After paying dues in several unsuccessful bands, Don Henley and Glenn Frey were asked to be part of Linda Ronstadt's backing band for an up coming tour. Also on board were Flying Burrito Brother guitarist Bernie Leadon and bassist Randy Meisner, who had been a member of Rick Nelson's Stone Canyon Band. Along the way musician and future producer John Boylan suggested the four start a group.
A meeting between Frey (with the other Eagles present) and David Geffen (future entertainment mogul) at a house Frey was sharing with Jackson Browne, convinced Geffen to sign the band to his Asylum Records.
"Take It Easy" released in May of '72 was the first single from the self-titled debut album. It was a great little Rock song with just enough Country (there was a banjo in there) to sound refreshing. Co-written by Browne and Frey, it had already been released on a Browne album. But for the Eagles it was a perfect and successful introduction. With a haunting sound, the slower yet dense "Witchy Woman" did even better. On the other hand, "Peaceful Easy Feeling" had a light, open and airy feeling. It was not real exciting but perfect for the laid-back times. All in all, not a bad debut. The sound got tagged as Country/Rock, a term neither Henley nor Frey appreciated. They were a Rock group (with Country overtones).
Rolling out ten months later "Desperado" was a mellower effort. "Tequila Sunrise" was a hit ballad. Also, there was the "Doolin' Daltons" song cycle. Over the long haul the song that had the most impact was the title track, yet another ballad. Though never released as a single it found its way to consistent radio play and was covered by several singers including Ronstadt. "On The Border," hit the stores in '74 and was the early Eagles' most Rocking album. "Already Gone" scored with scorching guitars while "James Dean" was the ultimate tribute to the fallen actor ("too fast to live, too young to die"). Both songs had a driving rhythm and chord changes like a well-oiled machine. Also, some hot guitar solos. For the "Good Day In Hell" session slide guitarist Don Felder was hired. His playing so impressed the band he was asked to join.
"One Of These Nights" was a good album on its own merit but it was apparent the band was recycling. "Lyin' Eyes" was practically interchangeable with "Peaceful Easy Feeling." Same thing with "One Of These Nights" and "Witchy Woman." And so on. The "Eagles Greatest Hits" (eventually referred to as "Volume I") was released and did good business. However, no one imagined it would hang on and do what it has done.
A fundamental change was at hand. Bernie Leadon departed. His replacement, Joe Walsh, had been the driving force behind the James Gang and had something of a solo career going. He also shared the same management as the Eagles. With a harder, darker edge (the Country influences in remission), "Hotel California" was a landmark album. The title track was a brooding, spooky guitar song building toward a fatalistic end ("you can check out any time you want, but you can never leave"). It soon became the most recognizable song in the group's repertoire. Also, "Life In The Fast Lane" was a classic 'life in L.A." Rocker. Meisner called it quits after a European tour sighting exhaustion and was replaced by Timothy B. Schmit. The Eagles rolled out "The Long Run" album containing the title track, "Heartache Tonight" and the ballad "I Can't Tell You Why," with Schmit on lead vocals (he also co-wrote the song). All three were major hits.
As the '80s arrived the Eagles were inactive. Each member, and even former members, were busy with solo projects. There was talk of a reunion but Henley said it would only happen when "Hell freezes over." Hell didn't, but the Eagles did. The "Hell Freezes Over" album (and tour) produced a couple of ballads that did well at adult radio stations. But the most memorable song was the sensitive and understanding ode from boomers to Gen X "Get Over It." In '98, the Eagles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. All seven past and present members appeared together. They played "Take It Easy" and "Hotel California." The following year the "Eagles Greatest Hits Volume I" inched out Michael Jackson's "Thriller" to become the all-time best selling album in the U.S.
Being in the Eagles is not for the fate hearted. Felder left the group in '01. That was followed by a suit claiming he was treated unfairly and deserved a larger portion of the group's royalties. Henley and Frey counter-sued citing breach of contract. Then to amp it up a little more, Felder announced that he'd written a tell-all bio about his tenure in the band. The book was shelved (for the time being) and the suits were settled out of court. Whether there was a cause-and-effect can be debated.
When everything calmed down, the Eagles, now a quartet (Henley, Frey, Walsh and Schmit), fell back on one their core strengths - living off their legend. "The Very Best Of The Eagles," the group's first compilation that covered their entire career, landed in '03. Two years later, a live DVD filmed in Australia arrived (Farewell 1 Tour-Live From Melbourne) with a couple of new tracks ("No More Cloudy Days" and "One Day At A Time").
The Eagles toured Europe in '06 with a backing band that consisted of eight musicians; just to fill any holes and round out the sound. The following year, a lot of noise was made about "Long Road Out Of Eden." It was the Eagles first complete studio album since '79 ("Hell Freezes Over" doesn't count because it had live tracks).
