- DON HENLEY
"I knew the Eagles were over about halfway through the 'Long Run' album. I told myself I'd never go through this again. I could give you 30 reasons why, but let me be concise about it. I started the band, I got tired of it and I quit.
It's official. With solo albums due this summer, Don Henley and Glenn Frey have broken up the Eagles, one of the world's greatest rock bands.
THE EAGLES - A LONG RUN IS OVER
"They realized they don't need the Eagles anymore. That's why you're not going to see them go out and do a farewell anything, " says manager Irving Azoff.
Don Henley and Glenn Frey, the creative center of the Eagles, were the most successful American songwriting team in rock during the 1970s. Hits like "Hotel California" and "Life in the Fast Lane" helped the Eagles sell $300 million in records. They also chronicled the attitudes of a decade with an insight and bite that had all but disappeared from rock after the turbulent '60s.
Using California as a metaphor for
the nation, Henley and Frey wrote about the pursuit of the American Dream,
'70s style, using their own experiences in rock to convey the innocence
("New Kid in Town"), temptations ("One of These Nights") and disillusionment
("The Sad Cafe") of that pursuit.
By ROBERT HILBURN
They wove those observations with such skill and universality that the group became the largest-selling American rock band of the 1970s. The Eagles "Hotel California" album sold more than 10 million copies and the LP's title track won a Grammy as the best single of 1976.
But the pressures of living up to the expectations of that album caused such tension in the band that work on the follow-up LP, "The Long Run," was a virtual nightmare. In fact, a split occurred in the group during what Henley refers to as the fall of 1980 that was never repaired. None of the principals or spokesmen for the Eagles, however, acknowledged the break until now.
Explained manager Irving Azoff, "The Eagles talked about breaking up from the day I met them. There'd be one mini-explosion followed by a replacement in the band, then another mini-explosion followed by another replacement. You just had to step back and give things time to calm down."
Rumors of a breakup were widely circulated in the record biz when it was learned a few months ago that Henley and Frey were working on solo albums. Yet until recently Azoff continued to discount the rumors. He now admits he knew that it really was over when Henley and Frey separately played their solo LPs for him a few weeks ago.
"When did the Eagles break up?" Azoff asked rhetorically. "In my opinion, they broke up when Glenn and Don realized that they could both make great solo albums, and that's now. They realized they don't need the Eagles anymore. That's why you're not going to see them go out and do a farewell tour or a farewell album or a farewell anything. It's just over, period."
Normally, musicians steer away from talking about their old bands after a breakup as painful as the Eagles' split. It was hard to get Paul McCartney to talk freely about the Beatles for years, and John Fogerty still refuses to reminisce about Creedence Clearwater, despite the recent revival of interest in his old band.
Henley and Frey, however, talked easily about the Eagles in separate interviews. They haven't seen each other in more than a year, but both said they still consider themselves friends and hope to get together after the solo albums are released.
Frey's album, "No Fun Aloud," will be in the stores next weekend on Asylum Records, the same label that released the eight Eagles LPs. It's a mostly upbeat, R&B-tinged collection that offers some of the most appealing commercial features of the Eagles' records. The tone, Frey said, mirrors his renewed enthusiasm for music-an enthusiasm that was smothered in the final days of the Eagles.
Henley's album, "I Can't Stand Still," won't be ready until July, but it shapes up as a starker selection of tunes, closer to the "Hotel California"-like urgency of the Eagles than some of the more caressing touches of Frey's LP. The songs hint at the difficulty of Henley's post-Eagles days. If the breakup of the band was liberating for Frey, it was numbing at first for Henley.
Both, however, now seem pleased to
be on their own and looked back with equal fondness on their days together.
Noted Frey, "We all came out here from different places, developed our talent, saw what it took to succeed and got the job done better than any of us ever imagined. At that point it ended, and life goes on. We always vowed to quit when we were still on top and that's what we did."
