“Take It Easy” had only been out a few months in the summer of 1972. I was a big fan of the song, and was still in high school when the Eagles came to the San Diego Civic Theatre. They were the opening act on a bill with Procol Harum and Cold Blood, and the Civic Theatre was a few blocks from my house. I bought a ticket, and brought my tape recorder. The idea was to slip backstage and talk the band into an interview for a local underground paper, The San Diego Door.
The Eagles opened the evening without an introduction. The lights lowered, and they began with an a cappella version of “Seven Bridges Road,” quickly adding instruments and swinging into “Take It Easy.” They were fierce and joyful, playing with all the piss and vinegar of a young band hitting its early stride. I slipped backstage with my photographer friend from high school, Gary Elam, and asked their road manager if I could interview the band. They were eager to talk. Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner all hung out in a tiny dressing room and spent hours detailing their history and their dreams of hitting the big-time. “If you like us, you should check out our friend Jackson Browne and John David Souther,” Glenn Frey said excitedly, clutching a long-neck Budweiser. They posed for a photo by the amps, arms around each other, and we exchanged phone numbers. I stayed in touch with them. (Little did I know, that fuzzy group shot would be one of the only known photos of all four original members hugging each other. Looking at it today, it has the same slightly surreal quality of one of those photos of the Loch Ness Monster.)
When I started writing for Rolling Stone the next year, the Eagles became one of the bands that I regularly covered for the magazine. As they became more and more popular, I saw how they chafed over the magazine’s assessment of their music. The band felt marginalized as a “California laid-back” band, and they regarded the whole “mellow L.A.” moniker as an East Coast critical prejudice. The band could be tough as nails personally, but always spirited and very serious about their songwriting. Business-wise, they had studied all the pitfalls of bands that preceded them and vowed not to end up on the trash heap of history. With manager Irving Azoff at their side, they were driven with ambition, and boisterous in the pursuit of good humor and authenticity. From the very beginning, they exuded a quicksilver spirit — forward motion was everything. Up close, the Eagles were many things, but “laid back” was not one of them.