After humble beginnings as Linda Ronstadt‘s backing band, Glenn Frey, Randy Meisner and Bernie Leadon decided to stay together as a band and call themselves The Eagles.
Spotted by Asylum Records boss David Geffen, they were booked to play for a month as resident band in a bar in Aspen, Colorado, to tighten their act. Suitably prepared, Geffen signed them to his label the following spring.
Remarkably, the band destined to become the archetypal American country rock group recorded their debut self-titled album (1972) at a studio in Barnes, an affluent suburb of London, England. The album and its singles (Take It Easy, Witchy Woman and Peaceful Easy Feeling) provided the band with the first of nearly a decade of huge US hits.
The creative balance of the band shifted over time and by their fourth album, One Of These Nights (1975), the Henley-Frey writing team had taken control (six of the nine tracks carried their credit). All three singles from the album hit the US Top 5, including Lyin’ Eyes which reached #2.
The Eagles spent eight months in the studio in 1976 making Hotel California, polishing the vocals and guitars in take after take after take. With ex-James Gang guitarist Joe Walsh replacing Bernie Leadon, the band backed off from straight country-rock (glorious exception: New Kid In Town) in favour of the harder sound of Life In The Fast Lane.
The album topped the US charts, selling seven figures immediately. The album went on to do so well that Glenn Frey claimed years later it precipitated the “unbearable pressures of stardom” that led to the band’s eventual break-up.
Part delirious road trip, part murder ballad, the title track’s lilting tempo and stinging guitar lines evoke a place where evil lurks behind potted palms and welcoming smiles: the searing lead guitar duel between Joe Walsh and Don Felder is one of the most memorable in rock history.
As easy to hate as they were to sing along to, The Eagles nevertheless delivered the soundtrack of 70s LA (although none of the original members were from California) and remain the definitive male harmony group of their era.
Chief Eagle Don Henley has since turned environmentalist, raising over $20 million for his Walden Woods Project.
Glenn Frey passed away in January 2016 as a result of complications from Rheumatoid Arthritis, Acute Ulcerative Colitis and Pneumonia. He was 67.
Timothy B Schmit