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Joe Walsh: Saving the World, One Monk at a Time

It was New Year’s Eve about 15 minutes ago, right?

“My thing is the plight of Tibet.” It’s Joe Walsh on the phone from L.A. and he’s got a cause: saving the Gaden Shartse monastery. He says this with the same baked drawl and peripheral logic that KLOS FM morning show listeners were treated to back in the 1980s when, in addition to being an Eagle Walsh was a regular deejay there. You can easily imagine him saying things like well, Dave, the smoker you drink the player you get. But today, Joe Walsh has a cause. He’s been clean since the ‘90s, and, he’s a Buddhist.

“I have met the Dalai Lama,” he says, “a couple of times.”

While he is telling me this I hear a cartoon-ish spring sounding off faintly on his end of the line: boying! boying! boying! I'm curious as to its origin, but I decide not to ask. Walsh meanwhile says he’d tried a lot of religions before landing on Buddhism. He calls it a thought system, not a religion. “None of the others worked for me.”

This was before he chanced to visit the Gaden Shartse monastery in India , a group of monks that dates back to the 15th century, exiled in India he says because the Chinese destroyed their original monastery in Tibet. Now headquartered in Long Beach, he calls them non violent and says that “they pray for us every day.”

Last year, Walsh auctioned off a pair of tickets to a sold-out Eagles show on eBay. The proceeds went to Gaden Shartse.

“The way to make a difference is to pick one thing and help it. It’s really hard to change the world. There’s people who wanna do that. But if everybody picked one thing and helped it, the world would be a better place.”

In fact he’d helped the Gaden Shartse before, back when he lived in Encinitas. Some of their monks needed a place to stay. He let them crash at what is now his ex-wife’s house.

“Yeah, I did.” I ask what he misses most about living in San Diego and he mentions his boys. “I have two sons, Aldon and Emerson, 16, and 12. I think that’s right.” He laughs. “I have an ex-wife. They’re in San Diego. I spent five years or something like that down there. That was in Encinitas. I know a lot of people down there. I have a lot of friends there.”

These days Walsh lives in L.A., calls being there a job requirement. “It’s headquarters for the Eagles,” a band he mentions having been a member of going on 40 years. This causes the talk to turn to age in general. It’s what older guys do: we talk about how mature we’ve gotten.

“I’m kind of a senior spokesperson at this point,” he says. “I just turned 64. I hadn’t planned to live this long. Everybody in the [Eagles] band is still alive too, much to our amazement.”

Time flies: Walsh joined the James Gang in Cleveland, the first of three bands he would belong to in his lifetime, in 1968. He is a road warrior, the veteran now of thousands of shows but none the worse for wear and tear.

“I’m still this kid in this body that’s starting to slow down. I don’t know how to be 64. I wish there was a book out there called 64 for Dummies.”

The influence of Joe Walsh on pop culture at large and on rock music in general is sly but pervasive; whether they knew it or not, Cheap Trick had replicated an old James Gang promo photo when Robin Zander and Tom Petersson lounged on choppers during the photo shoot for In Color.

Walsh first appeared on the scene as an uninhibited guitar geek who hot rodded his amps and pickups to the point that they snarled and popped with overextended wattage. He knew who made the best guitars, which amps were paramount, and which combinations sounded best with this pedal or with that effect. This was knowledge that was not lost on Pete Townshend.

I tell him that I was once allowed a (momentary) interview with Townshend during the Who’s (first) farewell tour, during which he credited Walsh with helping him attain that great, ultimate tone of his. True story?

“Yes. That happened. The James Gang opened for the Who when they performed Tommy in Europe. Pete and I are in the same zip code in terms of writing music and playing guitar. He had taken me under his wing as kind of a mentor. But during Tommy, he’d locked into a certain amp/guitar setup for touring, and he got stuck there. It was time for him to move on and I sensed that.”

Walsh identifies the main weapons of rock, namely the Fender Stratocaster and the Gibson Les Paul, both of which Townshend and virtually every other rock guitar idol worth his salt has in addition to actually playing, set fire to, mock humped, tongued, spanked, ran over, stomped, kicked, chucked from hotel windows, or smashed into walls of costly amplifiers.

“But there’s another one, the Gretsch 6120, and it is as important as the other two. I had a beauty, and I gave it to Pete, and I had an old Fender amp (a ’59 Fender Bandmaster) that I gave to him. He used both to write and record Who’s Next.”

