Time magazine introduced the Eagles to readers in 1975 as having been “conceived in the teaching of Carlos Castaneda and his ephemeral medicine man, Don Juan.” As individuals they, like Don Juan, wandered (in and out of different groups including Linda Ronstadt’s back-up band) until they found what guitarist Glenn Frey called their “power spot” as the Eagles. Singer-composer Jackson Browne brought the group (then made up of Frey, Bernie Leadon, Don Henley, and Randy Meisner) to the attention of impresario David Geffen, who advanced them $100, 000 and sent them to Colorado to put together an act. A month later, they were signed to the newly created Asylum Records, and by the end of the decade they had become one of the top groups of the 1970s.
Combining their unique flavor of hard-rocking music with solid production, the Eagles’ 1972 self-titled debut album quickly became a bestseller, staying on the charts the last seven months of the year. Browne, another Asylum artist, aided them in one of their first hits, co-authoring “Take It Easy” with Frey. The album
Band formed in 1971 by guitarist Glenn Frey (born November 6, 1948, in Detroit, Mich.) and drummer Don Henley (born July 22, 1947, in Linden, Tex.); original members also included guitarist Bernie Leadon (born July 19, 1947, in Minneapolis, Minn.; left band January 1976); and bass guitarist Randy Meisner (born March 8, 1946, in Scottsbluff, Neb.; left band in 1977); guitarist Don Felder (born September 21, 1947, in Topanga, Calif.) joined band in 1975; bass guitarist Timothy B. Schmit replaced Meisner in 1977; guitarist Joe Walsh (born in Wichita, Kan.) joined band in 1976. Band broke up in 1981, officially dissolved in 1982.
Awards: Band received Grammy Awards for best pop vocal performance by a group, 1975, for “Lyin’ Eyes”; for record of the year, 1977, for Hotel California; for best arrangement for voices, 1977, for “New Kid In Town”; and for best rock vocal performance by a group, 1979, for “Heartache Tonight.”
also included successful singles “Witchy Woman” and “Peaceful, Easy Feeling.” Repaying Geffen’s advance with proceeds from their first three hit singles, thegroup went rapidly on to record another best-selling release in 1973. Desperado, considered by critics to be something of a conceptual album, cast the rock-and-rollers as Old West outlaws in songs such as “Outlaw Man” and the title track. Both songs, assessed Time, were “linked by loneliness, excess and self-destruction.” Don Henley, the group’s drummer, admitted, “the whole cowboy-outlaw rocker myth was a bit bogus. I don’t think we really believed it; we were just trying to make an analogy…. We were living outside the laws of normality, we were out here in L.A., things were kind of Western, and we just decided to write something about it to try to justify it to ourselves.”
On the Border (1974) continued in the successful trend already begun, yielding the group’s first smash single, “Best of My Love.” Social commentary had begun seeping into the group’s work, with the title track a thinly-disguised piece about the troubles President Richard Nixon had gotten himself into, although, assessed Henley, “we weren’t old enough or mature enough to make any sense out of it then.” The group was maturing rapidly, however, forced to deal with internal tensions that resulted first in creative tension, later to self-destruction. Nonetheless, by the end of the year the Eagles’ three albums had been certified gold and they were on the professional rise.
The group’s following two albums, One of These Nights and Hotel California, were their most successful, with hits including not only the title tracks but also “Lyin’ Eyes” (which won them their first Grammy in the category of best pop vocal performance by a duo or group), “Take It to the Limit,” “New Kid in Town,” and “Life in the Fast Lane.” “Hotel California,” commonly thought to epitomize and denounce the decadence of Southern California lifestyles (of which the Eagles themselves were said to partake), became an especially popular song for the group and featured the distinctive guitar work of Joe Walsh, who replaced Leadon in the group. Henley was later to report, however, that the song was meant “in a much broader sense than a commentary about California. I was looking at American culture, and when I called that one song ‘Hotel California,’ I was simply using California as a microcosm for the rest of America and for the self-indulgence of our entire culture.” The song garnered a Grammy in 1977 for record of the year; the same year Randy Meisner departed, his place filled by former Poco bass guitarist Tim Schmit. The group, busy in the recording studio and reluctant to endorse award shows, did not attend the Grammys. Said Frey, “I have reasonable doubt about how accurately any kind of contest or award show can portray the year in music.” Nevertheless, the group was genuinely delighted by news of the award.
