Glenn Frey: Interview Magazine

by Jeff Yarbrough | Andy Warhol’s Interview Magazine | April, 1986

Glenn Frey is suffering from a hangover. It is not his first hangover nor will it be his last. Frey was co-founder with Don Henley, of one of the most successful rock groups of all time, the Eagles. The Eagles sold over 50 million albums, generated four number-one singles, four number-one albums, four Grammy awards and had countless tours throughout the world. Frey admits that hangovers are no longer as commonplace as they were during the turbulent days of writing such hits as “Tequila Sunrise,” “One of These Nights,” “Life in the Fast Lane” and “Hotel California.” Now 37, he has decided to change his image and his life. He no longer hides from interviews and he’s given up the abusive life in the fast lane. Frey has also used television better than any other rock artist to raise his public profile from obscurity to noticeability. He starred in an episode of “Miami Vice” as a spaced-out audiophile-junkie pilot, who suicidally flies Crockett and Tubbs into Colombia’s cocaine country. Frey recently joined the ranks of Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie and Michael J. Fox by making a commercial for Pepsi. Soon, he will appear in a major motion-picture, “Let’s Get Harry,” with costar Robert Duvall.

Since Frey’s mysterious split from Eagles, he’s recorded two solo albums, “No Fun Aloud” and “The Allnighter.” He will soon begin recording his third solo album and has recently returned from his house in Aspen to his bungalow in Los Angeles’ Coldwater Canyon. Frey sits in his living room, with a fire in the fireplace, smoking cigarettes and having a beer to soothe his aching head.

JEFF YARBROUGH: Despite the fact that you’ve been a public figure and a rock star for years, you rarely give an interview. There is very little known about you. You grew up in Detroit, right?

GLENN FREY: I grew up running in Detroit! I went to school with the sons and daughters of automobile factory workers-fathers who beat their wives and beat their kids. The kids would then go to school and beat on me! My father was a machinist in a shop that built the machines that build car parts. I had a pretty normal childhood. My parents weren’t drinkers. I always had clothes. I always went to camp for a week in the summer. My parents didn’t have enough money to buy me a car when I turned 16, but I had a great childhood.

JY: It looks like your nose has been broken.

GF: My younger brother hit me in the face with a baseball bat when I was thirteen. Never catch without a mask.

JY: Your parents must be proud of your success-the records, television, movies….

GF: Yes, but I think there was a time when they worried about me. The last two years with the Eagles were pretty intense times. There was a lot of drinking and we were all getting high a lot. My parents were relieved when I got off the Eagles treadmill. There were times when I couldn’t make a simple decision without calling three or four other people. It was all pretty sick.

JY: The Eagles rarely rested?

GF: There was no time. We were making all that money-millions of dollars-and buying houses left and right, but we’d have no time to visit them. After Hotel California, I spent a year at the Grove Isle Hotel in Miami trying to squeeze out The Long Run.

JY: The Long Run is the end of the Eagles story. Start at the beginning.

GF: It was 1967, and the hippie thing was happening. I got into experimenting with drugs while I was in college in Michigan. I didn’t really try hard in college-I was much more interested in going to see the Grateful Dead at the Grandee Ballroom. I had been bitten by the rock ‘n’ roll bug, and I was sitting there in Detroit thinking, “God, Buffalo Springfield is 2,000 miles to the west, and the Byrds, and the Beach Boys.” I read the Life magazine articles about free love and free dope in California. I said, “That’s the place for me,” and at age 20 I drove to Los Angeles. On my first day in L.A., I met J.D. Souther, and I’ve been with Texans ever since. I spent three and a half years with J.D., nine years with Don Henley, and my wife is from Fort Worth. I’m a prisoner of the Lone Star Army.

JY: How was Linda Ronstadt involved in the genesis of the Eagles?

GF: J.D. and I were going nowhere. David Geffen was very interested in J.D. but only mildly interested in me, so we were basically “musicians at liberty.” We were sitting around the Troubadour in May of 1971, and Linda Ronstadt asked us to join her on her upcoming tour. We needed a drummer, though. I saw Don Henley at the bar one night and said, “You know, your band is really going nowhere fast, so why don’t you go on the road with Ronstadt. She’s looking for a drummer-$200 a week, plus per diem.” The first stop on the tour was the Cellar Door in Washington, D.C. After that first gig, Henley and I decided we’d start our own band.

JY: At the height of the Eagles’ success, the band began to fall apart. What happened to one of the most successful rock groups of all time?

GF: If you were to ask a struggling, 25-year-old musician, “How would you like to sell 18 million albums?” he’d say, “Yeah! Damn right I would.” The next question is, “How would you like to try to make another record after the one that sold 18 million albums? How would you like to try to make one as good as the one that sold millions and millions of records?” Somebody asked my friend Bob Seger, Why do you think the Eagles broke up? He said, “Hotel California.”

JY: You and Don Henley had trouble collaborating on The Long Run.

GF: Don and I did not have any fun working on The Long Run together. Hemingway said that he’d write in the morning and always quit before he got stuck. The next day, he would feel like writing again because he had positive thoughts about the previous day’s work. We were at a stage where there were no positive thoughts about the previous day’s work. Henley and I would sit across from each other for hours not saying a word. We would sit trying to write, but we were both afraid to suggest a lyric or a chord in case it wasn’t perfect-in case it wasn’t great.

JY: When the album was completed did you know the Eagles were finished?