The guitar in question was a bright orange ’57 Gretsch Chet Atkins model, a big fat hollow-body with rich tone but prone to feedback at big volume, which would become part of Townshend’s signature sound. In keeping with his persona the Brit guitarist smashed up the 6120 during a show. Later, he had the bits re-assembled and is said to still own it.

“There’s songs in that guitar,” says Walsh. “You sit down with it, and stuff just comes out of you.”

He also gave Jimmy Page a Les Paul, a Walsh-modified burst, the one that would be used on much of Led Zeppelin’s recorded material and in concert. Page named the guitar Number 1 and at various times called it his wife or his mistress. The black Les Paul, the one Page called Black Beauty? It was stolen in 1970, but Number 1 is said to remain in his possession. “I gave it to him,” Walsh says, “because he needed one.”

There is yet another Joe Walsh guitar legend I wanted to clarify, this one involving Pat Travers. Travers once told me a story about the origin of his double-cut Les Paul, the red burst he played for over two decades. At the time, there were only two prototypes and the Gibson guys gave Travers pick of the litter. He chose the flamed maple top. The other one he says, a quilted top, went to Joe Walsh.

Keep in mind that this is a story that has been hotly disputed over and again by guitar collectors on Les Paul forums, by Gibson historians, and even by the San Diego axe-man (he'd prefer to not be named for reasons of security) who currently owns the Travers double-cut.

“Yes,” Walsh says, “I got that guitar, but I don’t have it any more. I don’t remember what I did with it.” He laughs. “But,” he says, “there’s a lot of things I don’t remember.”

The Eagles were brilliant documentarians of party life and pop culture during the ‘70s-‘80s. “Don Henley’s “Dirty Laundry? Boy,” says Walsh, “did he call that one?” I ask Walsh if the Eagles were to modernize “Life in the Fast Lane,” what the new message would be.

“I don’t think we need to write it again. It’s still relevant.” Who then does Walsh think pop culture is at present? “The Kardashians,” he says. “24-hour streaming bullshit. That’s your pop culture today.”

Analog Man, the first Joe Walsh solo album in something like 20 years comes out sometime in May or June. It is a record that I’m guessing was recorded digitally. Did Walsh make an intentional statement with the title?

“I sure did. I just decided I better get with it. After all, it is the digital age. Back when it was all analog, we used to go in the studio, and studios had knobs. We used to turn knobs and say, let’s see what this does. Now, we have a mouse. We [the members of the Eagles] spend hours yelling at our computers. My son comes in and he says, Dad, you’re really stupid.”

But Walsh calls the digital world an alternative to reality that people are using more and more in a bad way. “Reality has a lot of”… he pauses…“crummy stuff in it. And people have decided to go into the virtual world.” It is another means of escape he says, and being a man with knowledge of that sort of thing, is troubled by what he sees.

“I was at a Laker’s game last night, and everybody there was texting. Now and then they’d look up and check the score.” Walsh expresses grave doubts as well about the net effect of video gaming on young minds.

“Every kid in America is capable of launching a space shuttle, if we still had them, but they can’t read.”

But Analog Man goes deeper than gaming and texting, and I’d be willing to bet there is a reason it’s being released during an election year. “First of all, there is no more money. We have spent it all. Why is everybody waiting for things to get better? They’re not gonna get better, and that’s screamin’ at me. Thirty thousand vets are comin’ home and nobody gives a fuck."

And, he says, they are likely to be unemployed.

“Congress is corrupt. There are players inside who are more powerful than the federal government, and they are calling the shots. Partisan politics is out of control. And we’re pretending there is more money,” he says, “and there isn’t.”

Hey, don't you know it's a waste of your day / Caught up in endless solutions / That have no meaning, just another hunch / Based upon jumping conclusions / Caught up in endless solutions / Backed up against a wall of confusion / Living a life of illusion.

In 1980, along with being a deejay and an Eagle Walsh ran for President of the United States. If elected, “Life’s Been Good” was to be the new national anthem. His platform was simple: free gas for all. A publicity stunt? Well, you make the call, but remember that Walsh also ran for vice president a dozen years later. Before we ring off I want to ask who he’s backing in the primaries, if he has a dog in the race for the Presidency. But then I think about it, and I’m pretty sure I know what his answer will be.

