Around the time “Smoke on the Water” came out, a country rock anthem of sorts also hit the air waves. The neighbor kid and I had memorized the stanza “Well, I’m standing on a corner/In Winslow, Arizona/Such a fine sight to see./It’s a girl, my Lord/In a flatbed Ford/Slowin’ down to take a look at me.”
Yeah, we knew “Take It Easy.” And most of us of a certain age sang that one all through childhood long after hard rock gave way to disco, punk, and trucker songs. And The Eagles stuck with us all the way until we started high school.
Unlike some of the bands and singers I’ve profiled here, The Eagles maintained a consistent sound without getting too repetitious. Don Henley, whose dual role as drummer and vocalist predates Phil Collins’ by a couple of years, once said the band’s role model was Steely Dan, not that the two bands sounded alike.
It’s an apt description. Henley and Glen Frey dominated the band while a rotating group consisting of Bernie Leadon, Randy Meisner, Don Felder, Joe Walsh, and Timothy B. Schmit supported them. That paralleled the partnership of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen in Steely Dan. However, near the end, Meisner and Walsh asserted themselves, creating the classic tunes “Take It to the Limit” (Meisner) and “Life in the Fast Lane.” (Walsh) However, as Frey and Henley went, so went The Eagles. In a Spinal Tappish story, the duo came apart at the seams by 1980 and all but destroyed the band, one of them famously vowing The Eagles would reunite when “Hell freezes over.” Little did we know they were referring to their live reunion album in 1994.
The addition of Walsh gave The Eagles a local appeal for us Cleveland kids. Walsh had played in The James Gang, a Cleveland-area band, and still recorded in the city throughout the seventies. So we loved hearing his James Gang licks on some of the later Eagles’ hits.
For me personally, The Eagles are “Best of My Love.” Nita is a huge Don Henley fan. As long as she doesn’t play “New York Minute” (a Henley solo song forever welded to 9/11 in my mind, mainly because I finally broke down and cried when it came on the radio a few days after), she can play any Eagles or Henley song she wants. “Best of My Love,” played by a cover band at the corner bar, was the first song we ever danced publicly to.