In the 1978 hit Life's Been Good, Joe Walsh mocked rock stardom as an endless buffet of excess and decadence. That party's over.
Now he's singing about sobriety, family unity and gratitude on Analog Man, his first solo album in 20 years. It's no joke that life's been very good lately for the teetotaling, happily married veteran Eagles singer/guitarist. But seriously, folks, he's still peddling wit and sarcasm.
On the title track, Walsh addresses the digital age, whining that cyberspace has him "lost in the fog … Some 10-year-old smarta - - has to show me what to do."
Underlying the wisecracks "is a serious theme," says Walsh, 64. "We're all spending a lot of time with computers, and it's easy to get lost in there. Our bodies sit in chairs and wait for our minds to get done. I don't know if the Internet's working for us or we're working for it. I know it ate the record business and radio and intellectual content. I hope it doesn't eat me.
"I'm not saying I'm a hermit coming out of the woods, even though I had to learn a new technology since I made the last album with recording tape. Now everyone uses a mouse."
Though he has adjusted to studio advancements, Walsh cherishes the chemistry of players gathered in one room and sees drawbacks in reliance on digital wizardry.
"There's a tendency to start with a drum machine and build a track clinically. And because you can fix anything, there's a temptation to fix everything. If we'd had digital recording during Hotel California, we might still be working on it."
To young musicians who seek his advice in steering their careers through the digital revolution, "I don't have any," he says. "I'm trying to figure it out, too. All I can say is: 'Go out and play in front of people. You can't be a legend in your parents' garage.' "
In the stinging Band Played On, Walsh decries ignorance and apathy in "a world that's on fire."
"This complacency of waiting for things to get better is disturbing. We're aware the government is broken. We're ostriches with our heads in the sand, when we could be doing a lot. I think (NBA legend) Charles Barkley should run for president, and I'll be vice president."
It wouldn't be his first stab at politics. Promising free gas for all, he ran a mock presidential campaign in 1980, then ran as the running mate of author/activist the Rev. Goat Carson in 1992 on the platform "We want our money back!"
There's no time for such shenanigans these days. He's on tour through September. The Eagles are plotting a blowout for next year's 40th anniversary. And Walsh is still on his honeymoon, nearly four years after marrying Marjorie Bach, younger sister of Ringo Starr's wife, Barbara Bach.
"In Marjorie, I found a part of me that was missing," he says. "I've known her a long time, but I was too scared to take a step. She's the one who said, 'It's time to go in the studio.' I always hid behind my humor. It's a little scary to open up and let everyone see the real Joe. It's a risk, but it's time. And it feels good. I've got some stuff to say."
The cautionary Wrecking Ball and recovery tale One Day at a Time draw from Walsh's years as an alcoholic.
"It's a hello from me to this new generation of young celebrities currently on probation. I have fond memories of the old days but it got pretty dark toward the end."
Before the 1994 Eagles reunion, bandmates Don Henley and Glenn Frey confronted Walsh about his drinking.
"I ran out of options," Walsh says. "They said, 'We can't do it without you and we can't do it without you sober,' and that's just what I needed. I had to start from the ground up and redesign myself to do everything I do but without vodka."
One fear nagged at him.
"I thought, 'I won't be fun anymore' and that I'd have to wear a tie. You get so dependent on substances that you talk yourself into believing you can't do anything without them."
Walsh gradually discovered a brighter world, especially in his new extended family.
"It's a dynamic I've never been around, and I'm still learning to be a part of it," he says, praising brother-in-law Starr, who enlisted Walsh for his first All-Starr Band tour in 1989. "Ringo and I have been friends for a long time. He's the big brother I never had, and his knowledge and insight have helped me immeasurably with my life."
It was destiny, he says. Walsh and the Bach sisters separately attended The Beatles' landmark 1965 Shea Stadium concert.
"I was screaming and crying with the rest of the girls," Walsh cracks.