Posts Tagged ‘Randy Meisner’

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Despite being miles ahead of their time and writing one of the greatest rock songs ever (“For What It’s Worth”), Buffalo Springfield fell into the margins of rock history after making three albums between 1966 and 1968 and splitting up. That’s probably because a few of the members namely Stephen Stills, Neil Young and Jim Messina would go on to even bigger things. Another core member, Richie Furay, took Messina (plus recruits Rusty Young, George Grantham and future Eagle Randy Meisner) and started Poco as a vehicle for the blend of rock and country that he’d brought to Buffalo Springfield. Poco’s debut 1969 album, Pickin’ Up the Pieces, along with the first Flying Burrito Brothers album, are now considered two of the most influential albums of the country-rock movement. On Poco’s self-titled sophomore album, another future Eagle, Timothy B. Schmit, replaced Meisner on bass. Both records were well-regarded, but neither got much radio play.

Messina departed in 1971 but, interestingly, secured the services of his replacement, guitarist and songwriter Paul Cotton, and actually oversaw a transition of power during a three-night run at Fillmore West on Oct. 30th, 31st and November. 1st, 1970, when Poco opened for Procol Harum. On the first two nights, Messina played while Cotton studied. On the final night, Cotton took over, with Messina observing. It wasn’t the band’s first personnel shake-up, and it would be far from the last, but Rusty Young kept Poco kept chugging along into the 21st century.

Initially naming themselves after Walt Kelly’s iconic comic strip character Pogo, the band made its live debut three months after the release of the Byrds’ seminal Sweetheart of the Rodeo and three months before the Burritos’ debut, The Gilded Palace of Sin.“If any one event can be said to have ignited L.A.’s country-rock scene it would have to be the debut show by Pogo at the Troubadour in November 1968,” writes Barney Hoskyns in Hotel California, his definitive history of Southern California’s folk-rock scene in the ’60s and ’70s. Playing in full view of Linda Ronstadt, Rick Nelson and other luminaries that would share country influences, they played “a tight, ebullient set as good as any performance the Buffalo Springfield had given,”

During sessions for that band’s final album, Buffalo Springfield co-founder Richie Furay and Jim Messina, the Springfield short timer who produced the set, recruited steel guitarist Rusty Young to play on Furay’s “Kind Woman,” the album’s most country-influenced piece. With the band’s demise, the trio formed the core of the new band, adding bassist Randy Meisner and drummer George Grantham and gaining not only a rhythm section but two more singers, thus laying the foundation for the choral muscle that would become an earmark.

Poco (as they would rename themselves following legal threats from Kelly) gelled quickly. With Furay on rhythm guitar, Messina’s wiry Telecaster leads answered Young’s virtuosic pedal steel and Dobro. If the Byrds and Burritos gave country-rock substance, Poco helped fine-tune its style with a tight live sound that moved the fulcrum of the genre away from Nashville and straight into Bakersfield—country and western, emphasizing California’s leaner accent.

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Behind the scenes, they were less cheerful: Tension over Furay’s dominance as songwriter and Messina’s guiding hand as producer fractured the nascent group before it could complete the album, with Meisner rebelling when he was excluded from final mixing sessions. Meisner quit prior to its release, his bass parts and backing vocals retained and lead vocals erased and replaced by new leads by George Grantham. Poco’s formation occurred at an inflection point in country’s influence on rock. Apart from the Byrds and the Burrito Brothers, former Byrds lead singer Gene Clark, Bob Dylan, the Beau Brummels and the Everly Brothers all tapped into country elements between ’67 and ’68, with the pace of country-rock releases quickening in 1969 with the Burritos’ debut, the Byrds’ Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde and Dylan’s Nashville Skyline preceding Poco’s first studio album in May. Manager David Geffen landed them a contract with Epic Records, freeing Furay from his ties to Atlantic Records in a swap enabling Graham Nash to depart his obligations to the label, via the Hollies, and join David Crosby and Stephen Stills on Atlantic.

Furay and Messina wasted little time in replacing Meisner with Timothy B. Schmit, whose fleet, melodic bass guitar and high tenor vocals brought a seamless fit onstage and on their self-titled second studio album a year later. It was this line-up that was recorded at back-to-back concerts at the Boston Music Hall and New York’s Felt Forum on September 22nd and 23rd, respectively

The quintet’s early records met with modest sales, but onstage they were a force from inception, as captured by their third album and first live recording, “Deliverin’”, released on January 13th, 1971.

Deliverin’ opens at a gallop with “I Guess You Made It,” showcasing Young’s shapeshifting pedal steel, here routed through a Leslie speaker cabinet to emulate a Hammond B-3 organ. Like the Burritos’ steel player “Sneaky Pete” Kleinow, Young shrewdly mixes classic steel technique with rock effects. Both the brisk tempo and the band’s vocal zeal are signatures that recur throughout the set, with Poco noteworthy for spontaneous shouts closer to the days of the British Invasion than typical for the era.

Reflecting both Furay’s prolific song writing output and the band’s confidence in breaking in material on the road, the album includes three more previously unreleased songs, while devoting the other four tracks to more familiar works, starting with a leisurely performance of “Kind Woman,” the Springfield track that first brought Furay, Messina and Young together. A warm ballad in waltz time, the song offers a breather between the uptempo songs and medleys that dominate their set.

The album’s first medley welds a new Schmit song, “Hard Luck,” with Furay’s “A Child’s Claim to Fame,” introduced on Buffalo Springfield Again, and his title track for the Poco debut full-length. A testament to Young’s technical command, his Dobro work here gives no ground to James Burton’s studio take on the Springfield perennial. With tracks from their second studio album still percolating on FM playlists, the band refreshes one of Poco’s best-received songs, Messina’s “You Better Think Twice” (here listed as “You’d Better Think Twice”) by shifting from the razor-edged electric lead figures Messina played in the studio to an acoustic setting their spoken intro flags as “down home,” with Young moving to Dobro rather than steel.

