Greatest Eagles Songs: Beyond 'Hotel California' - Rolling Stone
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The 40 Greatest Eagles Songs

The Eagles’ finest moments – from car-radio classics to golden deep cuts

UNSPECIFIED - JANUARY 01: Photo of Glenn FREY and Joe WALSH and Don HENLEY and Don FELDER and EAGLES and Randy MEISNER; L-R: Don Felder, Don Henley, Joe Walsh, Glenn Frey, Randy Meisner - posed, studio, group shot - Hotel California era (Photo by RB/Redferns)

RB/Redferns/Getty Images

From the start, the music of the Eagles was saddled with terms like “country rock” and “laid-back,” as if the band only strummed and harmonized its way through its records. But just as the internal dynamic within the band was never as mellow as their image, neither was their music one-dimensional. Far from it. The group’s back catalog has its share of ballads but also forays into gnarly rock & roll, soul moves, and nods to mainstream country, bluegrass and funk. As Don Henley told Rolling Stone in 2016, “We wanted to create material that would showcase each of the band members’ strengths. … Our main goal, at the beginning, was to write good, memorable songs, make albums that had little or no filler, that were consistent from beginning to end in terms of songwriting and production.”

We look back at the band’s 40 greatest songs, with the help of past and present band members and collaborators like songwriter JD Souther and producer Bill Szymczyk. Want to find out which songs were inspired by which real-life outlaws or which particular eatery? Which song was about which band member’s romantic turmoil? Which studio indulgence enhanced which track? The enduring appeal of the songs proves the band was truly it in for the long run.

CIRCA 1976: (L-R) Bernie Leadon, Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Don Felder and Randy Meisner of the rock and roll band "Eagles" pose for a portrait in circa 1976. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images


“Hotel California” (1976)

“We were all middle-class kids from the Midwest,” Don Henley said. “‘Hotel California’ was our interpretation of the high life in Los Angeles.” Even more, it was a sweeping portrayal of the dark side of the American dream. “Hotel California” began as a 4-track recording made by guitarist Don Felder at a house he was leasing on the beach in Malibu. Henley fleshed it out with Glenn Frey, whose lyrical images evoked what he later called L.A.’s “tarnished elegance.” “It had the two things that are necessary for life: mystery and possibility,” Henley said. Originally titled “Mexican Reggae,” the finished product was sculpted during sessions in Miami and Los Angeles, with Felder and Joe Walsh spending three days working up their epic, climactic guitar battle. Released in December 1976, the song spent 19 weeks on the charts, grounding one of the most successful albums of all time and inspiring listeners to assume it was about everything from satanism to heroin abuse. “It’s just like a little movie,” Frey said. “A lot of it doesn’t have to make sense.”

The Eagles perform at Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Netherlands in 1972. Left to right: Bernie Leadon, Glenn Frey and Randy Meisner. (Photo by Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns)

Gijsbert Hanekroot/Getty Images


“Take It Easy” (1972)

The song that became the Eagles’ national anthem was written by Jackson Browne on a road trip that took him through Utah and Arizona. He showed a rough draft to his upstairs neighbor, Frey, who immediately recognized its potential. “He played the second unfinished verse, and I said, ‘It’s a girl, my lord, in a flatbed Ford, slowin’ down to take a look at me.’ Jackson already had the lines about Winslow, Arizona,” Frey recalled. Jackson Browne let Frey take it to the Eagles. “The song has this momentum to it – it’s cruising,” says guitarist Bernie Leadon. “We all went, ‘Yeah!’ and started playing along.” From its wind-in-your-sails intro to its catchphrase title, the Eagles’ first Top 20 hit embodied the band’s mellow vibe.“ Just those open chords felt like an announcement, ‘And now…the Eagles,’” Frey said. Timothy B. Schmit, who was in the country-rock band Poco at the time, remembers the song’s impact as well: “We would be driving along the road to some college gig, and then we would hear ‘Take It Easy’ on the radio and kind of sigh. This band was doing the same genre, and they were soaring past us.”

UNSPECIFIED - JANUARY 01:  (AUSTRALIA OUT) Photo of EAGLES; 1973 - L-R Bernie Leadon, Glenn Frey, Don Henley and Randy Meisner  (Photo by GAB Archive/Redferns)

GAB Archive/Redferns/Getty Images


“Desperado” (1973)

“Desperado” is the stunning title track of the Eagles’ second album, an imagined Western – with a dramatically cinematic orchestral arrangement and lyrics about coming to terms with your wild side. It was also one of the first songs Henley and Frey penned as a songwriting duo. The pair had huddled around an upright piano in Henley’s starkly furnished Laurel Canyon house a few days after they recorded their debut LP; Henley showed Frey a melody and chord progression he’d been toying with since around 1968. The lyrics originally addressed a friend of Henley’s named Leo (“Leo, my God, why don’t you come to your senses?”) and, according to the drummer, “had something to do with astrology.” On the advice of Jackson Browne, they gave the tune a Western theme and went on to record it with the London Symphony Orchestra – “I was terrified,” Henley recalled. It became a landmark country-rock ballad, covered by Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond and Miranda Lambert. “I brought Don ideas and a lot of opinions, he brought me poetry,” Frey once said. “We were a good team.”

