Inner Tube: Joe Walsh’s But Seriously, Folks… at 45
Life’s been good to the Eagles guitarist’s fourth solo album
When fellow Rock & Roll Globe scribe Kara Tucker looked back at Joe Walsh’s career in November 2022, she opened the article with one of the most memorable lines from that eminently quotable movie, The Big Lebowski:
“Come on, man. I had a rough night, and I hate the fuckin’ Eagles, man.”
When it comes to the Eagles, I’m not as harsh a critic as the Dude, but I’ve always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with the band. For me, the yin to their yang is that they can be too damn … well, glossy.
Joe Walsh, who replaced Bernie Leadon in the Eagles just before Hotel California, is anything but glossy. The most rocking track on that mega album? “Life in the Fast Lane,” Joe’s biggest contribution to one of the best-selling albums of all time.
The Dude may have hated the Eagles, but I think he would have loved Joe Walsh – a guy whose biggest solo hit proclaims “They say I’m crazy, but I have a good time” and who loves playing guitar the way the Dude loves bowling. Maybe even more.
But Seriously, Folks… was Walsh’s fourth studio album, released May 16, 1978. Four members of the Eagles – Don Felder, Glenn Frey, Don Henley and Timothy B. Schmit — contribute to the proceedings on a few tracks, but this is Walsh’s album all the way.
Released as it was after Hotel California and before The Long Run, But Seriously, Folks… came along at just the right time for Walsh. His artistic engine was firing on all cylinders, he hadn’t yet succumbed to the damage suffered by all the coke and vodka he consumed living life in the fast lane, and Hotel California primed the listening public for the sounds he had to offer.
The first of this record’s offerings, “Over and Over,” finds drummer Joe Vitale, Walsh’s longtime friend and musical collaborator (they co-wrote “Rocky Mountain Way”), breaking out his hi-hats and delivering tempo changes that provide a solid foundation for a single that probably should have done a lot better than it did (it only reached 106 on the U.S. charts). Be sure to check out Walsh’s tasty slide break.
It segueways effortlessly into “Second Hand Store,” a meditation on what might happen after the fickle finger of success decides to move on to the next lucky recipient of its fortune and fame (“Guess you shoulda known better, and still / It was fun while it lasted”). Felder’s pedal steel lends some lovely texture to the track.
Up next is another relatively mellow offering, “Indian Summer,” which again finds 29-year-old Walsh in a reflective mood about the passage of time. “Well the summers are hot and the winters get cold / Not a lot smarter, but another year old.” Imagine what the Walsh of 1978 would think about the Walsh of 2023!
Side one (yes, kids, we’re talking vinyl) closes with “At the Station,” co-written by Walsh and Vitale. Propulsive drums, energetic guitar, and Walsh’s signature high-pitched vocals. A solid track with an odd bit of coda attached to it (seriously, why is that even there at all?).
Side two opens with “Tomorrow,” a relatively lush slice of soft rock that welcomes Frey, Henley and Schmit into the proceedings on backing vocals, but you would barely notice them if you weren’t initially told they were there. It sports a lyric that procrastinators everywhere will find familiar.
“Inner Tube” is a brief (1:24) bit of instrumental moodiness that would have fit comfortably behind the opening credits to David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. It segues into another instrumental, “Theme from Boat Weirdos,” a relaxed jam that gives Walsh’s backing band a chance to stretch and shine.
But let’s be real: The first seven tracks, as great as they are, and as well as several of them might have fit on (and improved) the Eagles’ The Long Run, all get dwarfed by the album’s closer, “Life’s Been Good.” Sarcastic and jokey, it was the biggest hit of Walsh’s solo career, rising to #12 in the U.S. and #14 in the U.K.
Here’s the thing, though: The single version runs 4 minutes and 46 seconds, on the long side for singles of the time, but the full album version runs nearly 9 minutes. I’m betting that most people who know the song have never actually heard the full album version. If you’re one of those people, do yourself a favor and give it a listen. I’m betting that, like me, you’ll really enjoy the instrumental passages that flesh out Walsh’s bit of autobiography.
(Oh, and don’t miss the last 48 seconds of the track, what some call the hidden ninth track of the album: “Uh oh, here comes a flock of wah-wahs!”)
But Seriously, Folks… clocks in at a meager 35 minutes and 21 seconds, but it’s arguably Joe Walsh’s most essential solo release.
And when it came to the Eagles, he really tied the band together, man.
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