Smuggler's Blues

Album: The Allnighter (1984)
Charted: 22 12
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Songfacts®:

  • This song tells the story of a drug deal gone bad, not uncommon in the smuggling trade. Frey wasn't a drug-runner, but he was closer to the action than most.

    "You don't spend 15 years in rock and roll without coming in contact with entrepreneurs," he said in Behind The Hits. "I've wanted to write a song about drug smuggling for a long time, but I'm glad I waited for this one. It says everything I wanted to say on the subject. I'm proud of the lyrics - it's good journalism."
  • With Ronald Reagan in office and the drug trade a big political issue, America was fascinated with the dynamics of the industry. This song played to that fascination with lyrics peppered with guns, agents, and of course, drugs. The "War On Drugs" drummed up a lot of interest in the topic, which was exploited in movies and TV shows, but until "Smuggler's Blues," there was no hit song that took it on in such dramatic fashion.
  • When this song was released on Frey's second solo in 1984, it got the attention of Michael Mann, who was working on a TV series called Miami Vice about two undercover cops policing the drug trade in Miami. Mann had the writer Miguel Piñero adapt the song into an episode, then he asked Frey to guest star on the episode and use his song.

    The episode, which first aired February 1, 1985 on the first season, was titled "Smuggler's Blues" and featured Frey as a drug-addled pilot who lived with his plane (Frey described him as "This pilot who was a wacko and loved hard rock"). The main characters, Crockett and Tubbs (Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas) go undercover as drug smugglers and hire him to fly the plane.

    The song was used at various points in the episode, with some of the lyrics peppered into the dialogue. It was good timing for Frey, who wrote a song about drug smuggling at a time when Miami Vice was looking for ideas. The series ended up being a huge hit and gave Frey a nice career boost as both a musician and actor. In 1989, he appeared in seven episodes of the TV series Wiseguy. He got his own show, South of Sunset, in 1993, but it was quickly canceled.
  • Miami Vice had lots of musical connections: Sheena Easton, Phil Collins and Miles Davis are among the musicians who acted on the show; the stars, Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas, both released albums (Johnson had a Top 10 hit with "Heartbeat"). Just about every episode had at least one popular song; season 1 featured "In The Air Tonight," "Better Be Good To Me," "All Night Long (All Night)" and "Wonderful Tonight."
  • Frey wrote this song with Jack Tempchin, a longtime Eagles associate who also co-wrote "You Belong To The City" and "Peaceful Easy Feeling."
  • This was one of several solo hits for Frey during the Eagles hiatus (1981-1993). Explaining the group's breakup, he said, "I started the band, I got tired of it, and I quit."

    Frey's '80s output isn't as durable as that of his Eagles co-founder Don Henley, but he found a contemporary sound that served him well on tracks like this one.
  • This song got an additional boost when it was included on the Miami Vice soundtrack, released in October 1985. The album spent 11 weeks at #1 in the US and sold over 4 million copies.

Comments: 9

  • Imarriedhim from North IdahoI heard Glen Frey came up with the idea of this song when late one night he was watching a guy count money. The guy laid a gun down on the table and started talking about how someone he knew had died. Glen asked him how the guy died and all he said was "It's the nature of the business, it's the smugglers blues" We can only guess why Glenn Frey was at this guys well hidden house in a canyon in L.A. But a great song came from it.
    That guy moved to North Idaho did what he did for awhile than did time in a North Idaho prison. Now he lives a quiet life still in North Idaho
  • Stukka63 from St.augustine, Fla.Here’s the way it’s done.
    If your moving cocaine, you need to be extremely cautious.
    Ok, let me back it up. If you’re not paying the cia, dea in south Fla.thier cut, they are out to bust your ass. Now, you always land n re group in Cuba. Then you fly the long way home. (Low n slow up the gulf coast)
    K Lakeland, Fla. has always been a prime destination. Now you have a piece of shjt huge car at the airport. You load it up, then call a flatbed to take it south.
    Even if per say the driver gets pulled over, he doesn’t know shjt.
    Not his responsibility to bring drug dogs out n sniff the car.
    Law enforcement is very simple. They have no one set up to check vehicles heading south.
  • Dave from UsHave to wonder if there was a connection between this and Barry Seal.
  • Ken from Louisville, KyThis was co-written by Frey and his frequent writing partner Jack Tempchin. Tempchin wrote two Eagles hits, "Peaceful Easy Feeling" and "Already Gone". After the group broke up, Frey needed a songwriting partner to help with lyrics since he was no longer writing with Don Henley. So he asked Tempchin.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn February 1st 1985, Glen Frey starred on the NBC-TV weekly series 'Miami Vice' in an episode called 'Smuggler's Blues'...
    The record "Smuggler's Blues" entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart on March 31st, 1985; and on June 16th it peaked at #12 (for 1 week), it was also its 12th week on the Top 100 (it spent a total of 16 weeks on the chart)...
    It was track six on his 2nd studio album, 'The Allnighter', and the album peaked at #22 on Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart...
    Two other tracks from the album also made the Top 100; "Sexy Girl" (at #20) and "The All Nighter" (at #54).
  • Brian from Boston, MaThis is an underrated song. I think it is often just written off as cheesy 80's music but I disagree. This song has good guitar and the subject matter is intriuging. The video for this song follows the songs story about drug dealers. I always felt this song never got the credit it deserved.
  • Jeff from Austin, TxPhil Collins sported an AWESOME mullet in that episode. The going bald/mullet look was KILLER!!!
  • Karen from Manchester, NhOne episode of "Miami Vice" also featured Phil Collins, himself! It was titled "Phil the Shill" and is one of the funniest episodes of the entire series.
  • Rich from Elkins, WvWell written...tells a story ...good beat and you can dance to it.....I give it a '94'
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