Over two years and $800,000 went into the group’s long-awaited sixth album. The Long Run, a curious departure from the group’s earlier work, had already reached double-platinum status (for sales of over two million copies) when it was shipped to stores. Hailed by Rolling Stone as promising “to be the Eagles’ weirdest” record, the album included the slow ballad “I Can’t Tell You Why” and such unusual titles as “Teenage Jail,” “The Disco Strangler,” and the college fraternity favorite “The Greeks Don’t Want No Freaks.” The tone of the album was described by Henley as “tongue-in-cheek cynical. Most of the humor is so dry nobody will think it’s funny.” One single, “Heartache Tonight,” won a 1979 Grammy for best rock vocal performance by a duo or group.
The Eagles’ final group effort came in the form of a double-live set that included a major hit with “Seven Bridges Road” by Steve Young, and afterward, several of the members went on to lucrative solo careers. Of their success and time together, Henley told Rolling Stone, “I don’t think we had any delusions that we were creating history or changing culture or anything…. We just wanted to do the work and be good at it and be respected by our fellow songwriters.”
The Eagles, Asylum, 1972.
Desperado, Asylum, 1973.
On the Border, Asylum, 1974.
One of These Nights, Asylum, 1975.
Hotel California, Asylum, 1976.
The Long Run, Asylum, 1979.
Eagles Live, Asylum, 1980.
Nite, Norm N., and Ralph M. Newman, Rock On: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock ‘N’ Roll, Volume II, Crowell, 1978.
Stambler, Irwin, Encylopedia of Pop, Rock, and Soul, St. Martin’s, 1974.
Rolling Stone, April 6, 1978; July 26, 1979; November 5-December 10, 1987.
Time, August 18, 1975.
—Meg Mac Donald
Eagles, The, the most popular American rock band of the 1970s, the group used rock instrumentation to create a distinctive country sound based on easily identifiable melodies, strong vocal harmonies, and engaging lyrics. MEMBERSHIP: Glenn Frey, gtr., kybd., voc. (b. Detroit, Mich., Nov. 6,1948); Don Henley, drm., voc. (b. Gilmer, Tex., July 22, 1947); Bernie Leadon, gtr., bjo., mdln., slide and steel gtrs., voc. (b. Minneapolis, Minn., July 19, 1947); Randy Meisner, bs., voc. (b. Scottsbluff, Neb., March 8, 1946). In January 1974 the group added Don Felder, gtr., bjo., pedal steel gtr. (b. Gainesville, Fla., Sept. 21, 1947). Bernie Leadon left in December 1975, to be replaced by Joe Walsh, voc., gtr. (b. Wichita, Kan., Nov. 20, 1947). Randy Meisner left in September 1977, to be replaced by Timothy B. Schmit (b. Sacramento, Calif., Oct. 30, 1947).
As a singles band the Eagles approached the consistency of Creedence Clearwater Revival; as an album band they featured the incisive and affecting songwriting of Don Henley and Glenn Frey, proclaimed as the most successful and prolific rock songwriting pair of the 1970s. Their second album, Desperado, had a certain conceptual consistency with its theme of outlaws of the old and new West, yet the group benefited greatly when joined by guitarist Joe Walsh, who added much-needed instrumental punch to their otherwise tame sound. Hotel California became the group’s masterpiece, with its tough sound, gutsy singing, and powerful lyrics exploring existential and social concerns. However, the album was so successful that the group began disintegrating while attempting to record an equally significant and moving follow-up.
