EntertainmentMusicHistory of the Eagles, the country rock group

History of the Eagles, the country rock group

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Country and rock had flirted since at least the second half of the sixties, merging in some songs by Buffalo Springfield, The Byrds or Bob Dylan himself. Critics point to Gram Parsons as one of the architects of the perfect marriage: rock and country got married thanks to his work in The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers. But nevertheless it was another Californian band (country rock has its headquarters in Los Angeles) that achieved total success thanks to this genre.

The rock family tree is complex, and especially when its branches grow into country and folk. There ramifications appear towards heartland rock, soft rock, roots rock, the “Americana” genre… a whole series of subgenres that, at times, sound very similar. In any case, this time we focus on country rock, well delimited by its own name: elements of country music added to others typical of rock.

This genre has had a band associated with it since the early 1970s. A group that knew how to express the fusion of rock and country in an exceptional way, and produced musical material that would remain in the history of rock. Songs and records that would accompany several generations and that still sound and are recognized on the radio today. We are talking about the Eagles, the great band that pushed us to the limit, invited us to sleep at the Hotel California and is already part of the soundtrack of an era. In this article we briefly review its history.

Far from the feeling of pieces like ‘Take It Easy’ (“Take it easy”) or ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling’ (“A peaceful feeling”), the internal spirit of the Eagles was always a nest of problems, discussions and fights. Undoubtedly an element that cannot be missing in any rock band that intends to go down in history. It’s ironic that the group that wrote songs as quiet as ‘Tequila Sunrise’ was actually a cage of crickets.

We do not intend to cover the entire history of the Eagles in an article like this, just to review it for informational purposes. To go deeper into the interesting and complex history of the Los Angeles band, it is advisable to go to the different biographical books that have been written, such as To the Limit: The Untold Story of the Eagles, by Marc Eliot, or the official and authorized documentary published in 2013,  History of the Eagles .

The formation (1970-1971)

Although the Eagles have had up to seven members, only two names will be with us from the beginning of the story to the end: Don Henley, born in Texas in 1947, and Glenn Frey, from Detroit, born in 1948. The rest were not expelled. before, or came later.

The story begins in 1970 at the famous Troubadour, the West Hollywood nightclub where, in those days, the youth of Los Angeles went to listen to the latest music live. Don Henley had come to California at the hands of Kenny Rogers, who was to produce the first album by Shiloh, Henley’s Tejano band. Glenn Frey, on the other hand, had not landed in Los Angeles at the hands of any producer: he had arrived in 1969 and formed Longbranch Pennywhistle, a group that would barely last a year. In any case this was of no importance for the creation of the Eagles. What was really important was a third actor (actress, in this case), the country singer Linda Ronstadt.

Ronstadt was a fixture at the Troubadour, and she signed the young Henley and Frey to accompany her on several of her songs. After verifying that the thing worked due to the talent of the two foreigners, Ronstadt hit the road with her new companions to promote her latest album. It was during this promotional tour that the boys realized that they could form their own group. They played really well together!

In this way, Linda Ronstadt’s four companions informed her that they wanted to start their own band, and she encouraged them to do so. Don Henley (drums) and Glen Frey (acoustic guitar) were joined by bassist Randy Meisner and guitarist Bernie Leadon, who hailed from the mythical group The Flying Burrito Brothers. Four legs for a table that looked very good… and had no name. The story goes that on an excursion to the Mojave desert, among a lot of tequila and peyote, a group of eagles appeared to Glenn Frey and he exclaimed: “Eagles!”

The first successes (1972-1974)

The English producer Glyn Johns was amazed by the sound of the newly formed band and took them to London to record the first album, which would come out in 1972 and would bear the name of the group: Eagles . The fusion of the voices of Frey, Henley and Randy Meisner’s treble was harmonious. It was reminiscent of the great sound created by Crosby, Stills & Nash.

With this sound quality and the great accompaniment (Henley’s drums, Leadon’s banjo, which gave that country-folk touch, Meisner’s bass and Frey’s acoustics) the Eagles released their first hit: ‘Take It Easy’, single that climbed to number 12 on the Billboard chart. Other singles from this first album were ‘Witchy Woman’, with a touch of blues, and ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling’, a piece of soft rock.

