I never thought I'd see Bernie play with them again.
But it was that kind of night, a homecoming.
No, we didn't find out about the show on KMET, but we did all get in our cars and drive south to where a building always described as a wedding cake awaited our arrival.
But this time it was different.
This time it was only for us.
No Lakers, no Kings, just music.
And boy was the sound incredible.
Dolan told me they hired this company that put microphones all around the arena to ensure…
But I could tell from the very first note, it was all anybody talked about, how good the show sounded. Usually you go to the arena and if you don't know the song by heart, it's indecipherable noise. But here lyrics that are questionable on the record emerge perfectly intelligible.
As for the building itself…
Much has been made of the high-backed chairs. But little has been told of the resculpting, wherein the bottom level of the loge has been removed and the floor is bigger and downstairs there are bars and restrooms and upstairs there are name brand restaurants, local fare like Pink's and Carney's, and a dedicated merch booth. Hell, you can even drink outside on the patio. Now they take your ticket before you ascend.
But a building is nothing without people.
And those in attendance were not the downtown crowd. The Forum always had a South Bay feel. There were plenty of Hawaiian shirts and no suits.
And everybody was there to see the Eagles.
Yes, right now the Fabulous Forum is the number one music venue in the world, a ton of money was injected to make it so.
But almost no one will ever go there.
Except for us.
The natives and the transplants. Who understand finance is focused in New York and tech emerges from San Francisco, but there's nowhere we'd rather be than Los Angeles.
Randy Newman wrote a pretty good song.
But the heart of the Southern California experience is the Eagles. Because they too picked up and left to come here, to live free and make it.
So funny aging, because you realize most people don't make it. Many never try. But most miss the target. They're afraid to work that hard, but mostly they're afraid to look at themselves, if you're not constantly evaluating and redressing your flaws you're never going to get the brass ring. And that's what the Eagles achieved, and have been on an endless victory lap ever since.
They didn't expect it to be this way. It wasn't until the country cover album "Common Thread" demonstrated how much love was still extant for the band, when their greatest hits album exceeded the sales of "Thriller," that they reunited. And sure, their solo careers never flew as high, but really we needed them. To remind us. Of how it once was and still could be.
Boy could they play. And sing too.
It's so different from the great unwashed of today who focus on fame and refuse to practice. But that's all the Eagles did. See the Beatles and rehearse in the garage. Every baby boomer alive picked up an instrument after the Fab Four appeared on "Ed Sullivan." But most of us gave up. A few soldiered on.
Glenn left Detroit. Don left Texas. And they came to the City of Angels to discover…
No one cared. That's how it is when you're not famous. You're irrelevant. You find others with the same problem, whether it be Jack Tempchin in San Diego or J.D. Souther in from the flatlands. And you play in bands, and you make friends and you get enough experience until you believe…you're ready.
That's what the Eagles did. After backing up Ronstadt they got hooked up with Bernie Leadon and…
They rented a rehearsal hall in the Valley for six bucks an hour and hunkered down.
They had an immediate hit, "Take It Easy," and then were exiled into the wilderness. Until suddenly, by a fluke, a random radio request, "Best Of My Love" from their third album, was played on a midwest station and caught on and became their first number one. The band went from struggling to selling out stadiums. It happens just about that fast. And then they proceeded to record "Hotel California" and become legends.
That's the truth, you can never leave.
Oh, there's an occasional east coaster who doesn't get it, who moves here for a while and returns, but the rest of us…we're lifers.
And we don't need to convince you. We just need to go to the Forum and revel in our blessedness.
There's no coat check, why would there be?
There's plenty of parking, Los Angeles doesn't believe in public transportation, it's the suburbs on steroids.
And we sit on our aged asses and listen to…the way it used to be.
You remember that, don't you?
Maybe you don't.
Well, let me tell you.
First and foremost you had to know how to play.
And if you were good and lucky you got a manager and a record deal and some radio action.
