Cameron Crowe Looks Back on His 1975 Eagles Cover Story
For the Rolling Stone cover story, I spent many months with the band: sitting in on their exacting studio session, joining them on the road, tagging along with them at bars and clubs and around Los Angeles, watching them take in the social nuances and inhabit all the haunts that would later turn up as iconography in their songs. To compose their then-new album, Henley and Frey moved in together in a home atop the Hollywood Hills, a place with a night-time vista they dubbed “The Million Dollar View.” They invited me to move in with them, and I did for a couple weeks in 1975 as they wrote the songs that would become their album One of These Nights. I was there, with tape recorder on, as they wrote “Lyin’ Eyes” and “After the Thrill Is Gone,” the title song and many others, including an unrecorded gem called “When a Bad Boy Meets a Bad Girl in the Night.” Though Henley was from Texas, and Frey from Detroit, their goal was to capture the California zeitgeist. As they looked out on that glittery horizon, the songwriters kept topping each other with ideas and phrases that could have layers of meaning. “Nothing can just skim the surface,” Henley told Frey. The partnership was electric, a guided missile of creativity. I had a front-row seat for their process, and wanted the RS piece to show their chemistry from the inside out. For a notoriously press-shy group, this was way off the grid. They left no doors closed and no avenues off-limits. It was journalistic nirvana, and the Budweiser flowed as we talked for many hours over many nights.
Frey was hungry for new influences, and a big fan of soul. He loved the Thom Bell–produced hits by the Spinners, the Teddy Pendergrass records cut in Philadelphia, and some of that spirit landed in the song “One of These Nights.” In fact, one of the discarded titles for the album came from a tip Frey had heard Thom Bell used in the studio. To gain the perfect drum sound, Bell often instructed the drummer to put a wallet on the snare drum. Wallet on the Snare was one of the working titles for the album.
It was a different time for journalism, a long way from our current world of quick sit-downs or rote, 45-minute junket interviews. The piece became one of my favorites, a sprawling look at life inside the band as they laughed and brawled and buckled down to make the very best of what they knew was now their time. I was on duty throughout. Frey and Henley wanted the article to be completely representative of how seriously they took the mantle of being a premier American band. It was thrilling to watch them chart their course and hit all the marks. As many other bands fractured and fell around them, Henley and Frey charged forward, taking a firm grasp at the helm of the band, changing members when necessary and always staying focused on the songs. Always, their conversations returned to songwriting. I still have many of their discarded yellow legal sheets, filled with lyrics that were honed and refined until the words were up to their very exacting high standards. It occurred to me at the time, and many other instances afterward, how their trajectory never veered very far from the game plan they first laid out in that tiny dressing room in San Diego, with Procul Harum thundering on the other side of the wall. The group photo by the amps says it all. From the very beginning, they were built to soar.
“They left no doors closed and no avenues off-limits. It was journalistic nirvana.”
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