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - 1st JANUARY: American group Eagles perform live on stage at Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Netherlands in 1972. Left to right: Randy Meisner,Glenn Frey, Bernie Leadon and drummer Don Henley. (Photo Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns)

Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns/Getty Images


“Peaceful Easy Feeling” (1972)

The third hit single from the Eagles’ debut was their first collaboration with songwriter Jack Tempchin, who’d write several songs with the band as well as Frey’s 1985 solo hit “You Belong to the City.” Tempchin wrote the ballad after a gig at a coffee shop in El Centro, California. “It was a small club in a mini-mall,” he recalled years later. “It was my first time in the desert, and the view of the stars was amazing. I was attracted to a waitress there, but unfortunately, she didn’t feel the same way about me because she went home – without me. I wound up sleeping on the floor in the club with my guitar instead of the girl. It was then that I started writing ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling.’ ” When Frey heard Tempchin play it at Jackson Browne’s house, he asked if he could road test it with the Eagles. “The next day, Glenn brought me a cassette of what they had done with it,” Tempchin recalled. “It was so good I couldn’t believe it.” With tender strumming and elegant three-part harmonies, “Peaceful Easy Feeling” felt like an addendum to “Take It Easy”; according to Leadon, playing it was just as natural as its title implies: “You just fall in.”

Joe Walsh of The Eagles performs live on stage, New York, October 1979. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)

Michael Putland/Getty Images


“New Kid in Town” (1976)

Early in the writing of “hotel California,” Eagles co-writer J.D. Souther arrived at Frey’s house and played the band “a bit of a song” he’d been working on. “Everyone looked at me: ‘Man, that’s a single, that’s a hit. Where’s that been?’” Souther recalls. “I didn’t know what else to do with it.” Frey developed a narrative around Souther’s music. The tale was, in Henley’s words, “about the fleeting, fickle nature of love and romance” as well as “the fleeting nature of fame, especially in the music business.” At the time, new sounds like punk were on the rise, taking aim at established acts like the Eagles. Souther agrees: “We were approaching 30 and could see that the rearview mirror was full of newcomers as hungry as we had been.” (Contrary to rumor, Souther insists the song is not about Bruce Springsteen.) With Randy Meisner playing an acoustic bass known as a guitarrón (gifted to him by a friend from Mexico), “New Kid in Town” was an exquisite piece of south-of-the-border melancholia, with overlapping harmonies so complex that the song won the band a Grammy for Best Vocal Arrangement.

NEW YORK - MAY 11: Glenn Frey of the American rock band the Eagles performing at the Academy of Music in New York City. (Photo by Waring Abbott/Premium Archive/Getty Images)

Waring Abbott/Getty Images


“Already Gone” (1974)

Written by “Peaceful Easy Feeling” tunesmith Jack Tempchin, this hard-driving rocker – the rest of three hits from On the Border – was the right song for the right time. In search of radio-friendly material after the middling sales of Desperado, the band saw “Already Gone” as a chance to toughen up its sound. The original version (co-written by Tempchin and Robb Strandlund) was softer than the Eagles’ final version. The band first took a crack at the song during the early, aborted On the Border sessions in London. After parting ways with producer Glyn Johns and relocating to L.A., they tried it again – and nailed it in just a few takes. “I got a call from Glenn Frey and he was in the studio, and he said, ‘Hey, you know that country song you wrote? I think we could make that a great rock song,’” Tempchin said. “He held the phone to the speakers, and there was the Eagles recording.” Uncharacteristically, the band even left in an improvised bit – Frey singing “all right, nighty night” – at the end. “That’s me being happier, that’s me being free,” Frey said later. “Already Gone” kicked off On the Border, the band’s first Number One album.

Jul 1, 1975 - Los Angeles, California, U.S. - EXCLUSIVE - Glenn Frey left on the telephone with Don Henley. THE EAGLES at Glenn Frey's house in Los Angeles during an interview with Dutch writer Constant Meijers voor music magazine OOR in 1975. (Credit Image: © Barry Schultz/Sunshine/

© Barry Schultz/Sunshine/ZUMA


“Lyin’ Eyes” (1975)

This six-minute story-song was inspired by Frey seeing an attractive young woman dining with an older man at an L.A. restaurant. “Look at those lyin’ eyes,” he reportedly said, and a song was born – the tale of a woman who stays in a loveless relationship with a “rich old man,” then heads out at night for “the cheatin’ side of town” to see her boyfriend. “I don’t want to say it wrote itself, but once we started working on it, there were no sticking points,” Frey later said. For Leadon, the song embodies one of Frey’s signal contributions to the Eagles: “As the saying goes, Henley could sing the phone book and make it sound interesting, but Glenn was a great storyteller. Just listen to the way he sings ‘Lyin’ Eyes.’” Thanks to its Nashville feel, enhanced by Leadon’s guitar, the song was one of the few Eagles singles to make the country charts. And, as producer Bill Szymczyk learned, it embodied the band’s meticulousness in the studio. The opening line alone – “City girls just seem to find out early” – took six tries to get right. Says Szymczyk, “The ‘ci’ and ‘ty’ came from two different takes, ‘girls’ from another, and each word after that from different takes.”