For the album’s closing track, the band revisits three of the debut album’s songs in a medley framing Rusty Young’s lively pedal steel instrumental, “Grand Junction,” with two more Furay originals, “Just in Case it Happens, Yes Indeed” and “Consequently, So Long.”

Across its brisk 39 minutes, Deliverin’ maintains a lighter touch than harder blues-leaning rockers of that era, consistently pushing vocal harmonies higher thanks to Schmit’s and Furay’s ease at slipping into falsetto head tones. Coupled with the band’s instrumental dexterity, that style was what galvanized that first audience at the Troubadour and would continue to be a hallmark of the band and an influence on peers and successors such as Pure Prairie League, Firefall and the Eagles.

That Deliverin’ conveyed their potency as a live band was borne out by sales handily outstripping their two studio albums, reaching #26 on the album chart and yielding a minor hit in “C’mon” that validated their confidence in emphasizing new material rather than familiar album tracks. But internal squabbles would again interrupt Poco’s forward momentum, this time between Furay and Messina, who chafed at Furay’s control, leaving the band less than a month after those live shows to partner with a more compliant Kenny Loggins and bequeathing his perch in Poco to Illinois Speed Press alumnus Paul Cotton.

Young’s steady commitment to the band would provide the constant that enabled Poco to become one of the longest-running country-rock outfits, based in Colorado where the native Californian was raised. Furay would remain with the band for three more albums, quitting in 1973 to join J.D. Souther and Chris Hillman in the ill-fated Southern Hillman Furay Band, while Schmit would leave four years later to join the Eagles, replacing Meisner for a second time.

Poco’s most successful album came a year later, with 1978’s Legacy reaping the hit profile for which Furay and Messina had hungered. Its breakout hit was “Crazy Love,” written and sung by Young, the last man standing from the original band. Young’s persistence would enable Poco to survive subsequent label and line-up changes, securing the band’s induction into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame in 2015, two years after Young’s formal retirement.

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The Eagles arouse more mixed feelings in me than any other band I can think of. Emerging in the early 1970s, initially as Linda Ronstadt’s backing band for her album “Silk Purse”, the Californian-based band were massively successfully, with a string of chart topping singles and albums; in particular their first Greatest Hits record is one of the biggest selling albums of all time.

The band’s early sound was a watered-down, commercialised take on the sound of country-rock pioneers like Gram Parsons. – the band’s two leaders both had significant weaknesses. Don Henley was an excellent vocalist, with his distinctive vocal sound, and a thoughtful lyricist, but a boring drummer. Glenn Frey was a good tune-smith and utility musician, but his vacuous Californian persona is in the forefront on irritating tracks like ‘Chug All Night’ and ‘Heartache Tonight’. The band had excellent supporting parts – Don Felder and Joe Walsh are excellent guitarists, and Randy Meisner and Timothy B. Schmitt strong bassists and vocalists. Early member Bernie Leadon could play country licks on anything with strings. They had excellent harmonies – Henley and Frey sang together beautifully.

With some of their singles which hold up very well – in particular ‘One of These Nights’, ‘New Kid in Town’, ‘Desperado’, or Felder and Walsh’s guitar duel at the conclusion of ‘Hotel California’.

So lets have a look at the Eagles six studio albums from the 1970s Albums Ranked From Worst To Best

Both of the band’s live albums, 1980’s Eagles Live and 1994’s Hell Freezes Over, and they’re both fun for fans, but not particularly essential.

The Long Run

eagles-the-long-run1979
The Eagles had run out of steam by their last 1970s album, and The Long Run has filler like ‘The Disco Strangler’ and ‘The Greeks Don’t Want No Freaks’. It also sounds bland, with the last vestiges of their country sound gone. The Long Run does contain one of the band’s very best songs though new bassist Timothy B. Schmitt sweetly croons his way through the R&B flavoured ‘I Can’t Tell You Why’, Bassist and singer Schmit didn’t hesitate to make his presence known on his very first Eagles album. Replacing Randy Meisner, the musician brought in this lush ballad ‘I Can’t Tell You Why,’ which he finished with Frey and Henley. Schmit sang the track in a beautiful falsetto that added a new dimension to the group, topped off with yet another perfectly melodic guitar solo from Felder.

In many ways,’The Sad Cafe’ sets a template for Don Henley’s subsequent solo career, as he offers a darkly ruminative examination of love lost. But it wouldn’t be such a fitting finale, on what for some 14 years looked to be the Eagles‘ last studio recording, without Felder’s understated, elegiac, utterly virtuosic turn on guitar.

While the Eagles’ last studio effort of the ‘70’s didn’t attain the blockbuster status that ‘Hotel California’ did, the record still had its bright spots including the record’s title track. Eagle Don Henley takes lead vocals on the song “The Long Run’. He had been one of the group’s most reliable songwriters when it came to some of their biggest hits and snagged nine co-writing credits on this record in total.

When you hear the opening line of “Somebody’s gonna hurt someone before the night is through/Somebody’s gonna come undone there’s nothin’ we can do” to this 1979 Eagles hit, one has to wonder whether the Eagles sensed the end was nigh. Given the multi-plantinum group’s acrimonious split just a few years later, there is a very good possibility that this Glenn Frey-sung track was foreshadowing things to come.

Schmit  had been in Poco in 1969, replacing Meisner for the first of two times, but that critically acclaimed band remained largely ignored. Schmit then took over for Meisner in the Eagles seven years later, just as the band was coming off a tour in support of the career-making Hotel Californiaalbum. It took a year and half for the Eagles to complete The Long Run, then they promptly broke up.


Eagles

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The band’s debut album effectively melds the soft-rock and country-rock trends of the early 1970s, spawning the mellow hits ‘Take It Easy’ and ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling’. The former song was the Eagles’ debut single and what a debut it was. Written by Jackson Browne and with some help from Eagles member Glenn Frey, the song was an immediate hit and a hint of things to come from a group whose 1976 hits retrospective has sold an astonishing 29 million copies in the U.S. alone.

