Glenn Frey – the first anniversary

It’s right about this time of the day on January 18 last year that I saw the news appear on my screen.

It was Martin Luther King Day, so I was at home, and I was actually on the phone talking at length to a recruiter about a music industry job with a well-known brand. The conversation had been going on for more than an hour and I was speaking very passionately and enthusiastically about music, guitar players, the brand, all of it. My Facebook news feed suddenly brought up the post on Eagles Fastlane and my heart seemed to just stop. Stunned, I clicked through and saw it was actually an official statement on the Eagles band website.

I told the recruiter what I had just seen and that my heart had just been cut into pieces. She kind of laughed and said, “You’re so funny.” Like it was just one of my quirky examples of being passionate about music. Somehow I kept the conversation going for as long as it needed to but then we finally concluded. She had set me a task to put together a persuasive argument with examples of relevant things from my career and life. And so in the midst of reading through the tributes to Glenn that started pouring in, and trying to see through my veil of tears, I wrote up what was required. But from that moment on nothing was the same. (And the job didn’t pan out but that was probably for the best.)

I spent a lot of time that week posting photos and emotional statements on Facebook. I went into work at the job I did have at the time, tears in my eyes as I sat in the traffic on Wilshire Boulevard each morning. I drove home past the Troubadour on Santa Monica Boulevard where a sign on the banner read REST IN PEACE GLENN FREY 1948-2016 and that made me weep also. I talked constantly with friends about it. I spoke to my best LA friend Henry Diltz at length and in depth about it. He’d been there at the beginning, photographed the first two Eagles album covers and was always taking pictures of them through the 1970s. Henry has always been very philosophical about death, usually happy for those that “cross to the other side”. But he admitted that it was different with Glenn and he felt sad and troubled by it.

For everyone, from Don Henley – whose own official statement was poignant and beautifully heartfelt and obviously prepared some time ahead and yet conveyed some incomprehension that Glenn was no longer alive, an incomprehension that he and Timothy B Schmit and Joe Walsh have continually conveyed over the past year whenever asked about it – to friends and fellow fans and people that knew Glenn well and people that hadn’t known him as well but whom Glenn had touched, influenced, been kind to over the years, to the media, to the public still coming to terms with David Bowie’s death a week before, as the reality sank in that this truly was the end of the Eagles, America’s greatest band (and for many of us the greatest band in the world), it was incomprehensible.

And a year on, it still is. It still brings me to tears. It still seems unbearable. And I was not even a close friend or even close acquaintance of Glenn. I knew him a little; he didn’t know me at all. But he was a major part of my life and always will be.

This one-year-on piece is as rambling as the one I wrote the day after Glenn died, perhaps more so. I’ll repost that below, with some minor edits. I like to think of myself as a decent writer who can compose a narrative fairly eloquently, but today I am tired and a year ago I was befuddled and the writing reflects that in both cases, and I think that’s okay.

So I also urge you to read today’s Eagles Fastlane piece entitled Glenn Frey – 1 Year Later that is beautiful and profound and true and put better than anything I can write in my tired emotional state. I am tired because I have just returned to Los Angeles this afternoon from a five-day odyssey in Texas, seeing three Don Henley concerts in Austin, Houston and San Antonio. Two weeks earlier on New Years Eve I also saw Don perform at a huge smoke-filled casino on the Texas-Oklahoma state line. Last summer I saw Don perform in Berkeley and in New York, and last month he appeared at the Linda Ronstadt Tribute concert here in LA. Prior to moving to the US I had never seen a Henley solo show (he is only now doing his first solo tour of Australia this March), and when Glenn died I was overwhelmed with the absolute necessity to see Don wherever and whenever possible, while he is actively creative, energised and willing to keep performing. I felt guilty when Glenn died, that I had taken him for granted. Irrational as that might sound, it’s stuck with me through this past sad year, so my priorities are set and I am unapologetic. I’m a fan. I work in the industry, I have friends and colleagues in “high places”, but I am here because I love the music, I am passionate about the music. The piece I wrote about Glenn a year ago, albeit emotionally cliche-ridden, does I think encapsulate that.

I have also seen Timothy perform three times in the past year, and while I haven’t seen a Joe Walsh show, Joe has also been keeping himself busy touring and making appearances on behalf of other artists and causes. The way all three have been coping, at least publicly, has been to keep doing what they do best, and in doing so paying tribute the Eagles legacy they were so fundamentally a part of, while acknowledging that none of it would have happened without Glenn.