Eager to continue composing, Henley and Frey set out to maintain a rate of publishing a new album each year, something very ambitious and which they were able to achieve for several years. In 1973 they released Desperado , an album that produced hits like ‘Tequila Sunrise’ but didn’t quite catapult the Eagles to total stardom. International fame still had to wait.

The following year, new album. On the Border presented more up-tempo and rocker sounds, as ‘Already Gone’ shows, and managed to sell more copies. The Eagles’ community of supporters was beginning to grow. Although their leaders (Henley and Frey) wanted more, the truth is that they had only been active for three years. However, this inertia of Henley and Frey brought inevitable clashes. The first, with his producer, who ended up leaving the group.

The claim to fame (1975-1979)

With a new producer and a new signing (one more guitarist, Don Felder), the Eagles released their first hit: One of These Nights , a 1975 album that contained the singles ‘Lyin’ Eyes’, ‘Take It to the Limit’ and ‘One of These Nights’. It was the first album to reach number one on the music charts. And from there up the Eagles would no longer go down: up to four albums in a row were number one.

Fame, money, impressive tours, private planes, prizes, contracts… and discussions, problems, decisions, fights, confrontations, interests… The two faces of success. It all started one of these nights, with One of These Nights .

One of These Nights was nominated for a Grammy for Album of the Year, the song “Lyin’ Eyes” won a Grammy for Best Song, and the Eagles went on a world tour. No doubt 1975 was a great year for the group, although after an incident involving a bad joke and a spilled beer, guitarist Bernie Leadon was kicked out of the band. No doubt Leadon would regret for the rest of his life that he had thrown a beer at Glenn Frey’s head. Everyone knows that there were many tensions backstage . The Eagles signed Joe Walsh as a new guitarist, without a doubt quite a character.

It seemed impossible, but the group continued to publish annually, and 1976 was even better than the previous year. Despite the problems and internal tensions (Glenn Frey and Don Felder did not get along very well) they managed to publish Hotel California , an album that is already music history. Although they lost the Grammy for Best Album of the Year again (to Fleetwood Mac’s brilliant  Rumors ), they shattered all sales records: Hotel California has been the best-selling album in the United States in the 20th century. They won, yes, the Grammy for Best Song with ‘Hotel California’ and for Best Voice for ‘New Kid in Town’.

A lot has been written about ‘Hotel California’. It is the most famous song of the Eagles and it hides a deep and hidden meaning. Far from the satanic theories that associated it with a hymn to hell, the truth is that ‘Hotel California’ does have an interesting message against the consumer society. In Don Henley’s own words, the song talks about the dark side of the American Dream. Besides the content, the form is memorable: ‘Hotel California’ has one of the best solos in history.

In addition,  Hotel California produced other hits. For example ‘Life in the Fast Lane’ was a single that reached No. 3 on the charts and established Joe Walsh as an important part of the group (although he had only been with the Eagles for a year). This undoubtedly must have annoyed Don Felder, who was initially going to sing one of the songs on the album and who finally ran out of vocal prominence. The way in which Henley and Frey managed to keep Felder from singing is curious to say the least: they made their producer take Felder out to eat at a restaurant, and meanwhile they recorded the song that Felder was supposed to sing in the studio. Imagine his face when he came back and saw that the album had already been recorded without him! No doubt the role of him on the guitar throughout Hotel CaliforniaIt is very important, but this episode was one more drop in the glass of internal tensions, which would explode later.

Definitely 1976 was the year of the Eagles. We don’t know if they did it on purpose, but before publishing Hotel California  at the end of the year they had released Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) , an album that, although a compilation, is actually the second best-selling album in history. They were moments of rain of bills on the heads of the Eagles.

After the world tour of 1977, the charismatic bassist Randy Meisner decided to leave the group. Because of his own calm and friendly personality, he couldn’t stand in that unbearable oven that the Eagles’ backstage had become . Behind the scenes, everything was chaos, discussion and tension. So they had to find a new bass player who also had a good voice to do Meisner’s treble. Timothy B. Schmit arrived, with similar technical (and psychological) characteristics.

The separation (1980-1994)

Just because it might have been possible to top the success of One of These Nights didn’t mean the Eagles could top themselves again after Hotel California . They could not keep up with one album per year and during 1977 and 1978 there was a productive drought. Although The Long Run (1979) returned to number one on the charts, the truth is that it no longer contained pieces like the previous ones. The push from the success of Hotel California helped The Long Run climb to the top of the sales charts, but critics were able to detect that the magic had been lost.

