Only one of the Eagles was actually a California native — but which one? Which of their famous country-rock classics originally had a celestial theme? Which video shoot played a key role in their eventual reunion?
Ultimate Classic Rock explores that, and more, with this list of 20 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About the Eagles:
One of Glenn Frey’s earliest pre-Eagles managers, Punch Andrews, also looked after Bob Seger’s fledgling career. That’s Frey singing backup on Seger’s ‘Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man'; the two Detroit legends would later collaborate on ‘Heartache Tonight’ from 1979’s ‘The Long Run.’
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 breakdown over a single word. By the time it was over, the Eagles were headed for a long … break.
A celebrated reunion was finally 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.’
Don Felder had submitted a demo of ‘Love Will Keep Us Alive’ long before it became a comeback adult contemporary and country hit in 1994 for a reformed Eagles. Back then, he was told by the Eagles’ manager that the material “wasn’t strong enough.” A second pass by the full band did the trick.
‘Long Road Out of Eden,’ the Eagles belated 2007 full-length follow up to ‘The Long Run,’ was sold exclusively through Walmart. Several other retailers actually purchased the double album in bulk, however, and resold it in their own stores for about $20 to circumvent the exclusive deal.
This most California of bands was, almost to a man, nothing of the sort. Frey and Henley were transplants from Michigan and Texas, respectively. Fellow co-founders Randy Meisner and Bernie Leadon were from Minnesota and Nebraska. Later members Don Felder and Joe Walsh were born in Florida and Kansas. Only Timothy B. Schmit, the last Eagle to join, grew up in California. He’s an Oakland native.
Rick Diamond, Getty Images
Henley’s mom Hughlene bought him his first set of a drums as a reward — yes, a reward — for blowing up the family’s primitive laundry tub with a cherry bomb. The prank led to the arrival of their first modern clothes-washing machine.
Spencer Platt, Getty Images
Felder taught a young fellow Gainesville, FL rocker named Tom Petty a few licks on the guitar. But that wasn’t the two bands’ only connection. Bernie Leadon’s younger brother Tom was also in the pre-Heartbreakers group Mudcrutch with Petty.
Henley first arrived in California with a record deal in hand from fellow Texan Kenny Rogers, who signed the pre-Eagles group Shiloh. Between early and mid-1970, they cut an advance single and then an album, but both bombed.
The Eagles quickly got the hang of the West Coast lifestyle, by the way, loading up on peyote for the arty photoshoot that would complete their self-titled debut album cover. “None of us were native Californians,” Frey once said. “But we were really into the mysticism of the high desert.” Emphasis on “high,” right?
The title track for 1973’s Old West-themed ‘Desperado,’ which had been rattling around in Henley’s head since at least 1968, originally had an astrological bent. Frey remembers his initial lyric as, “Leo, my God, why don’t you come to your senses?”
Bill Szymczyk, who has produced or co-produced every Eagles album since 1974’s ‘On the Border,’ had earlier worked with Joe Walsh on his Top 10 smash ‘The Smoker You Drink, the Player You Get.” Szymczyk helped the Eagles move toward a more rock-oriented sound, first with the addition of Felder and then with — you guessed it — Walsh.
The Eagles were outraged, at first, when their label rushed out ‘Their Greatest Hits (1971-75)’ while sessions work dragged on for ‘Hotel California’ — calling the move a blatant money grab. Well, it certainly worked. The set sold a million copies in a single week, eventually becoming the RIAA-accredited best-selling album of the 20th century.
The narrative twists in the Eagles’ title track for ‘Hotel California’ grew out of an admiring for the tandem work of another classic rock act, Henley has said. “Steely Dan inspired us, because of their lyrical bravery. So, for us, ‘Hotel California’ was about thinking and writing outside the box.”
The Eagles not only played the editorial staff of Rolling Stone in a May 1978 softball game at USC, they won 15-8 — with the magazine’s writers and editors making a stunning five errors. Spectator Joni Mitchell seemed to confirm that there had been many more such errors before when she said, “I am here as an enemy of Rolling Stone.”
Henley, who served as pitcher, took his role very seriously — practicing for two weeks prior to that game with a representative from Slo-Pitch magazine.
The Eagles’ 1978 update of Charles Brown’s ‘Please Come Home For Christmas,’ issued as a stop gap while work continued on ‘The Long Run,’ became the first holiday-themed song to reach the Top 20 since Brenda Lee’s ‘Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree’ in 1960.
Henley was involved in a scary accident in Oct. 1980, when his pilot had to be put down in a Colorado pasture — tearing the bottom of the plane off. Henley and his girlfriend leapt from the still-moving aircraft, barely escaping injury. Incredibly, the band received a $7,000 invoice for the flight. Their manager returned it with a note saying, “We do not pay for crash landings.”
Walsh says the Eagles’ eventual reunion not only saved his career — it saved his life. Then in the midst of an alcohol-induced spiral, he says “I just plain hit bottom, and it was a close call.” He discussed those struggles frankly in the song ‘One Day at a Time.’
Not long after the Eagles’ official 1982 announcement of their split, Frey said they’d never do a “Greed and Lost Youth Reunion Tour.” “I can’t see myself at 41, up on stage with a beer belly singing ‘Take It Easy,'” he added in 1986. Eight years later, the Eagles were back together. As Frey turned 65, they were still going.
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