No-Tell Hotel California
So The Eagles were a big selling band in 1975. They had two number one hit singles, and four others that charted in the top ten. They released their fourth album, “One of These Nights”, and it had creeped up to number one.
They were feeling good, and partying like the rock stars they were.
With the partying came…..some tension. Glenn Frey and guitarist Bernie Leadon basically came to a beer over the head and blows after a show, and that was it. Bernie was out of the band.
They brought in a wild card to replace him. An already established player with a rock reputation, Joe Walsh. Walsh had been leader of The James Gang and had several hits himself like “Rocky Mountain Way”. It surprised some that considered the Eagles a “California country” rock band that they would get a rocker. But it was deliberate. The plan was to rock more. Don Felder, another crunchy rock guitarist was already brought in for the same reasons.
They began recording what would be the next album. During the process their record company released a “greatest hits” compilation without the band’s input.
It went to number one and stands today as the second best-selling albums in the United States.
So now the stakes were high, as well as the band members.
On December 8, 1976 the band’s fifth album was released. “Hotel California”. It took over a year and a half to make and with the following tour the band was drained to put it mildly. Tensions, tempers and substances were taking their toll. But they were the biggest American band at this point.
“Hotel California” was huge. With the previous “hits” collection they were in the position of topping themselves. Bassist Randy Meisner left the band. Exhaustion was cited, but it was later revealed to be a personality “issue” with….you guessed it, Glenn Frey. And yes, there was another fight backstage.
Timothy B. Schmit was called in for bass duties, but things were tough. They knew no matter what they did it would be nearly impossible to top the last two albums.
After recording for two years, “The Long Run” was released. It was a good record. But by this point they were pretty much done.
During the subsequent tour Frey and Don Felder got into it. This time it almost didn’t make it to the backstage area. During the encore They kept whispering in each others ear how they were going to kick the other’s ass.
The Eagles released a live album due to contractual obligations. It was mixed and studio sweetened by Don Henley and Glenn Frey, but in different studios in different states. They literally could not be in the same state.
And that was it for fourteen years when an older, very different Eagles put aside their differences. Not altogether though. A little bit of the “same old” was in practice as guitarist (and songwriter, by the way) Don Felder was fired. He sued. He wrote a book that’s very unflattering of Glenn Frey and not too sweet about Don Henley either.
But the Eagles are more sober, and businesslike today.
It’s funny. The album “Hotel California” is all about hedonism, excess and dealing with the trappings of success.
All of what the Eagles have always fought and worked through most of the band’s existence. You write what you know. And that’s when it works.
One other lesson: Glenn Frey likes to fight.