All former members of the Eagles recorded solo albums following the dissolution of the group, but only Don Henley was able to establish a distinctive musical identity. With Building the Perfect Beast and The End of the Innocence, his songwriting became more mature, provocative, and profound. The Eagles reunited in 1994 for their Hell Freezes Over tour and album.
Glenn Frey took piano lessons as a child and played Detroit clubs with his first band, the Subterraneans, often with Bob Seger. He relocated to Calif., and along with Detroit-born singer-songwriter J. D. Souther formed the duo Longbranch-Pennywhistle, recording an album for Amos Records in Los Angeles. Don Henley grew up in Linden, Tex., and played in bands during and after high school. He attended four years of college, but did not graduate, electing to move to Los Angeles with his band Shiloh, who also recorded an album for Amos. Randy Meisner had been an original member of Poco before playing in Rick Nelson’s Stone Canyon Band from 1969 to 1971. Bernie Leadon had recorded single albums with Hearts and Flowers and Dillard and Clark before recording two albums with the Flying Burrito Brothers. Frey, Henley, Meisner, and Leadon worked as Linda Ronstadt’s backing band in 1970 before forming the Eagles a year later.
Signed to Asylum Records, the Eagles recorded their first album in London. “Take It Easy,” written by Frey and Jackson Browne, was the group’s first big hit, followed by Henley and Leadon’s “Witchy Woman” and Jack Tempchin’s “Peaceful Easy Feeling.” The debut album also contained “Train Leaves Here This Morning,” written by Leadon and Gene Clark, originally included on the first Dillard and Clark album. Desperado, also recorded in London, was somewhat of a concept album, based on the theme of the rock band as old-and new- West outlaws. The album yielded only two minor hits with Henley and Prey’s classic “Desperado” and David Blue’s “Outlaw Man.” During 1973 the Eagles successfully toured the United States, but they displayed little instrumental punch.
While recording On the Border in early 1974 the Eagles added session musician Don Felder to fill out their sound. Felder had recorded one album with the jazz band Flow. On the Border contained three songs written by outside writers—Paul Craft’s “Midnight Flyer,” Tom Waits’s “Ol’ 55,” and Jack Tempchin’s “Already Gone” (a moderate hit)—and included the Eagles’ first top hit, the tender and delicate “Best of My Love.”
The Eagles’ popularity was established with 1975’s One of These Nights. The album produced the top hit title song and the smash “Lyin’ Eyes” (both written by Henley and Frey), and the smash “Take It to the Limit” (written by Meisner, Henley, and Frey). During that year the band toured internationally in support of the album, but by year’s end Leadon had departed. Guitaristvocalist Joe Walsh, formerly with the James Gang and also a solo recording artist, was added to provide a more dynamic, rough-edged quality to the group’s sound.
Joe Walsh’s contribution was immediately evident on the group’s masterwork Hotel California. The album’s first (top) hit, “New Kid in Town” (by Henley, Frey, and J. D. Souther) resembled the group’s earlier hits, but the top hit “Hotel California” (by Felder, Henley, and Frey) and the major hit “Life in the Fast Lane” (by Henley, Frey, and Walsh) exhibited the verve of Walsh’s lead-guitar playing. The album also revealed the growing maturity of Henley and Prey’s songwriting with “Wasted Time” and “The Last Resort,” the latter expressing a deep if pessimistic concern with the environment.
During 1977 the Eagles successfully toured the United States, Great Britain, and Europe. In September Randy Meisner left the group, to be replaced by former Poco bassist-vocalist Tim Schmit. In late 1978 the Eagles scored a major hit with “Please Come Home for Christmas” as they struggled to complete work on the follow-up to Hotel California. Finally issued in late 1979, The Long Run yielded the top hit “Heartache Tonight” (by Henley, Frey, J. D. Souther, and Bob Seger) and the near-smashes “The Long Run” (by Henley and Frey) and “I Can’t Tell You Why” (by Schmit, Henley, and Frey), the latter with lead vocals by Schmit. In September 1980 Glenn Frey informed Don Henley that he was making a solo album, essentially ending the group, although no official announcement was ever made. They managed to put together the double-record set Eagles Live, which produced a major hit with Steve Young’s “Seven Bridges Road.”
