There are few moments where the addition of an outside musician to an established rock group has had as profound an effect on a band’s overall sound as when Joe Walsh joined the Eagles. With Walsh, the band’s music took a decided turn toward a more gritty rock framework – a place where his contributions would largely end. Walsh added the much desired rock credibility that Glenn Frey in particular had been craving, and the music moved quickly away from the country and bluegrass-based sounds largely inspired by his predecessor Bernie Leadon to confident guitar-driven rockers. While this shift likely helped the Eagles stay in step with where music was headed, the decision to not lean on Joe for songs or writing contributions was surprising. Upon joining the Eagles, Walsh has just completed a two-year stretch where he had released three consecutive albums. All of them were well received, both critically and commercially. As far as songwriting goes, the Eagles acquired Walsh at his creative peak. Instead of tapping into his deep well, the band simply wanted Joe focused on guitar, and added only one Walsh-penned track to “Hotel California,” “Pretty Maids All In A Row” arguably one of the album’s finest and ironically “Hotel California’s” B-side. It’s unfortunate that Joe’s talents were only partially tapped, because for Henley and Frey their own well was quickly beginning to run dry.
Following “Hotel California,” the Eagles really struggled with songwriting and the creative process, finding themselves in an ongoing battle over material and the direction that this follow-up record should take. This void created an opening that allowed for Joe Walsh to record his masterpiece, 1978’s “But Seriously Folks…“ Recorded in Miami (like most of “Hotel California” and all of “The Long Run”) the record is an introspective work, often compared thematically to “Pet Sounds’ but set in the ’70s. Each song addresses a particular crossroads in this artist’s life.
Songs move through rejuvenation (“Tomorrow,” “Over and Over”), to nostalgia of simpler timers (“Indian Summer”), to mid-career indecision (“At the Station,” “Second Hand Store”), and ends with the masterful, “Life’s Been Good,” sarcastic and bittersweet tribute to Walsh’s “rock star-party guy” persona. Its running time alone should have kept it from charting. However its inherent rock chops, catchy hook, and playfulness propelled it quickly to the top 10 on the pop charts.
While this is a Joe Walsh record from start to finish, it’s impossible to ignore some of the signature elements of “Hotel California”-era Eagles sprinkled throughout the record. The other four Eagles all appear on the album with background vocals from Glenn Frey, Don Henley and Timothy B. Schmit on “Tomorrow” and Don Felder on the pedal steel on “Second Hand Store.” Walsh and Felder then reenact their twin-guitar “Hotel California” spiral on “At the Station.” The pairings throughout made critics upon release wonder aloud if this was actually an Eagles’ album. This chatter only became louder after critics provided first listens to 1979’s “The Long Run.” But “Seriously Folks,” like “Hotel California” was a record that served a higher purpose. For Hotel, it was an examination of what had become of the American dream and the fantasy of moving west to start anew. In the case of “But Seriously,” the record balanced introspection with wit through a mix of biting rockers and breezy ballads. “The Long Run” did neither but instead appeared to be a collection of disjointed and frankly mediocre songs. When it became known that it would become their finale the criticism quickly heightened, and the references to “But Seriously Folks” earned a louder voice.
What if “But Seriously Folks” had been the follow-up to “Hotel California”? What if Frey and Henley had been able to put their egos aside and had doubled down on their investment in Walsh by handing the keys over for this one fast ride? What we do know is that the “Eagles Greatest Hits Vol 2″ would actually then be worth owning. But from a broader perspective it begins to warrant asking whether we would have seen the Eagles last longer, maybe never break up. Would their collective songwriting have improved? What kind of material would have resulted from this mature and professional concession? It’s impossible to say because when it came to cutting down the track list for “The Long Run,” Frey and Henley only included one Walsh track – “In The City” – a retread that had already appeared in the soundtrack for the movie “The Warriors.” Walsh’s music would simply never become a priority for the Eagles. Even after the success of “Life’s Been Good,” they were blind to where their better collective future could reside. Their finale quickly followed “The Long Run”’s release and it would take almost 15 years for them to realize the mistake they had made. “Life’s Been Good” was the first non-Eagles song to become a staple in their reunion act, and next to “Hotel California” might actually be the song fans most want to hear live.
Below is the value of the aforementioned album in Near Mint (NM) condition, according to Goldmine’s Record Album Price Guide, 8th Edition. Note: As a standard rule, a vinyl record in VG+ condition is 50% of NM value and VG record is 25% NM value.