When I was playing with Christopher Cross some years ago, there was a section of the show where Christopher would go out and do a few songs by himself solo, and then I would take an acoustic guitar out there with him and we’d do a few songs singing and playing together like that. It was quite a thing for me as a guy from Juneau, Alaska, who was very scruffy and often poorly mannered but happened to end up being pretty good at playing bass and singing while I did it, quite a thing to find myself singing and playing guitar with a guy like that.
I remember when I first heard “Sailing” when it came out back then, driving along the highway in Juneau that connected downtown Juneau to what was called “out the road”, or “the Valley”, which is the part where the Mendenhall Glacier is if you’ve been there. Driving along and that song started, and out over the water there was a hole in the clouds that had lit up a part of the water out over the Gastineau Channel, a kind of “god-hole” that was really beautiful…..I was just slain by the sound, and I never forgot that moment. So finding myself on tour with him, doing that part of the show with him, I would often just be kinda shocked it was happening, and that kind of moment has happened to varying degrees with EVERY artist I’ve had the opportunity to work with,. Although I don’t like the way the term “grateful’ is just tossed around like it’s proof of caring, in this case it’s the right word, I’m grateful to have done the things I’ve been able to do.
Anyway I digress, as I often do… so while Christopher was playing the first few songs by himself, I would always grab someone and say, “Do you know how good at THIS that guy is?!? If you saw that at like Genghis Cohen or Largo or really any venue that is known for singer/songwriters getting up and playing a song by themselves, your goddam HEAD WOULD EXPLODE! You’d be like ” who the HELL is this guy and why isn’t he huge?!?!?”. And of course in the end he was, and he IS. But the point is that as he sat there playing, everyone would kind of gather round in a way, their attention getting closer and the room would get smaller and more and more intimate, and everyone was there together in that room, sharing in that moment.
There’s almost nothing else that does that like music does, and it’s MAGIC, literal actual MAGIC.
What we musicians do does things to and for people that almost nothing else can. We help provide a release valve, we help define moments, we provide a soundtrack to someone’s life that will resonate and transport them like nothing else except smell can (science!), we provide a method of understanding, a sense of not being alone and that someone understands, a sense of comfort, feelings of urgency, a lifting of spirits, and balm for the soul.
That’s actual MAGIC. Or it is to me, literally Human Magic.
I say this a lot to my fellow musicians, to varying reactions ranging from vehement agreement to “Check Please!”. Mostly it depends on who you’re talking to, and mostly it’s related to whether they are a Touring Sideman (someone who is hired to go out on concert tours and support an artist who is playing live venues), or someone who is trying to write and perform their own music, and/or someone who is involved in the creation and recording of someone else’s music (sessions players, producers etc).
Those are typically different mindsets, (not always, but typically), with the Touring Sidemen often not very interested in those aspects, and the Session Types at least understanding that point of view and trying to create something special that will sound like MUSIC to them and the listener, and then the creators/ARTISTS being almost ONLY concerned with trying to create MAGIC at all times, even if the reason is only to generate income, because they know income tends to follow MAGIC around quite often.
But for me, I think that even in the Touring situation, it’s still MAGIC. We’re still helping that moment happen, that release, that communal moment, that healing and power, and in fact when you’re Touring, if you’re paying attention you can see it happening every night. Every night out there SOMEONE is having that moment of clarity, or that moment of release of a pent up anguish, or a memory has been jogged loose, or they finally understand something that didn’t make sense till that moment.
A guy I used to play with in Christopher’s band named Dave Beyer, who played drums with Christopher for most of the time I was with Christopher, said something to me once I appreciated and never forgot: “Every night at some point while Christopher is speaking in between songs, I try to look around for those 30 seconds or so at what I’m doing, really see how unique and special this is, and how amazing it is to be here now doing this.” And every show I’ve done after I’ve tried to remember to do that, because for all I know it could be the last time I ever have a chance to do this, and it may really matter that I was paying attention, not letting it just go by like it didn’t matter.
