There is a great story how show creator Michael Mann heard ex Eagles frontman Glenn Frey’s song Smuggler’s Blues on the radio and instantly became smitten by its seedy undertones. Mann thought it was perfect for his new show Miami Vice and quickly commissioned an episode and even lifted the song title for the episode’s name; while screen writer Miguel Piñero worked lines from the song straight into the dialogue, and even Glenn ‘fucking’ Frey himself was cast as a guitar playing, free wheeling pilot who helps fly Vice detectives Crockett and Tubbs into Colombia for a drug sting. I don’t remember Frey’s Smuggler’s Blues charting on the Australian charts, but I definitely remember almost wearing out the needle on my record player playing the Miami Vice soundtrack which featured Frey’s song.
Smuggler’s Blues of course didn’t only appear via the Miami Vice soundtrack. The song was in fact an integral part of Frey’s second solo album, 1984’s The Allnighter, which received mixed reviews upon its release. In retrospect the album has faired a little better, often complimented on its departure of The Eagles sound for a more gusty blues rock feel.
Mastering the perfect balance of blues and energy, Smuggler’s Blues is as they says a perfect time capsule of the 80s and how rock n roll fell in love with the saxophone. With its explosive jazz sax and Frey’s bluesy slide guitar and infectious crooning, Smuggler’s Blues is the perfect epitome of 80s rock. Moreover Frey’s seemingly meticulous production I believe is his greatest asset and it is this that makes Smuggler’s Blues a captivating listen.
On a final note, it’s impossible to entirely seperate the song from its music video (or the TV series Miami Vice), especially when Frey plays a drug smuggler in his MTV award winning music video. The music video plays out like a short movie, mirroring the lyrics of the song with the danger and suspense that builds in Frey’s fictional drug underworld.