Joe Walsh dishes on The Eagles ahead of D.C. shows

Singer Glenn Frey, left, and musician Joe Walsh of The Eagles perform at the Stagecoach Music Festival in Indio, Calif. on Friday, May 2, 2008. (AP Photo/Dan Steinberg)

WASHINGTON — He’s the man who taught The Eagles how to rock.

Now, you can see the rock god in person with a pair of D.C. shows over the next few weeks.

First, Walsh hits Warner Theatre in Downtown D.C. on Wednesday, Sept. 23, meaning you should plan ahead to navigate the crowds for Pope Francis’ visit the same day.

Then, he hits the National Mall on Sunday, Oct. 4 to join Steven Tyler, Sheryl Crow, The Fray, Jason Isbell and the Goo Goo Dolls’ John Rzeznik for a rally against addiction (more on this next month).

“I’m amazed. I really am,” Walsh tells WTOP. “I have the best of both worlds. I’m in a great band: The Eagles. It’s a privilege to be part of a band like that, and we do things a certain way, and that is everybody has an assignment of a part to sing and a part to play, and if we all show up and do exactly that, it turns into something bigger than any of us individually. But when I go out solo, I get a chance to open up a little. I get to turn up a little … and I get a chance to improvise.”

Music fans will long debate the most fruitful periods of Walsh’s career. Some love his early work with James Gang, from “Funk #49” (1970) to “Walk Away” (1971). Others love his solo efforts, from “Rocky Mountain Way” (1973) to “Life’s Been Good” (1978). And perhaps his biggest contribution to music history was infusing a harder-rock sound into the original country-pop origins of The Eagles.

“There’s a magic when they sing together,” Walsh says of Eagles vocalists Glenn Frey and Don Henley, who famously harmonized on “Take it Easy” (1972), “Witchy Woman” (1972), “Peaceful Easy Feeling” (1972), “Already Gone” (1974), “One of These Nights” (1975) and “Best of My Love” (1975).

Singing wasn’t the only thing Walsh learned from Henley and Frey.

“Don is a great songwriter, Glenn is a great songwriter,” Walsh says of the duo who co-wrote such hits as “Desperado” (1973), “Tequila Sunrise” (1973),  “Lyin’ Eyes” (1975) and “Take it to the Limit” (1975). “Being around them has made me much better at the craft of songwriting. It’s opened up a whole new department of the big picture, the way I look at things, and I’m really grateful.”

On the flip side, Walsh would also like to think he taught Henley and Frey a thing or two.

“I think what I did for them was to rock ‘n roll a little bit. They didn’t really know how, but they wanted to, so I came in and did what I do, and it took The Eagles up a notch,” says Walsh, who joined the band for “Hotel California” (1977). “They were nervous about painting themselves into a country-rock corner. … It mutated into what The Eagles is now, and that’s what we all wanted.”

Indeed, few bands have fused country and rock styles more successfully than The Eagles.

“We’re an American band!” Walsh declares triumphantly — and for good reason.

In terms of overall sales, The Eagles have outsold every band except The Beatles and Led Zeppelin.

“U2 claims they sold more, but I don’t know about that,” Walsh says.

More impressively, The Eagles’ “Greatest Hits” continues to trade places with Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” as the top-selling album of all time. That bears repeating. The top-selling album of all time.  

“We go back and forth with Michael Jackson. We were winning, then he was winning, then we were winning again. Then unfortunately he died and his catalog went nuts after that,” Walsh says. “I doubt we’ll do this, but if we all kill ourselves, our catalog will overtake his, but we’re not gonna do that. We’re not done yet! That was kind of twisted. We’ll let Michael lead.”

“Twisted” is exactly what you expect from the fun-loving Walsh, who had a reputation as a party animal and famously sang about wrecking hotel rooms.

“We were young and achieved an amount of success beyond our wildest imagination. We got to the point where we could do anything we wanted, so we did,” Walsh says. “(One night) we played in Chicago and there was a knock on the door. Oh my God, it was John Belushi. John came in my room and we became really good friends over the next period of time. One time, I went hell-raising with him in Chicago. He showed me the town, and all I’ll tell you is it cost $23,000 to check out.”

Which lyric does that story remind you of?

You could go: “I live in hotels, tear out the walls. I have accountants pay for it all.”

Or: “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.”

You see, these songs have become the fabric of our pop-culture subconscious. We can recite them all  by heart. So, WTOP thought it’d be fun to have Walsh break down The Eagles most famous lyrics:

1. Have you ever stood on the corner in Winslow, Arizona? 

“No! Glenn stood on the corner with Jackson Browne, that’s how they wrote that.”

2. Have you ever stayed at the Hotel California and is it really a lovely place? 

“There’s about five places that say they’re the Hotel California, and none of them are. ‘Hotel California’ was an abstract vision of that’s the way Los Angeles was before any of us made it. Nobody in California was from California, everybody was from Ohio and Texas.”

3. Do you consider yourself brutally handsome? Do you know anyone who’s terminally pretty? 

“Yeah! Both of those!”

4. Is the Queen of Hearts really always our best bet?

“Yeah. That’s love.”

5. Is it true that so many of us live our lives in chains and we never even know we have the key? How do we find the key?  

“I would say stay in present. Get out of the past. Get out of the future. Stay present and be happy.”

Listen to the full interview with Joe Walsh below:

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