Never Had a #1… The Eagles

Our 3rd and final #1-less act of the week. The Eagles are a band I was weaned on, a band that soundtracks huge swathes of my childhood, a band that can genuinely make me tear-up… To mis-quote a famous Dude: I love the fuckin’ Eagles…

I understand that not everyone shares my feelings on The Eagles. Certain long-time followers of this blog have already made their feelings clear. To them, and many others, they represent the very doldrums of 1970s rock: cliched, arrogant, overblown, coke-addled… Except, I happen to like my rock music arrogant, overblown, coke-addled and cliched, so… let’s crack on!

There is a massive disparity between The Eagles chart success in the UK and in the US. In the US they enjoyed five chart-topping singles. In the UK they struggled to get five Top 40 hits. Here are their five biggest (in inverted commas…)

‘One of These Nights’ – reached #23 in 1975

Long before Rod Stewart and the Stones pissed off the rock snobs by going disco, The Eagles got in there first. But the slinky, purring bass in the intro is great, and the falsetto in the chorus can teach The Bee Gees a thing or two. The Eagles aren’t always remembered for their lyrics – barring that over-quoted line about checking out anytime – but I think: I’ve been searching for the daughter of the devil himself… is a cracking one. I can imagine that if you hate The Eagles then you really hate this one… But it’s fine. Far from my favourite, though.

‘Lyin’ Eyes’ – reached #23 in 1975

I grew up in small-town Scotland, so all the cultural references in the Eagles’ songs passed my by, as did a lot of the snobbery towards them. I just listened, as my Dad sang along (my Dad does not sing along often), and enjoyed them. I struggle to see how you can justify not enjoying ‘Lyin’ Eyes’ easy goin’ melody and storyline. Lines like: City girls just seem to find out early, How to open doors with just a smile… And… She wonders how it ever got so crazy, She thinks about a boy she knew in school… While the harmonising is at Everly Brothers level. But, you know, whatever floats your boat.

‘New Kid in Town’ – reached #20 in 1977

There are a few individual moments that make ‘New Kid in Town’ a masterpiece, and probably my favourite Eagles song (after ‘Desperado’, obviously). They all come towards the end, making it a slow-burn of a tune. There’s the build up through to the Tears on your shoulder… line, the moment that the guitars go ominously heavy on Where you been lately? as the new new kid in town shows up, and the ‘ad-libs’ as the song meanders to a close: I don’t wanna hear it… Everybody’s talking, People started walkin’… Pure bliss.

‘Take It to the Limit’ – reached #12 in 1975

I think The Eagle’s biggest British hit is going to be quite obvious… But for ‘Take It to the Limit’ to come in as their 2nd highest chart placing seems odd. It’s another nice one, a bit more soft-soul than much of their stuff, with another classic line in: You can spend all your time makin’ money, You can spend all your love makin’ time… (which makes no sense and complete sense simultaneously). But this, over ‘Take It Easy’ (did not chart), ‘Best of My Love’ (ditto), or ‘Desperado’ (never even released as a single!)?

‘Hotel California’ – reached #8 in 1977

The Eagles only Top 10 had to be this one, right? Apparently an allegory for the debauchery and excess of the Los Angeles elite. As I wrote in my post on Dylan’s ‘Like a Rolling Stone’, this track has become a pillar of rock ‘n’ roll, played to the point where we have become insensitive to it. But try, if you can, to feel. That intro, instantly recognisable yet always ominous. The mirrors on the ceiling, the pink champagne on ice and the pretty, pretty boys, as if one of Jay Gatsby’s parties has taken a sinister turn. The warm smell of colitas… (What the hell are ‘colitas’ anyway?) The guitar solo, that I can sing along to as if it were actual lyrics, and often voted as one of the best ever. And, of course, you can’t talk about ‘Hotel California’ without mentioning the fact that you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave… An entire Gothic novel in six and a half minutes of reggae-tinged rock. Overplayed? Definitely. Perfection? Quite probably.


22 thoughts on “Never Had a #1… The Eagles

  1. One Of These Nights is my fave Eagles song by some distance, it has the oomph factor plus an atmosphere sometimes missing from their ballads. I first noticed them in 1972 on the Alan Freeman Show with Witchy Woman, which I liked (moody), Take It Easy, and Best Of My Love which I didn’t like quite as much. Hotel California is second, obv, it’s a classic. Though if I’m steppin’ out of the band into solo stuff Boys Of Summer beats the lot and I generally like a fair amount of solo stuff from Don Henley, quite a bit from Glenn Frey, and oddments from the others, especially Life’s Been Good from Joe Walsh.

    Take It To The Limit was very dull. I thought so at the time, and the real reason it did so well was for the B side: Best Of My Love got the A side on my personal charts. By 1976 Best Of My Love had been an airplay fave, if not actual hit, so there was pent-up demand for it off the back of 2 top 30 hits. B-sides’ role in making hits should not be under-estimated for the vinyl or CD era…. 🙂

    So MY top 10 Eagles?

