Thursday, July 14, 2016

Another Reason to Not to Hate the Eagles

There’s a point somewhere during the first half of The Big Lebowski when the title character stops for a moment to lay down on his coveted rug -- the one that “really pulls the room together” -- and while getting high listen to some tunes on his headphones.

The song playing on his stereo is by Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band. As a devotee of all things Beefheart, I perked up the first time I saw the film in a theater nearly 20 years ago. I think by that point in the film we’d already been introduced to Lebowski’s love of CCR (whom he refers to simply as “Creedence”), but hearing the Beefheart helped shape his character in a slightly different way for me.

Later in the movie comes the much remembered scene in the taxi when after getting kicked out of the Malibu the driver is playing the Eagles’ “Peaceful Easy Feeling.” There’s a pause in the dialogue and you can see Jeff Bridges starting to exhale loudly, acting a little petulant.

I knew what was coming.

“Jesus, man. Could you change the channel?” he whines, and the driver refuses to do so with surprising ferocity. But Lebowski can’t sit still. “I had a rough night and I hate the fuck!ng Eagles, man,” he says. The driver immediately pulls over and hilariously jettisons his complaining customer to the curb.

The Beefheart tune earlier had been a cue for me, helping me anticipate that even though with most things the dude abides, he wasn’t going to abide the Eagles’ warmed over, soft country rock. I knew this because I also like Beefheart, and I also don’t very much like the Eagles.

That said, even though I don’t own a single Eagles LP, I’m still kind of fascinated by the band’s story. I listened to FM radio a lot as a child of the ‘70s, pored over Rolling Stone and other rock mags, and still today find popular culture from that era endlessly fascinating.

I thoroughly enjoyed the sprawling 2013 documentary The History of the Eagles, which I found compelling all of the way through its three-plus hours. I even appreciate the talent and craft demonstrated by their six studio records from the ’70s, and kinda-sorta have to give props to the weird, spooky narrative and dueling guitars of “Hotel California,” an undeniably inspired slice of rock art.

But for whatever reason, there’s always been something about the Eagles flavor that has never been satisfying for me. Like Lebowski, whenever they come on I’m instinctively reaching to change the channel.

Like I say, though, I find the band’s story interesting, and since I’m also a sucker for any stories about poker turning up in contexts other than the usual ones, I comfortably stuck with Dr. Pauly’s new article “Life in the Fast Lane: Poker and the Eagles” all of the way to the end. The piece is over on the PokerStars blog, and is fun stuff for fans of ’70s music, interesting tales of home games, odd poker variants, analyses of poker-themed lyrics, and movie trivia.

And yeah, well, if you like the Eagles, it’s pretty cool, too. Not that I do... but now there’s one more reason why I can’t quite hate ’em with Lebowski-like intensity.

The invented game of “Eagle Poker” described in the article struck me as a little symbolic of the band itself -- a three-card game in which you bet on whether the third card’s value landed in between the other two. I say that because of the way the band always had multiple songwriters and candidates for “leader,” with Glenn Frey and Don Henley permanently occupying two of the top spots and various third men (Randy Meisner, Don Felder, Joe Walsh) kind of standing in between them as fellow front men-slash-rivals.

(The game also made me think of my still-in-development Beatles-themed poker variant, Sgt. Pepper.)

When you get a few minutes, go read the article, which you can check out any time you like.

(Trivia question: A five-suited, 65-card deck was produced during the first half of the 20th century. What was the fifth suit called? Click here to find out.)

Image: Eagles (1972), Eagles, Amazon.

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