Bernie Leadon was the first former Eagle to record an album away from the group. Natural Progressions, recorded with guitarist-vocalist Michael Georgiades, was issued in 1977. In 1987 Leadon was a member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Randy Meisner recorded three albums through 1982, scoring major hits with “Deep Inside My Heart” and “Hearts on Fire” from One More Song, and “Never Been in Love.” Don Felder managed a moderate hit in 1981 with “Heavy Metal (Takin’ a Ride)” from the animated movie Heavy Metal, contributed “Never Surrender” to the soundtrack for the 1982 movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and recorded a solo album in 1983. Timothy Schmit achieved a minor hit with “So Much in Love” (also from Fast Times at Ridgemont High) and a major hit with “Boys Night Out” in 1987; he recorded three albums, including 1990’s Tell Me the Truth. During the 1980s Joe Walsh recorded four albums, hitting with “A Life of Illusion” in 1981 and “Space Age Whiz Kids” in 1983. In 1991 Pyramid Records issued his Ordinary Average Guy.
The two principal songwriters of the Eagles, Glenn Frey and Don Henley, were the most active of the former members during the 1980s. Frey collaborated with Jack Tempchin on six songs for his album No Fun Aloud, which yielded major to moderate hits with “I Found Somebody,” “The One You Love,” and “All Those Lies.” The album also included “Partytown” and Bob Seger’s “That Girl.” The Allnighter produced a major hit with “Sexy Girl.” In 1985 Frey scored a smash hit with “The Heat Is On” from the movie Beverly Hills Cop, and a major hit with “Smuggler’s Blues” and smash hit with “You Belong to the City,” both from the television show Miami Vice. He made his acting debut in Miami Vice and later appeared in seven episodes of Wiseguy. He hit again with “True Love” in 1988 and “Part of Me, Part of You” (from the movie Thelma and Louise) in 1991. In 1993 Frey starred in the short-lived CBS private detective series South of Sunset; it was canceled after only one episode!
Commercially and artistically, Don Henley was the most successful of the former Eagles in the 1980s. In late 1981 he scored a smash hit with Stevie Nicks on “Leather and Lace” from her Bella Donna album. Henley’s 1982 / Can’t Stand Still was recorded with former James Taylor and Jackson Browne guitarist Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar, who cowrote the smash hit “Dirty Laundry.” The album also included “Johnny Can’t Read” and “I Can’t Stand Still” (minor hits), and “Nobody’s Business” and “You Better Hang Up.” With the mature and finely crafted Building the Perfect Beast, Henley established his own musical identity and broke through commercially. The album yielded four hits with the nostalgic smash ’The Boys of Summer’ the near-smash “All She Wants to Do Is Dance’ and the major hits “Not Enough Love in the World” and “Sunset Grill.” “Drivin’ with Your Eyes Closed” and “You’re Not Drinking Enough” were also on the album.
Don Henley’s 1989 album The End of the Innocence remained on the charts for nearly three years and produced five hit singles in a year and a half: the moving title ballad, cowritten with Bruce Hornsby; the major hits “The Last Worthless Evening” and, perhaps his finest composition since “Desperado,” “The Heart of the Matter”; and the minor hits “How Bad Do You Want It?” and “New York Minute.” Touring in 1989 and 1990, Henley scored another smash in 1992 with “Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough” with Patty Smyth, the lead singer of Scandal. Henley issued a greatest-hits package in 1995, Actual Miles, including a new song, “In the Garden of Allah.”
