That Time Eagles Limped Away With the Patched-Together ‘Live’
Assembled after the band had unofficially broken up, Eagles Live closed out their turbulent initial era in perhaps the only way it could: with more turbulence.
The two-disc set arrived on Nov. 7, 1980, just months after a disastrous appearance at Long Beach, Calif., that would mark the Eagles' final show until the aptly titled Hell Freezes Over reunion in 1994. Things had gotten no better in the interim. The Eagles still owed Elektra another album, and so they set about work on a live set – but without actually working together at all. Glenn Frey stayed behind in Los Angeles, while Don Henley oversaw post-production sessions in Miami. They had to fly tapes back and forth in order to complete Eagles Live.
Frey, to put it simply, was done. "I knew the Eagles were over about halfway through [1979's] The Long Run album," he told Robert Hilburn in 1982. "I told myself I'd never go through this again. I could give you 30 reasons why, but let me be concise about it: I started the band, I got tired of it and I quit."
The Eagles' label reportedly agreed to pay a whopping $2 million if they would construct a pair of new songs that could be tacked onto Eagles Live. The offer was flatly rejected. Instead, the Eagles' first-ever live album would include just one previously unreleased tune, a gorgeous a cappella cover of Steve Young's "Seven Bridges Road" that almost cracked the Top 20.
Every one scattered for solo projects, seemingly without even a glance over their collective shoulders. "I'm very proud of what we did," Henley said to Hilburn in '82. "We put everything we had into it at the expense of our health, friendships and everything else. But Glenn was right. It was time for it to end. I have no regrets. I wish everyone else in the group well. There are some painful memories, but I'm beginning now to be able to look back and laugh a little."
It had not been the best of times. They'd needed 18 months and five different studios to complete The Long Run. Tensions continued to mount until Glenn Frey and Don Felder almost came to blows during a July 1980 show at Long Beach. In the end, Eagles Live – which included a raucous take on "Life in the Fast Lane" from that same concert stop – didn't begin to live up to its title.
The Eagles were, quite obviously, dead. But this album has also been called the most overdubbed concert recording ever. They patched in songs from separate 1980 performances at the Forum in Los Angeles and at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, completing Eagles Live with additional music from 1976. That was not only a different time but also a different lineup, since Timothy B. Schmit had not yet joined.
It seemed as if the Eagles just wanted to get this over with. "We made it," a dejected Frey would later muse about his band, "and it ate us." The liner notes told the tale. Five different lawyers were thanked. And at the end, the Eagles could only say: “Thank you, and good night.”