Randy Meisner should have felt like he was on top of the world in 1977. Over the past six years, the Eagles’ bassist had watched his group rise from Linda Ronstadt’s anonymous backing band to the most popular rock act in the world. Their 1976 LP Hotel California sold by the millions and they spent the following year headlining arenas and stadiums all across the world. Some of the biggest cheers of the night came during the first encore when Meisner walked up to the mic and belted out “Take It to the Limit” in his beautiful, soaring falsetto.
But Meisner was absolutely miserable. As a naturally shy and humble guy, he had difficulty dealing with the increasingly overbearing personalities of Don Henley and Glenn Frey. He was also coping with the gradual disintegration of his marriage, the endless temptations of the road and the strains of living out of a suitcase. All of this was hidden from the public eye, as you can see in this amazing performance of “Take It To The Limit” filmed at Maryland’s Capital Centre on March 21, 1977.
A little more than two months later, the tour arrived at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum in Tennessee. “We’ve been out for a total of eleven months and everybody was starting to feel the strain,” Meisner told Eagles biographer Marc Eliot. “My ulcer was starting to act up, and I had a bad case of the flu as well. Still, we all sounded great onstage, the audience loved the show and we were being called back for another encore. ‘No way,’ I said. I was too sick, and generally fed up. I decided I wasn’t going back out.”
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Glenn Frey was livid and called him a “pussy.” Meisner responded by taking a swing at him. The scuffle got so bad that security had to rip them apart. “After a few minutes they let go of Glenn but continued holding me,” Meisner said. “He grabbed a towel, wiped the sweat off his face, walked right up and threw it in mine.”
The band somehow limped through the remaining dates of the tour, but Meisner was completely frozen out, even after he offered Frey a heartfelt apology. “When the tour ended, I left the band,” Meisner said. “Those last days on the road were the worst. Nobody was talking to me, or would hang out after shows, or do anything. I was made an outcast of the band I’d helped start.”
When the tour wrapped, the Eagles announced the Meisner was leaving due to “exhaustion” and that he’d be replaced by Timothy B. Schmit. Oddly enough, Schmit replaced Meisner in Poco seven years earlier. Meisner’s absence did little to decrease tensions within the band and they split in 1980 after just one more album and tour. Fourteen years later they famously reunited for the highly lucrative Hell Freezes Over tour, but they brought back Schmit even though Meisner was a founding member that played on five of their six albums.
All seven Eagles united for two songs when the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, but Meisner’s attempts at anything beyond that were rebuffed. “They came to Los Angeles for a show a few years ago and I asked if I could sit in,” Meisner told Rolling Stone in 2008. “I didn’t get much response. I thought it would be nice to sit in with Timothy B. Schmit and sing ‘Take It to the Limit,’ but they pretty much gave me a ‘no’ in a round-about way. I can’t blame them. They have to keep their band the way it is.”
In 2013, the group had a change of heart when they launched a tour in support of the documentary History of the Eagles. They wanted to present their music in chronological order, so it made sense to reach out to former guitarist Bernie Leadon and invited him on the road. (Relations with Don Felder were so strained by this point that he didn’t get the invite.) Months earlier, however, Randy Meisner had a major medical scare.
“Randy was at home when something he was eating obstructed his breathing and he lost consciousness,” Poco’s Rusty Young wrote on the group’s website. “[His wife] Lana rushed him to the emergency room where he got immediate care. Things are going to be a little rough for Randy for a while, but his doctors are optimistic he’ll recover from this incident. If you can, say a little prayer or just send love Randy’s way.”
The timing was absolutely horrible, because after 36 years the Eagles were finally willing to considering letting Meisner back onto the road. “Randy Meisner, if he were healthy and willing, might have been included,” Don Henley told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “But his current health will not permit. We are all wishing him well.”
Sadly, recents events seem to suggest that Meisner won’t be back onstage with the Eagles anytime soon.