but there is
a tremendous energy in some of the young bands. I try to overlook "is there
anything special in the recording process?" and go back to my early days in
the James Gang, when there was tons of energy even though we didn't know how
to record and didn't know what production was. I'm kind of keying off the
energy of the bands and flashing back to where I was at and forgiving them
if they're not masters of the craft. In that respect, I see great hope for
But I remember when this was an art form and not an industry. I don't
think the record companies are going to let go; what they have that
everybody still needs is the distribution to get into the stores. But nobody
really needs the record companies, and the record companies can't stand
that! Of course, with the Internet, nobody thought about copyright, so
that's a big mess. It seems to me that technology has moved faster than
anybody dreamed of, and now we're starting to work for it instead of it
working for us. Somebody like me can only scratch his head and be grateful
that we already got paid!
Q. How about the other criticism that's always leveled against
the Eagles: the ticket prices? You were the first band to break the $100
barrier. The best tickets for this show cost $188.60 per seat with the
Ticketmaster "convenience" charges. How can some young fan inspired by your
guitar playing -- those kids you were talking about earlier -- possibly
A. We are not the most expensive ticket; we're under I think
[Paul] McCartney and Elton [John] and Billy Joel. All I can tell you is that
it is a very complex, very expensive thing to travel with your own lights
and sound, and post-9/11, the logistics of travel have gotten even worse.
Commercial flights and trucks and everything -- it costs a lot to do what we
do. We make a bunch also, though. I don't know what to tell you other than
we've been together a long, long time and there are people that go away
[from our shows] very, very happy. We're doing a lot of charity stuff.
Henley is Mr. Charity.
Q. When you play in a band with a guy like that, who always
seems to be campaigning for sainthood, do you ever feel a little inferior?
A. Not so much. He comes to us with situations and stuff like
that, and we help when we can. We usually do at least one gig per tour for
charity. We don't talk about it a lot, but not all of that money goes into
our pockets. Plus, now that we don't have a record company, we're paying to
record. So yeah, we make a lot, but we work really hard for it, and I think
if you opened the books and saw where the money goes, it would make sense.
Q. You said the new album is coming out next year. Do you
anticipate touring behind it, despite the "Farewell" thing?
A. I suppose it would be time, but I don't know.
Q. How about your solo career?
A. I have a solo album in the process, but I had to shelve it to
be an Eagle for a while. I haven't really thought about it, but I do have
another solo album in me. I may do it at home and just put it on the
Internet so people can download it. About the only thing left is to work at
the craft. Having been rich a couple of times and famous a couple of times,
I know about all that. But it's really nice to be in the Eagles, and I love
playing on Henley's songs -- he has a great voice, and of course the two of
them as a songwriting team are unbeatable.