Lyin’ Eyes has the peaceful, easy rolling rhythm that’s an Eagles trademark and the cool, non-emotional tone of Southern California – a dotted line runs from the Beach Boys in the ‘60s to the Eagles in the ‘70s. The story is as old as the Hollywood hills, but never in rock music has it been better told: a “city girl” hooks a rich old man for his money, has an affair with a younger man but sees that’s not the answer, either. The song runs 6:15, about twice as long as the standard cut, and each of the seven verses both propels the story and captures a vivid image. And, fans of Robert Frost note, every line is a neat rhyme. My favorite: “Late at night, the big old house gets lonely/ I guess every port of refuge has its price/ And it breaks her heart to think her love is only/ Given to a man with hands as cold as ice.” I’ve probably sat in my car waiting for this song to end more than any other. The music is pretty, the message is not: “There ain’t no way to hide your lyin’ eyes.”
Sidebar: Western Rock
I love the Eagles. Somehow it has become fashionable to look down upon them, perhaps because of their commercial success, perhaps because they had too many farewell tours (cf. the Rolling Stones), perhaps because Glenn Frey’s not much of an actor or Don Henley has espoused too many liberal causes. But I’ve been hooked since the opening chords of Take It Easy and have admired the Beatles-like trajectory of their career, even as the originally indistinguishable group members assumed recognizable musical styles and, ultimately, careers. Songs from their first album fueled my attempts to learn the guitar; the lyrical dexterity of Hotel California still amuses me; and for emotional depth, The Last Resort still tugs. I also choose the Eagles to represent western rock, if that’s what you call the strand of rock that emerged from Austin to LA with roots in the “w” of “country and western.” The Byrds, Burrito Brothers, Gram Parsons, Jerry Jeff Walker, Guy Clark, and everybody whom Emmylou Harris sang with.