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Over the line! (peaceful? easy?)

Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report
Sky trails, powerlines and ... the Moon - where the "Eagle" landed 50 years ago.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – While on an airplane to Florida recently, I was pleasantly surprised to discover The Big Lebowski was one of the films offered and, finding most of the other offerings half-baked or flat-out boring, I cued up and immersed myself in The Dude’s world for awhile.

Interestingly, when I got to the scene where The Dude and Walter’s bowling nemesis Jesus Quintana (John Tuturro at his most foul) is highlighted as The Gipsy Kings perform a Spanish-language-and-influenced version of the Eagles’ 1977 smash “Hotel California.”

I always liked their version of the song – but then I have always liked the Eagles, and Don Henley’s solo material, including The End of the Innocence from 1989, an album I reviewed at the time for my high school newspaper, something I referenced back in January in a Dust Devil Dreams post  ("The devil you know") highlighting the third season of True Detective.

But then as an Lebowski fan knows, The Dude himself has a particularly harsh opinion of the Eagles when he catches a cab after being drugged and thrown out of Jackie Treehorn’s “garden party” and then arrested by the Malibu police.

In the cab, the Eagles 1972 hit “Peaceful Easy Feeling” is playing on the radio, with Glenn Frey singing lead. The Dude, clearly having hit bottom, is annoyed by the breezy, country-tinged tune and asks the cab driver to change the station. Perhaps, hearing the song brought back a bad memory, in those final years of the Vietnam War, when he was - perhaps - arrested by fascist cops for occupying adminstration buildings, or getting hassled for smoking a joint? Not everything is about 'Nam, of course.

The Dude says, “Man, come on. I had a rough night and I hate the fuckin' Eagles, man!

The cabbie is angered and throws The Dude out of the cab and onto the street. (The "get your own fuckin' cab" cabbie, actor Ajgie Kirkland, will be a special guest at Lebowski Fest in Louisville, Kentucky next month, as it turns out ...).

I had been on a bit of an Eagles kick of late and as I was dwelling on these Eagles references in The Big Lebowski, a guy a few rows in front of me stands up and – to my shock – is wearing an Eagles T-shirt.

What??!?

I then begin thinking about “Hotel California,” as I have many times before. Those cryptic lyrics, which Glenn Frey said would convey “an episode of The Twilight Zone” in a “Fellini-esque” way. And Henley would say trips far out into the desert provided inspiration for the song, noting, “(w)e were just on the quest.”

On a quest, eh?

MISHEARD LYRICS

In 1986, Wang Chung’s hit “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” features the line “Don’t hang it on the borderline” a line I only discovered I had misheard for all of these years as “Don Henley on the party line.” Was this some reference to Henley’s wild years in the Eagles?

Well, it turns out it was all in my mind (although others heard it the way I heard it, I just discovered), kind of like when I was singing along to the Pretenders song “Brass in Pocket” where Chrissie Hynde sings “gonna make you, make you, make you notice,” which I had always heard as “gonna make you, make you, make you naughty.

Anyway, I always felt there was something more to Don Henley. The fact that he was born in Linden, Texas, in Cass County, along the 94th meridian, has fascinated me. A creative energy, a strange energy, a ley line of high strangeness, it is.

Hipsters have long claimed their disdain for the Eagles. But I liked them. In fact, the remaining members are touring Europe this summer, a year after it was reported that Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 moonwalked past Michael Jackson’s Thriller album as the best-selling album of all time in the United States, with 38 million copies sold, compared to Thriller’s 33 million copies sold. 

That is a stunning number. But not surprising. I see that album everywhere. I hear Eagles songs pretty much everyday, on the radio, in the car, in the grocery store – or on the soundtrack of films like The Big Lebowski, one of the most-quoted films of all time.

As the plane landed, I quoted a line from “Hotel California” for a family member. We then got off the plane and as we walked through the walkway to the terminal, a man was standing there, waiting for someone, wearing a T-shirt reading: “The Hotel California.”

So … a week or so later, I am grabbing a sandwich and I read on my phone about Tuturro finally coming out with a Big Lebowski spin-off TV show called Going Places, starring his icky Jesus Quintana character. It’s described as a sort of French-styled, traveling sex romp. Not what I would have imagined and the Coens are not involved. Still, it could be interesting.

Anyway, after reading it, I finish my sandwich and get in my car. And what song is playing on the radio? “Hotel California” by The Eagles, of course!

So, like Jackie Treehorn says, I should probably get to the point. Well, I have come to realize, after more than 20 years now, that one of the main reasons I love The Big Lebowski and the reason it keeps coming up in my life is because, as writer Roger Hunt wrote (in the 2012 book The Big Lebowski and Philosophy): “The Big Lebowski, like other Coen productions, leaves viewers feeling as if they have made a new friend – not necessarily with any particular character but with the film as a whole. That is, it’s not about the Dude. The Big Lebowski is a personality, in and of itself, as a film. As viewers, we come back to it time and time again, as if we are meeting a friend for coffee or seeing a patient, learning something new every time.” Just check out my Dust Devil Dreams post, "I saw so much, I broke my mind," written about a year ago.

One of the things I've learned is that the film is reflective of our place and time. The Dude represents the left and the bohemian ideals of the Sixties, while The Big Lebowski represents, to quote writers Evan Brown and Peter S. Fosl, the "empty and hypocritical Reagan-era ideals, a farce of the conservative achiever." The Dude is kind and willing to help others. The Big Lebowski - the other Jeffrey Lebowski - meanwhile, is hypocritical, callous and cruel. The Dude is able to comfortably exist in 1991 Los Angeles by being true to himself in a Zen-like manner. Perhaps The Dude's hatred of the Eagles is more about what they represented in the 1970's, as overly-ambitious, pampered rockers who got it all but ... for what?

Sure, I love their music and am fascinated with Don Henley, in particular, but while Henley would become more of a liberal figure, writing songs about the political scene of the 1980's on Building the Perfect Beast (1984) and on the aforementioned The End of the Innocence, his pal and fellow Eagle Glenn Frey took the more comfortable, yuppie route on songs like the Miami Vice soundtrack hit song "You Belong to the City." (According to a 2013 LA Weekly article, Frey was pissed at Jeff Bridges for years for saying he hated the Eagles in The Big Lebowski).

The Eagles. I keep thinking about that name. Or, actually, the bird. Our national symbol. This is the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11's landing on the surface of the Moon. "The Eagle has landed."

Last year, it was reported that the American Bald Eagle is being poisoned across our great land by lead in bullets used by hunters. Eagles are being found with lead poisoning across the country, faced with the “inability to stand, convulsions, head tremors, difficulty breathing, gastrointestinal distress …” It was the Department of the Interior which lifted the ban on hunting with lead bullets on wildlife refuges in 2017, under US Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Of course, the NRA had a lot to do with pressuring a return to cheaper, lead bullets, framing it as an “assault” on gun owners’ and sportsmen’s rights.”

Meanwhile, our national symbol, the American Bald Eagle, had no say in the matter.

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About the Author

Andrew W. Griffin

Editor & Owner.

Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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