CIRCA 1976:  Musician Joe Walsh of the rock band "Eagles" poses for a portrait in a truck in circa 1976.  (Photo by Peter Sherman/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Peter Sherman/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images


“Life in the Fast Lane” (1976)

One mythical L.A. evening, Frey was en route to a poker game, flying down the highway in the passenger seat of a car driven by a drug dealer buddy of his known as “the Count” – “because his count was never very good,” Frey recalled. “He moved over to the left lane and started driving 75 to 80 miles per hour. I said, ‘Hey, man, slow down.’ He goes, ‘Hey, man, it’s life in the fast lane.’ And I thought, ‘Oh, my God, what a title.’ I didn’t write it down. I didn’t have to.” “Life in the Fast Lane” was a showcase for Joe Walsh, who had recently joined the Eagles in place of the departed Leadon. “That song actually sprang from the opening guitar riff,” Henley recalls. “One day, at a rehearsal, Joe just busted out that crazy riff and I said, ‘What in the hell is that? We’ve got to figure out some way to make a song out of that!’” They quickly wrote lyrics about a jaundiced rich couple. At the time, the working relationship between Frey and Henley was so symbiotic that Henley can’t quite remember exactly who wrote what lyrically. “Back then, we were always finishing each other’s sentences. We had a kind of telepathy going on.”

Glenn Frey, Randy Meisner, Don Henley and Joe Walsh of The Eagles perform on stage at Ahoy on May 11th 1977 in Rotterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns)

Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns/Getty Images


“One of These Nights” (1975)

When the eagles began work on their fourth album, disco was just making moves toward the pop mainstream, and Henley and Frey thought the rising new sound would be the perfect backdrop for a song that explored America’s depleted post-Watergate mood. “We thought, ‘Well, how can we write something with that flavor, with that kind of beat, and still have the dangerous guitars?’” Henley said. “We wanted to capture the spirit of the times.” The song’s R&B feel wasn’t completely foreign to the band: Henley and Frey were both fans of soul music. “Glenn loved Al Green and Otis Redding,” says friend and fellow Detroit native Bob Seger. “And ‘One of These Nights’ was kind of a soul song.” Felder came up with the song’s signature bass part, which he then taught to Meisner, and the guitarist also contributed a biting solo that helped sharpen and define the track. The unlikeliest – and sultriest – of Eagles singles, it hit Number One. Frey would call it “my favorite Eagles record” and “a breakthrough song”: “We made a quantum leap with ‘One of These Nights.’ ”
CANADA - MARCH 30:  Take flight: The Eagles have launched their latest album; The Long Run; and Peter Goddard says it's good but . . . The Eagles; pictured at a CNE concert in 1978; are clockwise from top; Timothy B. Schmitt; Don Felder; Glenn Frey; Joe Walsh and Randy Meisner.   (Photo by Doug Griffin/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Doug Griffin/Toronto Star/Getty Images


“Heartache Tonight” (1979)

This shout-along stomper went through a typically prolonged gestation. Frey and J.D. Souther worked out the basics, inspired by Sam Cooke records. “Glenn started clapping his hands and singing and I joined in, until the first verse felt right,” says Souther. Later, in Aspen, Bob Seger was enlisted. “They already had [most of] the lyrics, and I started singing really hard, ‘We can leave it in the parking lot/But either way there’s gonna be a heartache tonight!’ and Don said, ‘That’s it – we’re done.’ ” To achieve the perfect sonic-boom percussion, Henley laid down on the floor of the studio, holding a marching-band-style drum on his chest and beating it with a mallet. “He did that forever,” says Schmit. “It took a long time.”

Joe Walsh Performing with the Eagles at the Fabulous Forum in Los Angeles Ca Usa On March 3 1980 Photo © Kevin Estrada / Media Punch Usa Los AngelesJoe Walsh in Concert - 03 Mar 1980

Joe Walsh Performing with the Eagles at the Fabulous Forum in Los Angeles Ca Usa On March 3 1980 Photo © Kevin Estrada / Media Punch Usa Los Angeles Joe Walsh in Concert - 03 Mar 1980

Kevin Estrada/REX/Shutterstock


“I Can’t Tell You Why” (1979)

In 1977, five years of constant hard work was beginning to wear on the Eagles. The strain felt by Meisner was especially acute; he was suffering from stomach ulcers and often in severe pain. After an argument with Frey one night on tour, he left the band. “I won’t go into real details,” Meisner said in 2008. “But that was kinda the end.” When the band landed in Miami to record The Long Run, one of the first songs it finished would feature a lead vocal by Meisner’s replacement, Timothy B. Schmit. “I was going through a rough emotional time,” Schmit says. “I was young and confused about how to make relationships function, and this song was a vent for my melancholia.” When Schmit was slow in finishing the song, he learned a lesson about his new band’s hardened work ethic: “I was just kind of having a good time. I wasn’t working really hard, trying to find the rest of the lyrics. Don came up one day and said, ‘I think I finished this.’ It was a good lesson for me. Don said, ‘Reality check.’” When it was eventually completed, “I Can’t Tell You Why” had such a smooth soft-soul feel that it would be covered by R&B artists Howard Hewett and Gerald Alston.