Added Henley, "I'm very proud of what we did. We put everything we had into it at the expense of our health, friendships and everything else. But Glenn was right. It was time for it to end. I have no regrets. I wish everyone else in the group well. There are some painful memories, but I'm beginning now to be able to look back and laugh a little."
Like millions of other young people in the late '60s, Henley and Frey, both of whom are in their mid-30s, looked to Southern California as their own promised land. Their imaginations back home were fueled by media reports of the glamour and excitement of Los Angeles.
"We all watched the sunset in the West every night of adolescence and thought someday about coming out blare," Frey once said. "It all seemed so romantic . the Life magazine articles about Golden Gate Park and the Sunset Strip. . . . And the music: the Beach Boys, the Byrds, the Buffalo Springfield. It was definitely the archetype of the most beautiful place in the world."
Frey viewed Southern California from Detroit, where he was raised in middle-class surroundings. He took piano lessons as a child, but his passion was sports until it became clear to him he wasn't big enough to compete in high school.
Rock 'n' roll gradually became his new obsession. He was hooked the night he saw the Beatles in concert. "It was just awesome-all the excitement," he recalled. "Everyone was just so caught up in it. I'll never forget how this one girl fell right into my arms in a daze, screaming, 'Paul . . . Paul.' I knew right then that this was for me."
His first band, called the Subterraneans after the Jack Kerouac novel, played various Detroit clubs, often sharing the stage with hometown hero Bob Seger. The two are still friends. Seger even co-wrote the Eagles lively "Heartache Tonight" hit.
After a brief stab at college, Frey followed
a girlfriend to Los Angeles where he was intimidated by the music scene.
After three weeks, Frey returned to Detroit. But the lure of Hollywood eventually drew him back here, where he formed a duo with John David Souther, who later co-wrote some of the Eagles' songs and gained acclaim on his own as a songwriter. As Longbranch-Pennywhistle, Frey and Souther played local clubs and recorded an album for Amos Records. At Amos, Frey met Henley.
Henley eyed the Southern California pop "magic" from Linden, a small town in east Texas where his father operated an auto parts store. Henley listened to music a lot as a youngster, both the blues and country that he heard on the radio, and the pop records that his parents bought. His early favorites included Elvis Presley and Fats Domino, but-like Frey-the Beatles' music hit him the hardest.
Unhappy at school, Henley turned increasingly to music for reassurance. "I just didn't feel like I belonged in school," he said, sitting in a Sherman Oaks recording studio, puffing anxiously on a series of cigarettes. "I mean if you didn't play football, you were nothing-zero. Besides, everyone thought you were a sissy if you were in the band.
"One of the only things that kept me going was music, especially the Beatles. I would go in and listen to the Beatles records every morning just to get me through the day. I kept waiting until the day I could get out of school and out of town-on to someplace where I would fit in better."
Henley played in bands during and after high school, but he postponed pursuit of a rock career while he fulfilled his parents dreams of seeing their son in college.
"College was always sort of a given," he explained. "My father was so intent on me, having it better than he had had it that he saved 25 cents a day from the time I was born for my college education. Every week, he'd bring home seven quarters and put them into this piggy bank. When it added up to $100, he'd buy a bond."
Though Henley went to college four years, he didn't graduate because he was taking a minimum load. He was playing rock 'n' roll on the side. He eventually came to Los Angeles with his band, Shiloh, with the encouragement of Kenny Rogers, who wanted to produce their album, also on Amos.
But the album didn't sell well. Henley, broke and discouraged, was wondering about his next move the night he met Frey in the Troubadour bar, a favorite hangout for musicians in those days.
Recalled Henley, "Glenn asked if I'd like to go on the road with Linda Ronstadt's band and I said, "You bet I do.' I was broke and here was a chance for $200 a week. We went out for a month or two and Glenn and I struck up this great friendship. That's when we started plotting to put a band together."
