Joe Walsh is a 64-year-old white guy from Wichita who farted around with hard rock in Cleveland and Colorado in the ‘60s and early ‘70s, then ended up in the Eagles. His greatest musical achievement is almost certainly the 1978 solo tune “Life’s Been Good,” a cutting yet highly agreeable lampoon of life as a rock star. (Watch the clip below to see him mangle-slash-embody it maybe a decade later while outfitted in fancy sweatpants and a tucked-in tie dye.) Rock and roll has many crazy uncles, but Joe Walsh brings a clear-eyed, common man’s panache to the role. And while we’ve never so much as read an interview with him, we guess or maybe fantasize that, of any rock dinosaur, he’d be the most fun to join on the deck of a compound in Big Sur for the perfunctory smoking down of a jay.
This fantasy’s not the only reason we’re interested in “Analog Man,” the new song streaming now over at Rolling Stone. The other one is that it’s the title song off his first solo album in 20 years, so giving it a listen is a little like opening up a dead relative’s ornate old trunk and half-expecting treasure. And what do you get? Well, the scent of mothballs at first. His sound is well-preserved: The voice is still that of a nasal, ropey-muscled carney, and the way the verses just truck along, abide, until the chorus opens up all warmly melodic is pure Walsh.
So what’s this guy got to say in between drawing out a little saliva to keep the joint from canoeing? He doesn’t get the email. Seriously, a flourish in which he specifically mentions LCD screens aside, Walsh might as well be complaining about his AOL dial-up. His inbox is full of spam. And what’s this about needing cable? “One hundred channels, and nothing is on.” Don’t even get him started on the commercials …
But here’s the thing: Listen to this song a few times — and if you’ve got any kind of soft spot for soft rock, you probably will — and a creepy feeling starts to break through: Joe Walsh genuinely can’t work his computer without the help of a “10-year-old”; you, assuming you’re somewhere in the neighborhood of half his age, spend a shitload of time staring at a screen but maybe still can’t quite say what Pinterest is; and today’s high schooler — never mind those 10-year-olds — are practically begging for a Google body suit with a built-in readout specifying the date and location of their first period. It’s no “Life’s Been Good,” but mockable as “Analog Man” is, it does say something about life, something not so different than that late-‘70s hit: For better or worse, the world keeps moving while you stay the same.
Now, here’s that video of him in the sweatpants and on god knows what (hat tip to Lauren M.):