GF: No, I think we were going to try to hang in there. We did a tour of large arenas for The Long Run. But then I realized the Eagles were running my life.

JY: You left the band first?

GF: It was all my fault.

JY: When you left the band did you have an identity problem? The Eagles were certainly not a recognizable group.

GF: Yeah, we should have put our faces on the covers of our albums instead of all of those cow skulls. As a solo artist-in the music vernacular-I had an image problem. Now, and in the last two years I’m making an effort to make my profile a little higher.

JY: The Eagles still sell a lot of records and still generate a lot of rumors. The group never gave an interview, yet stirred up a lot of controversy.

GF: We didn’t give interviews because when the Eagles gave a concert we wanted it to be an event. We wanted people to imagine what we were all like.

JY: With the Eagles behind you, you embarked on a solo recording career. Did you harbor any fears that you wouldn’t make it on your own?

GF: Nobody told Don Henley or me that we were going to make it as solo artists, but I can speak for Don when I say that we are both really happy now that the band is not together.

JY: How did you get a part on Miami Vice?

GF: I was contacted when I was filming the video for “Smuggler’s Blues.” Miami Vice was filming its first episode and they wanted to get the show somehow involved in the video. Something like a badge that said “Miami Vice” being flashed around or starting the video with the camera locked on a black file cabinet labeled “Miami Vice.” Then they offered footage from the show, but, in the end, we were too rushed to work out the details and passed on involving them in the video in any way.

JY: You may have passed on them, but they obviously didn’t pass on you.

GF: After we’d finished the video, Michael Mann called and wanted to have lunch. I’d never met Michael Mann in person, so I went the blue-suit routine-full Wall Street. I’m sitting at the bar in Le Dome, awaiting the arrival of the executive producer of Miami Vice, and in walks this guy in white Levi’s, sandals and a Hawaiian shirt. I wore a suit so he wouldn’t think I was a rock ‘n’ roll weirdo. Boy, did I figure this guy wrong. Michael sat down with me, never asked me if I could act, and explained to me his concept of an episode based on “Smuggler’s Blues.” “You’re going to play this guy Jimmy, and you’ll be great.”

JY: “You Belong to the City” was the song used in this season’s opening show for Miami Vice.

GF: Michael Mann called me last year and said they wanted a song for the opening episode, so I wrote ” You Belong to the City.” I have a great relationship with Miami Vice, and I’m happy to say that the projects I’ve been involved with have been some of their best stuff.

JY. Your acting career started without much effort or thought. Did you ever consciously consider acting as an alternative to your recording career?

GF: How long am I going to be able to go out onstage and play rock ‘n’ roll and look young and vibrant? Acting is something I can do until the day I die. Instead of my life consisting of going out on the road, going home, resting up, writing songs, rehearsing, recording albums and going back on the road, I have acting projects. This way my life is a lot more interesting.

JY: You and your wife, Janie, share your time between houses in Coldwater Canyon, Aspen and Hawaii.

GF: When you’re lucky enough to have money and to have a job that you love to do, you should have a good time. Janie and I live most of the time in Aspen, but I can’t write there. I have to do my writing in Hawaii or here in Los Angeles.

JY: Janie runs a gallery in Aspen, right?

GF: Yes, and it’s taken the town by storm. It’s called Janie Biggs’’ Fine Arts Limited. Her last show was an exhibit of selections from Jack Nicholson’s private collection. Chagall, Matisse, Picasso-they were all in there. Janie has taught me to appreciate fine art. Except for a few guitar chords everything I’ve learned in my life that is of any value I’ve learned from women

JY: At age 37, you’ve accomplished so much and made a lot of money Do you still set goals for yourself?

GF: I think it would be nice to sell fifteen million albums as a solo artist. I’d have to deal with all the repercussions of that but that wouldn’t be too bad.

JY: But you can’t break up with yourself because of the pressure of a big-selling album.

GF: That’s right, I can’t! I think I have a long way to go as a recording artist. I think I can still write better songs, sing better and make better-sounding records. The rest is gravy. If you get a chance to be in a film, that’s great. One of my goals is to make a record as good as Don Henley’s album, Building the Perfect Beast.

JY: I’ve heard that the two of you are considering a collaboration of some kind

GF: After the MTV awards, Don and I stayed up all night and had a little party for ourselves up in The Carlyle hotel with some friends and drank about five bottles of Roederer Cristal. We talked about getting together to write some tunes again I would still like to do that. Don said that night, “We’ll do it like the old days. We’ll have a couple of beers, catch a buzz, and you’ll go over to the piano and start playing some chords. Then we’ll make up some cool lyrics and the next thing you know, we’ll have ourselves a couple of good songs.” I think enough time has passed that the pressure wouldn’t be as great as it once was. I really miss working with Don.

JY: Could that collaboration lead to a reunion of the Eagles?

GF: No, I don’t think so. We were offered two million dollars to play the US Festival and two and a half million to play the second one. One of my managers at the time said, “Come on, you rehearse for a couple of weeks, you play the gig, that’s it.” He had just gotten a divorce from his wife and I said, “I’ll go rehearse with the Eagles if you’ll go back for a couple of weeks with your wife.” He said, “It’s not the same.” The hell it isn’t. Any reunion of the Eagles would only serve to dilute what we’ve already achieved. I can’t see myself at age 41, up onstage with a beer belly singing “Take it Easy.” Without a reunion, the Eagles are forever young, like James Dean.

article courtesy L & M’s Eagles Fastlane

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