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How Joe Walsh’s Arrival Transformed the Eagles

Joe Walsh
Michael Ochs Archives, Getty Images

When Joe Walsh joined the Eagles in December 1975, they were already a well-established band. But then again, he was also a well-established solo star.

Something clicked. Walsh helped restructure the Eagles, bringing a gritty rock edge to a group best known for laid-back, country-rock music. His first album with the Eagles, 1976’s Hotel California, would become one of the best-selling in history. There was something fortuitous about it all.

“When Bernie [Leadon] decided that he just wasn’t interested very much in continuing, Don [Henley] and Glenn [Frey] thought I would plug in really well with where the Eagles were eventually going to go,” Walsh told Guitar World. “And at the time, I was going, ‘Aw f–, it’s time to do another solo album. Oh, s–. Anybody got any ideas?’ You know? So, it all just kind of came together. I joined the Eagles, and the result, of course, was Hotel California.”

In fact, as incompatible as the pairing may have seemed at first, Walsh didn’t arrive out of the blue. He had actually shared a few concert bills with the Eagles, and they had the same manager in Irving Azoff. He’d previously gained some measure of fame as a founding member of the James Gang, a funky hard-rock trio that released three albums in a little more than a year and a half, highlighted by the radio favorite “Funk #49.” Walsh then launched a solo career and released four albums before he joined the Eagles.

Unfortunately, even the quick success of a multi-platinum project like Hotel California couldn’t steady the Eagles – and Walsh’s appetite for destruction would prove difficult to quench, as well.

They’d take more than two years to complete a follow-up album before going on a long break in 1980, picking up the pieces in 1994 for reunion albums and tours. Along the way, Walsh kept a solo career going, releasing albums like Barnstorm, The Smoker You Drink, the Player You Get and But Seriously, Folks. He also kept up a party aesthetic that eventually became a larger issue, especially after the Eagles were grounded in the ’80s.

“When we stopped, I was sad and didn’t know what to do,” Walsh told the  Daily Mail. “So, I kept going. I became an alcoholic and dependent on drugs. I hit rock-bottom.”

The Eagles’ early ’90s reunion – a blockbuster event winkingly titled the Hell Freezes Over tour – couldn’t have arrived soon enough for the clean-and-sober Walsh. “He looked so bad,” bandmate Timothy B. Schmit remembered. “I think the offer to rejoin the band saved him.”

Walsh then played a key role on the Eagles’ long-awaited 2007 studio album, Long Road Out of Eden, their first since 1979’s The Long Run. In 2012, he released Analog Man, his first solo album in two decades.

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