Eagles (Photo by Paul Natkin/WireImage)

Paul Natkin/WireImage


“The Long Run” (1979)

Henley and Frey displayed their love of soul music on the title track of The Long Run. The song’s steady groove recalled vintage Stax Records as well as “Turning Point,” a 1975 smash by Chicago singer Tyrone Davis, and its sense of resilience was tinged with defiance: “Despite the extraordinary success of Hotel California, we were collectively in a pretty dark place during the making of The Long Run,” says Henley. “We were beginning to see press articles about how we were passé.” Yet, despite celebrating longevity, The Long Run would be followed by a 14-year hiatus. “Here we are…still going strong,” Henley joked in 2003. “The long run, indeed.”

The Eagles pose for a group portrait in London in 1973. L-R Randy Meisner, Bernie Leadon, Glenn Frey and Don Henley. (Photo by Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns)

Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns/Getty Images


“Tequila Sunrise” (1973)

A classic hit from Desperado, “Tequila Sunrise” is a forlorn, countrified ode to (liquid) courage in the face of lost love. Frey wrote most of it and handled main- vocal duties, singing his lines in a way that’s direct but tender, with a uttering vibrato that helps lend an encouraging note to the melancholy instrumentation underneath. In the 2003 Eagles compilation, The Very Best Of, Henley revealed that Frey “was ambivalent about it because he thought that it was a bit too obvious or too much of a cliché because of the drink that was so popular then.” Eventually, Frey warmed up to it. “I love the song,” he said. “I don’t think there’s a single chord out of place.”

Joe Walsh of the Eagles at Comiskey Park in Chicago, Illinois, August 19, 1978. (Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

Paul Natkin/Getty Images


“Best of My Love” (1974)

J.D. Souther was hanging out at producer Peter Asher’s L.A. house one night when Henley, on the phone from London, had an urgent request: “Can you get on a plane? We need a bridge.” Souther flew overseas the next day and helped the band finish this ballad – considered a risky move at the time. “Someone at Asylum [the Eagles’ label] told us it could never be a single – too long, too slow, steel guitar, not enough drums,” Souther recalls. But prompted in part by a Michigan DJ who began playing it, the song gained momentum and became the Eagles’ first Number One single. “People requested it, and there you go,” says Souther. “It’s a pretty song that feels true.”

Joe Walsh, Randy Meisner, Don Henley, Glenn Frey and Don Felder of The Eagles perform on stage at Ahoy on May 11th 1977 in Rotterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns)

Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns/Getty Images


“Take It to the Limit” (1975)

One of the Eagles’ most beloved ballads was written by Meisner in a moment of inspiration one night at his L.A. home. “I was feeling kind of lonely and started singing ‘All alone at the end of the evening, and the bright lights have faded to blue,’” he recalls. “And it went from there.” Henley and Frey helped him finish the song, and during its recording, producer Bill Szymczyk had Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes’ soul ballad “If You Don’t Know Me by Now” in mind. At the song’s end, Meisner reached for – and hit – a heady high note. “Randy said, ‘If it’s a hit, I’m going to have to hit that note every night,’” recalls Szymczyk. “Which is exactly what happened.”

CANADA - MARCH 30:  Take flight: The Eagles have launched their latest album; The Long Run; and Peter Goddard says it's good but . . . The Eagles; pictured at a CNE concert in 1978; are clockwise from top; Timothy B. Schmitt; Don Felder; Glenn Frey; Joe Walsh and Randy Meisner.   (Photo by Doug Griffin/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Doug Griffin/Toronto Star/Getty Images


“In the City” (1979)

Walsh originally wrote “In the City,” a big-riffing epic about escaping a dreary urban existence, with songwriter Barry De Vorzon for the soundtrack to 1979’s gangs-of-New York cult classic The Warriors. When the band began work on The Long Run, which came out the same year as the movie, Walsh was having writer’s block, producer Bill Szymczyk recalls. “That’s the only song he had,” he says. “No one had seen the movie or heard the soundtrack,” so the Eagles recut a lusher, lighter version of their own. “I always liked the song and thought it could have been an Eagles record,” Frey once said, “and so we decided to make it one.”

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - 1st JANUARY: American group Eagles perform live on stage at Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Netherlands in 1972. Left to right: Bernie Leadon, Glenn Frey and Randy Meisner. (Photo Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns)

Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns/Getty Images


“Witchy Woman” (1972)

On tour in Cape Cod with his previous band, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Leadon came up with this song’s signature tribal riff. He eventually took it to Henley, who later described it as “a Hollywood-movie version of Indian music – you know, the kind of stuff they play when the Indians ride up on the ridge while the wagon train passes below. It had a haunting quality.” Henley wrote the lyrics while laid up with the flu, taking inspiration from iconic party girl Zelda Fitzgerald and various women he’d met at L.A. clubs like the Troubadour. “An important song for me,” Henley said. “It marked the beginning of my professional songwriting career.”

OAKLAND - 1977:  Glenn Frey of The Eagles performs live at The Oakland Coliseum in 1977 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Richard McCaffrey/ Michael Ochs Archive/ Getty Images)

Richard McCaffrey/ Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images


“James Dean” (1974)

“You were the lowdown rebel if there ever was/Even if you had no cause,” Frey sang over a boogieing groove on this tribute to the embodiment of Old Hollywood cool. “The other guys had evidently studied him,” Henley recalled of his bandmates. “I had seen most of Dean’s movies, but I somehow missed the whole icon thing.” Jackson Browne had come up with the basics of the song after seeing singer-songwriter Tim Hardin live, and Henley, Frey and J.D. Souther helped finish it off. “I always thought the best line in ‘James Dean’ was ‘I know my life would look all right if I could see it on the silver screen,’” Frey once said. “You just don’t get to do that.”

