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New Documentary Reminds the Eagles How Funny They Used to Be

The Eagles
Larry Busacca, Getty Images

There were many things that jumped out to Eagles co-founder Glenn Frey as he waded through hours of homemade archival video footage from the ’70s, which would eventually become the heart of the new, no-holds-barred documentary on the seminal Southern California band, ‘History of the Eagles Part 1.’

The Eagles may have a pretty staid reputation, but seriously, folks, one of the key takeaways for Frey was the hilarity — intended or otherwise — of the band’s lead guitar player.

“How funny Joe Walsh is would definitely be one of those things,” Frey said when we asked what diehard fans may be surprised to learn from ‘The History of the Eagles Part I.’ The film enjoyed its premiere last week at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. “We really had a lot of fun. You know, we were serious about our work and serious about where we were going, but we had a lot of fun. Joe in particular.”

It turns out that Walsh, who fronted the James Gang and Barnstorm before joining the Eagles in late 1975, not only brought a harder rock edge to the band’s somewhat softer sound, he also shook things up both on and off stage.

“Joe had done a lot of guest appearances with us,” said Don Henley, Eagles drummer, vocalist and co-founder. “He’d just show up. We’d put him inside of a road case and wheel him out on stage, and he’d come out of the case like a girl coming out of a birthday cake, and that was fun.”

Walsh’s antics spilled over into hotel rooms across the country. In the film, Walsh credits Keith Moon, the late drummer of the Who, for turning him on to the thrill of room trashing.

At the post-premiere question-and-answer session with the audience, Walsh reveled in discussing his former hobby.

“We would play these great shows, and I’d get back to our room [and be like], ‘Where did everybody go?’ So to reward ourselves … I would rearrange the room,” said Walsh, noting that one of his favorite pranks involved super glue. “One time I put my whole room on the ceiling.”

Frey interjected that Walsh fine-tuned the process of destroying a TV — without having to toss it out the window into a swimming pool, generating an expense which would later be billed back to the band. Instead, Walsh would pour water into holes in the TV’s back panel, frying the circuitry but leaving everything looking normal to the naked eye.

“That was a great secret,” Walsh said. “If you could get across the state line before the maid opened the door, that was perfection. … You can’t do that stuff anymore.”

As Frey noted in the film, Walsh is “an interesting bunch of guys.”

“The History of the Eagles Part I,” which follows the band through its bitter breakup in 1980, will debut on Showtime on Feb. 15. “The History of the Eagles Part II,” which primarily picks up when the band reunited in 1994 and continues to the present, will premiere on Showtime on Feb. 16. The two films are directed by Alison Ellwood and produced by documentarian Alex Gibney (‘Taxi to the Dark Side,’ ‘Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room’).

Next: The Most Underrated Eagles Songs

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