One of these nights...
On a dark desert highway/Cool wind in my hair . . .
Sure, you can act too cool for sandals but deep down you know how the song goes. What’s more, you want to hear the rest of it. Or maybe the whole of the Eagles’ Hotel California album. Or even better, the band’s tragi-romantic rebel narrative of the 1973 concept album, Desperado.
The distinctive California rock sound of the Eagles’ hits is ingrained in your psyche as deeply as the intro to The House of The Rising Sun, or to Wish You Were Here. It’s like it was always there.
And now it will be.
Tribute act Motel California is swooping into Gisborne next week to bring the hit songs of the American chart toppers to the Dome. The five-piece performs the best of The Eagles hits from 1972 through to the 2000s in chronological order.
Despite the apparent simplicity of the songs they were a challenge to learn, says Motel California guitarist/singer Paul Smith.
“They have four to five harmonies in most songs and most songs have guitar harmonies. No two verses or choruses are the same.
Good day in hell“We started Motel California four to five years ago. No one was doing it. It was so hard to put together – so that was probably the reason.
“The quality of the songs is like that of The Beatles, the melodies are so strong. We invariably have people singing along. They know every word.”
(Now’s your chance: “On a dark desert highway/ Cool wind in my hair...”)
Playing Eagles’ songs in chronological order gives the set list an advantage in that, as in real life, the Eagles’ music started off with country roots and a soft rock sound with songs such as Tequila Sunrise, and Take It Easy.
For some reason Desperado was less successful than the debut album Eagles although the eponymous track became one of two of the band’s most popular songs.
When Joe Walsh replaced Bernie Leadon in 1975 and Don “Fingers” Felder got on board, the band got rockier with tracks such as Good Day In Hell.
Desperado co-songwriter Glen Frey also wanted the band to break away from the country rock style and move more towards hard rock. Frey and singer, drummer, percussionist and rhythm guitarist Don Henley achieved that with the Eagles’ 1974 album On the Border.
“The guy in Motel California who does the Glen Frey part looks and sounds like him,” says Smith.
The back story“I’ve got no hair so I look like the guitarist but I sound more like Joe Walsh.”
Motel California’s keyboard player comperes the three hour show and throws in snippets of Eagles’ history.
Before they settled on a cool name the American band first performed in 1971 as Teen King and the Emergencies. The idea of calling themselves the Eagles is said to have come during a peyote and tequila-influenced group outing in the Mojave Desert. Possibly they saw The Doors while they were out there.
But Don Felder, the band’s lead guitarist, says in his book In Heaven and Hell: My Life in the Eagles, that former member Bernie Leadon came up with the name. He said it was in respect to the reverence held by the North American tribe, the Hopis, for the eagle.
Rolling Stone magazine says songwriter JD Souther suggested the idea came when Frey shouted out, “Eagles!” when they saw eagles flying above.
That was possibly while in the desert with The Doors that time, if that ever happened.
Welcome to Motel California.
NZ Eagles tribute band Motel California, Dome Room, November 15. Tickets $30 from eventfinda