And if you were really good, it continued.
And you lived an undocumented life so wild and crazy, so fulfilling and fetter free, that to this day everybody wants to be a "rock star," whatever that means.
Want to know what it used to mean?
You destroy a hotel room out of boredom and your manager peels off hundreds to make it go away and no one really cares, because the very next night you're going to make tons more dough.
You can get laid every day. By different women. And you do. There is no AIDS. And they're lining up to blow you. The world runs on sex, just ask the President of France, and rock stars and their music were the epicenter of it. Still are.
You stay in the finest places and everyone knows your name. You can barely open your wallet because everybody wants to give you stuff for free.
And everybody hangs on every word.
That's the essence of the game, your music. Made only by you only for us. There are no middlemen. Corporations are abhorred. The label has no input. You lay it down raw and we want to hear everything you have to say. That's when album rock began. Not when they created the LP, but when classic acts could fill it.
So when you sit in the Forum and hear Bernie sing "Train Leaves Here This Morning" as Don and Glenn strum along on their guitars…
You're taken right back to the summer of '72, when you couldn't drive down the boulevard without hearing that acoustic intro with the refrain telling us to take it easy. You knew every note. And when the band plays "Witchy Woman," you revel in what is a greatest hit, even though you'll find it on no chart.
And when Don Henley sings the "Doolin' Dalton/Desperado (Reprise)" you're almost ready to pick up the tonearm and start the record again after this album ending cut.
And when Frey tells us he was inspired by the Beach Boys, mere miles from Hawthorne, where the Wilsons grew up and made their initial music, and that they've rearranged "Heartache Tonight" in tribute to "Barbara Ann" from "Beach Boys' Party"…
WE OWNED THAT ALBUM! WE KNOW WHAT HE'S TALKING ABOUT! WE DON'T WANT TO GO OUT FOR A PEE AND TEXT OUR FRIENDS, WE WANT TO STAND IN JOY AND CLAP ALONG!
Joy. That's what last night was about. A retrospective of what once was, when we were growing up and the whole world was in front of us.
But it's already gone at this point. At least most of it. But to be able to return to the scene of the crime with the greatest exponent of that era…
P.S. You had to be there to hear the roar after Glenn Frey introduced Don Henley, the singer-songwriter-drummer-guitarist from Linden, Texas. It was loud and vociferous and never would have stopped if it hadn't been cut short to introduce Joe Walsh. There's nowhere else you can get this hit. No matter how rich you are. We revere our rock stars. Not for their fame, but their talent!
P.P.S. Yes, Joe Walsh keeps the second half of the show together. And reminds us there once was a paradigm known as the "guitar hero." Those were the days.
P.P.P.S. "Life in the fast lane, surely make you lose your mind." And your life. Some didn't make it, they're six feet under or have been cast to the wind. But these guys survived and can still do it every bit as well and we were there to see it and if that doesn't make you feel completely alive, you're dead.
"There are stars in the southern sky
And if ever you decide you should go
There is a taste of thyme sweetened honey
Down the seven bridges road"
Take the 405 to Manchester. Or La Cienega from downtown. Southward as you go. Because five more times this month the biggest band in Southern California history, in American history, is demonstrating what it was once like. When we were addicted to the radio, when going to the record store was a pilgrimage as important as a trip to Mecca or Jerusalem. When we couldn't wait to get home and break the shrinkwrap and hear what our favorites had to say. And there will be moments when there are so many guitars on stage you'd think you were at Guitar Center, or Fred Walecki's Westwood Music. But late in the show, the assembled multitude will stride up to the mics and sing a cappella the Steve Young song we know by heart from their live album. And you'll close your eyes or look to the sky and remember…not only the music, but the sex, the alcohol and the dope. Doing nothing without the music playing, going to the gig because that's what you did, never finding it too expensive to attend. It's an experience that can't be captured on wax or film, you just have to go. And you should.