In late 1993 Giant Records issued the Eagles tribute album Common Thread, with contemporary country artists such as Travis Tritt and Alan Jackson covering Eagles songs. The album proved enormously successful and encouraged the Eagles to reunite. In April 1994 Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Don Felder, Timothy Schmit, and Joe Walsh taped an MTV reunion special backed by a 30-piece orchestra that yielded Hell Freezes Over late in the year. In addition to the live cuts, the album included four new songs recorded in the studio, including Henley and Prey’s acerbic “Get Over It,” a moderate pop hit, and Schmit and Paul Carrack’s “Love Will Keep Us Alive,” a top easy-listening hit. The Eagles began touring again in May 1994, but the tour was interrupted in October by Prey’s surgery for intestinal problems before it resumed in January 1995.
LONGBRANCH/PENNYWHISTLE (WITH GLEN N FREY) : Longbranch/Pennywhistle (1969). SHILOH (WITH DON HENLEY) : Shiloh (1970). HEART S AND FLOWER S (WITH BERNI E LEADON) : Of Horses, Kids and Forgotten Women (1968). FLOW (WITH DON FELDER) : Flow (1970). THE EAGLES : The Eagles (1972); Desperado (1973); On the Border (1974); One of These Nights (1975); Greatest Hits, 1971–1975 (1976); Hotel California (1976); The Long Run (1979); Eagles Live (1980); Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 (1982); Hell Freezes Over (1994). TRIBUTE ALBUM: Common Thread: The Songs of the Eagles (1993). THE BERNIE LEADON -MICHAE L GEORGIADE S BAND: Natural Progressions (1977). RAND Y MEISNER : Randy Meisner (1978); One More Song (1980). GLEN N FREY: No Fun Aloud (1982); The Allnighter (1984); Soul Searchin’ (1988); Strange Weather (1992); Glenn Frey Live (1993); Solo Collection (1995). DON HENLEY: / Can’t Stand Still (1982); Building the Perfect Beast (1984); The End of Innocence (1989); Actual Miles: Don Henley’s Greatest Hits (1995). TIMOTHY B. SCHMIT: Tell Me the Truth (1990).
J. Swenson, The E. (N.Y., 1981).
The Eagles were described to readers of Time magazine in 1975 as having been "conceived in the teaching of Carlos Castaneda and his ephemeral medicine man, Don Juan." As individuals they, like Don Juan, wandered—in and out of different groups including Linda Ronstadt's back-up band—until they found what guitarist Glenn Frey called their "power spot" as the Eagles. Singer-composer Jackson Browne brought the group—then made up of Frey, Bernie Leadon, Don Henley, and Randy Meisner—to the attention of impresario David Geffen, who advanced them $100,000 and sent them to Colorado to put together an act. A month later, they were signed to the newly created Asylum Records, and by the end of the decade they had become one of the top groups of the 1970s.
Combining their unique flavor of hard-rocking music with solid production, the Eagles' 1972 self-titled debut album quickly became a bestseller, staying on the charts the last seven months of the year. Browne, another Asylum artist, aided them in one of their first hits, co-authoring "Take It Easy" with Frey. The album also included successful singles "Witchy Woman" and "Peaceful, Easy Feeling." Repaying Geffen's advance with proceeds from their first three hit singles, the group went rapidly on to record another best-selling release in 1973. Desperado, considered by critics to be something of a conceptual album, cast the rock-and-rollers as Old West outlaws in songs such as "Outlaw Man" and the title track. Both songs, assessed Time, were "linked by loneliness, excess and self-destruction." Don Henley, the group's drummer, admitted, "the whole cowboy-outlaw rocker myth was a bit bogus. I don't think we really believed it; we were just trying to make an analogy…. We were living outside the laws of normality, we were out here in L.A., things were kind of Western, and we just decided to write something about it to try to justify it to ourselves."
