Glenn Frey's interviews in the unvarnished 2013 History of the Eagles documentary can best be described as delightfully unrepentant. Over the course of the candid two-part film, currently streaming on Netflix, Frey, who died Monday at 67, pulls no punches when discussing the band's formation, its lineup changes and especially his fractured relationship with guitarist Don Felder.
Alison Ellwood, who directed the film and sat with Frey during his series of interviews in 2012, says his outspoken commentary inspired the other band members to open up.
"Glenn was the leader of the band in getting stuff done. He was the doer. He understood when we agreed to do [the film] that it had to be honest, that we're not making a fluff piece. He said, 'I don't want a fluff piece,'" Ellwood tells Rolling Stone. "His willingness to be completely honest, warts and all, made a huge difference in the film and set a precedent for the others. Joe Walsh, after seeing a first cut of the film, asked to be re-interviewed, because he realized how open Glenn was being."
Ellwood cites Frey's recollection of listening to Jackson Browne compose "Doctor My Eyes" as her favorite moment of the documentary. Frey lived above Browne at the time and was tortured by the songwriter's incessant fiddling with the 1972 single. In the end, he learns the trick to composing: "elbow grease," Frey calls it in the film.
"Glenn not only had the knowledge, the wisdom, the insight and the soul to understand that, he actually implemented that," Ellwood says. "A lot of the myth of rock & roll is that it's seat of your pants. . .but these guys worked hard. And Glenn had a vision."
It was a vision for both the band's albums and Ellwood's film. She says that when her team approached Frey with audio of his infamous onstage blowup with Felder in 1980 — in which Frey threatens to kick the guitarist's ass — he offered no hesitation in using it in the documentary.
"We told Glenn we had it, and he said, 'Go for it, man,'" Ellwood says. "He was brave."