Friday, August 19, 2022
It’s a convoluted drive out of Sedona. You have to drive south, then east to I17, then north to I40 east. On Monday I had taken my truck to Flagstaff for an oil change. I drove north on 89A, which is a beautiful road, but it is a winding, narrow mountain road up and out of the canyon. There are tourist destinations all along this road, and it is also busy with local traffic. Workers and people are going to and from Flagstaff. It was a tough drive in the truck and NO place to pull a trailer! Going this way makes the drive about 8 hours if you don’t stop, and we stopped.
I40 in most places is Rt. 66. I had bought a book about Rt. 66, thinking we might drive parts of it. When Winslow, Arizona came up on a mileage sign, we had to make the turn! Martha was not familiar with the Eagles classic, “Take it Easy.” I was ready for a cup of coffee anyway, so we took the exit.
Well, two blocks of Winslow make the best of the famous spot. I will never forget the place I first heard the song. I was in graduate school at Ohio State, working in the lab one evening. Mike Majchrowicz, standing on a lab bench against the wall, said, “Hey Dude, listen to this song!” He played it, emphasizing the lyrics, ‘Take it Easy’”. I guess I was being too intense.
The story of the song was also pretty cool. It would be the Eagle’s first hit. From https://americansongwriter.com/behind-the-song-the-eagles-take-it-easy/
“Singer-songwriter Jackson Browne began writing the breezy traveling tune in 1971 but couldn’t quite finish it. Then living at 1020 Laguna Avenue in Echo Park, Los Angeles, along with Glen Frey and J.D. Souther, he had been plucking away on his piano. Frey, who was sharing a one-room apartment for $60/mo, heard Jackson in the basement directly beneath him working on an early version.
“He had his piano and guitars down there. I didn’t really know how to sit down and work on a song until I heard him playing underneath us in the basement,” Frey noted in album liner notes. “I had never really witnessed that sort of focus – someone being that fastidious – and it gave me a different idea about how to write songs; that maybe it wasn’t all just going to be a flood of inspiration. That’s when I first heard [this song].”
“Take It Easy” was originally intended for Browne’s own self-titled debut album (1972), but he shelved the piece. “It was Glenn who remembered the song from some time earlier and asked Jackson about it one day,” said band member Don Henley.
Frey continued, “I told him that I really liked it. ‘What was that, man? What a cool tune that is.’ He started playing it for me and said, ‘Yeah, but I don’t know – I’m stuck.’ So, he played the second unfinished verse and I said, ‘It’s a girl, my lord, in a flatbed Ford, slowin’ down to take a look at me.’ That was my contribution to [the song], really, just finishing the second verse.”
Even with such a small contribution, Browne was immediately awe-struck, saying, “Okay! We co-wrote this,” as Frey recounted it. “But it’s certainly more of him. Sometimes, you know, it’s the package without the ribbon. He already had the lines about Winslow, Arizona. He’d had car trouble and broken down there on one of his trips to Sedona. He spent a long day in Winslow… I don’t know that we could have ever had a better opening song on our first album. Just those open chords felt like an announcement, ‘And now … the Eagles.’”
“Browne, a boyish and mournful young songwriter, started the song with an account of his woman problems. Out of the seven on his mind, he said, only one was a friend. The rest wanted to own him, or stone him. Never mind; take it easy.”
But it is Glenn Frey’s statue on the corner of Winslow, AZ. Next to the statue is a red, flatbed Ford truck with a pretty girl sitting in the driver’s seat. A nice shop across the street sells all kinds of Rt. 66 memorabilia, and a TV shows the Eagles singing the song in their early years.
A friendly black man sat on a bench across the street talking and waving to everyone while eating a sandwich. Behind him was a very cool vintage Airstream and truck. The man and I exchanged greetings before walking across the street to get an espresso. After a little more wandering, we decided we had best get back on the road. We pulled out beside the man, who had now settled behind an electric guitar. It would have been nice to sit down with a coffee and listen. He waved and shouted, “Hey man! You travel in style!” I smiled and waved back.