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What Is Truth?: “Lyin’ Eyes” by Eagles

Goodness gracious, we’ve reached the end of 1975 already. Yes, there were a lot of number ones in that year and only five singles – four if you don’t count “Calypso” – got stuck in second place. Ah well, on to 1976 next week.

The first thing I ought to say is that there is no typo; the band was always called “Eagles,” not “The Eagles.” The second thing I ought to point out is that Eagles are the most successful pop group in American chart history; indeed, their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) collection regularly tussles with Thriller for the title of best-selling album ever. They became hugely successful without seeming to move as much as an aesthetic finger, and their colossal success seems to me to indicate how readily people will opt for the easy solution.

I do own a copy of the One Of These Nights album for the sole reason that it includes the best thing Eagles ever did, Bernie Leadon’s psychedelic banjo/orchestral meditation “Journey Of The Sorceror” which is far better known as the theme to The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy and which to me represents their one true evolution of the Cosmic American Music that Gram Parsons once proposed (since the band in small part evolved from the Flying Burrito Brothers). “Lyin’ Eyes,” however, which in its full album version is longer than either “I’m Not In Love” or “Bohemian Rhapsody,” is sadly more typical of their general approach; so easy on the ear that one ends up questioning the purpose of having ears.

The song had its genesis at Dan Tano’s restaurant in West Hollywood, where its authors Don Henley and Glenn Frey were dining one evening They noted a young woman with a much older, not remotely attractive but unquestionably wealthy man, and Frey turned to Henley and remarked, “She can’t even hide those lying eyes.” Hence the song, which Frey mostly wrote and on which he sings solo lead vocals, with its plot of woman marrying rich man for his money, but money can’t buy her love so she secretly starts a thing going with an ordinary guy her age and that reminds her of how she felt in the first place but too late now sucker hyuk hyuk.

There were several other pop songs orbiting around this general theme in the seventies, including two 1977 number ones, “Rich Girl” by Hall and Oates (“You can rely on the old man’s money”) and “Torn Between Two Lovers” by the scary Mary Macgregor (to cover the feelin’-like-a-fool territory; see also William Bell’s R&B number one from the same year, “Trying To Love Two,” for the opposite viewpoint), as well as Harry Chapin’s forgotten but touching 1972 hit “Taxi,” where he’s ended up as a cab driver and slowly recognises the rich passenger he’s picked up. But there is something appallingly smug about “Lyin’ Eyes,” the aura of locker room crowing about it. Certainly, compared with another album released that autumn, which included songs written by a woman such as “Rhiannon” and “Landslide,” this is jejeune stuff. Little wonder it proved so popular – the postponement of growing up in favour of the maximum propensity for easy consumerism.

Date Record Made Number Two: 8 November 1975
Number Of Weeks At Number Two: 2
Record At Number One: “Island Girl” by Elton John
UK Chart Position: 23


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