    1. One Of These Nights
    2. Hotel California
    3. Witchy Woman
    4. New Kid In Town
    5. Lyin’ Eyes
    6. Best Of My Love
    7. Take It Easy
    8. No More Cloudy Days
    9. Life In The Fast Lane
    10. Please Come Home For Christmas

    These days I’m rather fonder of Please Come Home For Christmas, and I Can’t Tell You Why than I was then and they’d much higher….

    • I do wonder if I heard the Eagles for the first time as an adult, whether I’d like them as much. They are very much tied up with childhood memories, and acoustic country rock is not usually my thing…

      Good point regarding ‘Best of My Love’, which is way better than ‘Take It to the Limit’. Ballads-wise I also love ‘Peaceful, Easy Feeling’ and ‘Tequila Sunrise’, and ‘The Sad Cafe’ (though not sure if that was a single…)

  2. I remember when The Eagles were one of the coolest bands on the planet, in 1975. Three years later, to some they were the ultimate personification of musical garbage. That shows you how punk temporarily moved goalposts. But you can’t NOT love them at their best. I admit ‘Take it to the Limit’ is my favourite – it takes me back to misty-eyed days at college when I was in love and inclined to prop up the student bar a lot (maybe not the best combination in rertrospect). It’s a beauty, and I adore Randy Meisner’s very high note on ‘ple-ease’ just before the fadeout. Honourable mentions for ‘Already Gone’, a cracker of a single in 1974 and reportedly a favourite of Francis Rossi, and ‘The Last Resort’, an epic seven-minute album track from ‘Hotel California’, that even the Eagles-disliking John Peel still loved in 1977 when he was also playing the Sex Pistols regularly on his show. BTW ‘Desperado’ was always a 5-star album track, but only released on 7in Eagles reissues as far as I can see, on labels like Old Gold, as a B-side. It did attract a swarm of A-side cover versions, the best-known being by their old friend Linda Ronstadt.

    • You know a song’s a good ‘un when even individual notes stand out to you… And yes, why oh why was ‘Desperado’ never a single? The Carpenters do a great version, too.

  3. We never did them justice here, did we? Their music was the backdrop to my uni days – I started there a few months after the first album was released – and I still love their music now. My favourite track of theirs isn’t one of their under-loved singles, though, it’s an album track: The Last Resort, from Hotel California. A seven minute epic, beautiful to listen to, with a social message that is just as relevant today.

    • I am not alone…thank you Clive. I’m working on a book on The Eagles, track by track, and listening in depth to every song they ever made has brought me to realise that ‘The Last Resort’ is probably my favourite, too – an awe-inspiring song, matched by Henley’s impassioned vocal performance and a flawless, utterly exquisite arrangement that taken as one simply take your breath away.

  4. I’m one of those wet blankets…I love the Dudes original quote lol. Now I do like Joe Walsh, Don Felder, Timothy, Bernie Leadon, and Randy Meisner. It’s the two other guys I have no use for.

    The funny thing is I like Don’s solo albums better than the Eagles. I will say though… Their country rock stuff I can listen to like Take It Easy…

    But hey…they were way up there in the seventies so I gotta give the devil his due…

    • I do like the early, country stuff… Take It Easy, Already Gone, James Dean…But I also love the later, stadium sized stuff like Hotel California and even The Long Run era… I like it all, basically.

      I guess I grew up too late and in the wrong country to have a strong opinion on them. I just liked the music as a kid. Even now I just know that they took way too much cocaine and fell out… The baggage passed me by!

      • Have you watched the documentary on them? Since you like them don’t watch it!

        Funny thing is I love Joe Walsh so you would think I would love all the rock stuff they did.
        I live in the south and it’s funny…the south almost adopted them as their own…I guess because they sounded country.

      • They’re from LA, right? Is part of the problem that they were seen as not the real thing, pretending to be country…?

        I can’t say I’ve listened to all that much of any Eagles’ solo careers… I’d take ‘Life’s Been Good’ over ‘Boys of Summer’, though. Did Glenn Frey do much on his own?

      • Yes LA…nowhere near the south. They are loved here.
        Oh man…Don Henleys solo albums in the 80s…are great! Fry’s suck to me…Henleys albums are top notch…like Building the Perfect Beast, The End of the Innocence, and I Cant Stand Still…. The End of the Innocence is my favorite…I love the music but I don’t like him.

  5. LOL! Yeah. Hans & Max no likey Eagles, much…particularly Hans. I can actually hear Hans hiss when he mentions them. But, both of them do like Henley’s solo stuff. Dirty Laundry & The Boys of Summer are really good. Honestly, the lot of them made better music as a group than they did as solos, Joe Walsh not included. He was already established before he got to the Eagles. Frey’s solo career did not impress me.

    I was five years old when the Eagles showed up on the radio. I remember listening to them on my parents stereo cabinet.

