Long ago (and far away), I came into possession of a videotape of Joe Walsh (and Friends, including some of the Eagles) recorded in 1975 for TV show Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert. My copy was multi-generations removed from the original and was somewhat fuzzy and muffled. Still, it’s a magical performance and I used to love watching it from time to time. A few years ago, someone uploaded a better copy to YouTube. And there was an even better quality version on YouTube, crisp and clean, but it seems to have recently been removed.
Others have uploaded some of the individual songs from the show, however. Here’s some direct links (let’s hope they stay up for a while):
“Help Me Through the Night”
“Rocky Mountain Way”
“Gimme Some Lovin'”
As an aside, I also recently discovered that most of the show is the source of Walsh’s 1976 live album You Can’t Argue With a Sick Mind. I’d always sort of – not necessarily avoided – but bypassed that album, thinking it was a boring cash-in release. Part of my impressions sprang from the album cover art (a disco ball, really?) and also because it was only one disc. Weren’t live records (especially in the 70s) always supposed to be at least double albums?
Walsh was just about to officially join the Eagles, and Don Felder, Glenn Frey, and Don Henley all guest on this TV appearance, which served as a sort of introduction to the new partnership for the world at large. Walsh replaced Bernie Leadon, but had become friendly with the Eagles much earlier as both shared the same manager in Irving Azoff. Don Felder played in Walsh’s band on his Spring 1975 tour and Walsh opened for the Eagles tour later in the year and would regularly join them on stage during that time.
On the Kirshner show, you can tell Felder has a lot of affection for Walsh, and there’s an obvious musical chemistry between the two. This would serve them well when they traded guitar solos on the following year’s “Hotel California”, though here he mostly plays rhythm.
Joe Walsh is often thought of as a kind of “clown prince of rock n’ roll”, due to his goofy sense of humor, eccentric stage attire (he wears a coonskin hat, which must be really hot, through most of this show), and songs like “Life’s Been Good”. There’s another side, though, which is most readily apparent on his early albums, with dreamlike and textured compositions such as “Giant Bohemoth” and “Midnight Moodies” (titles notwithstanding).
Here on Kirshner, he’s got a band more than capable of handling those more orchestrated pieces such as “Mother Says”, as well as riff-based rock like “Walk Away” and “Rocky Mountain Way”, and classics “Get Back” and “Gimme Some Lovin’”. Who’s in the band? Let’s have a run-down:
- Joe Vitale: multi-instrumentalist and often co-writer with Walsh
- Jay Ferguson: piano, previously played in Spirit and Jo-Jo Gunne, to have a huge hit in 1978 with the song “Thunder Island”
- Andy Newmark: drums, had just left Sly and the Family Stone
- Willie Weeks: bass, in-demand session man, played with George Harrison, Clapton, and many more
- Rocky Dzidzornu- percussion, played congas on the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” and taught Ginger Baker
- David Mason (not to be confused with Dave Mason of Traffic or the horn player who appeared on many Beatles tracks): organ, had recently played on Todd Rundgren’s Utopia record and would play with Elton John, like Felder and Leadon he was from Gainesville, FL
So, we’ve got this incredible band, all looking like they’re really enjoying themselves, creating some dynamic music (I think of sections in “Mother Says”, for example) and then we come to “Help Me Through the Night” with the mini acoustic guitar army of Walsh, Felder, Don Henley, and Glenn Frey. In comparison to the band, and especially the often smiling Felder, Henley and Frey come off as grumpy rock stars, too serious and self-consciously cool to crack a smile. Luckily, the pair don’t bring things down too much and the song sounds great.
This Joe Walsh and Friends concert is a snapshot of a transitional time for big-name rock shows. Whereas a few years before, the musicians would probably all be wearing jeans and t-shirts, here there’s a lot of glitter (and airbrushed t-shirts – a new thing at the time). And (I would imagine) a lot of cocaine. Yet, these guys are still managing to walk the line between “life in the fast lane” and musicality – the music wasn’t suffering yet. The “rock and roll circus” still hadn’t become too weighty.
Joe Walsh at his height – it doesn’t get much better. You can call it dinosaur rock, but these dinosaurs could really play.