At their core, the Eagles were undeniably a country rock band early on, and ‘Most of Us Are Sad’ is a lost classic that brought together all of the elements that made that period special. Written by Glenn Frey and sung by bassist Randy Meisner, the song is a hardcore country lament, but produced in the trademark Eagles style featuring crystalline vocal harmonies and clean instrumentation. The lyric reads like prose poetry: Most of us are sad / No one lets it show / I’ve been shadows of myself / How was I to know?”.

The band’s at their most democratic here, as the dominant axis of Don Henley and Glenn Frey wasn’t yet established, and all four members share equal billing. It’s their least coherent album – the Bernie Leadon and Don Henley composition ‘Witchy Woman’ is spooky and excellent, but Frey’s ‘Chug All Night’ is perhaps the most horrendous song the band ever released.


Desperado

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The band’s sophomore effort was a concept album, equating the Eagles with wild west outlaws. Henley stated later that “the metaphor was probably a little bullshit. We were in L.A. staying up all night, smoking dope, living the California life, and I suppose we thought it was as radical as cowboys in the old West.” . The centrepiece to the Eagles‘ 1973 record of the same name Desperado, it is interesting to note that this sweeping ballad was never formally released as a single. But given the song’s majestic strings and a truly superb vocal performance by Don Henley, there’s no doubt that it remains a favorite of Eagles fans to this day.

It failed to meet the moderate success of its predecessor, although Henley and Frey’s first compositions, ‘Tequila Sunrise’ and the title track, are among the band’s best loved tracks. Another early country hit from the pens of Frey and Henley, ‘Tequila Sunrise’ started because of the drink that was popular at the time. Glenn Frey was hesitant about the song, feeling that reference might limit it to a specific time and place, until Henley argued that the lyric was really about waking up the morning after drinking tequila all night. Bernie Leadon’s guitar work and mandolin contributions to the track provide a perfect bed for Frey’s deceptively easy vocal delivery.

It’s still inconsistent, but Leadon’s mournful ‘Bitter Creek’ is one of the band’s best deep cuts.

‘Doolin-Dalton’ Written by Frey and Henley, with a little help from their friends in this case Jackson Browne and J.D. Souther — this song told the story of outlaw Bill Doolin and the Dalton Gang. It kicked off the cycle of songs that became ‘Desperado,’ a concept album steeped in Western mythology. The track is typically precise, with an evocative lyric: “Well the towns led across the dusty plains / Like graveyard filled with tombstones waiting for the names .”.


One Of These Nights

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The Eagles were mega-stars by 1975, and some of Henley’s lyrics were beginning to wrestle with questions of fame. The band take on disco on the excellent title track, while Leadon’s instrumental ‘Journey of the Sorcerer’ was later used as the theme music for The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy. Title track “One Of These Nights” Felder arranged the unforgettable bass and guitar signature for this chart-topping smash composed by Henley and Frey. Then Felder launches into a searing solo – one that perfectly underscores the song’s bitter sense of missed opportunities. The Eagles took a turn in a different direction with ‘One of These Nights,’ fusing elements of disco and hard rock to create something that had little to do with most of the group’s recorded output. The funky track exploited the more soulful side of Don Henley’s voice. “It is a breakthrough song,” Glenn Frey stated in the liner notes to ‘The Very Best of the Eagles.’ “It is my favorite Eagles record.” Don Felder contributed a blazing electric solo that’s a perfect example of his trademark blend of tone, phrasing and melody.

But while most of the individual songs are strong, the album gets bogged down in slow tempos and long running times after the first couple of tracks – the singles ‘Lyin’ Eyes’ and Meisner’s showpiece ‘Take It To The Limit” It could be argued that their vocal harmonies were always a central piece to the success of the Eagles. And though other Eagles songs may have proved to be more popular on the charts, this track is one of the group’s strongest showcases of their remarkable ability to blend their voices together in an arguably unparalleled way.

The Eagles returned to their country rock roots with ‘After the Thrill Is Gone’ this plaintive ballad from Frey and Henley, which they not only wrote together, they also alternated lead vocals. The lyric perfectly captures both the fading thrill of the ’70s club scene, and the malaise that had begun to creep into the band: “Same dancers in the same old shoes / Some habits that you just can’t lose / There’s no telling what a man might use / After the thrill is gone.” The track also captures some of Henley and Frey’s best close harmony singing.

Randy Meisner’s ageless waltz made all kinds of band history, becoming the first single to feature someone other than Henley or Frey on lead vocals – and the last to include founder Bernie Leadon. Buried somewhere in all of that are a few tasty little asides from Don Felder. Especially “Visions” Written by the guitarist with an assist from Henley, this riffy, Southern rock-informed rocker is the only Eagles song to feature Don Felder on lead vocals. He’ll never be confused with the group’s better-known singers, but Felder’s scorching runs on his main instrument provide plenty of gritty distractions.


Hotel California

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The Eagles
best known album is similar in shape to One Of These Nights, with long-winded songs wrestling with questions of fame and debauchery. Bernie Leadon had now left the band, and was replaced by James Gang guitarist Joe Walsh, who supplied the muscular guitar riff for ‘Life In The Fast Lane’ and moved the band further away from their country roots.

Written by the dominant songwriting duo of Frey and Don Henley, ‘Wasted Time’ is a superb showcase for the grittier, soulful side of Henley’s voice. Constructed with simple, intersecting piano chords, string lines and a trademark clean, straightforward melody, the track demonstrates that sometimes the magic of the Eagles wasn’t in what they played; it was in the taste and restraint they showed in not overplaying, letting the chords, melody and vocal deliver the true intent of a song.

The three big hits are all at the start, and the rest of the album is more mellow – even the rocker ‘Victim Of Love’ is slow, Featuring an intro from Felder that stutters and snarls, “Victim of Love” paints a dim portrait of a desperate search for late-night companionship – propelled by a series of nasty retorts courtesy of Felder. The guitarist also co-wrote this track, . Speaking of ‘Victim Of Love’, there’s a charming story where the song’s main writer, Don Felder, was scheduled to sing lead vocals, but was taken out to lunch by the group’s manager, while Henley completed the lead vocal behind his back.

