Why I remember Glenn Frey warmly & will always listen to The Eagles

Once upon a time a long-haired Scottish DJ with great ears turned me onto the Eagles, Jackson Browne and Stevie Wonder’s Music of My Mind.

His name was Tommy Smith and at night he played records between the bands at the Marquee and by day he worked at One Stop Records in South Molton Street.

Jan was living in Highgate and we met Tommy and his American girlfriend Annette in Highgate Woods , a large park, one summer. After playing football we used to go back to Tommy’s flat for refreshments and he’d play us the very best new import LPs.

Annette had a tall red-haired pal called Deedee, and while I don’t think she was a groupie, Deedee knew a lot of musicians in LA. She said that Glenn Frey’s chat-up line was, “Hi, I’m Glenn Frey, I sang lead on Take It Easy.

More than any other musician I ever met or interviewed, Glenn communicated the greatest sense of enjoyment. An extrovert character, he lived life to the full and that’s what made him such a great front man for the group.

The Grateful Dead was the first American band I reviewed for The Times in 1972 and The Eagles came over in the February of 1973 for their UK debut at the Royal Festival Hall.

My review was a rave: “The Eagles sound is full of twang and sparkle and they will surely sweep all before them this year.”

The day after that gig a few journalists were invited to meet the group at 333 Kings Road, a service flat they were using. The flat was handy for Olympic Studios, where they were completing Desperado, their second album with producer Glyn Johns.

Bass player Randy Meisner told me how the scene worked in LA, that there was a pool of about 300 musicians who formed bands, broke up, formed other bands, played on each other’s albums. Glenn said something that no British band had ever said to me and his remark resonated because it showed the drive and ambition of The Eagles.

He said, “However quickly success comes to you, it can never come quickly enough.”

That remark stuck in my mind permanently.

Years later, when The Eagles came on at Wembley Stadium, they opened their set with Take It Easy and I stupidly ran out of the overhead press seats and down the stairs to get onto the pitch, missing most of the song.

As their set went on I gradually worked my way through the crowd towards the stage and suddenly heard a shriek of “Myles!” and saw four arms waving in the air.

The arms belonged to Annette and Deedee. In a crowd of 100,000 people this was a pretty random encounter but a delightful one. The weather was good, the music was excellent, and the harmonies of the Eagles were far superior to those of the re-formed Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young the previous summer.

About two thirds of the way through their set The Eagles finished one song and some instinct made me say, “I’m about ready for Witchy Woman now” and the group immediately played the riff that kicks off Witchy Woman and the girls howled with laughter and Deedee said, “Don Henley sings this one – I just love his voice!”

Later on The Eagles broke up and later still I was well into my second spell as a rock journalist and by then we had more space and bigger newspapers and I was doing interview features with B.B. King, Jackson Browne, Dr John, Tom Petty, musicians from the Seventies who were still around, and with younger artists liked Sarah McLachlan, Mike Scott, Angelique Kidjo, Soul Asylum, the Jayhawks and the Barenaked Ladies

By this time we’re married and had Michael (9) and Caroline (7) and we got packets of CDs from the postman almost every morning and I let the kids rip open the packets before they went to school. Caroline often begged to hear one song before they scrambled into the back of Mum’s car.

In 1992 Glenn Frey’s fourth solo LP, Strange Dreams, came out and one morning I was going out to interview him.

Caroline said: “Dad, get his autograph for me. Please!”

My firm reply was: “Journalists never ask rock stars for their autograph, babe. It’s bad form. It’s simply not done.”

I took my Palestinian journalist friend Gassan Waked to the interview in a boutique hotel on Holland Park Avenue. The Eagles are huge in Israel, he said. While the three of us were having a truly wonderful time the publicist interrupted very apologetically to say, “ I’ve got that Irish radio station on the line now – and they want to talk to you now.”

So Glenn did the phoner with Dublin and he was so charming, so fluent, so entertaining, really on top of his game, riffing away beautifully, giving the DJ what his listeners wanted and needed.

After that Glenn answered the rest of my questions and told me categorically that The Eagles would never play together again. He was very gracious about autographing the CD inlay for Caroline.

So that’s where I am with the sad news that Glenn Frey has died in New York at the age of 67.

I loved some groups and singers dearly for their various special qualities. I had a helluva lot of fun with Rod Stewart & the Faces and the Average White Band and Stevie Wonder, with Alice Cooper and Brinsley Schwarz and the Sutherland Brothers & Quiver, with the Jayhawks, Soul Asylum and Barenaked Ladies but that day with Glenn sticks out.

He was a great guy to spend time with and I was so glad Gassan was with me. We were flying as we walked back up Holland Park Avenue to Notting Hill Gate tube station. You don’t have to take drugs to get high.

His band played a terrific gig at the Town & Country Club in Kentish Town on Monday 6th July, 1992, doing some Eagles tunes as well as the solo material, and after the show we had a lovely chatty time in the bar with Glenn’s wife and his band.

I had known Rod Stewart’s girlfriend Dee Harrington who said, “I prefer him at home when he’s quiet.”

But Frey’s wife Cindy said the opposite: “Glenn’s at his best at dinner with 12 people and a few bottles of red wine.”

The Seventies was fantastic, full of special bands who could play thrilling gigs. Those bands were far superior to any rock group that came later.

Anybody who was there will tell you the same and that’s why I’ll always remember Glenn Frey warmly and always listen to the Eagles.

PS at 10pm Tuesday.

When I came home tonight Jan had been speaking to our daughter.

Who had found the Strange Weather CD  and was going to listen to it tonight. This was the message on the CD inlay from the rock star to the journalist’s little kid:

For sweet Caroline, 

Best wishes always,
Glenn Frey