June 21, 1980
By David Huff
Soaring Ever Higher on "The Long Run"
Knowing and believing in what you do, can carry a dream a long way. And in effect, that has been the story behind the success of the Eagles, who have clearly established themselves as superstars among the elite of rock and roll bands.
Glenn Frey and Don Henley are the only two original members left of this band that was formed on the whim of a man named John Boylan. He was the manager of a then unknown female singer, Linda Ronstadt, and he believed that if he had a super band assembled as her back-up, it could prove to be the driving force needed to take her to the top. Boylan's combination came in the form of Frey, Henley, guitarist Bernie Leadon, and bassist Randy Meisner.
After the Eagles toured with Ronstadt, word soon spread about them. David Geffen, a young record executive who was about to start his own label called Asylum, heard about the Eagles and offered to make them a deal. He could get the group a contract with Atlantic Records, or, he would make them a deal on behalf of his own label. Geffen had already signed Joni Mitchell, and Frey's good friend Jackson Browne to Asylum, and the Eagles could be the third. He wouldn't offer them and front money, but he would support the group under a stringent account, until they broke through with a hit record. They signed.
The Eagles' initial move after signing their contract proved quite interesting. They didn't want to hang around Los Angeles to develop as a band in front of everyone's eyes. So, they opted for the open air of Aspen, Colorado where they landed a job at a local bar where they played four nights a week. Here the Eagles became the Eagles, as they played with intensity week after week refining their songs and tuning up their act. Their goal was to come back to the West Coast as a group that would blow everyone away.
The ultimate test would be the first album. When the Eagles came back to L.A., Geffen fronted the group the money necessary to make their first record. They flew out to London, and under the guidance of producer Glyn Johns, they recorded the Eagles, which was released in 1972.
The Eagles' goal of coming out and surprising everybody worked as this album went gold, and eventually platinum, and also included the monster hit single, "Take It Easy," and also, "Peaceful Easy Feeling." Geffen's investment paid off.
Frey and Henley are two men that were destined to meet. Call it fate if you will. Before Boylan came up with a plan to have a super group to back Ronstadt, Frey had already signed up with Linda for a tour she was about to go on, and rehearsals were to begin in a few days. Frey was in a nightclub, the Troubadour, this one particular evening, and noticed this guy by himself drinking. Frey went over and started a conversation with this fellow, who happened to be Henley. They went on talking throughout the night about their goals, ambitions, and frustrations on being a musician, and discovered they were both experiencing the same joys and sorrows. Henley was a drummer that had left his Texas home to seek his musical fortune in California. Ronstadt was still looking for a drummer to complete her band, and on Frey's suggestion, Henley filled that void. It was only the beginning of a partnership that would carry these two towards their dream.
The Eagles second album, Desperado, clearly established the group as a major musical force in the industry. Desperado was a concept album written predominantly by Henley and Frey that revolved around the theme of a rock 'n' rollers lifestyle being somewhat similar to that of an outlaw. The album swept the charts along with its hit singles, and left little doubt that the Eagles were here to stay. They had accomplished what they set out to do, and they proved that they were no flukes.
At this time, Leadon brought in an old friend of his, Don Felder, to play guitar on a couple of tunes. Leadon also had another reason for asking Felder to join in with the group. He wanted to quit, but he felt that if he left the Eagles at this point in time, It would destroy the band. With Felder as the other guitarist, he knew that he could stand up under the pressure, and that he was good enough to fill the void he would create. When the album was released, Felder was asked to become a permanent member. Leadon would stay around for two more years before he would finally quit. The fun and games had gone out of it for him.
Joe Walsh's entry into the Eagles, whose sound was likened to country rock at the time, surprised a lot of people. One of the premiere guitar players in the world, Walsh was a solid rock 'n' roller with his roots going back to Barnstorm, and most recently, the James Gang. His musical background and influence would be felt on the Eagles upcoming album that would be a marked contrast from their past efforts. That album was Hotel California, which would become a classic LP for the group and far outsell any of their previous albums.
Walsh's position with the Eagles was rather unique. Though he was a full-fledged member of the group, he continued to pursue his solo career, and released But Seriously, Folks..., which contained a single, "Life's Been Good To Me," which swept the nation's singles charts. Walsh would later admit he enjoyed the position he was in, and that he looked forward to both of the careers he had. At Eagles concerts, Walsh has become a focal point of fans, and his antics onstage, plus his extraordinary playing, has made him a favorite. The Eagles have also incorporated a few Joe Walsh songs into their set that have become almost mandatory to play at every show. Timothy Schmidt joined the Eagles in the fall of 1977. He replaced Randy Meisner who went off to pursue a solo career. The fascinating tale behind Schmidt's joining the band is that ten years earlier, Schmidt found himself. In a similar situation when Poco's Richie Furay called and offered him a job with that group. His bass player had recently left vacating the spot. Ironically, that bass player's name was Randy Meisner. To add further intrigue to the tale, even the phone call Schmidt received from Frey had a similar ring to the one he received from Furay so many years ago.