The Eagles closed out their most classic album with ‘The Last Resort,’ an epic track that presented the entire world as a resort being destroyed by the greedy, self-serving and short-sighted machinations of the human race. A classic Henley rant, the song was a true ballad with no chorus, centered around a solo Henley vocal. Any track that manages to combine Henley’s extreme misanthropy with such an alluring pop arrangement amply deserves to close out


On The Border

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On The Border
 is my favourite Eagles record because it captures the band in a state of flux between their early country sound and the more mainstream rock of their later work. It’s their most energetic work, and if there are throwaways like the Jackson Browne written ‘James Dean’, there are charming album cuts like the almost power-pop of Meisner’s ‘Is It True?’, Leadon’s Gram Parson’s tribute ‘My Man’, and the country/rock hybrid ‘Midnight Flyer’. New guitarist Don Felder adds punch to ‘Already Gone’ No other moment on this album arguably captures guitarist Don Felder’s debut as an Eagle so powerfully . ‘Good Day In Hell’, A key moment in Eagles history arrives, as Felder is asked to join in as a sessions guest on slide guitar for a Glenn Frey-sung album cut. After this sizzling, Allman Brothers-inspired performance in fact, the very next day Felder was asked to join the Eagles. while the Henley sung ‘The Best Of My Love’ took the group to mega-stardom.

The energetic, “James Dean” a guitar-driven rock track follows along the same lines as more prominent hits like ‘Already Gone,’ with its shuffle pattern rhythms and trade off lead guitars. Written by Frey, Henley, Jackson Browneand J.D. Souther — whose contributions to the Eagles were so large that he should be credited as an additional member — the song pays tribute to the movie icon, describing him as “Too fast to live, too young to die.”

‘Best of My Love’ A song that serves as a reflection upon what should have been, the track and namely its vocalist Don Henley also shares an optimistic view of what could be in the future if the parties involved are willing to put in the time. This contrite ballad would give the Eagles their first No. 1 single.

The track ‘Ol’ 55′ is one dramatic example of the Eagles taking the work of another writer and delivering it in its highest form. Written by Tom Waits, ‘Ol’ 55′ was a fan favorite, but the Eagles’ recording surpassed his version vocally and instrumentally, using simple piano chords, pedal steel, alternating Frey and Henley lead vocals, and trademark big harmony stacks that make the song into an instant Eagles classic .

The Line Up changes

Late in Glenn Frey’s life, the Eagles revolved around the axis of his partnership with Don Henley. This complete guide to Eagles lineup changes makes clear, however, that the band didn’t start that way – and it won’t end that way either.

Their self-titled, 10-song debut featured eight songs that were written or co-written by others. In fact, Frey and Henley didn’t collaborate on an Eagles song until 1973’s Desperado LP. Fast forward more than four decades, and the Eagles could be found continuing after Frey’s sudden passing, with his son Deacon taking over alongside stalwart members Henley, Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit.

In between, Bernie Leadon and Don Felder made important contributions. For the country rock-leaning Leadon, that meant playing a key role in their earliest albums, where he co-wrote songs like “Witchy Woman,” “Saturday Night” and the title track from 1974’s On the Border. Felder’s arrival helped the Eagles transition from those rootsy sounds toward the more rock-oriented era with Walsh and Randy Meisner, and then Schmit added a touch of soaring romanticism: Meisner was the voice behind “Take It to the Limit” and “Try and Love Again,” while Schmit voiced “I Can’t Tell You Why” and “Love Will Keep Us Alive.”

When Felder was fired in 2001, only two members of the EaglesFrey and Henley – had enjoyed longer tenures in the band, and they dominated the next era. Long Road Out of Eden arrived six years later as the Eagles‘ first LP of all-new material since 1979, and the duo wrote or co-wrote 14 of its 19 tracks. That made it all the more surprising when the Eagles decided to go on following Frey’s death in 2016.

1971-74: Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon, Randy Meisner

The Eagles found early fame as the epitome of California’s new country-rock movement. Ironically enough, they were nothing of the sort. Frey and Henley were transplants from Michigan and Texas, respectively. Meisner and Leadon were from Minnesota and Nebraska. (Only Timothy B. Schmit, who arrived later, grew up in California. He’s an Oakland native.)

1974-75: Don Felder, Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon, Randy Meisner

Felder was introduced as a full-fledged member on 1975’s ‘One of These Nights,’ but his Eagles debut actually came a year earlier, on “Good Day in Hell” from 1974’s ‘On the Border.’ Felder also took over for his lone vocal (on the song “Visions”) during this period, as the Eagles moved determinedly away from their countrified early style.

1975-77: Don Felder, Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Randy Meisner, Joe Walsh

Joe Walsh was the Eagles’ rock-chart rocket fuel. He completed the band’s musical restructuring, bringing a gritty rock edge to a group best known for peaceful, easy music. Something clicked. His first album with the Eagles, 1976’s ‘Hotel California,’ became one of the best-selling in history.

1978-80: Don Felder, Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmit, Joe Walsh Asylum

The Eagles not only spent three years but also a then-amazing $800,000 trying to complete a follow up to ‘Hotel California,’ often finding that sessions for the album that would become ‘The Long Run’ would break down over a single word. By the time it was over, the Eagles were headed for a long break.

1994–2001: Don Felder, Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmit, Joe Walsh

After almost 15 years apart, the Eagles reunited for the appropriately titled ‘Hell Freezes Over.’ This celebrated homecoming was actually sparked by a gutsy request from country star Travis Tritt, who asked the original Eagles to portray his backing band in a video for his early ’90s remake of ‘Take It Easy.’ Trouble, unfortunately, was brewing once more.

2001-12: Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmit, Joe Walsh

They’d previously divided all band revenue equally, but the Eagles reunion reportedly saw Frey and Henley demanding a new structure favoring their chart-proven partnership. Don Felder initially signed off, but in the ensuing years, arguments over money only worsened. His dismissal pared the Eagles down to a foursome.

