It was 1972, and “Take It Easy” was on the charts. The Eagles came to San Diego, where I was working for a local underground paper. I grabbed my photographer buddy Gary from school and made a plan. We were going to sneak backstage and grab an interview with this new group. I loved their harmonies, and the confident style that charged their first hit.
Glenn Frey introduced the band: “We’re the Eagles, from southern California.” They were explosive, right off the top, opening with their a cappella rendition of “Seven Bridges Road.” Then, this new band, filled with piss and vinegar, launched immediately into their hit. There was nothing “laid back” about them. No “saving the hit for last.” They were a lean-and-mean American group, strong on vocals and stronger on attitude.
Gary and I talked our way backstage with ease and found the band’s road manager, who threw us all into a small dressing room where drummer-singer Don Henley, bassist Randy Meisner and guitarist Bernie Leadon took us through the story of the band. Every other sentence began with “And then Glenn. …” Glenn Frey was the only guy not in the room.
After about a half hour, the door whipped open and Frey walked in. He had a Detroit swagger, a memorable drawl and patter like a baseball player who’d just been called up to the majors. He was part musician, part tactician and part stand-up comic.
It was immediately obvious that Glenn had his eye on the big picture. He’d studied other bands, how they broke up or went creatively dry. He had a plan laid out. He even used that first interview to promote his friends — Jackson Browne, John David Souther and songwriter Jack Tempchin. His laugh and demeanor were infectious. Immediately, you wanted to be in his club.
At the end of the interview, I asked the band to pose together. The photo is one of my favorites. It captures one of their earliest, happiest, freest moments. A band that would later brawl memorably was giddy and happy that night, arms wrapped around each other. The look on Glenn’s face is priceless: This is my band, and we’re on our way.
Glenn and I exchanged phone numbers, and he stayed in touch. He brought me in early on the making of the Eagles’ second album, Desperado. As I’d begun to do more and more work as a correspondent for Rolling Stone, he began to complain to me about the magazine calling the band “soft” or “laid-back,” along with much of the East Coast literati. The Eagles, in my time around them, were many things, but “laid-back” was not one of them.
Glenn’s jocular street wisdom was pretty addictive to a guy who’d never had a brother. It was easy to share your personal stuff with Glenn. He’d help you plot out the answers to your problems like a seasoned coach. He once laid out the psychology of getting and maintaining a buzz at a party. (“Two beers back to back, then one every hour and 15 minutes. … You’ll be loquacious, and all the girls will talk with you.”)