Joe Walsh: My Life in 15 Songs

Guitar legend looks back on more than 40 years of music and mayhem with James Gang, Eagles and beyond

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The Blues Brothers, "Jailhouse Rock" (1980)

I start the riot in the final scene of The Blues Brothers. [Ed. Note: Walsh plays a prison inmate who begins dancing on a table while the band plays "Jailhouse Rock."] The part of the movie they were filming in L.A., there were hours between set changes. And John [Belushi] would call me up and say, "I can't sit here. I have nothing to do. Can you come over and hang out?" So I did. I hung out in the trailer with Danny [Aykroyd] and Belushi and they decided they had a scene for me in the movie. So that's how that happened.

By that time, John and I had been friends for a while. I met Belushi on the road in Chicago. He came to an Eagles concert. He showed up in my room and didn't leave for two days. He wanted to show me how cool Chicago was, and he took me out to the finest restaurant. There's a whole story with that with how they wouldn't let us in because of the way we were dressed. So we went and spray painted our jeans black and went back. Then we did about $28,000 worth of damage to my hotel room.

When the Eagles stopped in 1980 ... I kept going. I didn't really want to admit it had ended, so I just kept the same mentality and lifestyle. And the way I wound up was that the only thing that mattered to me was not running out of cocaine. And also vodka. Vodka, cocaine and Camel Light cigarettes. Those three things.

Gradually, I stopped writing music and I stopped taking care of myself. I burned bridges. I was not dependable. I didn't make any sense a lot of the time. Musicians didn't really care to work with me anymore. I had an "I don't care about anything" attitude. My day – and it was really hard work – was spent trying to find a dealer who would front me some cocaine when I still owed him for the last batch. And if I was awake, I was drinking. I was just empty. I was godless and I took it about as far as a I could go. And I'd seen buddies go away. Keith Moon took it all the way. Belushi, he had gotten sober. And I helped him do it. He said, "Look, I gotta quit. Do you know a sober companion?" I said, "Yeah, I know somebody. But you're gonna hate me for getting him for you and you're gonna hate him. But he'll get you clean." And John was doing great. Then he fell off the wagon, and on and on.

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