2013-16: Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon, Timothy B. Schmit, Joe Walsh

Early member Bernie Leadon returned for a series of well-received tours in celebration of ‘The History of the Eagles’ documentary. (Leadon’s feature moment was “Train Leaves Here This Morning,” which he co-wrote with Gene Clark of the Byrds.) Those shows lasted until the death of Glenn Frey, who’d suffered for years with serious stomach issues. His death appeared to mark the end of the journey for the Eagles, but then something surprising happened.

2016: Jackson Browne, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon, Timothy B. Schmit, Joe Walsh

The Eagles and Jackson Browne remembered their late former songwriting partner Glenn Frey at the 2016 Grammys, performing a reverent take on “Take It Easy.” Browne and Frey composed the song, which later became the opening track for the Eagles’ 1972 self-titled debut – and the band’s first hit single. Henley said at the time that this would be the Eagles’ last-ever performance.

2017: Deacon Frey, Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmit, Joe Walsh

After some initial waffling, the Eagles finally confirmed in early 2017 that Glenn Frey’s son would replace his late father when they take the stage for a pair of summer festival dates. Deacon Frey was set to make his Eagles debut at the Classic East and Classic West music festivals that July. The remaining Eagles earlier sang “Peaceful Easy Feeling” with him at a private memorial service for Glenn Frey in February 2016.

2017-Present: Deacon Frey, Vince Gill, Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmit, Joe Walsh

Veteran country artist Vince Gill joined the Eagles in June 2017. He was set to split vocal duties with the younger Frey on the late Glenn Frey’s songs. Eagles co-founder Don Henley hinted that this version of the Eagles could continue past their appearances at the Classic East and Classic West festivals in the summer of 2017.

‘History of the Eagles’ DVD

The three-hour ‘History of the Eagles’ documentary is an entertaining if slightly sanitized trip through the career of one of rock’s most popular groups.

The first two hours, is a focus on the group’s formation, rise to super-stardom and dramatic breakup, while the following one-hour episode picks the story up with the band’s 1994 reunion and continues to the present day.

We see how a surprising range of stars — Kenny Rogers, Bob Seger, Linda Ronstadt — helped the group during their early years, and how Glenn Frey learned to write songs partially by hearing Jackson Browne toil endlessly on songs like ‘Doctor My Eyes’ day after day in the apartment above his own.

It isn’t long till the Eagles have conquered the world, and we’re off into the “third encore” rock and roll excess portion of the tale. It’s also here that the first sign of inner-band conflict turns up, as Joe Walsh is brought in to replace original guitarist Bernie Leadon as Frey and Don Henley seek to add more of a rock edge to the band’s sound.

The eventual departures of bassist Randy Meisner and guitarist Don Felder are addressed in much harsher terms, with the former essentially dismissed as a crybaby and the latter icily referred to as “Mr. Felder” by Henley. We learn about the fight over who should sing ‘Victim of Love,’ and even get to hear actual on-stage audio recordings of the threats between Felder and Frey from the famous 1980 Long Beach concert that essentially ended the group.

It’s obviously a current lineup-sanctioned documentary, but Leadon and Felder (who gets touchingly emotional) are allowed to state their side of the story in present-day interviews, and Henley and Frey are pretty open about their desire to control the band and the effect that had on the relationships with their departed band mates.

There are entertaining backstage and studio video clips from throughout the band’s history and a smattering of vintage live footage. If this collection ever makes it to the home video market it would be nice to see more songs played live in full, especially from the old shows. But in general ‘History of the Eagles’ accomplishes its modest goals in a completely satisfactory manner.

By the second half the Seventies, The Eagles’ “Peaceful Easy Feeling” seemed like a distant memory, a pleasantly stoned dream rudely interrupted by the pressures of business and fame. A deep malaise had set in, one which couldn’t be soothed by money, sex or drugs. It tightened its grasp on the band, the music industry and the country at large. Everything about Hotel California, the late-1976 album by The Eagles, was larger than life – beginning with the epic title track.  Upon its release, its stature grew as mighty as the music within its grooves.  It yielded two U.S. No. 1 singles, was certified platinum within a week of release, and sold over 17 million copies in the U.S. alone as of 2013 – a number that grew to over 32 million worldwide, and counting.  Over forty years after its initial release, the most famous Eagles album has arrived in expanded form  the band’s very first album to receive such a treatment.  The 2-CD/1-BD deluxe box set edition (Elektra/Asylum/Rhino R2 562944) adds a disc of live concert highlights on CD and high-resolution stereo and surround mixes on Blu-ray, for a compelling and immersive trip back to the Hotel California.  (A 2-CD edition has the original album and concert, while a single-CD edition has just the core album.)

With “Hotel California”, the Eagles sought to capture the excesses and self-destructive behavior that had become status quo in the rock world. It was a scene they were uniquely qualified to address. Their previous album, 1975’s One of These Nights, had spawned three Top 10 singles, and their greatest-hits album sold in such stratospheric numbers on its way to becoming the best-selling album of the 20th century in the United States – that the RIAA had to invent to platinum certification. “We were under the microscope,” Glenn Frey said of the time. “Everybody was going to look at the next record we made and pass judgment. Don [Henley] and I were going, ‘Man, this better be good.'”

Their efforts would create a song cycle that succeeded on nearly every level. Hotel California drew heroic sales figures and critical plaudits in equal measure, and affirmed the band’s shift from laid-back country-tinged pop act to major players in the rock & roll fast lane. The rich lyrics – both introspective and allegorical – had fans pondering their true meaning for decades to come. Was Hotel California about a mental institution? Drug addiction? A feud with Steely Dan? Satanism?

“The concept had to do with taking a look at all the band had gone through, personally and professionally, while it was still happening to them,” Henley told author Marc Eliot. “We were getting an extensive education, in life, in love, in business. Beverly Hills was still a mythical place to us. In that sense, it became something of a symbol and the ‘Hotel’ the locus of all that L.A. had come to mean for us. In a sentence, I’d sum it up as the end of the innocence, round one.”

