Unless there's yet another leg waiting to be announced, the Eagles wrapped up their two-year History of the Eagles tour this week with a show at CenturyLink Center in Bossier City, Louisiana. The hugely successful tour saw them presenting their catalog in chronological order, including an opening set with guitarist Bernie Leadon, who hadn't toured with since he left the band in 1975. They played all sorts of songs they hadn't touched in many years, including "Saturday Night," "Doolin-Dalton" and "Train Leaves Here This Morning." In honor of the tour coming to a close, we asked our readers to select their favorite Eagles songs. Here are the results.
Jack Tempchin was a young singer-songwriter gigging around the San Diego coffee house scene when he wrote a little ode to carefree living and new love that caught the ear of Glenn Frey right as the Eagles were first coming together. In a decision with huge ramifications for Tempchin's financial future, the Eagles covered it on their debut album. It was the third single from their 1972 debut LP, and it reached Number 22 on the Hot 100.
Today, many people remember the song as the tune playing in the Dude's cab in The Big Lebowski. When he complains that he "hates the fucking Eagles" the cabbie immediately throws him out. They're mellow, but the Eagles remain a highly divisive band.
Don Henley went through a bitter breakup with interior designer (and future jewelry designer) Loree Rodkin shortly before the band began work on Hotel California. He poured all his heartache and regret into "Wasted Time." "I could have done so many things, baby," he sings. "If I could only stop my mind from wonderin' what I left behind/And from worrying 'bout this wasted time." The mournful ballad (complete with strings) ends the first side of the album and a symphonic reprise kicks off side two. It was never a single, but fans loved it and it was a highlight of the band's Hell Freezes Over reunion album in 1994.
Bassist Timothy B. Schmit joined the Eagles shortly before they began their long and grueling work on 1979's The Long Run. He presented a very rough version of "I Can't Tell You Why" to Don Henley and Glenn Frey, who helped him flesh it out into a song that dominated the airwaves in the spring of 1980. Schmit didn't have much time to celebrate. The group broke up just months later, but it gave him a huge song to sing on future tours with Ringo Starr and his All Starr Band. It's been his spotlight song at every gig since the Eagles reformed 21 years ago.
The Eagles were a pretty popular band before they released One of these Nights in the summer of 1975, but that album brought them to a whole other level of success. It was their first LP to reach Number One on the Billboard album chart, and the singles were all over the radio. "Lyin' Eyes" was written by Don Henley and Glenn Frey one night when they saw a young couple talking and imagined they were in the middle of a secret affair. It hit Number Two on the Hot 100. It seemed like the band couldn't get any more popular, but nobody knew what they had planned for 1976.
The first two Eagles albums were produced by Glyn Johns, but he saw the band primarily as a country-rock act. The group began feeling like he was limiting their growth, so they gave him the boot midway through the sessions for On the Border in favor of James Gang producer Bill Szymczyk. By the time they cut One of These Nights in 1975, Szymczyk was completely in charge. The result was a harder rocking album, aided in no small part by the addition of Don Felder on guitar. The title track is an amazing showcase for Henley's vocals and Felder's guitar skills. It shot to Number One on the Hot 100, establishing the group as one of the biggest rock bands of the 1970s.
Poor Randy Meisner. The bassist was in the Eagles from their earliest days as Linda Ronstadt's backing band, and he played a huge role in shaping their signature harmonies. He plays on five of their six 1970s albums and sang lead on their massive 1975 hit "Take It to the Limit," but he's a shy guy who didn't like singing it in concert. That caused all sorts of tension, and he left the group in 1977 after getting into a nasty backstage fight with Glenn Frey. When the group reformed in 1994, it was his replacement Timothy B. Schmit who got the call. When they play the song in concert now, Frey takes the vocals. If that wasn't hard enough to take, he got into a bit of a mess earlier this year. Poor Randy Meisner.
"The Last Resort" may have been merely the B-side to "Life in the Fast Line," but Don Henley has always claimed the 1976 epic is one of his best works. "The gist of the song was that when we find something good, we destroy it by our presence — by the very fact that man is the only animal on earth that is capable of destroying his environment," he told Rolling Stone in 1978. "The environment is the reason I got into politics: to try to do something about what I saw as the complete destruction of most of the resources that we have left. We have mortgaged our future for gain and greed."
The song begins in Providence, Rhode Island, and goes all the way across America, wrapping up in the Hawaiian town of Lahaina. Along the way, it chronicles how Americans have exploited and destroyed their own land. "We satisfy our endless needs and justify our bloody deeds," Henley sings. "In the name of destiny and the name of God."
A few years before they became two of the most successful rock stars in the world, Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey were two struggling songwriters living in the same Los Angeles apartment building. They were hanging out one day when Browne showed Frey an early sketch of a song he couldn't quite finish. Frey loved what he heard and encouraged him to finish it, ultimately helping him do the job himself. The result was the kick-off song on the Eagles debut album, and their first hit single. It brought country rock to the masses and regardless of how much success they've had since, it remains one of their most beloved tunes.
The unexpected success of the first Eagles album was rather shocking for the group. "We freaked out," said Don Henley. "So [for our next album] we did Desperado, which we thought was going to be our big artistic statement on the evils of fame and success, with a cowboy metaphor." It's a loose concept album about the Dalton cowboy gang, and the title track is a sad lament about the lonely life out on the trail. It was never released a single, though the group's old friend Linda Ronstadt covered it in 1973 and brought it to a huge audience. It has been performed at every Eagles concert over the past 40 years, often as the very last song of the night.
Not many pop songs have had their lyrics analyzed quite like "Hotel California." Every since it came out nearly 40 years ago, fans have obsessed over nearly every line. Is the "steely knives" line a dig at Steely Dan? What exactly is colitas? Is the whole song secretly about the devil? Doesn't Don Henley know that wine isn't technically a spirit?
Plain Dealer critic John Soeder ran that last one past Don Henley in 2009, and by that point he couldn't hold back his frustration over the constant "Hotel California" questions. "You're not the first to completely misinterpret the lyric and miss the metaphor," he said. "Believe me, I've consumed enough alcoholic beverages in my time to know how they are made and what the proper nomenclature is. But that line in the song has little or nothing to do with alcoholic beverages. It's a sociopolitical statement. My only regret would be having to explain it in detail to you, which would defeat the purpose of using literary devices in songwriting and lower the discussion to some silly and irrelevant argument about chemical processes."
Yikes. We guess it's not easy writing a beloved song that people want to learn more about. The tune began as a Don Felder demo, which was fleshed out into the finished piece by Don Henley and Glenn Frey. Felder remains immensely proud of the tune, though he hasn't had a chance to play it with the Eagles since 2000. Their breakup was so nasty and litigious that Don Henley calls him merely "Mr. Felder" in interviews. Fans would love to see a reunion, but it's almost certainly never going to happen.