On the Border (1974) continued in the successful trend already begun, yielding the group's first smash single, "Best of My Love." Social commentary also seeped into the group's work, with the title track a thinly-disguised piece about the troubles President Richard Nixon had gotten himself into, although, assessed Henley, "we weren't old enough or mature enough to make any sense out of it then." As the group rose in the ranks of popular music, internal tensions would eventually lead to founding member Leadon's departure and the replacement of producer Glyn Johns. Despite changes, by the end of 1974 the Eagles' three albums had been certified gold and the band continued to grow artistically.
The group's following two albums, One of These Nights and Hotel California, were their most successful, with hits including not only the title tracks but also "Lyin' Eyes"—which won them their first Grammy in the category of Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group, "Take It to the Limit," "New Kid in Town," and "Life in the Fast Lane." "Hotel California," commonly thought to epitomize and denounce the decadence of Southern California lifestyles—of which the Eagles themselves were said to partake—became an especially popular song for the group and featured the distinctive guitar work of Joe Walsh, who replaced Leadon in the group. Henley was later to report, however, that the song was meant "in a much broader sense than a commentary about California. I was looking at American culture, and when I called that one song 'Hotel California,' I was simply using California as a microcosm for the rest of America and for the self-indulgence of our entire culture." The song garnered a Grammy in 1977 for Record of the Year; the same year Randy Meisner departed, his place filled by former Poco bass guitarist Tim Schmit. The group, busy in the recording studio and reluctant to endorse award shows, did not attend the Grammys. Said Frey, "I have reasonable doubt about how accurately any kind of contest or award show can portray the year in music." Nevertheless, the group was genuinely delighted by news of the award.
Over two years and $800,000 went into the group's long-awaited sixth album. The Long Run, a curious departure from the group's earlier work, had already reached double-platinum status (for sales of over two million copies) when it was shipped to stores. Hailed by Rolling Stone as promising "to be the Eagles' weirdest" record, the album included the slow ballad "I Can't Tell You Why" and such unusual titles as "Teenage Jail," "The Disco Strangler," and the college fraternity favorite "The Greeks Don't Want No Freaks." The tone of the album was described by Henley as "tongue-in-cheek cynical. Most of the humor is so dry nobody will think it's funny." One single, "Heartache Tonight," won a 1979 Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group.
The Eagles' next effort came in the form of a double-live set in 1980 that included a major hit with "Seven Bridges Road," by Steve Young. Following the release, the band remained inactive for the next two years, and finally announced its break-up in 1982. Afterward, Frey, Walsh, and Henley went on to lucrative solo careers. Although the band turned down several rewarding offers for a reunion, Frey and Henley began writing together in 1990, and several dates were played with Walsh and Schmit. A rumored reunion, however, failed to materialize until four years later. In the early part of 1994, the Eagles taped a live show for Music Television (MTV) that broadcast in October of that year. The band also toured through 1995 and 1996 before once again taking a hiatus. A recording from the concert, Hell Freezes Over, climbed the album charts and produced the hit "Get Over It." In 1998 both the original and current members of the Eagles performed at the group's induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
For the Record . . .
Members include Don Felder (born on September 21, 1947, in Topanga, CA; joined group, 1975), guitar; Glenn Frey (born on November 6, 1948, in Detroit, MI), guitar; Don Henley (born on July 22, 1947, in Linden, TX), drums; Bernie Leadon (born on July 19, 1947, in Minneapolis, MN; left group, 1976), guitar; Randy Meisner (born on March 8, 1946, in Scottsbluff, NE; left group, 1977), bass guitar; Timothy B. Schmit (joined group, 1977), bass guitar; Joe Walsh (born in Cleveland, OH; joined group, 1976), guitar.
Band formed by Glenn Frey and Don Henley, 1971; released The Eagles on Asylum, 1972; released Desperado, 1973; group broke up, 1981, officially dissolved, 1982; reunited for MTV special, 1994; released Hell Freezes Over, 1994; toured, 1995-96; performed at group's induction to Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 1998.
