While Pete is attempting to distract Tank, whose taste in music is both German and shepherd-like, I am placating Enid, an all-American black-and-white moggy who is proud to say she was born in the back of a feed store in Lomita. Enid unabashedly digs the American rock, and she is pleased with our optically themed series. Like most cats, she communicates through a combination of psychic projections and violence, and therefore appreciates the power of ocular communications.
As did the Eagles, who devoted one of the singles from One of These Nights to the expression in a cheating woman’s eyes.
We are resorting to Grooveshark, since there is no complete version of the original “Lyin’ Eyes” on YouTube. Ignore the cover art; such is the way of Grooveshark.
The Eagles were gods in 1975, especially in Los Angeles. Songs that were hits in the rest of the country were inescapable here; you could hear the the Eagles on AOR,Top 40, country radio, and of course on the SoCal culture-defining “Mellow Sound,” the late great KNX-FM. They were popular everywhere, but in L.A., the Eagles were ours, and we loved them.
One of These Nights came out in 1975 and sold 4 million copies, so this was a massively successful act. (Their next album, Hotel California was a huge jump forward artistically, and it paid off big, selling an astounding 16 million copies.) And the second-biggest hit from One of These Nights, after the title track, was “Lyin’ Eyes.”
It could be understood as yet another pop misogyny special, nasty lyrics dressed up in a mild melody, but Glenn Frey sings it with sensitivity and taste, giving the song’s anti-heroine the benefit of the doubt as much as possible. We all know the story: A beautiful “city girl” has married a rich old man so “she won’t have to worry” about money and security, but now she’s grown restless with the bargain she’s made:
She tells him she must go out for the evening
To comfort an old friend who’s feeling down
But he knows where she’s going as she’s leaving
(Wait for it: one of the most famous pop lines of the 1970s…)
She is headed for the cheatin’ side of town
And then, at 1:40, nearly a third of the way in to this long song, the first chorus:
You can’t hide your lyin’ eyes
And your smile is a thin disguise
I thought by now you’d realize
There ain’t no way to hide your lyin’ eyes
Hear it once, remember it forever; these guys knew how to write a hook. And of course, in 1975 you could have a top five Billboard hit at Top 40 and country with a song that’s more than six minutes long. Not that I follow pop radio very closely these days, but I don’t believe Katy Perry and Bruno Mars run to six-minute songs, and I know country would never tolerate a song of this length today.
But the Eagles had a long story to tell, and they were going to tell it — “Lyin’ Eyes” is sung right through, with no extended instrumental break. Having arrived in the aforementioned cheatin’ side of town:
She rushes to his arms,
They fall together
She whispers that it’s only for a while
She swears that soon she’ll be comin’ back forever
She pulls away and leaves him with a smile
But we, and she, know better than that. She’s staying exactly where she is, and there will be no happy ending for any of these three miserable people:
She wonders how it ever got this crazy
She thinks about a boy she knew in school
Did she get tired, or did she just get lazy?
She’s so far gone she feels just like a fool
“Lyin’ Eyes” is an incredibly evocative record, providing as powerful a sense of time and place, of Los Angeles in the ’70s, as the much more deliberately L.A.-centric “Life in the Fast Lane” from Hotel California. And of course, it’s beautifully produced; Don Henley’s drums are mixed way forward, almost even with the vocals, providing both support and a little edge to Frey’s gentle expressiveness. And it’s just full of lovely things — the Eagles’ patented near-bluegrass harmonies, and those sweetly countrified slide guitar fills that offset the unpleasant subject matter a bit, helping make the story sadder than it is sour.
And in the third verse, there’s a fine detail: ghostly mandolin that drops in after Frey sings “She thinks about a boy she knew in school.” It’s just one fast fill, after one line, with a stereotypically “Italian” sound — perhaps it suggests an East Coast city left behind to find a new life in beguiling but dangerous L.A.?