In some cases, a majestic avian creature.
But in this case, a legendary rock band. They’ve swapped members, they’ve broken up, they’ve gone on hiatus. In all of this, they have crowned themselves one of the top selling bands of all time.
It all started in 1971.
Linda Rondstadt, American singer, recruited the help of Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Randy Meisner and Bernie Leadon on tour, to promote her upcoming album “Silk Purse”. This chance gathering of musical talent was the start of a legend.
During the tour, both Frey and Henley shook hands on the idea of forming their own band. With Rondstadt not only allowing but also supporting them by suggesting Leadon for their prospective band, recruiting Meisner as well.
The four of them played one live show with Rondstadt and one album, before they signed into Asylum Records within the same year. However, even though they had signed onto the label, they still didn’t have a name for their band.
The Eagles: "Eagles" Released 1972
While there are several accounts of where the band’s name actually came from, they debuted as the Eagles in 1972. Pleasantly, “Eagles” was a high flying success for the band and instantly landed them not one, but three singles within the top 40. “Take It Easy”, “Witchy Woman” and “Peaceful Easy Feeling” were the singles to emerge from their first outing as the Eagles. The band's debut album was vital to the sub genre of country rock.
"Desperado" Released 1973
The Eagles emerged in 1973 with their second album, “Desperado”. This album used outlaws from the Old West for its theme, the lyrics cleverly mirroring the lives of these bandits with that of rockstars. “Tequila Sunrise” which would later become one of the band’s strongest songs produced a single, as did “Outlaw Man”. The album even found direct inspirations, the song "Doolin-Dalton" inspired directly by stories from a Wild West book, telling tales of Doolin-Dalton Gang.
“On The Border” released in 1974. It saw a transfer from the country, soft rock style that the previous two albums had, to move to a more hard rock sound. Not only did this album see a change in manager, from Glyn Johns to Bill Szymczyk after a few songs, but invited a fifth Eagle into the flock. Leadon’s childhood friend, Don Felder. He found his way into the band thanks to a backstage jam with them in 1972. “Good Day in Hell” was his debut as an Eagle, and he contributed to the song “Already Gone”, in which he and Frey share an excellent guitar duet.
"One of Those Nights" Released 1975
Following their yearly streak, “One of Those Nights” released in 1975. While previous releases had a decent success, this was the record that launched them into stardom. The first of a string of number 1 releases, it spawned the singles “One of Those Nights” and “Lyin’ Eyes”, both of which topped charts confidently in the top 5. The band’s commercial success really started here, they arranged a huge worldwide tour to promote the album, even joining the person that brought them together, Linda Ronstadt.
While this was the album that kickstarted a wave of success, it was the last that would feature Bernie Leadon. He co-wrote just three songs on the album, down to Henley and Frey taking the helm with songwriting. Leadon started to grow more and more disenchanted with the direction the band was taking. They drifted further and further away from their origins of country rock and started finding their feet in rock and roll. After a bit of an argument to say the least, and months of mystery, Leadon officially left the band.
Early 1976 saw the band’s first compilation album. “Their Greatest Hits (1971 - 1975)” It quickly became not only a chart topper, but the best-selling album of the 20th century in the USA. It remained this all the way until 2009, where it was overtaken by Michael Jackson’s Thriller after his death. This compilation album made the Eagles the most successful band of the decade and continued their streak of greatness.
At the back end of the same year of 1976, the Eagles released “Hotel California”. With Leadon having left the band, this was the first record to feature his replacement and previously a friend of the band, Joe Walsh. Felder and Walsh combined stomped out the old country sound of the Eagles in favor for the hard rock they had been steering towards. “New Kid In Town” was the next single to top the charts, followed by “Hotel California” not only climbing charts in 1977, but also becoming the band’s signature track. “Life In The Fast Lane” also performed very well, and truly cemented Walsh’s place in the band with his affinity for heavy guitar work. This album’s success went beyond its millions of sales, with it also winning Grammys.
Despite the roaring success of the album in 1977, this was the year that another member left the band.
Meisner Leaves The Band
The whole band were feeling the strain and exhaustion of both producing “Hotel California” and touring right after it, both combined taking up almost two years of nonstop work.
No one seemed to feel the burn more than Randy Meisner. He left the band after the 1977 tour had wrapped up. During the tour he had trouble hitting his high notes in his own song “Take It to the Limit”, possibly down to stomach ulcers slamming his health.
He began refusing to perform the song, which even caused a full-on fight between himself and Frey. Despite the intense confrontation, Meisner finished up the tour before he officially left the band.
Despite all the difficulty of the tour and losing Meisner, the band went back to the recording studio in 1977 to get back to work. Bassist Timothy B. Schmit, another musician the band had previous run-ins with, seemed like the only fitting replacement for his predecessor.