Joe Walsh appears at the Belly Up in Solana Beach Feb 2 Image

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It was New Year’s Eve about 15 minutes ago, right?

“My thing is the plight of Tibet.” It’s Joe Walsh on the phone from L.A. and he’s got a cause: saving the Gaden Shartse monastery. He says this with the same baked drawl and peripheral logic that KLOS FM morning show listeners were treated to back in the 1980s when, in addition to being an Eagle Walsh was a regular deejay there. You can easily imagine him saying things like well, Dave, the smoker you drink the player you get. But today, Joe Walsh has a cause. He’s been clean since the ‘90s, and, he’s a Buddhist.

“I have met the Dalai Lama,” he says, “a couple of times.”

While he is telling me this I hear a cartoon-ish spring sounding off faintly on his end of the line: boying! boying! boying! I'm curious as to its origin, but I decide not to ask. Walsh meanwhile says he’d tried a lot of religions before landing on Buddhism. He calls it a thought system, not a religion. “None of the others worked for me.”

This was before he chanced to visit the Gaden Shartse monastery in India , a group of monks that dates back to the 15th century, exiled in India he says because the Chinese destroyed their original monastery in Tibet. Now headquartered in Long Beach, he calls them non violent and says that “they pray for us every day.”

Last year, Walsh auctioned off a pair of tickets to a sold-out Eagles show on eBay. The proceeds went to Gaden Shartse.

“The way to make a difference is to pick one thing and help it. It’s really hard to change the world. There’s people who wanna do that. But if everybody picked one thing and helped it, the world would be a better place.”

In fact he’d helped the Gaden Shartse before, back when he lived in Encinitas. Some of their monks needed a place to stay. He let them crash at what is now his ex-wife’s house.

“Yeah, I did.” I ask what he misses most about living in San Diego and he mentions his boys. “I have two sons, Aldon and Emerson, 16, and 12. I think that’s right.” He laughs. “I have an ex-wife. They’re in San Diego. I spent five years or something like that down there. That was in Encinitas. I know a lot of people down there. I have a lot of friends there.”

These days Walsh lives in L.A., calls being there a job requirement. “It’s headquarters for the Eagles,” a band he mentions having been a member of going on 40 years. This causes the talk to turn to age in general. It’s what older guys do: we talk about how mature we’ve gotten.

“I’m kind of a senior spokesperson at this point,” he says. “I just turned 64. I hadn’t planned to live this long. Everybody in the [Eagles] band is still alive too, much to our amazement.”

Time flies: Walsh joined the James Gang in Cleveland, the first of three bands he would belong to in his lifetime, in 1968. He is a road warrior, the veteran now of thousands of shows but none the worse for wear and tear.

“I’m still this kid in this body that’s starting to slow down. I don’t know how to be 64. I wish there was a book out there called 64 for Dummies.”

The influence of Joe Walsh on pop culture at large and on rock music in general is sly but pervasive; whether they knew it or not, Cheap Trick had replicated an old James Gang promo photo when Robin Zander and Tom Petersson lounged on choppers during the photo shoot for In Color.

Walsh first appeared on the scene as an uninhibited guitar geek who hot rodded his amps and pickups to the point that they snarled and popped with overextended wattage. He knew who made the best guitars, which amps were paramount, and which combinations sounded best with this pedal or with that effect. This was knowledge that was not lost on Pete Townshend.

I tell him that I was once allowed a (momentary) interview with Townshend during the Who’s (first) farewell tour, during which he credited Walsh with helping him attain that great, ultimate tone of his. True story?

“Yes. That happened. The James Gang opened for the Who when they performed Tommy in Europe. Pete and I are in the same zip code in terms of writing music and playing guitar. He had taken me under his wing as kind of a mentor. But during Tommy, he’d locked into a certain amp/guitar setup for touring, and he got stuck there. It was time for him to move on and I sensed that.”

Walsh identifies the main weapons of rock, namely the Fender Stratocaster and the Gibson Les Paul, both of which Townshend and virtually every other rock guitar idol worth his salt has in addition to actually playing, set fire to, mock humped, tongued, spanked, ran over, stomped, kicked, chucked from hotel windows, or smashed into walls of costly amplifiers.

“But there’s another one, the Gretsch 6120, and it is as important as the other two. I had a beauty, and I gave it to Pete, and I had an old Fender amp (a ’59 Fender Bandmaster) that I gave to him. He used both to write and record Who’s Next.”