On guitar, Joe Walsh and his arena-ready heft had replaced Bernie Leadon and his country-fried lilt.  With Walsh trading licks with Don Felder, and Don Henley not only holding down the beat on his drum kit but taking an increasingly assertive role as the band’s “voice,” Eagles were taking flight to rock.  Randy Meisner was as locked-in as ever on bass, as Glenn Frey added texture on keyboards and guitar.  The impressionistic “Hotel California,” composed by Felder, Henley and Frey, was the band’s finest and most hard-hitting meditation on their preferred themes of excess, greed, and hedonism.  The lyrics’ first-person narrative lent a personal feel to these big concepts, adorned with unforgettable images conjuring a vividly eerie experience.  The music, anchored by Walsh and Felder on guitar, was as blazingly intense and atmospheric as the words.

In honor of Hotel California’s 40th anniversary,

The working title of “Hotel California” was “Mexican Reggae.”
Though it’s since become synonymous with the dark, sinister underside of Los Angeles, the album’s title track took shape in a surprisingly idyllic setting. Don Felder had rented a beach house in Malibu, and was in the midst of taking in the ocean breeze as he leisurely strummed his guitar. “I remember sitting in the living room on a spectacular July day with the doors wide open, I had a bathing suit on and was sitting on this couch, soaking wet, thinking the world is a wonderful place to be. I had this acoustic 12-string and started tinkling around with it, and those ‘Hotel California’ chords just kind of oozed out.”

After completing the basic melody, he fetched his TEAC 4-track tape recorder to preserve his latest composition, which he embellished with bass and drum-machine overdubs. “I knew it was unique but didn’t know if it was appropriate for the Eagles,” he admitted. “It was kind of reggae, almost an abstract guitar part for what was on the radio back then.”

When the Eagles reconvened in the spring of 1976 to begin work on what was to be their fifth album, Felder assembled cassettes of his instrumental demos for his bandmates to mine for song ideas. Despite his initial reticence, the reggae-flavored tune made the cut.

Felder had submitted a cassette tape containing about half a dozen different pieces of music,” Henley said None of them moved me until I got to that one. It was a simple demo – a progression of arpeggiated guitar chords, along with some hornlike sustained note lines, all over a simple 4/4 drum-machine pattern. There may have been some Latin-style percussion in there too. I think I was driving down Benedict Canyon Drive at night, or maybe even North Crescent Drive (adjacent to the Beverly Hills Hotel) the first time I heard the piece, and I remember thinking, ‘This has potential; I think we can make something interesting out of this.'”

Glenn Frey was equally impressed. “We said this is electric Mexican reggae. Wow. What a nice synthesis of styles,” he said in 1992 . “Mexican Reggae” ultimately became the song’s working title during early sessions before the lyrics were finalized.

Black Sabbath were recording in the studio next door, and the noise disrupted The Eagles’ sessions.

To oversee the new sessions, the Eagles turned to veteran producer Bill Szymczyk, who had worked on their previous album, One of These Nights. Szymczyk was happy to return, but he had one condition: He wanted to record at Miami’s legendary Criteria Studios, far from the band’s standard base of operations at L.A.’s Record Plant.

His reasoning went beyond the technical. A recent earthquake had sent him “off the bed onto the floor,” instilling in him an intense fear of living on a fault line. “The day the earthquake happened was the day I became an independent producer,” he later joked . To avoid the earthquake zone, he insisted that the band record in Miami. Eventually a compromise was reached, and they would split time between both favored studios. “Every time we were at Criteria, the guys were actually quite happy to be out of L.A. and away from all of the partying and the hangers-on,” said Szymczyk.

They were joined at Criteria by Black Sabbath, holed up in the adjacent studio working on their Technical Ecstasy album. “The Eagles were recording next door, but we were too loud for them,” Tony Iommi told Uncut in 2014. “We kept hearing them through the wall into our sessions.” Hotel California’s delicate closing ballad, “The Last Resort,” had to be re-recorded multiple times to due to noise leakage.

Sabbath may have been louder, but the Eagles held their own when it came to partying. Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler recalled venturing into a studio recently vacated by the band: “Before we could start recording we had to scrape all the cocaine out of the mixing board. I think they’d left about a pound of cocaine in the board.”

When it came time to record “Hotel California,” Felder forgot what he’d written.
By the time the Eagles settled into Criteria Studios to lay down tracks for “Hotel California,” more than a year had elapsed since Felder first recorded his initial tape of the song. When he and Joe Walsh began to work out the extended guitar fade, Henley felt that something was missing.

Joe and I started jamming, and Don said, ‘No, no, stop! It’s not right,'”said Felder  in 2012. “I said, ‘What do you mean it’s not right?’ And he said, ‘No, no, you’ve got to play it just like the demo.’ Only problem was, I did that demo a year earlier; I couldn’t even remember what was on it.” Further complicating matters was the fact that the tape in question was at the other end of the country in Los Angeles. So the band was forced to improvise.

“We had to call my housekeeper in Malibu, who took the cassette, put it in a blaster and played it with the phone held up to the blaster,” he says. In the end, the results were deemed satisfactory. “It was close enough to the demo to make Don happy.”

Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull believed “Hotel California” sounded suspiciously like one of his songs.

In the Eagles‘ defense, the tour took place two years before Felder, the song’s primary composer, officially joined the band in 1974 – though he was a friend of founding guitarist Bernie Leadon at the time and could have conceivably attended one of the performances. Felder himself later denied having ever heard “We Used to Know” at the time he wrote the song, and claimed to know little about Jethro Tull other than that they featured a flautist.

Whatever the case, Anderson takes a magnanimous view of the incident. “It’s just the same chord sequence,” he continues. “It’s in a different time signature, different key, different context. And it’s a very, very fine song that they wrote, so I can’t feel anything other than a sense of happiness for their sake. … There’s certainly no bitterness or any sense of plagiarism attached to my view on it – although I do sometimes allude, in a joking way, to accepting it as a kind of tribute.”

The cautionary tale of “Life in the Fast Lane,” built around Joe Walsh’s famous central riff, once more commented on the high life with which the band was so closely associated. “Life in the Fast Lane” was inspired by a conversation with Glenn Frey’s drug dealer at 90 miles an hour.  The Eagles‘ success made them, by their own admission, well versed in most forms of debauchery: illicit pharmaceuticals, hotel destruction and elaborate forms of sex play. Some of these late nights yielded memorable lyrics. One of the album’s standout tracks was inspired by Glenn Frey’s particularly harrowing car ride with his bagman.