(L-R) Don Felder and Joe Walsh of The Eagles perform on stage at Ahoy on 11th May 1977 in Rotterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns)

Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns/Getty Images


“On the Border” (1974)

For this hard, funky post-Watergate rant, the band was hoping to get a “Temptations feel,” according to producer Bill Szymczyk, who’s credited as playing “T.N.T.S.” (i.e., Tanqueray and tonics, which he made during the session). The song, which Henley called “a clash of styles and influences,” went out on a unique groove somewhere between Sly Stone and Neil Young. “I remember it was one of the last things to be recorded, and I had come up against an unmovable deadline,” says Henley. “So I somehow got my hands on a truck-driver pill called a Black Molly and stayed up all night completing the song. That’s how badly I wanted to go home.”

Singer and guitarist Glenn Frey (1948 - 2016) performing with American rock group, The Eagles, USA, November 1979. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)

Michael Putland/Getty Images


“The Sad Cafe” (1979)

During the making of 1975’s One of These Nights, producer Bill Szymczyk instituted a policy for all of the band’s recording sessions called the Six O’Clock Rule: no drinking or drugs before six o’clock. “Sometimes you’d hear them grumbling, like, ‘Is it six yet?’” he says, laughing. By 1979’s The Long Run, the final album before their 1980 breakup, even that diktat wouldn’t be enough to keep the band’s process from bogging down. Hearing that Fleetwood Mac was working on a double album (1979’s Tusk), the Eagles decided they needed to make a two-LP set of their own. Eighteen months of work rendered a single album that often reflected their weariness at the time. It closed with “The Sad Cafe,” an elegy to the scene that begat them. “It’s more than anything else about losing your innocence, our innocence,” says J.D. Souther. “It’s a real place and still a favorite restaurant – Dan Tana’s – where for years we huddled in the back booth and schemed, dreamed and laughed more than seems possible.” The title came from The Ballad of the Sad Café, a 1951 collection of Carson McCullers’ stories, and its smooth-jazz arrangement, burnished with a sax solo by David Sanborn, paved the way for Frey’s solo work.

(MANDATORY CREDIT David Tan/Shinko Music/Getty Images) Eagles live in USA, unknown, August 1978. (Photo by David Tan/Shinko Music/Getty Images)

David Tan/Shinko Music/Getty Images


“After the Thrill Is Gone” (1975)

The title of this somber standout from One of These Nights alludes to the B.B. King blues classic “The Thrill Is Gone.” “We wanted to explore the aftermath,” Henley recalls. “We know that the thrill is gone – so, now what?” The result was somewhat autobiographical, an estimation of their own feelings after the initial excitement of success had begun to wear off – “combining the personal and professional in song,” as Henley put it. Henley and Frey collaborated equally, with Frey writing the verses and Henley handling its gently vaulting bridge. “It’s a sleeper,” Frey said of “After the Thrill Is Gone.” “That record is a lot of self-examination, hopefully not too much.”

Joe Walsh of The Eagles performs on stage wearing a vintage military jacket at Wembley Stadium, London, 14th September 1974. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)

Michael Putland/Getty Images


“Hollywood Waltz” (1975)

By the eagles’ fourth album, Leadon, the band member with the deepest roots in country music, was losing interest in the Eagles’ increasingly rock-influenced sound. One of These Nights featured two of his songs, “I Wish You Peace,” co- written with Patti Davis, Ronald Reagan’s daughter, who he was dating at the time, and the forlorn “Hollywood Waltz,” co-written with his brother, guitarist Tom Leadon. “Henley and Frey liked the song, but they didn’t like the story,” says Bernie Leadon. “So they rewrote it as ‘Hollywood Waltz.’” Sung by Henley, with echoes of the country classic “Tennessee Waltz,” it’s a lament for the sad side of the California lifestyle.

UNSPECIFIED - JANUARY 01:  (AUSTRALIA OUT) Photo of EAGLES; L-R Glenn Frey, Don Felder, Don Henley, Joe Walsh and Timothy B.Schmitt - posed, studio, group shot  (Photo by GAB Archive/Redferns)

GAB Archive/Redferns/Getty Images


“Try and Love Again” (1976)

Meisner was going through a divorce around the time the Eagles were writing Hotel California, and his bandmates had to urge him to create material for the record. With his life in shambles, the meditative ballad “Try and Love Again” came to him almost automatically. “I sat around one evening and got a little high and started playing something and thought, ‘Is this OK?’” he recalls of the tune’s genesis. “I brought it to rehearsal, and they said, ‘That’s pretty good.’” The track, about struggling with the end of a relationship, would end up being, somewhat coincidentally, the bassist’s final contribution to the group, which he left the following year.

