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The Eagles
It has become commonplace to label a comeback as a gimmick. Several of today’s biggest bands have sustained careers on successful comebacks, but hardly any of them have maintained the same level of artistic respect. Here’s the story of a comeback that isn’t as much a return to the scene as it is a perfect goodbye. Here’s the story of a band that realised that they could only be the quintessential American rock ‘n’ roll bad boys if they bid adieu in the only way they knew how. Here’s the story of the Eagles.

“If you recall, we broke up for 14 years.” The supremely charismatic Don Henley is not a man to mix his words. His reminder brings to attention the fact that the Eagles have not graced the music world with their trademark sonic streams since 1979. Yes, it has been that long since the last Eagles studio album. Sure they’ve toured a little and every so often fulfilled their contractual obligations with a Greatest Hits record, but for all practical purposes, the Eagles have been much out of the mainstream limelight for nearly three decades. But what came out of an audition with Linda Ronstadt way back in 1971, has now finally completed its long journey courtesy a double disc that may in fact be, one of the best classic rock records released this year. Confused? Read on…

Take It Easy
Glenn Frey, Randy Meisner and Bernie Leadon (both Randy and Bernie would later leave the band) were hired to back Linda Ronstadt on her album Silk Purse. Don Henley came in as the drummer after an audition. Ronstadt’s encouragement and their experience with her compelled the quartet to start their own band and in 1970, they got a recording contract. The name Eagles was chosen as a salute to classic rockers the Byrds.

The Eagles’ beginnings were humble. There were no flashy aspirations of global music domination (as would later be the case) and millions of fans. “When we were young, me in our 20s and self absorbed as young men in their 20s always are, when we didn’t have families to take care of, and children and schools and all that sort of thing, we could spend a lot more time. All we could think about was songwriting and girls,” reflects Henley. The Eagles were living the American dream. In the land of musical opportunity, they were sowing the seeds of future greatness. And they were doing it their own way. Whilst their peers were occupied with a prominently bluesy, rock ‘n roll sound, the Eagles claimed their success a little differently. Their sound was heavily country oriented, especially since they came from southern California. This country slant combined with traditional overtones of classic rock became the trademark sound that millions have come to know and love.

Their first album, the self-titled Eagles, brought them three Top 40 hits, the first being the folk-esque rocker Take It Easy. Rolling Stone Magazine rated Eagles at number 374 in their ‘500 Greatest Albums of All Time’ list. The Eagles kicked off the journey that would define a band slated to become a worldwide phenomenon.

Hotel California
To many, the Eagles are the Hotel California band. Hotel California, and the namesake album from which it came, is undoubtedly considered the song that defined the Eagles. The album was their fifth and the band were already regulars on Top 40 charts. With steady and surprisingly quick releases like Desperado, On The Border and One Of These Nights, the Eagles had established themselves as big boys on the rock ‘n’ roll scene. But something was missing. The band had by now already seen two major lineup changes with Randy Meisner leaving and guitarist Joe Walsh coming in earlier. Timothy Schmit replaced Meisner on bass whilst Don Felder had already brought his guitar in a couple of years ago. Though the earlier albums did have some commercial success, there wasn’t one real solid property that defined the Eagles. And this came with Hotel California.

“When Hotel California came up, we had no idea that it would affect so many people on the planet. And everybody thought we knew what we were doing. And we didn’t have a clue what we were doing. We were just going through the same things… starting with a blank canvas and ending up with a nice painting,” explains Joe Walsh. With its almost Latin guitars combined with orthodox trappings, the song raced to the top of the Billboard charts, and it wasn’t the only one to do so from the album. With persistent airplay and sales in the millions, it was obvious that the Eagles had struck gold.

Long Road Out Of Eden
After all the turmoil, and 14 years of a break up, the band finally got back together for Hell Freezes Over (yes, the DVD that one watches ever so often to relive the good ol’ days), back in 1994. But it took a further 13 years for the band to record their next album Long Road Out Of Eden. Why get back together in the first place? As Don Henley explains, “There has always been turmoil in this group. Always. From day one. And it got so bad at the end of the 70s that we broke up. Got back together in ‘94 and it hasn’t been a bed of roses since then. But as I said earlier, we’ve been having our ups and downs long enough now; we’ve just come to accept that that’s the way it’s going to be. It’s never going to be completely a smooth ride and we’re not so emotionally invested in it now that we lose sleep over it at night or just can’t stand it any more. We know how to walk away, we know who we are, we know each other like the back of our hand and we know what to expect.” These are the words of a man who has basically seen it all. He’s lived the rock ‘n’ roll life, experienced the highs and the lows and is now back for what seems to be the final chapter.

You can read the rest of our cover story on The Eagles in the December 2007 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.


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