In the summer of 1980 Glenn Frey and Don Felder had a heated argument and even came to blows after a concert where they had been texting during the performance. “As soon as we finish I’ll blow you up”, “three more songs and I’ll beat you up”, could be heard while they played. No doubt the Frey-Felder relationship had never been easy. And at that moment the group became untenable. Even Don Henley himself was having run-ins with Frey.

Glenn Frey said that he had grown tired of the Eagles, and so the band broke up. Even physically, because some went to the East Coast and others stayed in California. It had been an exciting and emotional decade. Now, with millions of dollars in their pockets, each one preferred to start solo adventures. It was the eighties, and a new horizon was opening up for them.

Undoubtedly the most successful was Don Henley, who in the Eagles had not only shown skill with the drums and a good voice, but had also been a magnificent composer of lyrics and melodies. On his own, Henley quickly released several records: in 1982, 1984 and 1989. He won a few Grammy Awards and sold a lot. We can remember his brilliant ‘The Boys of Summer’, which contained hints of that ‘Eagle sound’. Asked at some point in his career if there was a chance they would get back together, Don Henley literally said, “The Eagles will reunite when hell freezes over.” Nothing more and nothing less.

For his part, Glenn Frey composed songs for television series and movies, and also published albums almost parallel to Henley (in 1982, 1984 and 1988). Perhaps his most popular song is ‘You Belong to the City,’ which was featured on Miami Vice . Bassist Timothy B. Schmit released only two albums during the eighties, but he collaborated with other groups, such as Toto or Crosby, Stills & Nash, and also on some of the albums of his former colleagues.

Joe Walsh, who had always been a free spirit and had actually put out solo records while with the Eagles, followed his particular career and put down some hits worth knowing, like the funny ‘Life’s Been Good’, a song that By the way, Walsh promised to make the United States anthem if he were elected President, a position for which he ran in 1980 with disastrous results. Things from our dear Joe.

The Eagles needed the 1980s to be a decade of rest and separation. They needed to stop seeing each other for a while. Ten years would be fine. By 1993 the rumors were growing and there was a feeling among the fans that the miracle could really happen. Finally in 1994 they all reappeared together. “By the way, we never really broke up. We’ve just taken 14 years of vacation,” Glenn Frey said with a laugh. The Eagles were back.

The return (1994-2017)

The group performed a series of concerts in 1994 from which an album came out, Hell Freezes Over (1995), which recalled Henley’s mythical phrase and which was a true sales success. Audiences had waited many years for an Eagles album again, even if it was simply a live album. Eagle-mania was still very much alive. Hell had finally frozen over.

Hell Freezes Over was number one and included four new songs. The Eagles’ appearances on MTV, touring at prohibitively expensive prices, or collecting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame award confirmed what had always been known and said: the Eagles were the most popular band in America.

During the nineties things were good, but in 2001 the problems returned (they were the Eagles, what did you expect?). Precisely with Don Felder, who never quite knew how to fit into the group. Glenn Frey and Don Henley considered that Felder had broken the contract signed by all the members by writing a book where he told the history of the Eagles, and they fired him. Felder immediately denounced them and the storm broke. They were years of legal troubles and accusations, which were closed in 2007 after the two parties (the Eagles and Don Felder) reached an economic agreement that was not made public.

Without Felder they released a new album, Long Road Out of Eden (2007), with which they released some singles that did not reach very high on the charts and went on another world tour. No doubt they continued to have an audience that filled the stadiums they went to. In 2013 the official documentary telling the authorized history of the band was released, with testimonials from all members and ex-members (also Don Felder and former guitarist Bernie Leadon and bassist Randy Meisner).

And although it seems the Eagles were still in good shape and in the mood to continue getting on stage, tragically in 2016 Glenn Frey passed away suddenly, at the age of 67. The band was orphaned by one of his parents. The last thing that is known is that Don Henley’s intention is to continue, with an updated lineup of the group, taking the Eagles classics around the world. It certainly won’t be the same without Frey, but the spirit of the Eagles won’t go away.

This is the story of one of the most important groups in the history of music, masters of the country rock genre. The Eagles left a deep mark on the society of the seventies, and marked several generations with hymns that are still playing every time someone drives a convertible on the endless American highways.

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