Awards: Grammy Awards, Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Group for "Lyin' Eyes," 1975; Record of the Year for "Hotel California," 1977; Best Arrangement for Voices for "New Kid In Town," 1977; Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Group for "Heartache Tonight," 1979; inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 1998.
The Eagles were among the most successful popular artists in the latter half of the twentieth century. The Eagle's Greatest Hits 1971-1975 has sold twenty-five million copies, and vies with Michael Jackson's Thriller for the best selling album of all time. A handful of the group's songs including "Take It Easy," "Lyin' Eyes," "Witchy Woman," and "Take It to the Limit" continue to be mainstays on "Oldie"-styled radio stations, and new material like "Hole in the World" from 2003's The Very Best of the Eagles still reaches the singles chart. Even critical opinion, which has noted the group's sexism and generic brand of rock, has been kinder to the Eagles in recent years. Of their success and time together, Henley told Rolling Stone, "I don't think we had any delusions that we were creating history or changing culture or anything…. We just wanted to do the work and be good at it and be respected by our fellow songwriters."
The Eagles, Asylum, 1972.
Desperado, Asylum, 1973.
On the Border, Asylum, 1974.
One of These Nights, Asylum, 1975.
Their Greatest Hits (1971–1975), DCC, 1976.
Hotel California, Asylum, 1976.
The Long Run, Asylum, 1979.
Eagles Live, Asylum, 1980.
Hell Freezes Over, Geffen, 1994.
Clarke, Donald, Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Penguin, 1998.
Nite, Norm N., and Ralph M. Newman, Rock On: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock 'N' Roll, Volume II, Crowell, 1978.
Stambler, Irwin, Encylopedia of Pop, Rock, and Soul, St. Martin's, 1974.
Rolling Stone, April 6, 1978; July 26, 1979; November 5-December 10, 1987.
Time, August 18, 1975.
"Eagles," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com/ (January 15, 2004).
—Meg Mac Donald and Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.
Members: Glenn Frey, guitar, keyboards, vocals (born Detroit, Michigan, 6 November 1948); Don Henley, drums, vocals (born Gilmer, Texas, 22 July 1947); Timothy B. Schmit, bass (born Sacramento, California, 30 October 1947); Joe Walsh, guitar, vocals (born Wichita, Kansas, 20 November 1947). Former members: Don Felder, guitar, vocals (born Gainesville, Florida, 21 September 1947); Bernie Leadon, guitar, banjo, mandolin, vocals (born Minneapolis, Minnesota, 19 July 1947); Randy Meisner, bass, guitar, vocals (born Scottsbluff, Nebraska, 8 March 1946).
Genre: Rock, Country Rock
Best-selling album since 1990: Eagles: Hell Freezes Over (1994)
Although the Eagles called it quits as a band in 1980, the enduring popularity of their hit singles and the emergence of classic rock as a force on FM radio led them to reunite in 1994, turning them into a popular act of the 1990s. Like other bands of their era, their reunion brought their aging fans back to concert arenas and introduced the group's repertoire of classic hits to young fans. Their first anthology, Eagles: Their Greatest Hits, 1971–1975 (1976), remains the best-selling rock recording of all time. The band is often characterized as emblematic of the excesses of 1970s corporate rock culture, though the group's lyrics reveal their cynicism about the music business and unrestrained 1970s style self-indulgence.
Early Days in California
The Eagles epitomize the laid-back southern California sound of the early 1970s. Drawing on influences such as Crosby, Stills, and Nash, the Byrds, Poco, and the Flying Burrito Brothers, the Eagles blended country rock's twangy banjos and slide guitars with lush vocals, melodic hard rock, and a pop sensibility. The group formed in 1971 when Don Henley and Glenn Frey left singer Linda Ronstadt's backup band. The duo joined forces with Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner and soon released The Eagles (1972). Two successful singles from that album, "Take It Easy" and "Witchy Woman," quickly established the band on the American charts, where they remained during the course of the 1970s. Other Eagles hits, "Best of My Love," "One of These Nights," "New Kid in Town," and "Hotel California," were all number one singles.
