The Eagles Take Issue With 'American Idol,' 'X Factor'

History of the Eagles

U.S.A. (Director: Alison Ellwood)

Using never-before-seen home movies, archival footage and new interviews with all current and former members of the Eagles, this documentary provides an intimate look into the history of the band and the legacy of their music.

Band members Glenn Fry, Don Henley, Joe Walsh and Timothy Schmit also talk up booze, drugs, sex and rock and roll.

LONDON – TV music competition shows such as American Idol and the X Factor undermine music as art, according to The Eagles band member Glenn Frey.

While admitting to watching the singing competition shows with what he described as a "morbid curiosity," Fry criticized the way such shows make the wannabe popstars "over sing" everything during a recent press conference.

"Yeah, they've turned it into Glee," added band mate Don Henley, referencing the high school show choir comedy drama show.

Said Frey: "This doesn't have a lot to do with our DVD, but I'm going to deal with this quickly. Can you call it art if you have a contest? That's the first thing I wanna ask."

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He said the second thing was that he found the most interesting people on the shows were the people who don't over sing.

"The nature of these shows is such is that they make everybody want to be big and big for the camera and big for the audience and you know, for myself I would just as soon somebody just stood there and sing the damn song," Frey said.

Frey said that at least the shows, while not promising a "tremendous pot of gold at the end of the rainbow," gave certain people the chance to tick a box off in their lives to say they were a singer for a year.

"It doesn't make it wrong by any means, but like I said, I do think it encourages people to overplay it," Fry said.

Band member Joe Walsh, who detailed his ongoing battle with alcoholism and drugs which began when the Eagles broke up in the 1980s at the height of their success before regrouping 14 years later, summed up his problems with the TV competitions.

"They just leaked what those poor kids have to sign and basically they don't stand a chance," Walsh said.

Frey, Henley, Walsh and fellow band member Timothy Schmit alighted in London Thursday to talk up the upcoming Universal Music DVD release April 29 in the U.K. of Alison Ellwood's documentary History of the Eagles Part One.

The no holds barred doc is scheduled to unspool Thursday as part of the sophomore edition of Sundance London before an extended Q&A session with the band for festival goers.

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Walsh, arriving at the press conference in a swanky central London hotel with a fire extinguisher offering a nod to his infamous reputation of being a room wrecker on tour, also underlined his credentials for being the funny one.

When talking about doing a recent show in Las Vegas with The Eagles, Walsh quipped that he was "glad the fans knew all the words" to the songs.

And after hearing from his fellow band member's about their arrival in the British capital which saw Frey and Schmit land from L.A. and Henley come in from, Walsh drawled, "I'm not here yet."

Pushing the jokes to one side, Walsh did confess to being uncomfortable watching the documentary footage of himself when he was a "mess" as a result of drugs and drink but that he felt it important that it was portrayed in the film.

"When we stopped I didn't really have a life and I didn't know what to do and I was sad," Walsh said. "So I pretended that we didn't stop and I kept going and basically I ended up an alcoholic and dependent on substances and those things gradually convince you that you can't do anything without them. And that's how I wound up."

He said that when Frey and Henley approached him "in 1993 and a half" to put the band back together on condition he got sober, it was "the reason" for him to quit drinking and fight his drug addiction.

"There was a point when we could do pretty much what we wanted so we did," Walsh said. "I'm not really ashamed of anything, we had an amazing journey and that was a part of it."

Henley said when the band was having after show parties with groupies, smoking pot and drinking in the 1970s, it was an era in the U.S. when "everyone was misbehaving" from "doctors, lawyers, wall street types."

And Schmit admitted that the band "had a lot of fun too" and some of it had not been put in the documentary "which is probably just as well" for a band who have families now.

He said through a mix of good genetics, will power and good fortune they'd all "made it through the fire" and survived, noting with sadness that not everyone had been so fortuitous.

Frey said it constantly amazed him that people "still just want to hear us play" after all these years.

At the launch of this year's festival Wednesday, April 24, Robert Redford, while professing to be a lifelong Eagles fan and personal friend of Henley, noted he was delighted they were giving up time to the festival.

Showtime grabbed broadcast rights to the two-part documentary History of the Eagles as it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah earlier this year.

Granting unprecedented access, the iconic rock band partnered with Oscar winning filmmaker Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side) to produce the inside look into the history of the band and the legacy of its music.

Ellwood's film weaves in rare archival material, concert footage and never-before-seen home movies that explore the evolution and enduring popularity of one of America’s defining bands. The first part explores the band’s creation and rise to fame in the 1970s through its breakup in 1980.

More than 25 new interviews were conducted with all current and former band members as well as contemporaries including Jackson Browne.

But Linda Ronstadt, who played a central role in the band's formation, declined to participate in the doc. Henley said Ronstadt was "retired" now and said it felt "peculiar" that she wasn't a part of it other than archive footage unearthed by the filmmakers.

The documentary also includes a rare 1977 concert film from the Hotel California Tour.

The second installment picks up in the 1980s, when band members faced both personal and professional struggles while apart. The documentary also covers the band's reunion tour in the early 1990s.