Just how high is Joe Walsh? That is the question we’ll be addressing in this bizarre performance from a late ‘80s TV program.
There’s no doubt that life’s been good to Joe Walsh. The critically acclaimed guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter has been a member of at least five successful rock bands over the past 40+ years of his lucrative musical career. In between the bookending of his popular work that began with James Gang in the late sixties, and continuing on through his ostensibly neverending association with that monster cash machine known as The Eagles, whom he joined in 1975 and is still going strong—thanks mainly to an endless parade of “farewell” reunion tours, each of which is inexplicably followed up by yet another incredibly lucrative farewell tour (Apparently, The Eagles are a band that simply loves long goodbyes)—Walsh has also managed to find time to release a total of twelve solo albums on the side.
Joe Walsh scored a major Top 40 hit in 1978 with his solo song “Life’s Been Good.” It’s essentially a song wherein Joe recites a laundry list of how much more awesome his life is than yours. He describes the endless money, the cars, the mansions, the chicks, the debauchery, and all of the rest of the trappings of rock superstardom that most of us can merely imagine. I suppose we’re supposed to live vicariously through him, but the actual truth is that the song is one long brag fest that some might find irritating. We get it, Joe. You’re very successful, and we’re not.
Well, a complete decade after the song “Life’s Been Good” was a major hit, Joe Walsh agreed to appear on a TV show called Sunday Night in 1988. It was broadcast on NBC on (you guessed it) Sunday nights.
On this particular show, the host, (a very young) David Sanborn, introduces Walsh at the beginning of this train-wreck of a clip. It’s immediately obvious that something is wrong with the musician. He seems confused and disoriented, but luckily, he has the late, great Hiram Bullock—guitarist for the Sunday Night house band, and best known to many for his tenure as the guitarist for “The Worlds Most Dangerous Band” on Late Night with David Letterman—doing most of the heavy lifting for Walsh during this performance that goes completely off the rails from the very beginning.
All of the guys in the house band seem to be grinning at Walsh’s inability to play or focus. They try to pull him along, but that only goes so far. Walsh begins forgetting important lyrics, and his guitar work is, uh, off. The performance deteriorates into Walsh engaging in a constant series of shrugging, mugging, winking, and generally confused facial contortions in the direction of the audience and camera. He looks like he might, at any moment, start disassembling the amplifiers onstage.
Perhaps the funniest moment (or maybe the most poignant) in this video, comes when Walsh is required to sing “I lost my license, now I don’t drive” in his obviously altered state of consciousness. These words seem legit, coming from the guy who can only shout fragments of the lyrics that he can barely remember. The beautifully ironic bottom line is that Joe Walsh is so high, he even manages to butcher that “lost license” line. It’s a testament to, and a perfect indication of, just how far gone he is. Hopefully someone took the man’s car keys.
Of course, the most hair pulling aspect of the clip below consists in the choice of the song. Here we have a rich and famous guy, a guy who’s rich and famous because we, the audience, have elevated him to that status. And yet, the man is so somewhere else that he can’t even rub it in properly about how much better his life is than ours. He disrespects us so much that he doesn’t even bother (in a very real sense) to “show up for the gig.” Instead, he writes the audience off completely and spends the 4 minutes and 50 seconds documented of this clip in a “rocky mountain way.” Of course, having said that, I have to admit that the schadenfreude factor is off the chain.
And if anyone cares to question this article’s assertion that Walsh is high out of his mind, I’d simply direct you to take a gander at Walsh’s sartorial choice for this performance. No one not high dresses like that. Not even in 1988.