Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Any Way The Wind Blows

Joe Walsh : Second Hand Store

On May 16, 1978 Joe Walsh released But Seriously Folks.... Recorded while The Eagles were struggling to follow up Hotel California, the album features many of his bandmates on backing vocals and pedal steel guitar from Don Felder on "Second Hand Store". The highlight is the eight minute album closer, 'Life's Been Good", his famous piss take on the decadent lifestyle of the rock and roller: 'I have a mansion, forget the price, ain't never been there, they tell me it's nice.' 

I bought a cassette in the Summer of '78 and still have it in the attic, probably melting in the heat of the Summer of '18.

From Greil Marcus writing for Rolling Stone

Joe Walsh seemed an odd choice as Eagle-come-lately because he has a sense of humor; he's a mensch, not an Übermensch. Presumably, Henley, Frey and  Co. wanted him for his guitar playing. Walsh added enormous punch to Hotel California -- he's the one who kicks "Life in the Fast Lane" into fifth gear -- but good as that album was, it hardly left room for Walsh's bizarre brand of self-depreciation. For that, he has to make his own records.

 "But Seriously, Folks..." -- whose jacket pictures Walsh relaxing at a cafe that is unremarkable except for the fact that it's underwater -- is a triumph in the grand tradition of So What? and You Can't Argue with a Sick Mind. (Since Walsh is now signed to Asylum, shouldn't he have called the new disc Voluntary Commitment, or something like that?) The sound is full of brilliant highlights, and the songs are good, though not as carefully written as Pete Townshend's, with whom Walsh shares a lot, and not as lazy as Jimmy Buffett's, with whom Walsh shares too much. On the other hand, not having to try very hard is pretty much what the album is about -- "Theme from Boat Weirdos," a delightful instrumental, comes off like a backing track for which Walsh couldn't be bothered to find lyrics -- and what makes Walsh's celebration of ease so much fun is that he's never arrogant. He's befuddled, but he won't look a gift horse in the mouth -- a phrase that might well turn up as the title of his next LP.

The best thing here is clearly "Life's Been Good," an eight-minute reverie on the absurdity of success (what's absurd to Walsh is that he's successful). It starts off with dramatic guitar figures -- this is the Big One, the music announces -- and then drops into bubblegum reggae for the world's least dramatic autobiography: "My Maserati does one-eighty-five/I lost my license/Now I don't drive." It's a tale of a rich, carefree rock star, laughing at the world that has given him his pleasures, and laughing as well at his ability to enjoy them without a twinge of guilt -- or even a hint of the self-pity such songs conventionally use as a substitute for soul. "I can't complain," Walsh admits. "But sometimes I still do."

 As always, Walsh sings in his filtered, tinny whine -- he sounds as if he's coming from across the street, an odd contrast to the full presence of his guitar and the band -- but after a while you get used to it. He's got a lot of Keith Moon in him, and the quality of his voice simply cops to the fact that he's not quite all there, aurally or otherwise. Queer as his voice may be, Joe Walsh is never as choked up as Tom Petty, but then he doesn't take himself as seriously either. Long may he keep on not doing so.

Well, "Second Hand Store" is fairly likable, but keep it to yourself -- a follow-up would ruin everything. "Life's Been Good" is not only Summer Song '78, it was born to be a novelty one-shot, and that it happens to say more about the tribulations of stardom than all the concept albums ever devised on the subject just goes to show how deeply significant AM radio can be. C+

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