I have a beautiful photo of Glenn from 1972 that Henry gave me last year, long hair, mellow swagger, guitar on one knee, soft focus, all heart. I wish I had seen Glenn perform then; thankfully we have a lot of footage of the band in the early years and we also have the History Of The Eagles documentary that I have watched many times and will probably watch again this weekend. In the years before the Eagles banned cameras at their shows, I saw them play in London, Sydney, Brisbane and Vancouver and took some photos, some of which were okay, and I’ll share a selection of those here that highlight Glenn. I hate that I can never see him again, never see an Eagles concert again, never hear “Take It Easy” or “New Kid In Town” or “Heartache Tonight” sung live by him with the band again. But I love that I saw them at all. I love that I did meet Glenn a bunch of times. I love that at the Eagles press conference in London in 2013 I sat in the front row and asked a detailed question (about Linda Ronstadt) that Glenn and Don answered in such depth. I love that I have Glenn stories and that I have friends that tell me their Glenn stories from way back at the beginning of it all, stories I never tire of hearing. I love that Glenn was here. And I will continue to miss him every day.

Trying to articulate this loss… some rambling words

19 January 2016

I am trying to process this. I know it won’t be the last time I have to face the loss of someone who never really knew me but who loomed so large in my life because at the heart of it all for me is music. Always has been, always will be. In 1978 at the age of 16 I tried to comprehend the death of Chicago’s lead guitarist, Terry Kath, and because I was so young and so was my Chicago love, I didn’t grasp fully what I had lost until years and more years had passed. I miss Terry more now, 38 years after his death, than ever before. In 1991 when I was in my late twenties, living in London, we lost Freddie Mercury. I have missed him every single day since; literally not a day has gone by without something about Queen coming to my ears, my mind or my heart, and every one of those days I mourn that Freddie was taken from us that way. In 2011 I was working on the benefit concert for Sherbet’s Harvey James that, as soon as the concert had sold out, turned into a tribute concert when Harvey died sooner than any of us expected. I wrote at the time: “I wanted Sherbet to be untouchable, its members immortal, my Summer Love to be eternal and Life to always be for Living.”

But life, it turns out, as we get older and the world gets more diseased and cruel, is more and more about dying. And now, the incomprehensible. We knew he was sick. Glenn Frey had been sick on and off since the Hell Freezes Over days. The 1995 Australian tour had been postponed by nearly a year due to Glenn being ill. But he bounced back. He always bounced back. When the Eagles said they would need to postpone their appearance at the Kennedy Center Honors because Glenn was ill, we just thought we would see them there next year. Never, never did we imagine this.

Never.

So now, Glenn has checked out and although in many ways they can never leave, the Eagles are finally over. Not the way we expected. One more grand album, one last big on-stage fight, anything but this. It’s not that there is not enough music or footage. There is, there is enough – great studio and live albums, great DVDs, a brilliant documentary. It’s not that I didn’t see the Eagles enough in concert. I did, thankfully – I saw them multiple times in Sydney and Brisbane and Los Angeles and Las Vegas and Vancouver and London.

It’s not that I didn’t get to meet Glenn a number of times. I did – first backstage at a Little River Band concert in Sydney in 1988, introduced by Glenn Shorrock. Then at a celebrity golf tournament in La Quinta, California in 1998. And then at press conferences in Sydney and London. Fleeting meetings, to be sure, but at least I had those meetings. And it’s not that there aren’t enough images of them to look at – there are so many fabulous photos, including the impressive collection I have been so lucky to accumulate from my friend Henry Diltz, who was there at the very beginning with them and chronicled their early years so beautifully in stills and on sepia-tinged film. His Eagles photos adorned my walls in Byron Bay, Sydney and now adorn my walls here in Santa Monica. As does the well-preserved Hotel California promo poster that I got from my local record shop in Sydney after the owner finally took it off his wall, then pinned to my bedroom wall in 1977 and for years after, and since framed and hanging on the wall above my computer wherever I live.

To have based a small section of my career around my love for this band and their music has felt so meaningful to me. To have met JD Souther during a time when he was elusive and hard to find, and interviewed him and spent some special time with him and his dogs in the Hollywood Hills and heard his tales about Glenn and Don and Jackson and Linda, was surreal but all these years on it feels important. To have spent a day in Tucson with Linda, who spoke to me for five hours about her career, which of course included Eagles references and recollections, was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. And in befriending other people – Henry, Ned, others – who were there in the Troubadour days and have occasionally shared memories and observations past and present of their Eagles compadres, it’s been an extra treat for an earnest Eagles lover such as I.

And to have met and chatted with members of the Eagles at different times – all except for Randy Meisner – was always a great privilege and something that can never be taken away from me. Even if they never gave me another thought. They stayed in my thoughts, a central part of the fabric of the multi-layered, multi-textured, cacophonous soundtrack of my life.

That soundtrack was omnipresent. Their songs were everywhere, all over everything I did, everywhere I went, from mornings on the school bus hearing them played on heavy rotation on 2SM, to starting and ending my radio show each week in Byron Bay with their songs, to the last weeks of my mother’s life, when I played the just-released Long Road Out Of Eden album in my car to and from the hospital, and in my headphones as I held her hand and watched her fading breaths. What more is there than that?

I feel dislodged, disoriented, and completely crushed. Glenn was so loved. By his family, his band mates, his many industry colleagues, his many friends, his millions of fans. And by me. Then, now and always.

Take it easy, Glenn.

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