From Country Rock to Coliseums
During the course of its career, the band shed its country rock roots for a harder rock edge. Don Felder was added on electric guitar in 1974 and banjo/mandolin player Leadon was replaced with electric guitar rocker Joe Walsh in 1976. Hotel California (1976), widely regarded as the band's masterpiece, examines the dark side and moral costs of hedonism. Creative and personal tensions within the band delayed the completion of the group's final studio recording, The Long Run (1979). Although the record yielded three successful singles, "Heartache Tonight," "The Long Run," and "I Can't Tell You Why," the band broke up one year later, following the release of a live album. All the band's members pursued solo careers, though only Henley's has been notable.
Since their breakup in 1980, the Eagles' reputation with critics has gradually improved while sales of their albums continue to break records. The titles of several songs such as "Life in the Fast Lane" are part of the American lexicon, and there is increasing nostalgia for the era the band has come to represent. An Eagles tribute album, Common Thread: The Songs of the Eagles (1993), including tracks performed by Travis Tritt, Clint Black, and Trisha Yearwood, was a commercial success. The album eventually went to number one on the charts and sold more than 3 million copies in the first six months of its release.
Common Thread 's success led Irving Azoff, an executive at Giant Records, to sell the band on the idea of a reunion, which occurred in 1994. The Eagles's first official reunion appearance took place at MTV's studios and was later broadcast. The group played requests from the audience and unveiled four new songs.
A tour, "Hell Freezes Over," followed the broadcast, as did an album of the same name. In typical Eagles fashion, the record sold more than 7 million copies within months of its release and the accompanying tour in 1994 and 1995 was wildly successful. Despite support from the public, the Eagles have never been a favorite of rock critics. The little critical response generated by the reunion album described it largely as a transparent effort to make cash. The record contains only four new Eagles songs alongside updated versions of their biggest hits, such as "Hotel California" and "Tequila Sunrise." Former band members, such as Meisner, claimed the group re-recorded their classic hits to cheat former members out of royalties. The group's concerts also attracted attention when tour organizers charged and received $115 per ticket, as a means, they claimed, to deter ticket scalpers. Cameron Crowe, a former rock journalist who wrote a Rolling Stone cover story on the Eagles in 1975, seems, in part, to have based his screenplay of the popular film Almost Famous (2000) on his longtime friendship with the band.
The Eagles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. Their brief performance at the induction ceremony included all current and former members of the group. Fittingly, the band (this time Felder, Frey, Henley, Schmit, and Walsh) closed the twentieth century with a New Year's Eve show at Staples Center in Los Angeles. A recording of the concert was included as part of a three-disc retrospective, Eagles 1972–1999: Selected Works (2000). In 2002 Felder was suddenly fired from the band and promptly sued his former band for damages. Remaining members planned to release a new studio album in 2003.
The Eagles' reunion album and tour were major events for their legions of fans. It remains clear, however, to critics and to members of the band that their creative peak reached its zenith in 1976 with the release of Hotel California. Eagles members, such as Henley, focus their energy on solo efforts and are content to play the band's classic hits to appreciative crowds during summer reunion tours. The band's impact on American and international popular culture has not lessened since their heyday.
Eagles (Asylum, 1972); Desperado (Asylum, 1973); On the Border (Asylum, 1974); One of These Nights (Asylum, 1975); Eagles: Their Greatest Hits, 1971–1975 (Asylum, 1976); Hotel California (Asylum, 1976); The Long Run (Asylum, 1979); Eagles Live (Asylum, 1980); Eagles Greatest Hits, Volume 2 (Asylum, 1982); Hell Freezes Over (Geffen, 1994); Eagles 1972–1999: Selected Works (Elektra/Asylum, 2000).
M. Shapiro, The Long Run: The Story of the Eagles (London, 1995); M. Eliot, To the Limit: The Untold Story of the Eagles (New York, 1998).