Glenn Frey and Don Henley met as members of Linda Ronstadt’s backing band. When they hooked up with former Poco member Randy Meisner and former Flying Burrito Brother Bernie Leadon in 1972, they flew to London to record their first album as the Eagles. The eponymous LP was huge in the US as was the single ‘Take It Easy’ co-written by Glenn with Jackson Browne. The follow-up, ‘Desperado’, consolidated their success, and crystallised the Eagles’ image as laid-back California outlaws with a melody in their heart and a gun in their pocket. Or were they just pleased to see us?
The band became a major live attraction, even adding an orchestra for the larger concerts. Don Felder came on board as the fifth member, and those big birds soared. They broke the British market for the first time in 1975, with the single ‘One of These Nights’. That same year saw their first American Number One, ‘Best of My Love’.
They could do no wrong throughout the Seventies, becoming one of those rare mega-groups with across-the-board appeal. Popsters and rockers, teens and grandmas adored them. Smothered in gold and platinum records, walled up behind awards, they could barely keep up with demand. It all got too much for Bernie Leadon, who fell away at the end of 1975 to pursue a disappointing solo career. Joe Walsh replaced him, and gave their California style a kick up the chuff. Randy Meisner went solo two years later, and was replaced by Timothy B. Schmidt.
By the end of the decade their decade now with keyboardist Joe Vitale on board, they were one of the most successful recording acts on earth. By the mid Eighties, they had sold more than forty million albums worldwide. The album ‘Hotel California’ shifted nine million in 1976, the year of release, alone. ‘Their Greatest Hits Volume 1’ is still the sixth best-selling album of all time. And every last concert was an instant sell-out.
This is why Glenn Frey matters. News of his death, today, has hit hard. We won’t dwell on the bad times, the studio spats, the monstrous fall-outs with Henley, the fierce competition which drove the pair down the solo path, shaking guitars at each other, and which spelled monumental stardom for Henley at least.
I last saw them at the O2 in June 2014. It was the most coveted ticket that year. Friends-again Frey and Henley, plus Joe Walsh, and Timothy B. Schmit, performed the best-loved classics, as well as songs featured in ‘History of the Eagles’, their acclaimed documentary, which had its European premiere during the second Sundance London film and music festival in April 2013, also at The O2. With rare archive, concert footage and home-movie sequences that explore the evolution of the band, it is a must-watch.
Another star in the firmament extinguished. It has been a hell of a year so far. David Bowie. Crosby, Stills & Nash’s Dallas Taylor. Mic Gillette of Tower of Power. Clarence ‘Blowfly’ Reid. Mott the Hoople’s Dale Griffin : all the young dudes. RIP, good guys. Save a seat on the bus.
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