“I was riding shotgun in a Corvette with a drug dealer on the way to a poker game,” he recalled in 2013 documentary The History of the Eagles. “The next thing I know we’re doing 90. Holding! Big Time! I say, ‘Hey, man!’ He grins and goes, ‘Life in the fast lane!’ I thought, ‘Now there’s a song title.'”

He held onto the phrase for months, until a hard-hitting riff spilled out of Joe Walsh’s guitar during a band rehearsal. The lick stopped Frey in his tracks. He asked Walsh to repeat it, and soon realized that he was hearing the sound of life in the fast lane. From there, the song began to take root.

The final track brought Frey uncomfortably close to the drug-fueled reality that surrounded the band. “I could hardly listen to [‘Life in the Fast Lane’] when we were recording it because I was getting high a lot at the time and the song made me ill,” he has said . “We were trying to paint a picture that cocaine wasn’t that great. It turns on you. It messed up my back muscles, it messed up my nerves, it messed up my stomach, and made me paranoid.”

Don Felder was originally slated to sing “Victim of Love.”  The searing tale of a “Victim of Love,” penned by Felder, Frey, Henley, and “honorary Eagle J.D. Souther, soared with the twin-guitar approach from Walsh on slide and Felder on lead.

“New Kid in Town,” co-written by Frey, Henley, and. Souther, revisited the band’s lush and languid country-rock sound, with its ruefully yearning lead expressively provided by Frey in his only lead of the album.  The group’s trademark harmonies also shone here.  Randy Meisner’s “Try and Love Again” also was in this vein, returning the band to its roots.  The heart of the album may belong, however, to the heartbreaking Frey/Henley soul ballad “Wasted Time.”  It closed Side One of the original album and opened Side Two in an instrumental reprise, which like the original track, showcased Jim Ed Norman’s majestic string arrangement.  The Walsh-led “Pretty Maids All in a Row” (co-written by the guitarist and Joe Vitale) complements “Wasted Time” in its conversational reflection on a past relationship.

In addition to the title track, Felder’s primary contribution to Hotel California was the relentless “Victim of Love,” which showcased a rougher sound for the band. “We were trying to move in a heavier direction, away from country rock,” “And so I wrote 16 or 17 song ideas, kind of in a more rock & roll direction, and ‘Victim of Love’ was one of those songs. I remember we went in the studio and we recorded it live with five guys playing. The only thing that wasn’t played in a live session was the lead vocal and harmony on the choruses. Everything else was recorded live.”

In tribute to the song’s genesis, the phrase “V.O.L. is a five piece live” was proudly inscribed on the album’s run-out groove – signaling that “Victim of Love” was recorded live by the five Eagles. The message, etched by Bill Szymczyk, served as a middle finger to critics who accused them of being too clinical and soulless in the studio.

Felder himself provided lead vocals on the initial takes of the songs, but some of his bandmates were not pleased with the results. “Don Felder, for all of his talents as a guitar player, was not a singer,” Frey said in The History of the Eagles. Henley echoed the sentiment. “He sang it dozens of times over the space of a week, over and over. It simply did not come up to band standards.”

The Eagles‘ manager Irving Azoff was given the task of breaking the news to him over dinner, while Henley recorded the lead part back at the studio. “It was a little bit of a bitter pill to swallow. I felt like Don was taking that song from me,” Felder said in the documentary. “But there was no way to argue with my vocal versus Don Henley’s vocal.”

Don Henley brought his own mattress to each hotel during the Hotel California tour.
To combat grueling tour schedules, many bands go to great lengths to approximate the comforts of home while on the road. The Eagles were no exception, even chartering an elaborate private jet for their travels. But the band’s head electrician, Joe Berry, recalls Henley’s special request for the Hotel California tour. “He insisted on having a king-size bed and mattress available at all times, which the crew had to drag around everywhere,” he told Marc Eliot in To the Limit: The Untold Story of the Eagles. “The tour seamstress made a special cover for it, with handles, to make it easier to pack it in the truck every night. It was Don’s bed, it went everywhere.”

Henley defends this apparent extravagance by chalking it up to excruciating back pain exacerbated by the nightly performances. “I used to have to hold my body in such a position that my spine got out of alignment,” he explained to Modern Drummer. “Between playing the drums and keeping my mouth in front of the microphone, it really twisted my whole body. I got to a point in the Seventies where I literally could not sleep.”

The discomfort wasn’t helped by the poor quality bedding at their accommodations. “Hotel mattresses are awful – the worst goddamn thing in the room,” he told Eliot. “So I brought my own mattresses and had it trucked around with the equipment.” Unfortunately, the concierges were less sympathetic to Henley’s bad back. According to Berry, the mattress “never once got used, because no hotel would allow us to bring it in.”

The cover was shot by the man behind the Beatles’ Abbey Road and the Who’s Who’s Next and it almost got the band sued.

He scouted locations with photographer David Alexander, and assembled a shortlist of suitable venues. The Beverley Hills Hotel on Sunset Boulevard was quickly agreed upon as the favorite, but erasing all traces of the building’s bright and airy resort-like appearance would prove to be a serious technical challenge.

“To get the perfect picture, David and I had perched nervously atop a 60-foot cherry picker dangling over Sunset Boulevard in the rush hour, shooting blindly into the sun,” says Kosh. “Both of us brought our Nikons up in the basket and we took turns shooting, ducking and reloading. We used high-speed Ektachrome film as the light began to fade. This film gave us the remarkable graininess of the final shot.”

The chosen shot, captured at the so-called “golden hour” just before sunset, would become one of the most recognizable album covers in rock history. Ironically, most failed to recognize the supremely famous hotel in the photo. When word finally got out about the building’s identity, representatives for the luxurious establishment were less than pleased. “As the sales of Hotel California went through the roof, lawyers for the Beverly Hills Hotel threatened me with a ‘cease and desist’ action,” says Kosh, “until it was gently pointed out by my attorney that the hotel’s requests for bookings had tripled since the release of the album.”

