The Eagles were one of the most popular musical acts in the world in the 1970s, but they ground to a halt in the first year of the new decade of the 1980s with a disjointed, piecemeal album that stands as an appropriate testament to the band’s inner dysfunction. The rock and country icons released Eagles Live on Nov. 7, 1980 — a project that found them not only unable to work together in the same room, but was actually completed on different coasts.
The group had essentially ground to a halt after releasing their sixth studio album, The Long Run, in September of 1979. The band members struggled to follow up the massive success of Hotel California during those sessions, which were hampered by drugs and internal strife, and while the album placed hits including “I Can’t Tell You Why,” “In the City,” “Those Shoes” and “Heartache Tonight,” it was wildly uneven and ultimately considered a disappointment.
The tour that followed was even more fractious, culminating in a show on July 31, 1980, at a fundraiser for Sen. Alan Cranston’s campaign. Singer-guitarist Glenn Frey and lead guitarist Don Felder nearly came to blows backstage after exchanging harsh words on stage in front of the audience, with Frey famously threatening, “Only three more songs until I kick your ass, pal.”
That marked the end of the classic-era Eagles, but the group still contractually owed Elektra/Asylum another album, so they decided to cull a double live album out of existing tapes from various shows recorded over the history of the band.
Bill Szymczyk produced Eagles Live, and he was forced to referee between Frey and singer-drummer Don Henley, whose partnership had disintegrated to the point that Frey worked in Los Angeles while Henley worked in Miami to produce the overdubs to complete the live tapes where necessary. The live tapes ranged from 1976 to the band’s most recent gigs in 1980, encompassing different lineups and including two different hits from two different singer-bassists: Randy Meisner’s performance of “Take It to the Limit” was recorded at the Forum in Los Angeles in 1976, while Timothy B. Schmit’s take on “I Can’t Tell You Why” was recorded in Santa Monica, Calif., in July of 1980.
“I had my assistant in Los Angeles with Glenn, and I had the rest of the band fly to Miami,” Szymczyk recalled (quote via Ultimate Classic Rock). “We were fixing three-part harmonies courtesy of Federal Express.”
The Eagles released just one single from Eagles Live in the form of “Seven Bridges Road,” a Steve Young cover that had featured prominently in their live shows since their earliest days. The album featured a laundry list of their greatest hits, but due to extensive overdubs, it doesn’t stand as a true “live” album.
Nonetheless, “Seven Bridges Road” peaked at No. 21 on Billboard‘s Hot 100, and Eagles Live reached No. 6 on the Billboard U.S. 200. The album served as a stopgap for the individual members of the Eagles to record solo projects: Henley would release his debut solo album, I Can’t Stand Still, in 1982, scoring a hit with “Dirty Laundry,” and Frey also released his debut solo album, No Fun Aloud, in 1982, hitting with “Party Town.”
Walsh, Felder and Schmit would follow with their own solo projects, and the Eagles would not work together again until their unexpected reunion for the Hell Freezes Over Tour in 1994. That tour followed a brief reunion for the video for Travis Tritt‘s version of “Take It Easy” in 1994, which served as the catalyst for their decision to reunite as a band. They have toured and recorded off and on ever since in various lineups.
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