The single "How Long," written by J.D. Souther, managed to land on the County chart. That really isn't much of a stretch. Early in their career the Eagles were more Country than most of the stuff rolling out of Nashville ("Lyin' Eyes" hit the Country chart in '75). Besides, countless Country performers lifted liberally from the Eagles. No, the big surprise had nothing to do with the music. "Long Road Out Of Eden" was sold exclusively at Wal-Mart and online at Musictoday.com. The Wal-Mart connection raised some eyebrows. Perhaps the Eagles were no longer desperados.
Band related news usually revolved around, Henley, Frey, and occasionally, Walsh. But in late '09, Schmit got noticed for "Expando," his first solo album in eight years. "For the first time I feel like it's totally me," said Schmit. "I wrote the whole thing. I did it at my home studio, and I play as much on it as possible." Kid Rock and Graham Nash contributed to the set.
Surprisingly, '12 was a busy, and unique, year. The Eagles performed their first concert in South Africa for more than 60,000 fans at Cape Town Stadium. Then it was off to their first ever Middle-Eastern concert at The Sevens Stadium in Dubai.
Returning to the U.S., Berklee College of Music President Roger Brown presented the group with an honorary doctor of music degrees at school's commencement ceremony in Boston. The band was recognized for their achievements and influence in music, and for their enduring contributions to American and international culture.
1974 On The Border
1975 One Of These Nights
1976 Hotel California
1979 The Long Run
2007 Long Road Out Of Eden
1980 Eagles Live
1994 Hell Freezes Over
1976 Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975)
1982 Eagles Greatest Hits, Vol. 2
The Eagles had two distinct periods in the '70s - pre and post "Hotel California." The Eagles" ('72), "Desperado," ('73), "On The Border ('74) and "One Of These Nights" ('75) established the group's generally laid back sound. But there were those who preferred the raucous side highlighted by "James Dean" and "Take It Easy" and didn't mind the epic "Desperado" style ballads. Then the Eagles veered toward a harder, more Rock sound on "Hotel" California" ('76) and "The Long Run" ('79). Both albums were mega-sellers and it could be argued that the group was at the pinnacle when they disbanded following "Live" ('80). Since all the current Eagles were onboard when "The Long Run" was released it seems kind of odd that the group has largely reverted to their pre-"Hotel" sound on "Long Road Out Of Eden." They're back to blurring the line between Country and Rock n' Roll. The sassy "How Long" does the best job of it and is instantly appealing in a "Take It Easy" way.
The Eagles also mine their extensive back catalog on this effort. The acapella vocal harmonies on "No More Walks In The Woods" comes directly from "Seven Bridges Road" (via Walden Pond). "I Don't Want To Hear Anymore" is a variant of "I Can't Tell You Why." "You Are Not Alone" and "Frail Grasp Of The Big Picture" borrow from Henley's solo hits "The Last Worthless Evening" and "Dirty Laundry." Even Walsh gets to do a low-key take on his "Life's Been Good - So Far" motif with "Last Good Time In Town." If a band's going to lift ideas it probably doesn't do any harm to do it from themselves. What's hard to understand is that out of twenty tracks half are ballads - laid back indeed - or maybe tired? Nah, it's not yet time to write them off. Besides, they can still cut to the chase. "Busy Being Famous" nails an ex-love with the spotlight shining bright on her. "Business As Usual" takes a stab at the status quo while the inspirational "Do Something" and "Waiting In The Weeds" have emotional resonance. The latter song talks about changing times but not knowing exactly when the dream ended or how or why but understanding clearly that it's gone.
But all seriousness aside, the Eagles still have a couple punches left. "Guilty Of The Crime" is a dense, smoldering track and "Fast Company" provides an irresistible strut. Tellingly, the album ends with Frey's "It's Your World Now." This "pass-the-torch" song is from the guy who only a decade earlier told those X-er upstarts to "Get Over It." Think they're listening?
"Greatest Hits Volume I" does an excellent job of capturing the Eagles early career. Though it doesn't have their all-time best Rocker "James Dean" it does contain their second best, "Already Gone." "On The Border" is the Eagles' most uptempo and focused effort. It has both "Already Gone" and "James Dean." Aside from the title track and the potent "Life In The Fast Lane," "Hotel California" misses more than it hits. It also contains the "by-the-numbers" ballad "New Kid In Town." After "Hotel California" the Eagles released "The Long Run" and except for the title track, it's another disappointment, though a commercially successful one.
"The Very Best of the Eagles" has everything an Eagles fan could want. There are also a couple tracks from "Hell Freezes Over" and the reflective, 9/11 influenced, "Hole In The World."