This semester is finished. Grades are turned in. The kids are gone and I have just one conference period left with nothing to do until that final bell rings. So...I thought I'd write about some of my favorite Eagles and solo member holiday songs.
EL SANTA - THE FOUR SPEEDS
Before getting to the obvious one let's take a moment to go all the way back to 1965 and Don Henley's pre-Eagles band, The Four Speeds. "El Santa" is the B-Side to their single "Variety" (which is my favorite pre-Eagles song, even though Don said that it sucked). It's interesting to imagine a group of high-school boys from East Texas sitting around and deciding to mesh "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" with something that sounds a lot like "Tequila". They did, though, and the result is a rocking instrumental that puts a fresh spin on the holiday classic. You can imagine rocking out to this on a beach under some palm trees instead of pine trees.
Don's drumming sounds a little like sleigh-bells and you can't NOT have fun to this one.
"...children, gather round
And listen to my story
About the big, fat jolly man who's
Pulled around by reindeer"
RIVER - Don Henley
Neil Young's Bridge School Benefits were always a treat. When Don performed at them, he usually appeared with friends (JD Souther, Timothy B. Schmit, Jai Winding) and he always did a couple of amazing covers or interpretations of his own songs. We have the Bridge School Benefits to thank for Henley covers of the Beatles "Yes It Is" and the soul classic "You Don't Miss Your Water (Until the Well Runs Dry). It's also where Don first did an acoustic version of "Boys of Summer" that he said was like standing on stage in a jock strap and a pair of socks.
The Bridge School Benefits also gave us one of my all-time favorite Henley vocals. Don did a cover of Joni Mitchell's "River" and it is everything you would want a Henley performance to be...haunting, emotive, plaintive and raspy. It's also a wee bit sexy. If you've never heard it, go right now to this article on PASTE and click the play button. You are welcome.
Here's a confession about this song. For the longest time, we had a bootleg version of this song. In the introduction, Don says "Well, the holiday season is upon us again already. I don't know about you, but I would always like to be frozen until January 2nd." On our copy of the bootleg, there's a little glitch right before the word "frozen". All you could hear was an "F" sound and a crackle. We always assumed Don said, "...fucked up until January 2nd". That's the way I still hear it and in a way, it makes a tiny more bit of sense than "frozen", right?
Please Come Home for Christmas / Funky New Year (Eagles)
This is probably the best known of the group's holiday songs. Just today, an article came out in which Don lectured us about the song and how the Eagles came to record this Charles Brown classic. "When the Eagles were recording ‘The Long Run’ album in Miami, we needed a break from the daily routine. So, I suggested that we record a Christmas song, and I went on to suggest this song that I had remembered from my teenage years. The band members, and our producer, welcomed the idea. I think we recorded the whole thing is just a day or two", he told Cincinnati.com.
Just recently, we got to see Don sing this with Clint Black and Lyle Lovett at the Hurricane Harvey benefit in Fort Worth. It was a really fun performance.
I think, though, that my favorite performance of this (along with Funky New Year) was at the Millennium Shows in 1999. Here's a little bit of background for those of you who may not have been online then.
There was a lot of hype about these shows. The band did big interviews in the Los Angeles and Las Vegas Papers. The entire band appeared on Showbiz Today to receive an award from the RIAA and plug the shows. There was a lot of mystery about what the band would perform. Remember, the band had finished the Hell Freezes Over Tour and had done just a few shows since (notably the Tiger Woods benefit, Tiger Jam). Nobody knew what to expect and the band kept teasing that there would be surprises.
Add to that the fact that Joe Walsh had discovered webcams. Now, these were 1999 web cams. This wasn't streaming. Every minute or so, the camera would take a grainy, postage-sized picture and update itself on a website. We didn't care about the quality, though, because Joe had set one of these up in the large rehearsal space where the Eagles were preparing for the New Year's shows. When that camera was live, we sat around and waited for the refresh. We saw the Eagles in all of their grainy glory. "Look, there's Glenn in a baseball cap!" "What are those sweatpants Don is wearing?" "I love when Tim's hair is in a ponytail". Stuff like that. Occasionally, Joe would stick his face in front of camera and make a silly face. We saw them practicing. We saw them standing around and discussing things. We saw them drink coffee.
And then one day...we saw the drum. You've probably seen the drum now. That big bass drum that Don would bang on "Funky New Year." We had no idea what it was for. Our entire online conversations turned toward "...the drum." and what its purpose could be. Were they going to go all Fleetwood Mac "Tusk" on us? Our best guess was that Don was going to use it to bang down the clock until midnight.
Well, we soon found out. Hearing Please Come Home and Funky New Year at all 3 millennium shows as a treat that can't be replicated. Never having heard those songs live and then to see them in all of their glory...with fireworks? Amazing. CNN broadcast this live and we were a part of it. Something I won't soon forget.
Well, the bell just rang and it's time to head home.
Merry Christmas everyone!
What are your favorite Eagles holiday songs / covers/ performances / memories?