Personalities | The Eagles | Seventies | Rock

The Eagles defined the sound of California in the 1970s and were its most successful exponents. The band formed out of the Los Angeles country rock scene in 1971 when guitarist Glenn Frey (born 6 November 1948), drummer Don Henley (born 22 July 1947), guitarist Bernie Leadon (born 19 July 1947) and bassist Randy Meisner (born 8 March 1946) were recruited as Linda Ronstadt’s group for her Silk Purse (1970) album tour.

Hitting Solid Gold

Frey had previously played with Bob Seger and J.D. Souther, Leadon with The Flying Burrito Brothers and Dillard-Clark, Meisner with Poco and Ricky Nelson, Henley with Shiloh. They were accomplished musicians and singer-songwriters and after working with Ronstadt they decided to form their own band.

They came to London to record their debut album, The Eagles (1972), with producer Glyn Johns (The Rolling Stones, The Who, Steve Miller), polishing the country rock of The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers with a harder sound and carefully arranged harmonies. The Eagles went gold in America, spawning three hit singles: ‘Witchy Woman’, ‘Take It Easy’ (written by Frey with Jackson Browne) and ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling’.

They returned to London for Desperado (1973), a conceptual album that drew parallels with cowboy culture and the rock’n’roll lifestyle. It was less successful, although the title track was covered by Linda Ronstadt, The Carpenters and Bonnie Raitt, and ‘Tequila Sunrise’ became one of their most popular songs. For On The Border (1974) The Eagles switched to Los Angeles and producer Bill Szymczyk (who would produce their subsequent albums), adding guitarist Don Felder (born 21 September 1947) to the line-up. Their slicker, sharper sound brought them their first US No. 1 with ‘Best Of My Love’. One Of These Nights (1975) established The Eagles as one of America’s biggest bands. It topped the US charts for five weeks and included three big hits – ‘One Of These Nights’, ‘Lyin’ Eyes’ and ‘Take It To The Limit’ – that all charted in the UK along with the album.

Hotel California

The Eagles’ increasingly commercial style, spiraling success and internal tensions caused a disaffected Leadon to leave in 1976. He was replaced by guitarist Joe Walsh (born 20 November 1947), who was previously in The James Gang and had released several solo albums.

Hotel California (1976) was The Eagles’ pinnacle. Painstakingly recorded, it caught the full decadence of their vision of the American dream in a blaze of guitars, acerbic lyrics and tight harmonies. It was No. 1 in America for eight weeks, produced two No. 1 singles – ‘New Kid In Town’ and the title track – and won five Grammy Awards.

Meisner bailed out in late 1977. His replacement was bassist Timothy B. Schmit (born 30 October 1947) who had followed Meisner into Poco. But it was another two years before The Eagles completed their next album as their obsessive quest for perfection and strained relations hampered their creativity. The Long Run...

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Source: The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, general editor Michael Heatley


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