Frey had a definite model in mind for the Eagles. He wanted to bring together the best features of two bands that he used to see a lot at the Troubadour: the concert excitement and musicianship of Poco and the country soulfulness Of Gram Parsons' Flying Burrito Brothers. With bassist Randy Meisner (from Poco) and guitarist Bernie Leadon (from the Burritos), the Eagles were signed by David Geffen's Asylum Records.
The irony is that Leadon and Meisner were considered by many as the key to the band's potential. Without them, Frey admits, the group may never have gotten a record deal. Henley, especially, was an unknown factor. He wrote only part of one song, "Witchy Woman," on the first album.
After "Desperado,", however, there was little question about who controlled the Eagles' destiny. Leadon left the band in 1975, replaced by Joe Walsh, and Meisner left in 1977, replaced by Timothy B. Schmit (also from Poco). Guitarist Don Felder joined the group in 1974, helping to add a harder rock edge to the earlier countryish leanings.
Though other members of the band contributed to arrangements and even collaborates with them on songs, Henley and Frey exhibited a songwriting prowess in the "Desperado" album that remained the Eagles strongest asset.
In the album's title song, they first dealt with the struggle between idealism and corruption that was going to characterize so much of their work, cloaking it this time in romantic imagery that linked the independence of a rock singer with an Old West gunfighter..
Despite the critical acclaim, "Desperado" didn't sell as well as the debut album. Rather than record again in London with producer Glyn Johns, the Eagles shifted for "On the Border" to Los Angeles where they worked with Bill Szymczyk. That's also when they added Felder. The objective.. a tougher sound.
The album contained the group's first No. 1 single, the ballad, "Best of My Love." Feeling they now had the right producer, lineup and direction, the Eagles were especially confident during the recording of "One of These Nights." The album went to No. 1 in 1975 and contained three Top 5 singles, including "Lyin' Eyes" and "Take It to the Limit."
When the Eagles' "Greatest Hits" album sold more than 6 million copies in 1976, the band was the toast of the industry. They were selling out stadiums and hitting the Top 10 with quality singles with a consistency that no American rock band had achieved since Creedence.
But the band moved to a whole new level with "Hotel California," a legitimate rock masterpiece. They examined their recurring theme about the American Dream with more precision, power and daring than ever in such stark, uncompromising songs as "Hotel California" and "The Last Resort."
The album did so well commercially and critically that the band was intimidated. How could they top it? They wrestled with the issue for nearly three Years before returning with "The Long Run."
Explained Joe Walsh during "The Long Run" tour in 1980, "(The 'Hotel California' success) made us very paranoid. People started asking us, 'What are you going to do now?' and we didn't know. We ended up on the next album in Miami with the tapes running, but nobody knowing what was going on. We lost perspective. We just kinda sat around in a daze for. . months."
The Eagles emerged from Miami with a creditable album. "The Long Run" contained some outstanding songs, notably the nostalgic title track and the haunting "Sad Cafe," but it also contained several drab experimental works.
The LP, however, was another smash. It spent two months on top of the national sales charts. To the pop industry, the Eagles were still flying high. There was an other big tour and plans for a live album.
But the strain of making "The Long Run" created a split in the band that was never healed.
According to Frey, "Everything changed for me during 'The Long Run.' There was so much pressure that Don and I didn't have time to enjoy our friendship. We always had to worry about doing this or living up to that. We could talk about girls or football for a while, but it wouldn't be long before we'd remember that we had to make a decision about this or that we had to get another song written for the next album."
The latest pressure piled on top of what was already one of the most intense band relationships in rock. There were occasional rumors of backstage fights and grueling studio sessions. Henley and ,Frey would closet themselves in a house, even break up with girlfriends if necessary, to concentrate on songs for the next album. Henley had an ulcer long before he started "The Long Run."
The end came in a phone call from Frey to Henley shortly after the band's last performance: a 'benefit concert in 1980 for Sen. Alan Cranston at the Long Beach Arena.
Reflected Frey, "I think my decision may have boiled down in the end to the fact that I just couldn't see myself spending all of the '90s making just three more Eagles albums . . . three albums that wouldn't be any fun. I needed to be more involved with music than that. I wanted to do solo albums and friends had been urging me to produce records.
