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How the Eagles Slowly, But Surely, Found Success With Their Self-Titled Debut

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The Eagles had only been together as an official band for about a year when they gathered to record a self-titled 1972 debut, but their story went further back.

Stalwart members Glenn Frey and Don Henley had met in 1970, not long after the two arrived in Los Angeles from Michigan and Texas, respectively. After a period of knocking around the Troubadour, they clicked musically in ’71 while serving as members of Linda Ronstadt‘s backing band, along with fellow Eagles co-founders Randy Meisner and Bernie Leadon.

Still, they were hardly household names as Eagles arrived in June 1972. Instead, the group built toward success slowly, collecting a trio of Top 40 successes in “Take It Easy,” “Witchy Woman” and “Peaceful Easy Feeling” that deftly weaved country and folk with rock music. “We just didn’t wanna make another limp-wristed L.A. country-rock record,” Frey told Rolling Stone. “They were all too smooth and glassy. We wanted a tougher sound.” It took some 18 months, but the Glyn Johns-produced album eventually earned gold status.

They achieved it together, working within a far more democratic configuration than the Eagles eventually became. Vocals and songwriting duties, for instance, were split amongst the members. Leadon brought in key experience with the Flying Burrito Brothers, while Meisner had previously been with Poco – and both bands helped set the stage for the Eagles. “I think in particular, Poco and the Flying Burrito Brothers were influences on us because they were right there at the Troubadour,” Frey once told In the Studio. “We got to see them play live and watch what they were doing and check out the harmonies and check out the songs they were writing or doing.”

Johns, a veteran of sessions with the Who and Led Zeppelin, also played a central creative role. “Doing our first album with Glyn Johns was a stroke of genius on everyone’s part,” Henley later remembered, “because he was a real strong producer in the face of first-album weirdness. He was able to say, ‘Hey, Henley, you go here; Frey, you do this – and even if you don’t know where it’s leading, trust me, this is for the best.'”

As the Eagles found their way, however, the need for a strong guiding hand from Johns became less important. He departed in the run up to 1974’s On the Border. Both Leadon and Meisner eventually split too, leaving Frey and Henley to lead the group into the 21st century.

Still, Eagles also began a pair of longer-held musical relationships. The project memorably included songwriting credits by Jackson Browne (who would much later join in a posthumous tribute to the fallen Frey, singing “Take It Easy” from this album) and Jack Tempchin (who wrote “Peaceful Easy Feeling” and would later contribute “Already Gone,” among others).

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Next: Top 10 Randy Meisner Songs

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