    My #1 song is New Kid in Town (Frey-lead), hands down. Take It To The Limit (Meisner-lead) would have to be #2. Number 3 is a non-single release…Those Shoes (Henley-lead). Rounding out the top five would be One of These Nights at #4 (Henley before his voice dropped/Meisner refrain) and then Witchy Woman at #5 (Henley/love the Native American influence). I like many of the others but, these five…I will tune out the world to hear them. I do like to sing along with Seven Bridges Road. Oh, the layers of harmony… I Can’t Tell You Why is pretty good and the first song with Schmit as lead. I have a love of bands where the lead singers rotate.

    If I never hear Lyin’ Eyes, Heartache Tonight or The Long Run, again, I will be happy. They are worn out.

    • Oh, I love Lyin’ Eyes! My tops would be ‘Desperado’, then ‘New Kid in Town’, then maybe ‘Best of My Love’…. That sounds as if I only like their ballads, but I also love ‘Life in the Fast Lane’ and ‘Victim of Love’. I have a lot of time for The Eagles.

      • I remember liking Desperado is a kid when it was new but, it was another one, along with Take It Easy, that got played to death at the time.

        Life in the Fast Lane & Victim of Love are good. “Life” has also been played to death but, “Victim” not so much. Hotel California is a masterpiece but, also worn out.

        I can see how some folks dislike the Eagles (Yacht Rock is NOT a term of endearment) but, in general terms, they have woven a tapestry in MY life…for sure. That being said, I don’t have a single Eagles track on my playlist on my phone. Your post has made me want to go & get my top five, now. 🤔🤨😁😎

      • Nowadays I’d rather hear The Carpenters version of Desperado, but it’s still a classic.

        Are The Eagles Yacht Rock, though…? I’ve always thought that was more Toto, the Doobie Brothers, and the like?

      • As long as they have been around they went from a country flair due to Leadon, rock (Life in the Fast Lane and others with Joe Walsh), into easy listening in a way (Hotel California is heard in elevators these days), to a bit of disco (Those Shoes has a disco flair) to the aforementioned Yacht Rock. Member changes can change sounds. Then, again, The Beatles changed sounds without member changes.

  6. The Eagles are one of those acts I’d hear playing in the car growing up along with all the other classic rock my parents listen to and from that, I always think of them as fun summertime road trip music. And for a band that’s been polarizing to critics and listeners, they sold so much music where in the US they currently have the two of the top three best-selling albums of all time with Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) and Hotel California at #1 and #3 respectively with Thriller in between. Tom Breihan puts it best about the Eagles in that they were the perfect band to capitalize on the mellowing sound of ’70s pop, rock, and country music and get big with it, “The Eagles were in the perfect place, at the perfect time, to put it all together and sell it to America. The Eagles knew how to do that, combining shaggy rock ‘n’ roll outlaw imagery with sweetly slick studio-craft, surfing on the catastrophic wave of Laurel Canyon softness.” Overall, I do still enjoy a lot of their songs from the early country flavor to the later more harder rocking material. One funny thing about them is that solo wise, Glenn Frey had his biggest success with two #2 hits by attaching himself to popular ’80s franchises with “The Heat Is On” from Beverly Hills Cop and “You Belong To The City” from Miami Vice yet missed out on a solo #1 when laryngitis kept him from singing “Shakedown” for Beverly Hills Cop II eventually going to his friend and collaborator Bob Seger becoming his only #1 hit to which Frey replied, “At least we kept the money in Michigan!”

  7. Pingback: Never Had a #1… The Eagles — The UK Number Ones Blog – battleoftheatlantic19391945

  8. I’m a little shocked the Eagles had such a poor chart presence in the UK. I thought maybe it was because the British public weren’t receptive country rock, but as shown by the No. 1s, quite a number of country-leaning songs hit No. 1. And rock music had a better chart presence in the UK than it did in the US in the 70s (the opposite in the 80s). They were so big in the US – they rivalled Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd in album sales, and unlike those bands, they regularly charted in the Top 10 of the Hot 100, with five #1s (the underrated “The Best of My Love”, the disco-rock “One of These Nights” which features one of my favourite guitar solos ever, the country-tinged soft rock “New Kid in Town”, the iconic “Hotel California”, and the shit blues rock stomper “Heartache Tonight”, which is one of the most annoying songs of all time).

    Though, in researching the band. it seems that the bulk of the Eagles’ record sales come from North America, as well as Oceania. I’m Australian and the Eagles’ hits are quite popular down under .

    • Yes, I grew up listening to the Eagles so I think I imagined them to be bigger than they were. They were/are huge, and are still a massive concert draw in the UK when they tour. I don’t know if it just came down to a lack of promotion and radio play in the UK that cost them hits? Or maybe they were just too ‘American’ sounding? You can see the same lack of ‘success’ (certain hits aside) for US rock groups in the UK, from CCR to Van Halen. Too glossy and too sun-drenched perhaps…

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