Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



West Coast US rock band formed '71 by label-boss David Geffen at exactly the time when rock was losing its revolutionary pose, becoming corporate and a junior branch of showbiz: they were the laid-back pretty-voiced Monkees for the '70s. Lineup: Don Henley, drums (b 22 July 1947, TX) and Glenn Frey, guitar (b 6 November 1948, Detroit; d 18 January 2016, NYC); with Bernie Leadon, guitar (b 19 July 1947); Randy Meisner, bass (b March 1946, Nebraska). They had impeccable credentials, having worked with James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, Poco; they initially pursued the country-rock style pioneered by Gram Parsons and the Flying Burrito Brothers. Debut The Eagles '72 was recorded in London, produced by Glyn Johns; made the U.S. charts with 'Take It Easy' (no. 12 '72), co-written by Frey and Jackson Browne, which became their trademark, about free-and-easy life on the road (parodied by Southside Johnny on Reach Up And Touch The Sky '81). Desperado '73 was a well-received concept LP; guitarist Don Felder was added for On The Border '74, including their first no. 1 single 'Best Of My Love'; 'One Of These Nights' was no. 1 '75 and 'Lyin' Eyes' no. 2: LP One Of These Nights was Leadon's last with the band, replaced by highly rated guitarist Joe Walsh. By then they were unassailable as the USA's top band, tapping the massive AOR audience with effortless vocal and guitar harmonies, though vilified by some in the music press; success seemed too easy, while songs like 'Tequila Sunrise' '73 were not terribly relevant outside California. With the rise of real country-rock acts like Emmylou Harris they looked glossy, but commercially they could do no wrong: Hotel California '76 was their biggest success, selling 11 million world-wide; both the title track and 'New Kid In Town' were no. 1 '76-7, 'Life In The Fast Lane' no. 11. After that they took three years to produce The Long Run '79; predictably not near as big, but with title track a top ten hit, 'Heartache Tonight' their last no. 1.

Internal friction and an inability to better their own success led to a split '81; two-disc Eagles Live '80 was a souvenir. They had 16 top 40 USA hits '72-80; nine albums charted (four at no. 1 including Greatest Hits 1971-75 '76), Greatest Hits Vol. 2 released '82. For all the carping in the UK music press they had eight chart singles there and seven chart LPs, three in the top five. Sadly missed by a generation of bronzed West Coast Americans, along with their hits they produced one-offs 'James Dean'; 'Desperado' (a hit for Ronstadt); 'Take It To The Limit' (brilliantly covered by Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings). Walsh resumed his solo career; Felder contributed a song to film Heavy Metal, made solo LP Airborne on Asylum; Frey's solo LPs were No Fun Aloud on Asylum; The Allnighter '85, Soul Searchin' '88, Strange Weather '92, Live '93, all on MCA; his 'Smuggler's Blues' was a world-wide hit '85, featured in TV's Miami Vice and film Beverly Hills Cop. Henley's solo debut I Can't Stand Still '82 on Asylum used L.A. sessionmen, former Eagles and Irish folk group the Chieftains, included 'Dirty Laundry', 'Johnny Can't Read'; his second LP Building The Perfect Beast '84 included world-wide hit 'Boys Of Summer' '85, followed by The End Of The Innocence '89, both on Geffen.

The Eagles re-formed for a tour '96, but they looked and sounded vacuum-packed; Hell Freezes Over '96 had eleven greatest hits recorded live but the four studio tracks were first-rate, three countryish ballads plus a rocker, 'Get Over It' with the line: 'I'd like to find your inner child/And kick its little ass.' They continued touring the world. Long Road Out Of Eden 2007 was their first disk of new material in 28 years, Frey's After Hours 2012 was his first album in nearly 20 years.