(L-R) Randy Meisner, Don Henley, Glenn Frey and Bernie Leadon of The Eagles perform on Popgala (Pop Gala) TV concert on 10th March 1973 in Voorburg, Netherlands (Photo Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns)

Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns/Getty Images


“Doolin-Dalton” (1973)

Anchored by Frey’s mournful harmonica, the opening track on Desperado is a sparkling camp re yarn about real-life gang the Dalton Brothers – its members either slain or jailed in 1892, after attempting to rob two Kansas banks at the same time. The inspiration came from a book gifted to co-writer Jackson Browne by folk-soul songwriter Ned Doheny. “All the music artists who’d been in the folk movement…several of them testified before the House Un-American Activities [Committee],” says Leadon. “We all knew people who had been busted for pot, who had been prosecuted for avoiding the draft. So I think that we all felt some affinity with the concept of being outlaws.”

GERMANY - JANUARY 01:  Photo of EAGLES; L-R: Joe Walsh, Don Henley, Don Felder, Glenn Frey, Randy Meisner - posed, studio, group shot - Photo: Ellen Poppinga  (Photo by Ellen Poppinga - K & K/Redferns)

Ellen Poppinga - K & K/Redferns/Getty Images


“Wasted Time” (1976)

“Nothing inspires or catalyzes a great ballad like a failed relationship,” Henley says of “Wasted Time,” a tender Hotel California cut inspired by his breakup with jewelry designer Loree Rodkin. “It’s a very empathetic song.” The midtempo piano number straddles Philly soul and pensive, early-Eagles tracks like “Desperado.” It also showcases Henley’s vocal talents, as he deeply channels the pathos of the lyrics. “Don was our Teddy Pendergrass,” Frey, who co-wrote the song, once said. “He could stand out there all alone and just wail.” It was so dramatic that the group played an instrumental reprise as a suite to lead o the second half of the LP.

Members of the American soft-rock ensemble The Eagles sit on chairs as the perform on the television show 'Don Kirschner's Rock Concert,' 1979. Bandmembers are (left to right) Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Joe Walsh, and Don Felder. (Photo by Fotos International/Getty Images)

Fotos International/Getty Images


“Those Shoes” (1979)

“On the surface, the song was about the singles scene,” Henley has said of this lurking track from The Long Run. But the footwear image represented more, he said: “At that time, all the girls were wearing Charles Jourdan shoes – the ones with the little ankle straps. We said, ‘Well, it’s not enough just to write about that; we have to turn it into a metaphor for women standing on their own two feet, so to speak, and taking responsibility for their own lives, their own losses.’ ” Pushed along by Walsh’s and Felder’s dueling talk-box guitars, “Those Shoes” would get new life in later years when it became a go-to hip-hop sample used by the Beastie Boys and others.

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 01:  Photo of EAGLES; L-R: Glenn Frey, Don Felder, Joe Walsh performing live onstage on Hotel California tour  (Photo by Richard E. Aaron/Redferns)

Richard E. Aaron/Redferns/Getty Images


“The Last Resort” (1976)

The closing track on Hotel California took seven months to complete – “the last piece of the Hotel California puzzle,” Frey recalled. He referred to the song as “Henley’s opus,” a meditation on environmental degradation and the slaughter wrought in the name of Manifest Destiny. “I’d been reading articles and doing research about the raping and pillaging of the West by mining, timber, oil and cattle interests,” Henley remembered. “But I was interested in an even larger scope for the song, so I tried to go ‘Michener’ with it.” He was never totally happy with the result musically, but producer Bill Szymczyk feels its power rivals “Hotel California” itself.

UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 10:  BOSTON GARDEN  Photo of EAGLES and Don FELDER and Joe WALSH, Don Felder (L) and Joe Walsh performing on stage, playing twin necked Gibson guitar  (Photo by Ebet Roberts/Redferns)

Ebet Roberts/Redferns/Getty Images


“The Disco Strangler”

Like many rockers in the late Seventies, the Eagles were rather ambivalent about disco and its inflexible rhythms. That came out in this shadowy, pulsating Long Run track about a woman “lookin’ for the good life/Dressed to kill,” who meets her demise in a dance club at the hands of a stranger who is “the fiddler in your darkest night,” as Henley sings. “It’s ‘watch out for the guy on the date – he might have a knife,’ ” says producer Bill Szymczyk with a chuckle. The arrangement, fashioned by co-writer Felder, was a subtle, ironic nod to thumpy disco beats and ended up being one of the Eagles’ most mordant recorded moments. “That album has some quirky songs,” says Schmit.

The Eagles perform on stage in Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1975. (L-R) Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh, Bernie Leadon. (Photo by Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns)

Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns/Getty Images


“Ol’ 55” (1974)

Raspy troubadour Tom Waits wasn’t exactly a candidate for mainstream success in the mid-Seventies. But after David Geffen played Frey a Waits demo in his office, the Eagles were inspired to record his elegiac “Ol’ ’55,” one of the first times someone had recorded a tune by the future Rock and Roll Hall of Famer. (Eagles fans weren’t quite as impressed; they booed Waits when he opened for the band at Colorado’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre in 1975.) “It’s such a car thing,” Frey said of the shabbily beautiful song, which they gave a steel-guitar makeover. “I loved the idea of driving home at sunrise, thinking about what had happened the night before.”