And that was the energy and focus I would put into it, like it mattered (*Past tense because it’s Covid times, and there’s none of all this happening at all right now!). Trying to actively PLAY every note, hit everything as right as I could, sing as in tune as I could, bring as MUCH game as I could to all parts of what I was doing, trying to make it MUSIC and MAGIC as much as I could. I’m sure I wasn’t always as successful as I would like, and there were/are many technical issues that can get in the way, but the more you push towards that, the more likely it is that you’ll succeed!
I had a MAGIC moment that I always refer to in talk about this subject…. I was playing in a Borders Bookstore Cafe (remember those?!?!), on the road supporting my 2 CD releases I’ve made on my own (another whole world of stories for another time), and I was playing a song called “The Lady’s Song” which for me is about my Grandmother dying, and how bad I was at handling that. In the audience that evening was a guy with what I guess was his wife and 2 children, and during that song the guy’s wheels just suddenly came off, seemingly all at once. Full on sobbing crying family gathering around him, utterly emotional and without caring about being in public. At the end of the show he came up while I was signing and selling my CD’s, bought both of my CD’s for each of his family members, and told me that he had not grieved yet for his mother who had died some fair amount of time before, and that something about that song and that moment had gotten him thinking about it, and suddenly it all opened up on him, and he had started the real grieving process in that moment. I gave him a hug and told him that that was what I was there for, and thanked him for what I thought was a wonderful thing to share with me, and that in a way he had given me the best kind of compliment he could give me.
For ME, that was MAGIC as well.
To be able to help like that, to be able to bring that to someone, THAT is what we do.
I would just like to put it out there, what we do is MAGIC. Remembering that and understanding the human power of that, respecting it and giving it to our audiences, sharing that with them, that’s a really wonderful thing we can do, not everyone gets that opportunity.
As a kid in Juneau Alaska in the late 70’s, when this record came out we were absolutely stunned, I remember listening to it over and over wondering how everything had been recorded and how they played so well….just blew us away, and raised the level of our expectations of ourselves….not knowing anything about how records were actually made, we thought people just played like that, so that was what we did too….and living up there, you had time to work on that in the bedroom or wherever….over and over and over….
Later I was playing with Don Felder and we were opening for the Doobie Bros and Boston, and I sat at a table in the backstage eating lunch with Scholz and a couple other Boston members…I think I was just staring at him….and I think it was kinda annoying him, but you know…I was really just sitting there thinking how much that music had meant to me at the time, and here I was, some dork from Juneau Alaska sitting here at the table with him…I couldn’t believe it….I’ve had a lot of those moments, I’ve been very fortunate….
Thankfully I think my circle of friends and musicians is of a high enough caliber in both ability and SENSIBILITY that I have seen very little of this kind of crappy nonsense, and if I had I would have gone very far in a boot wearing expedition up someone’s ass.
These people are all actually PEOPLE, and if you think that they are elevated above being human because of the heights they’ve reached in their careers, your ignorance is profound and your imagination is challenged and stunted….it’s sad to understand what a monochrome blur your life must be like….
Having worked with 3 of the Hotel California-era Eagles, I’ll tell you one thing for certain, they are ALL the best version of the thing they are that will ever be, Glenn the best Glenn Frey, Joe the best Joe Walsh, and Don the best Don Felder that there will ever be, and that’s NOT nothing.
2 of the best guitar players/songwriters in popular music EVER, and one of the best singer/songwriters in popular music EVER, with a body of music that has reached into the lives of almost every person in Western culture on an almost daily basis, to the point that when you hear the music YOU know every damn word….?!?!?! Music YOU may not even like, sure, and that’s fine, but you gotta admit when it has that kind of impact across the geography and timespan that it has, it’s fucking GREAT, you just don’t get it.
That’s not nothing.
These guys can play their asses off, write their asses off, sing their asses off, arrange/record/produce their asses off, and in Glenn’s case LEAD his ass off leading one of the biggest bands EVER….they are BAD ASSES, all of them!!.
Go do THAT, and then talk shit…I’ll wait….
But….they’re all ALSO just people, with their foibles, demons, ticks, itches, relationships, children, problems, illnesses and now even death, just like anyone, doing anything.
