If you want an insight into the mind-befuddling that takes place when you’re a rock superstar, “Life’s Been Good” tells you everything you need to know.
Brits often say that Americans don’t get satire, but “Life’s Been Good” is living proof that Joe Walsh, at least, did get it.
The premise of the song is that this cuddly rock star is just like the guy you’ve known all your life…at least in his own mind. He doesn’t think he’s changed since fame and fortune dropped into his lap. But everyone else can see that things are definitely not like they used to be…
I have a mansion
Forget the price
Ain’t never been there
They tell me it’s nice
I’ve never bought a mansion, but if I had, I’d like to think I’d remember how much it cost. You know you’ve got too many other things on your mind when multi-million dollar purchases fade into insignificance.
“Life’s Been Good” is also one of the few songs where the accounting profession gets a look in…(I know, it’s amazing that more hit records aren’t written about accountants, isn’t it…?)
I live in hotels, tear out the walls
I have accountants pay for it all
Paying hotels for rock-star damaged facilities isn’t something that’s ever been a feature of my professional practice, but never say never…
I remember buying Joe Walsh’s album “But Seriously, Folks…” when I heard his work on “Hotel California” after he joined the Eagles. Still have it on vinyl in the loft…
There’s a great photo on the cover…Joe Walsh sat underneath the water in a swimming pool pretending to eat his dinner.
Joe Walsh was also responsible for one of the greatest album titles of all time a couple of years earlier with “You Can’t Argue With A Sick Mind”…an album which contained another well-known Joe Walsh song “Rocky Mountain Way”.
Having been in the music industry since the mid-1960s, I think we can all take it that by the late 1970s, when he wrote “Life’s Been Good”, Joe Walsh had either seen or experienced just about every significant rock star excess.
A life of hedonistic excess seems like something we’d all like to take a crack at, given a chance, but it’s not always everything it’s cracked up to be…
My Maserati does one-eighty-five
Lost my licence, now I don’t drive
I have a limo, ride in the back
Lock the doors in case I’m attacked
When you’re living a life where everyone says you’re fabulous from the minute you get up in the morning until you go to sleep at night, and laughs at all your jokes, it can be hard to maintain your perspective. Thankfully that’s never been a problem I’ve had to learn how to deal with…
However much you might want to be “just a regular guy”, that gets progressively harder…
I go to parties, sometimes till four
It’s hard to leave when you can’t find the door
It’s tough to handle, this fortune and fame
Everybody’s so different, I haven’t changed
That’s the real tragedy…and the whole point of… “Life’s Been Good”. And it’s slipped in so beautifully, so surreptitiously, you only realise it’s there at all when you’re singing the lyrics to yourself in the shower days or weeks later… “Everybody’s so different, I haven’t changed”.
But of course you have. Nobody raised in an average neighbourhood forgets how much he paid for a mansion because he’s either got too much money to care, or has bought so many mansions that the details escape him.
No sane person buys a Maserati, then loses their licence so they can’t drive one of the most beautiful cars known to mankind.
No “average Joe” trashes their hotel room and just tells the manager to send the bill to their accountant.
If you grew up in an average neighbourhood and you’ve done any of those things, much less all three of them together, then the truth is you have changed. Hopefully for the better…in the end at least…but if you’re honest with yourself you probably stopped being the average guy in your neighbourhood a long time before you bought your first mansion or your first Maserati.
Your friends didn’t leave you behind. You left them behind.
All the while you think your new life is normal. It’s anything but…
They say I’m crazy, but I have a good time
I’m just looking for clues at the scene of the crime
Life’s been good to me so far
I have many fond memories of listening to the original “But Seriously, Folks…” album on my not-terribly fancy stereo back when I lived at home with my parents. The album version of “Life’s Been Good” goes on for a good eight minutes and I loved every moment of it…you can find that here if you’re a purist.
However, even in the late 1970s attention spans were getting shorter, so the album track was cut to four minutes or so for its run up the singles charts in 1978, where “Life’s Been Good” did respectably well, topping out just below the Top 10 in both the US and the UK.
In the interests of time I’ve linked to the single version below, but if you’ve got the opportunity, please explore the longer album version above. You’ll be glad you did.
There’s something delightfully meta about commentating on a life of self-indulgent rock star excess through the medium of composing and performing a gloriously excessive, self-indulgent, eight minute album track. This just adds another wonderful layer to an already well-crafted joke.
One of my favourite records as a teenager…here’s Joe Walsh with his own composition…“Life’s Been Good”…
PS — just before we get to the video, if you enjoyed this article, please give it a “clap”…or even more than one if you’re feeling kind. You can also follow me on Medium (here) or Twitter (here) to get new articles as soon as they’re published. And why not check out my book “No Words, No Song”, where I write about more great songs like this one, available in the Kindle Bookstore (here).