Joe Walsh of The Eagles during Joe Walsh of The Eagles Performs at the Bottom Line Club - November 21, 1976 at NYC Bottom Line Club in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Bobby Bank/WireImage)

Bobby Bank/WireImage


“Victim of Love” (1976)

The Eagles were not the kind of band to cut loose and bash out a song live in the studio. This scathing Hotel California rocker, which began as a Felder instrumental called “Iron Lung,” was a rare exception. (Hence, the mysterious words “v.o.l. is five piece live” carved into the inner groove on many of the album’s initial vinyl pressings.) Felder assumed he would be singing lead on the track, until the band’s manager Irving Azoff took him to dinner to tell him the vocal would be Henley’s. “Don stepped up and sang,” Felder later wrote, “and it was immediately apparent to everyone, especially me, that he should sing it – even though, deep down, I wasn’t thrilled at losing my slot.”

CIRCA 1977: (L-R) Don Henley, Bernie Leadon, Randy Meisner, Glenn Frey of the rock and roll band "Eagles" pose for a portrait in circa 1977. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images


“Bitter Creek” (1973)

“The basic premise,” henley recalls of Desperado, “was that, like the outlaws, rock & roll bands lived outside the ‘laws of normality’ – we were not part of ‘conventional society.’ We all went from town to town, collecting money and women, the critical difference being that we didn’t rob or kill anybody for what we got; we worked for it.” When assembling their ambitious concept album, Henley and Frey asked their bandmates to help flesh out the material. “I’m not sure which one of them started to write some songs on this topic,” says Leadon. “As the songs came into focus, Glenn decided to try to ll in some blanks. I remember him kind of assigning song titles or ideas to us. He offered, or gave, me the title ‘Bitter Creek,’ based on a man in the Dalton gang named [George] Bittercreek Newcomb. I didn’t write it about him – I just used the phrase ‘Bitter Creek,’ which I quite liked.” With its sad-cantina feel, the song is a deep-cut highlight of Desperado, and one of Leadon’s most haunting contributions to the band. Of the album, Leadon says, “A lot of people, including David Ge en, just said, ‘You have three top singles on your first album and you made an art-concept album. What the fuck’s wrong with you?’ It was a gutsy call.”

NEW YORK - MAY 11:  Glenn Frey of the American rock band the Eagles performing at the Academy of Music in New York City. (Photo by Waring Abbott/Premium Archive/Getty Images)

Waring Abbott/Getty Images


“My Man” (1974)

Leadon had just arrived in London for the On the Border sessions when he heard that Gram Parsons, his former bandmate in the Flying Burrito Brothers, had fatally OD’d. “This was my first peer who had died, so I was quite set back by it,” says Leadon, who began writing “My Man,” his lovely homage to Parsons. When the Eagles reconvened in Los Angeles to finish the album, Leadon hadn’t completed the words. “They said, ‘OK, we’re going to go to dinner, and you’re gonna stay here and finish the song,’” Leadon laughs. “Henley gave me a clue for something to tie in, the Gram song ‘Hickory Wind.’ They came back, and was like, ‘OK, let’s put the vocal on.’”

Bernie Leadon, Glenn Frey, Don Henley and Randy Meisner of The Eagles pose for a group portrait in London in 1973. (Photo by Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns)

Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns/Getty Images


“Most of Us Are Sad” (1972)

At the end of one early band rehearsal – during a period when the Eagles had few original songs – Frey sat down with his guitar and played this poignant ballad, which expressed a more vulnerable side of its writer. “I thought, ‘Well, that’s a really interesting song,’’’ says Leadon. “It really does express something truthful – that a lot of people probably are sad but don’t express it.” In the final version included on their debut, Meisner took the lead vocal, his softer, higher voice adding to the lyrics’ mournful quality. “We had a natural tenor singer in Randy Meisner,” Leadon says. “And in Henley too. So we had two guys that could go up high and not be strained-sounding.”

Feb. 22, 1995 - U.S. - February 22, 1995 Glenn Frey played acoustic guitar while the other original Eagles  member, Don Henley, pounded his drum kit Tuesday night for about 15,000 fans at Target Center, the first of two Minneapolis shows, Story Page 1B, review Page 7B.  Jeff Wheeler, Minneapolis Star Tribune (Credit Image: © Jeff Wheeler/Minneapolis Star Tribune via ZUMA Wire)

© Jeff Wheeler/Minneapolis Star Tribune/ZUMA


“Love Will Keep Us Alive” (1994)

Somewhere during the 14-year gap between the Eagles’ implosion in 1980 and their successful reunion in 1994, Schmit and Felder recorded demos for an unnamed supergroup with Max Carl of .38 Special and singer Paul Carrack. “Everything was fine and dandy, when much to my chagrin, they came to their senses and put the Eagles back together,” recalled Carrack. “That was the end of my little project.” Though the band was a false start, Schmit asked if he could use “Love Will Keep Us Alive,” a ballad co-written by Carrack, Pete Vale and Jim Capaldi. Featuring Schmit’s lead vocal, it became an Adult Contemporary chart-topper.