"The idea of working on 50 pieces of music a year instead , of struggling through three or four while dealing with all the other tensions and intrigues of being in the Eagles was just too appealing to ignore."
When the rest of the Eagles returned to Miami in 1980 to complete the group's)'s live album, Frey stayed behind in Los Angeles. The band had to fly tapes back and forth to get it completed in time for the November release date. Not even the lure of an extra $2-million advance from Asylum Records if the album contained two new Eagles songs was enough to tempt Frey back into the Eagles' nest, Azoff said.
The breakup of the Eagles was just one of many pressures on Henley during the fall of 1980. "It was a terrible year," he recalls. The band broke up. I broke up with my girlfriend. I did a stupid thing and got into trouble with the law (cocaine arrest). Then I met the girl I'm with now and we almost got killed in a (private) plane crash in Colorado. John Lennon got killed and that devastated me for a while. And my girlfriend contracted a virus and she has been practically an invalid for a year and five months."
Working on the solo album helped pull Henley out of the depression. "It gave me a reason to go on," he said. "Actually, Stevie (Nicks) inspired me to do it. I figured that if she had the nerve to go out on her own, I should be able to do it, too."
Before he was ready to tackle the recording project, however, Henley took nearly a year off to read and soak up new ideas. He also spent a lot of time back home in Texas. Rather than write songs by himself, he turned to another collaborator, guitarist Danny Kortchmar, best known for his work with James Taylor.
The early samples of Henley's album contain some striking ballads, but the main tone is even more aggressive musically and biting lyrically than most of his work with the Eagles. It's as if he were trying to exorcise some of the anger and pain of 1980.
One especially biting track is titled "Nobody's Business," an apparent reference to a 1980 arrest for cocaine possession. With the hint offered in the song title, you don't expect Henley to comment on the much-publicized incident, but he did say, "I was at the bottom of the barrel emotionally when that happened. What really happened never really came out and I don't really care to talk about it. But I will say this: I feel like what I do on record and on stage is everybody's property because I'm in show business, but what I do in my own house-as long as I'm not hurting anybody-is just like the song says: nobody's business."
Frey also turned to a collaborator on his
album: Jack Tempchin, who co-wrote two of the early Eagles hits, "Peaceful
Easy Feeling" and "Already Gone He also worked briefly as producer Karla
Bonoff's new "Wild Heart of the Young" album and co-produced with Jerry
Wexler the, well-received debut by Texas singer Lou Ann Barton. He's now
producing the debut of Jack Mack & the Heart Attack, an L.A.-based
soul/rock band. He's also eyeing some live shows.
All this activity has him excited. "I feel great," he said. "I'm involved with a lot of music that I love and I'm my own boss. That's why I know there'll never be an Eagles' 'Greed and Lost Youth' reunion tour. "To me, the Eagles will always be a summer band ... a young band that asked the questions that our generation was asking."
Frey and Henley aren't the only ex-Eagles with solo plans. Felder, who recorded the title track to the film "Heavy Metal," and Schmit are both planning solo LPs, while Walsh is producing the next Ringo Starr album. Meisner and Leadon have also done post-Eagles recordings.
Henley, though thrilled with his new album, doesn't appear to want to be as active musically as Frey.
"I'm -starting to think about a lot of other things," he said. "Every spring I wanted to plant a garden. I have a tractor and a farm and I grew up doing that. But every spring I'm in the studio. I also want to spend more time with my lady. As soon as she gets well, I'd like to have kids. There's simply a lot more to life than rock 'n' roll and making records."
Pausing, he added, "But I have no regrets. A lot of people in the media attach more importance to bands that came out of the '60s than bands that came out of the '70s, so I don't know how the Eagles will be remembered. The '70s sort of got passed off as the decade that wasn't very important in music. Some day, though, I think people may look back and say, 'Some of that stuff was pretty good after all.' "