I don’t know, I read that piece and realized maybe I’ve been kinda glossing over it whenever I see someone slagging about this, knowing that it’s just ignorant childish creepiness that’s not worth engaging one on one…had this reaction, felt like saying something…
So yeh, Glenn has died…another of the Greats now gone.
I’m not the one to eulogize him. I worked with him for several years and of course that means I got to know him to some small degree, but of course I also knew him in only one segment of his long and amazing career, and I can hardly say that I *KNEW* him. That’s for his family, of course the other Eagles, his long time business partners, and all the other musicians who all knew him longer, better, and deeper than I ever would have or did. The guys that I worked with when I was with him had almost all worked with him as the Eagles band as well, so there’s lots of other people who can speak about him much better than I.
But of course it affects me, and a lot of people know I worked with him and they’re concerned and interested, so I’ll say a couple things….
First of all, I liked Glenn.
He was always cool with me, was generous with me and others when I was working with him, and although of course rock lore is full of all kinda stories, MY experience of him was good. There were times he would be in the same restaurant that some of us might be eating in, and our waiter would come over and say something like “the gentleman that was sitting over there has picked up your check”, and it would be a pretty big tab, but I always thought that was very classy. He didn’t have to do that, he just did. We often rode with him in his jet, (yeh I know, tough life!!), and sometimes he would just wander from chair to chair talking with different guys and just kinda hanging…he did that with me once and it seemed that for a bit he was enjoying just doing what we do, playing music and then hanging about after the gig talking…
He knew a lot about what he did of course, and I learned a few things from him, which at this point is teaching an old dog some tricks, but was he was very good at this thing and he had good thoughts about how it should be done….and yes of course, if he wanted something done a certain way, that’s how it was to be, NO question. And that was fine, he knew how to be Glenn Frey better than anyone else did for damn sure. And he was a REALLY good Glenn Frey, he could really sing, he could really play in the groove, and he knew how to run a show like a CEO….but maybe most of all, I think he actually still really LIKED it…like the part of him that made him get into it in the first place was STILL in him after all those years, and he would sing himself hoarse, get covered in sweat, and leave it all out there….I thought that was awesome, it made me like him more for it.
With him I got to do some things I’d never done before, and to play with an amazing group of musicians playing some of the best popular music that has ever been made. And yes, I’d look over singing harmony with him on like “Lyin’ Eyes” or another song where I’d be singing with just him and me on one of the verses and think, “Holy Shit, this is actually happening!!”, and feel validated for my life choices in a way that most people who do what I do never get a chance to be. If you get to play with some someone like Glenn, it makes some of the downsides of this musician life seem not quite so silly, so irresponsible and childish. There’s not many people who will pooh-pooh doing THAT, and for a guy who grew up a bit on the iffy side in Alaska, it was powerful for me.
Playing with Glenn I also got a chance to get to know and play with Joe Walsh a bit, who was one of my serious idols as a young musician growing up in Alaska, and I can’t say enough good about that experience for me, he’s a sweet guy and one of the greats in Rock music, it was thrilling and an honor.
My time with Glenn came at a time in my life that was very tough for me on a personal level, a difficult and very low period that made the work with him all the better for me, and it helped balance things out, and I’m grateful to him and others that I worked with during that time, it really mattered. The guys in the band were wonderful to me, very supportive and helpful both on and off stage, I made good friends and had some great times.
Today I was sitting at a table in Starbucks when my phone started blowing up and I saw what I was being told was true….I was almost surprised how bad I felt about it, but I did; he was a Big Deal guy, but also someone that I worked with quite a bit and did a lot with, it matters.
I want to mention my good buddy Jonathan Clark. Without Jonathan I wouldn’t have had many of the good gigs I’ve had in my life…yes…WE have to carry our weight when we get in the room, but someone has to get us INTO the room, and a number of times for me that was Jonathan, and definitely so in the case of Glenn. Thank you for that!
I really enjoyed my time with Glenn, and it was truly an honor to have been involved with even my little small bit of that great story.