The band blew off the Grammys, instead watching their win from band practice.
The Eagles were nominated for several Grammy awards in January 1978, including the prestigious Record of the Year for “Hotel California,” but Irving Azoff didn’t buy the “It’s an honor to be nominated!” line. Despite their meteoric sales, the band’s image had taken a beating in the popular music press, and he was unwilling to subject them to any kind of PR humiliation. So when Grammy producer Pierre Cossette asked the Eagles to perform during the 20th annual ceremony, Azoff reportedly refused. The only way the band would play – or even attend – was if they were guaranteed that “Hotel California” would nab the prize.

Rigging the awards was obviously out of the question, so Azoff suggested hiding the band in a secret dressing room, where they would emerge only if their name was called for Record of the Year. This scheme was rejected, as was the request that another artist accept the award on their behalf (Jackson Browne and Linda Ronstadt were mentioned as possible surrogates).

When the Eagles‘ ultimately won, host Andy Williams was left standing expectantly, haplessly waiting for someone to come forward and accept the honor. Azoff hastily put out a release saying that the band was in Miami working on their new album, ending the statement with a dismissive “That’s the future, this is the past.” Guitarist Timothy B. Schmit later said they watched the telecast in the midst of their band rehearsal. If they were disappointed that they weren’t there to accept the award in person, they didn’t show it. “The whole idea of a contest to see who is ‘best’ just doesn’t appeal to us,” Henley told The L.A. Times.

Ten tracks have been culled from the band’s concerts of October 20th-22th, 1976 at the Los Angeles Forum, during which the album (released on December 8th, 1976) was previewed with performances of its two songs which would go to No. 1 on the U.S. Pop chart: “New Kid in Town” and “Hotel California.”  J.D. Souther joined in on vocals for “New Kid in Town.”  Live at the Los Angeles Forum also has the band reaching back to its first album for “Witchy Woman” and an appropriately breezy “Take It Easy,” plus other highlights like the On the Border pair of “James Dean” and “Good Day in Hell,” and the One of These Nights duo of “Take It to the Limit” (with Jim Ed Norman conducting the orchestra) and, of course, “One of These Nights.”  Joe Walsh’s James Gang favorite “Funk No. 49” also is aired here.  It’s hard to fathom why the band – in top, edgy form, playing off the audience’s energy – didn’t opt to include an entire concert here, or highlights from the Forum run, replicating a full, roughly 20-song setlist.  (Five tracks from the Forum shows were included on 1980’s Eagles Live including “New Kid in Town” and “Take It to the Limit.”)  But the ten songs selected and expertly sequenced are choice, indeed, with tracks like “James Dean” and “Good Day in Hell” echoing the themes of Hotel California.  Sound, too, is uniformly crisp and excellent on the live recordings.  The Eagles have taken the “leave ’em wanting more” adage to heart.

The producer behind Taxi Driver and Close Encounters of the Third Kind wanted to turn “Hotel California” into a movie. “When we thought of this song ‘Hotel California,’ we started thinking that it would be very cinematic to do it sort of like The Twilight Zone,” Frey once reflected in a BBC 2 radio interview. “One line says there’s a guy on the highway and the next line says there’s a hotel in the distance. Then there’s a woman there. Then he walks in. … So it’s one-shots all sort of strung together, and you sort of draw your own conclusions from it.”

The song’s cinematic quality drew the attention of Julia Phillips, who made history in 1974 by becoming the first female producer to win an Academy Award for the Paul Newman and Robert Redford caper The Sting. A string of blockbusters followed, including Taxi Driver and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and by the end of the decade she set her sights on adapting the Eagles’ smash. An initial meeting with Azoff led to a tentative predevelopment deal, but relations became frosty when she quizzed him on the particulars of the song’s copyright lawsuit that the band initiated against their former manager, David Geffen, and Warner Bros. Records.

Henley and Frey accompanied Azoff to the next meeting, which, by all accounts, was unpleasant. In her infamous tell-all memoir, You’ll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again, Phillips portrays the rock stars as arrogant and difficult, with a weakness for white powder. However, Henley disputes this description in To the Limit. “Glenn and I remember that day quite vividly. We had gone to her house reluctantly. … We sat there, polite but not terribly friendly. We were too wary to be friendly. In an effort to loosen us up, and to create some kind of camaraderie, she dragged out this huge ashtray filled with a mound of coke. … She offered us some, and we said no; we didn’t know her that well, and it was a business meeting. It was a little early in the day for us. She looked nonplussed at that.”

Whatever the truth, the movie deal was dead in the water. Like their Grammy no-show, the band was not particularly distressed over it. “They didn’t really want to see ‘Hotel California’ made into a movie,” one band associate admitted to Eliot. “They were suspicious of the film business. After all, that was what ‘Hotel California’ was all about. I remember from the first day, Henley seemed really reluctant about it. Being the control freak that he is, he sensed he’d never be able to control the making of a film and was afraid of seeing what he considered his finest, most personal work reduced to the level of a sitcom.”

Hotel California is housed in a sturdy flip-top box containing a minimum of swag (a replica tour poster; a foldout photo; and an Eagles family tree reprinted from the April 23, 1977 issue of Sounds magazine delineating the band’s connections to The James Gang, Rick Nelson’s Stone Canyon Band, The Byrds, Dillard and Clark, and more) and two booklets.  The first is a reprint of the Eagles tour program, and the second is a linen-bound hardcover. Buskin’s liner notes offer new commentary from producer Szymczyk, while the remainder of the handsomely-designed book is filled with memorabilia reproductions and photos, all of which are captioned in detail.  Many of these items are fascinating, such as an advertisement for Rock’s Superbowl II (featuring Eagles, Hall and Oates, Jimmy Buffett, and Andrew Gold!) in Orlando, 1976, or the ticket stub for Summer Pop ’78 with a ticket price of $12.50 for Section A – General Admission!