The Eagles scored their first-ever No. 1 hit with “Best of My Love” in 1975, but the career victory didn’t come without considerable strife. Singer-guitarist Glenn Frey and singer and drummer Don Henley both helped co-write the song, but they each had reasons for disliking the single that gave them their biggest success to date.
“I was playing acoustic guitar one afternoon in Laurel Canyon, and I was trying to figure out a tuning that Joni Mitchell had shown me a couple of days earlier,” Frey recalled in the liner notes to The Very Best of the Eagles. “I got lost and ended up with the guitar tuning for what would later turn out to be ‘The Best of My Love.'”
Henley recalled that much of the lyrical portion of the song was written in a booth at Dan Tana’s, an L.A. watering hole the band used to frequent, and the other co-writer, J.D. Souther, came in after Henley and Frey had already flown to London to begin recording the Eagles’ third album, On the Border, with producer Glyn Johns at Olympic Sound. Souther had worked with Frey in a duo called Longbranch Pennywhistle that pre-dated the Eagles and had already collaborated with the band previously, so when he got an urgent call from Henley, he got on a plane to London and arrived the following day, when he completed the song by writing a bridge.
The Eagles moved on to record the track at Olympic, but their relationship with Johns was breaking down amidst a growing difference of opinion over the direction of their music, as well as his methods in the studio. Johns had also produced their first two albums, and he wanted to continue to emphasize the country-rock elements that had characterized those records, while the musicians wanted to focus more on up-tempo songs with a harder rock edge.
The sessions broke down after the Eagles recorded just two tracks, “Best of My Love” and “You Never Cry Like a Lover,” and the band ended up finishing the album at the Record Plant in Los Angeles with producer Bill Szymczyk. Those sessions produced more rock-oriented tracks including “Already Gone” and “James Dean,” which became the first and second singles from “On the Border.”
The record company decided to release “Best of My Love” as the third single from the album after a radio DJ in Michigan reported getting an overwhelming response from listeners when he played the song. The national response turned out to be much the same, driving the single to No. 1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the Adult Contemporary charts.
According to Marc Eliot’s Eagles biography, To the Limit, Frey resisted releasing the song to radio, fearing it was a step backward to a sound the Eagles had successfully started to leave behind with their two most recent songs. When it was released, the record company had shortened the single in an edit that the band absolutely hated — particularly Henley, who wanted the song pulled from radio after its release.
Although ‘Best of My Love” ended up giving the Eagles their biggest chart success so far, they resented the circumstances around it so much that, as Eliot writes, their manager, Irving Azoff, sent the record company a Gold record plaque with a section cut out of it, which he labeled the “Golden Hacksaw Award.”
The group would follow up the song’s success with an extreme departure in the form of “One of These Nights,” a soulful rock-disco hybrid that gave them their second No. 1 hit in a row.
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