The band broke up in 1980, calling it quits after a benefit show on July 31, 1980. Halfway through that concert, Glenn Frey walked over to Don Felder and delivered a promise — “I’m gonna kick your ass when we get off the stage” — while the rest of the band played “Best of My Love.” Things got worse as the show went on, with Frey literally counting down the remaining songs until he could retreat to the wings and throttle his bandmate. “That’s three more, pal; get ready,” he said toward the end. Although Felder wound up hopping into a limo and leaving the venue just after the encore, the damage was done, and the Eagles didn’t play again for 13 years.
More than a decade after that messy breakup, Travis Tritt recorded his own version of “Take It Easy” for Common Thread, an Eagles tribute record featuring many of the country artists who’d grown up listening to the band’s music. Although Henley — with help from the Eagles’ longtime manager, Irving Azoff — had played a big role in getting Common Thread off the ground, the Eagles weren’t really involved, and none of the bandmates actually performed on the album. (Dan Huff, who went on to produce country hits for Keith Urban, Faith Hill and the Band Perry, played Bernie Leadon’s guitar parts on “Take It Easy” instead.)
At Tritt’s request, though, the Eagles’ Long Run lineup— Henley, Frey, Felder, Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit — agreed to appear in a music video for the revamped “Take It Easy.” The guys showed up for the shoot in late 1993, with Schmit sporting a particularly Nineties-looking goatee and a pre-rehab Walsh rocking a coonskin cap, a Rasta-themed poncho and — judging by a shot that arrives shortly after the video’s three-minute mark, where a dumbfounded Walsh stares at the ceiling while the rest of the guys crowd around Tritt and sing along — a righteous buzz. The Eagles might have looked different, but once they hit the bar’s tiny stage, the old magic came back.
“There was a little bandstand scene where we all picked up our instruments and started playing,” Schmit says in the 2013 History of the Eagles documentary. “I was thinking, ‘Guys, come on!'”
Frey, who’d been the only hold-out during a previous attempt to reunite the band in 1990, agreed.
“After years passed, you really sort of remember that you were friends first,” he explains in the film. “You have a lot of common history together and a lot of shared experiences. I remembered mostly the good stuff… I just remembered how much we genuinely had liked each other and how much fun we’d had.”
Common Thread, which received a double-platinum certification on this day in 1993 (and sold another million copies during the next six months), wound up being the official catalyst for the Eagles’ reunion in April 1994. It helped convince the band that demand still existed for their music, and it gave Walsh a reason to clean himself up. That spring, the Eagles returned to the charts with Hell Freezes Over, an album that eventually sold nine million copies — more than the band’s first three records combined — and paved the way for more than two decades of additional tours, including the History of the Eagles trek.