Overshare on Netflix Selections: History of the Eagles

I find the choices on Netflix problematic. Clicking through all of the options is overstimulating and underwhelming at the same time. I want to watch something, but I don’t want to watch anything, or, more precisely, I want the escapism and absorption that my television promises, but I don’t want any emotional engagement. I can’t even commit to laughing. I want to just watch.

When the selection doldrums descend upon my viewing chair, or “war couch” as I like to call it, I usually pick a documentary. Netflix is a treasure trove of serviceable documentaries. When your mind is already in a state of cognitive diffusion, bad documentaries are fine. A month or two ago I watched Breath of the Gods about the origins of modern yoga. It had many flaws. I’m not really sure what the point of it was, but it contained some interviews with B.K.S. Iyengar and others that made it well worth watching. I thought about it for days afterwards.

Last night, finding myself, once again, without sports or news to fill the extended early evening, I picked a musical documentary. Watching music documentaries is dangerous for me because it can catalyze a week or two of rabbit-hole behavior. For example, after watching Beware of Mr. Baker I spent a long time watching Cream and Blind Faith videos on the Internet, then spidered through the Wikipedia entries of the band mates, producers, and influences, and finally bought Disraeli Gears on iTunes, which, by the way, causes me much pain, because I have owned that album in three formats throughout my life; LP, cassette tape, and now mp3 or whatever. When I buy well worn albums like that, or, say, Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks, which I have owned in almost every incarnation, I end up saying, “I already paid for this” to myself.

I watched the Muscle Shoals documentary on Netflix also. That one hurt me for about a month. It contains great stories, pictures, and wonderful pieces of video, including some of Etta James and Aretha Franklin when they were very young. That older footage is interspersed with more recent interviews. I really like seeing people like Etta James in their current incarnation, as old people who have spent a lifetime making music. I think that musicians make great mouthpieces for maturation. There is, for example, nobody who I trust more on the subject of aging than Bob Dylan.

Last night I started to watch Jonathan Demme’s concert film Heart of Gold. It should have appealed to me. I am a lifetime fan of weird uncle Neil and I liked Jonathan Demme’s Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense, but I didn’t make it fifteen minutes into the film. Something about Neil Young in a white linen suit and big hat kind of bummed me out, and after a song or two I started thinking that Emmylou Harris was the angel of rock-n-roll death. She floats on any stage, so talented and so wonderful, and nudges things in the direction of what we now call “Americana.” Before you know it you are watching Levon Helm sing Big Rock Candy Mountain instead of Don’t Do It.

After bailing out of the Heart of Gold I decided to watch The History of the Eagles. Having never been much of an Eagles fan, I thought I would just tolerate it, but ended up loving it. There were a number of high points:

  • Glenn Fry tells a story about learning how to write songs by living in the apartment above Jackson Brown and listening to Brown’s tea kettle punctuate the repetitions of his piano takes on The Load Out and Stay.
  • Learning about the Glenn Fry/Bob Seger connection
  • Deciding that I don’t hate Don Henley
  • Watching Joe Walsh play guitar.

But the BEST part of the documentary was seeing some video I’ve watched on Youtube many times before. As with my search for “non-lip-synced video of Karen Carpenter singing WHILE playing drums”, I have looked for early footage of Linda Rondstat singing. The best I’ve ever come up with is this, which is in the Eagles documentary:

Did you stay long enough to see her play cowbell? Here is a very likable video of her covering Smokey Robinson’s “Tracks of My Tears” that is not in the Eagles documentary.

If you don’t love her yet, maybe if you watch the interview below you will. Watch how she handles the, “what is the long term prognosis?” question.

What follows is more of the fruits of my morning search based on watching yet another musical documentary.

Here is some early footage of Joe Walsh playing Walk Away with the James Gang in 1971. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any early footage of the James Gang playing Funk 49.

The documentary makes heavy use of this footage from the 1977 Hotel California Tour. This video has it all, but I’ve tried to start it at the point when Joe Walsh and Don Felder take over:

Like I said at the start, I’m not a big Eagles fan, but last night, watching this documentary, I enjoyed watching a young Glenn Fry singing songs like this:

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