Glen Frey and Joe Walsh10th annual Collaborating for a Cure benefit dinner and auction for the Samuel Waxmen Cancer Research Foundation, New York, America - 29 Nov 2007

Glen Frey and Joe Walsh 10th annual Collaborating for a Cure benefit dinner and auction for the Samuel Waxmen Cancer Research Foundation, New York, America - 29 Nov 2007



“How Long” (2007)

When the Eagles convened to make 2007’s Long Road Out of Eden, their first studio album since The Long Run, they had a wealth of material and ended up making a double album that shifted from biting political interrogations to introspective personal reflections. Walsh later joked that it might have been a triple album: “At least when we had a record company, there was always somebody saying, ‘You’re done!’ ” he said. “When you signed a contract back then, you gave away your power to say no. We don’t have mean guys telling us we’re done, and this band works best with tension among ourselves. That makes us all show up artistically.” During the making of the album, Frey’s family found a clip of the Eagles performing a J.D. Souther obscurity called “How Long.” As Souther recalls, “Glenn’s wife, Cindy, said, ‘That sounds like a classic Eagles hit – did you ever record it?’ Glenn said, ‘No, in those days, if one person put a song on an album, the other person didn’t.’ ” Now, they did. Written in 1969, Souther’s song was inspired by a soldier in Vietnam sentenced to prison for murder after going AWOL. “His girlfriend at home had been counting down the days until he returned,” Souther says. “How long? He never did.”

Don Felder of The Eagles performs on stage c 1974 in United States. (Photo by Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns)

Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns/Getty Images


“Outlaw Man” (1973)

To add another old west element to Desperado, the band recorded this tune from singer-songwriter and Dylan pal David Blue. (Frey had just guested on a Blue album, Nice Baby and the Angel, that same year, which included the original version of the song.) “We all heard Blue’s album before it was released,” Leadon says, “and I think Glenn suggested the song t the theme of the album and that we should work it up.” According to Leadon, their cover of “Outlaw Man” – an even more thunderous version than the Blue original – also filled another gap on Desperado. “We needed some rockers,” he says, “and we weren’t writing very many at the time.”

Bassist Timothy B. Schmit (left) and singer/guitarist Glenn Frey (1948 - 2016) performing with American rock group, The Eagles, USA, November 1979. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)

Michael Putland/Getty Images


“The Greeks Don’t Want No Freaks” (1979)

Maybe it was the end of the long and grueling sessions for The Long Run, or maybe, as Schmit says, it was fueled by a movie released during that time. “We’d been watching Animal House,” he recalls, “and they decided to write about that.” Whatever the inspiration, one of the last songs cut for The Long Run was this atypically loose two-and-a-half-minute homage to Sixties garage rock, complete with a Farfisa organ and shouted back-up vocals from pal Jimmy Buffett. “That was a song where you didn’t have to be that precise,” Schmit says. “Looseness was inherent in it. It was so bizarre. But it was so much fun.”

Nov. 18, 1976 - U.S. - November 18, 1976 Drummer Don Henley and Guitarist Glenn Frey  Tom Sweeney (Credit Image: © Tom Sweeney/Minneapolis Star Tribune via ZUMA Wire)

© Tom Sweeney/Minneapolis Star Tribune/ZUMA


“Pretty Maids All in a Row” (1976)

An uncharacteristic Walsh ballad about regretfully looking back on life, “Pretty Maids All in a Row” found the rocker and his bandmates exploring dense soul orchestration. Of course, Walsh couldn’t help but play a soaring, bluesy slide-guitar solo midway through. The song would come out as the B side to “Hotel California,” a fitting spiritual counterpart since both songs explore the ghosts of lost love. “‘Pretty Maids’ is kind of a melancholy reflection on my life so far,” Walsh has said. “And I think we tried to represent it as a statement that would be valid for people from our generation on life so far.”

Glenn Frey (1948 - 2016) of the Eagles at Comiskey Park in Chicago, Illinois, August 19, 1978. (Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

Paul Natkin/Getty Images


“Please Come Home for Christmas” (1978)

In mid-1978, as the Eagles ground out The Long Run, Asylum Records was antsy for stopgap material. “This was in September, so we said, ‘Let’s give them a Christmas song,’ ” says producer Bill Szymczyk. Henley had been a fan of Charles Brown’s 1961 R&B hit “Please Come Home for Christmas” since hearing it on the radio as a kid in Texas, and the band worked up a loving version for release as a single. Recording in Miami, they had to use their imaginations to get in the holiday spirit. “It was hot as hell,” Frey recalled. “Perfect for a Christmas record.”

UNSPECIFIED - JANUARY 01:  Photo of Don FELDER and Glenn FREY and Bernie LEADON and Randy MEISNER and EAGLES and Don HENLEY; L-R: Randy Meisner, Bernie Leadon, Glenn Frey, Don Felder, Don Henley - posed, studio, group portrait, c.1974/1975  (Photo by RB/Redferns)

RB/Redferns/Getty Images


“Saturday Night” (1973)

Meisner got the idea for this song – which he co-wrote with Henley, Frey and Leadon – while reflecting on his youth. “I was sitting there one night, and I came up with the line ‘What ever happened to Saturday night?’ ” the bassist recalls. “When I was younger, I would be out partying, and with girls and having fun. And that’s what it was about: Whatever happened to it? And the answer was, ‘You’re older now.’ ”Leadon’s lovely mandolin and Henley’s forlorn vocals give the soft country waltz a gently heartbroken feel that helps personalize Desperado’s sense of placeless drifting.

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