"The Long Run" Released 1979
Their next album took a struggle of two years to produce, releasing in 1979. Initially intended as a double album, the band struggled to write enough songs for it. What came of two years of production was "The Long Run", yet another album to top the charts and sell millions, as well as producing three top 10 singles, “The Long Run”. “Heartache Tonight”, “I Can’t Tell You Why”. As well as the singles, the record also produced “In The City”, which along with single “Heartache Tonight” would become staples of live performances, as well as the latter earning them yet another Grammy. These sessions also produced Holiday songs, being “Please Come Home For Christmas” and “Funky New Year”, which were released as singles.
Despite all the good to come from this record, more difficulties soon followed.
Bad Blood and Breakups
Frey and Felder had a bad time of each other before performing, and it very quickly bled into their performance. Passive aggressive attitudes to political parties paired with threats of beating each other between and sometimes even during songs. Whether that happened or not is up to interpretation, but the band did have an obligation to craft a live album for Elektra Records.
“Eagles Live” released in 1980, however the band performed their parts separately from each other. Frey had abandoned the other Eagles at this point and refused to speak to them, as well as firing his manager.
“Thank you and goodnight.” were the liner notes of this live album. While the album appeared to mark the end of the Eagles, it released “Seven Bridges Road” as a single, a signature concert song for the band. The single achieved 21 on charts, and would be their last top 40 on the charts until they returned from this unfortunate breakup.
From 1980, the Eagles faded out into several solo careers. The band was done.
Or… Were they?
The Eagles Return in 1994
In 1993, a country tribute album was released in the Eagles name. “Common Thread: The Songs of the Eagles” released, and in the same year, Travis Tritt asked for all the prior Eagles to join him in a video for “Take It Easy”, and despite their previous altercations with each other, they agreed to appear together.
Whether it was this or their own accord, the band officially reunited in 1994. The Eagles were back!
"Hell Freezes Over"
They made their grand return with the live album, “Hell Freezes Over” in 1994. It earned its name by Henley’s repeated claim that the band would reunite “when Hell freezes over”. The album slammed charts on its debut and even included four new songs that had not previously been released. New songs “Get Over It” and “Love Will Keep Us Alive” achieved top 40 positions. As well as this, the record was just about as commercially successful as the tour that promoted it.
The Eagles were back.
Money and Legal Issues: Don Felder is Fired From the Eagles
After everything seemed to be in order, in 2001, Don Felder didn’t leave the band on his own accord, but was fired. Why? What happened?
Felder expressed frustration that creative “leaders” Don Henley and Glenn Frey were taking more of the band’s earnings than they would have prior to the breakup. Upon being fired, Felder bit back with a lawsuit.
He accused the pair of breaching their contract and wrongly terminating him, as well as feeling pressured to sign their agreement to earn more than the others in the band. Henley and Frey’s legal respondent insisted that it was a decision driven by chemistry, artistry, and it was perfectly legal for them to fire their previous bandmate.
As well as this, Henley and Frey countersued Felder for the contents of his autobiography breaching his contract.
Both complaints had been listed for a singular trial date, however the issue was resolved outside of court in 2007. Despite the legalities being resolved, the bitter feelings were not.
"The Very Best Of" Compilation Album Released 2003
Despite the legal case, in 2003, “The Very Best Of” released the same year. A double disc compilation album that covered the entirety of the Eagles’ career right back from their early years of country all the way to the recent “Hell Freezes Over”. It flew through the charts and even gained a triple platinum status. As well as compiling the best of the Eagles existing material, the record also featured new single “Hole In The World”, which was heavily influenced by the tragic events of 9/11.
"Long Road Out of Eden" Released 2007
In 2007, the Eagles returned with their remaining lineup with their first new studio album in 28 years. “Long Road Out Of Eden” released, while in the first year of its lifespan it had a relatively limited availability, the long-awaited return of the Eagles dominated the charts in several countries. “How Long” and “Busy Being Fabulous” were produced as singles and the album overall performed very well on the Hot Adult Contemporary Track charts.
With only shrugs and questions about an eighth studio album, it hasn’t happened yet. And unfortunately, Glenn Frey passed away in 2016. At this point even if there is another album under the Eagles’ belt, Frey won’t be there to contribute to it.
Frey’s son, Deacon Frey has stepped in to take his place, joining him is country musician Vince Gill, to rebuild the Eagles back to their prior numbers.
They’ve been on a long and bumpy road, but if anything is certain, it is that the Eagles have made their mark on history as one of the most legendary rock bands of our time.
Second Hand by the Ealges on Life of Vinyl