The guitar in question was a bright orange ’57 Gretsch Chet Atkins model, a big fat hollow-body with rich tone but prone to feedback at big volume, which would become part of Townshend’s signature sound. In keeping with his persona the Brit guitarist smashed up the 6120 during a show. Later, he had the bits re-assembled and is said to still own it.

“There’s songs in that guitar,” says Walsh. “You sit down with it, and stuff just comes out of you.”

He also gave Jimmy Page a Les Paul, a Walsh-modified burst, the one that would be used on much of Led Zeppelin’s recorded material and in concert. Page named the guitar Number 1 and at various times called it his wife or his mistress. The black Les Paul, the one Page called Black Beauty? It was stolen in 1970, but Number 1 is said to remain in his possession. “I gave it to him,” Walsh says, “because he needed one.”

There is yet another Joe Walsh guitar legend I wanted to clarify, this one involving Pat Travers. Travers once told me a story about the origin of his double-cut Les Paul, the red burst he played for over two decades. At the time, there were only two prototypes and the Gibson guys gave Travers pick of the litter. He chose the flamed maple top. The other one he says, a quilted top, went to Joe Walsh.

Keep in mind that this is a story that has been hotly disputed over and again by guitar collectors on Les Paul forums, by Gibson historians, and even by the San Diego axe-man (he'd prefer to not be named for reasons of security) who currently owns the Travers double-cut.

“Yes,” Walsh says, “I got that guitar, but I don’t have it any more. I don’t remember what I did with it.” He laughs. “But,” he says, “there’s a lot of things I don’t remember.”

The Eagles were brilliant documentarians of party life and pop culture during the ‘70s-‘80s. “Don Henley’s “Dirty Laundry? Boy,” says Walsh, “did he call that one?” I ask Walsh if the Eagles were to modernize “Life in the Fast Lane,” what the new message would be.

“I don’t think we need to write it again. It’s still relevant.” Who then does Walsh think pop culture is at present? “The Kardashians,” he says. “24-hour streaming bullshit. That’s your pop culture today.”

Analog Man, the first Joe Walsh solo album in something like 20 years comes out sometime in May or June. It is a record that I’m guessing was recorded digitally. Did Walsh make an intentional statement with the title?

“I sure did. I just decided I better get with it. After all, it is the digital age. Back when it was all analog, we used to go in the studio, and studios had knobs. We used to turn knobs and say, let’s see what this does. Now, we have a mouse. We [the members of the Eagles] spend hours yelling at our computers. My son comes in and he says, Dad, you’re really stupid.”

But Walsh calls the digital world an alternative to reality that people are using more and more in a bad way. “Reality has a lot of”… he pauses…“crummy stuff in it. And people have decided to go into the virtual world.” It is another means of escape he says, and being a man with knowledge of that sort of thing, is troubled by what he sees.

“I was at a Laker’s game last night, and everybody there was texting. Now and then they’d look up and check the score.” Walsh expresses grave doubts as well about the net effect of video gaming on young minds.

“Every kid in America is capable of launching a space shuttle, if we still had them, but they can’t read.”

But Analog Man goes deeper than gaming and texting, and I’d be willing to bet there is a reason it’s being released during an election year. “First of all, there is no more money. We have spent it all. Why is everybody waiting for things to get better? They’re not gonna get better, and that’s screamin’ at me. Thirty thousand vets are comin’ home and nobody gives a fuck."

And, he says, they are likely to be unemployed.

“Congress is corrupt. There are players inside who are more powerful than the federal government, and they are calling the shots. Partisan politics is out of control. And we’re pretending there is more money,” he says, “and there isn’t.”

Hey, don't you know it's a waste of your day / Caught up in endless solutions / That have no meaning, just another hunch / Based upon jumping conclusions / Caught up in endless solutions / Backed up against a wall of confusion / Living a life of illusion.

In 1980, along with being a deejay and an Eagle Walsh ran for President of the United States. If elected, “Life’s Been Good” was to be the new national anthem. His platform was simple: free gas for all. A publicity stunt? Well, you make the call, but remember that Walsh also ran for vice president a dozen years later. Before we ring off I want to ask who he’s backing in the primaries, if he has a dog in the race for the Presidency. But then I think about it, and I’m pretty sure I know what his answer will be.

Joe Walsh appears at the Belly Up in Solana Beach Feb 2 Image

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