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Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon, Randy Meisner
Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon, Randy Meisner, Don Felder
Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Randy Meisner, Don Felder, Joe Walsh
Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Don Felder, Joe Walsh, Timothy B. Schmit

Eagles, like their namesake, caught the first sweeping updraft of David Geffen's new record company Asylum, beginning a spiraling ascension sunward, or so it must have seemed. A story of dreams-come-true (with a vengeance,) the rise of the Eagles, called by some "The American Beatles", plays like an All-American Success Story, and unfolds with the same infectious energy that have drawn so many other skinny, seeking kids before and after them into the world of rock and roll.

Carefully assessing other musicians during his regular nights of seeming aimlessness at the Troubadour Nightclub, Glenn Frey brought each to David Geffen as he found them. The chemistry between the four founding members was tested with the opportunity to tour as back-up band for Linda Ronstadt. Knowing they had something, Geffen backed them heavily: financially, with the cash neccessary to relocate to Aspen to rehearse and then to London to record; and personally, by going to the wall with Atlantic Records in order to see "Take It Easy" receive proper distribution and exposure.

An auspicious debut album was followed by the belatedly appreciated concept album, Desperado. Internal strife already beginning to surface between the four founding members, when they entered the studio again to record On The Border, producer Glyn Johns was soon dropped in favor of Bill Szymczyk. Szymzcyk's approach was readily apparent, giving the band a harder edge. Various personnel changes facilitated the shift from country-rock to a guitar-dominated hard rock sound, although the individual influences that each member brought to the band continued to shape and shade the music overall, providing the listener with something for almost any taste. With such a broad base of appeal, the Eagles found themselves riding the elusive wave of success, and were willing to let it carry them as far as possible.

The Eagle of Hopi Legend soars highest of any living creature, spiritual messenger between the Creator and Man. For the members of the Eagles, however, the ride was not to be a spiritual ascension but rather a rising disillusionment with the culture that fed their success, culminating in the creation of what many consider to be their masterwork, Hotel California. Fully acknowledging their own complicity within the framework of the album, the band was now tangled so tightly in the strings attached to fame and success, and pulled in so many different directions at once, the cloth as a whole could only begin to fray at the center.

Three years in the making, gestating during the intense critical scrutiny and acclaim following Hotel California, The Long Run was the bastard child of Asylum's unrelenting lust for still more revenue. Surely it felt precisely named to those involved in creating it. Having so scathingly, hauntingly pinpointed the ironies of the decade in which the Eagles watched their own star ascend, the following album, "The Long Run" documents the turning inward of the finger of accusation. The unblinking gaze of social commentary, once engaged, is impossible to filter. The impulse to question, to tear down in order to rebuild, can turn on a band and destroy it's cohesiveness. Sharply in contrast to the other Eagles albums - any of which inspire thoughts of taking a roadtrip - this recording, from the grey-on-black cover to the contents within, is, although an excellent album, claustrophobic. For the listener, the tensions are palpable still. At the time the album was recorded, those tensions must have been unbearable for the members of the band.

Perhaps it was the arrival of their thirties, always a time of contemplation, or perhaps it was the perspective afforded by high flight... seeing the lay of the land in it's entirety, and entirely too much of it for comfort. They started out as young guys with heads full of dreams. They were now mature men with heads full of too much of all things financial, emotional, and pharmaceutical. Like the sun at the Summer Solstice, reaching it's apex in the sky at the same moment the length of daylight begins to decrease, the Eagles had entered into a darkening time, a season of contemplation and withdrawal. Such is the nature of all life, to ebb and flow, wax and wane; but in the unreal real world of record companies and royalties and sales projections, bigger, faster and more is the name of the game. The need to slow down was an intolerable pressure; the fact that their label scoffed at this need was, perhaps, the final straw.

They had peeled rubber up one side and down the other of the Fast Lane they traveled, but it would ultimately only take them as far as the precipice marking the end of the Seventies. A sheer drop-off with no warning signs, this blind edge threatened with it's change in the way music was marketed, the backlash against acoustic music and the singer/songwriter genre, the rise of punk.

All things considered, it's amazing they ever saw it coming in time to swerve. The members of the Eagles found themselves on a crumbling cliff's ledge in late 1979, the vehicle which had carried them so far at such breathtaking speeds was now axles up, wheels spinning slowly to a stop in the glaring sun. They had wrecked it, intentionally, to avoid hurling over the edge. Miraculously, all were still alive, but badly shaken.

The five who had held out to the end of the ride, and the two who had disembarked somewhere behind, would now look out over the bleak landscape of the Eighties waiting sullenly at the foot of the cliff. Each would individually begin the careful trek down the rocky outcroppings to the valley below. Seven separate paths would cross again to some extent or another over the next several years, but for now, each looked outward into the future, seeing both emptiness and possibility in the unmarked territories ahead. The turning of darkness to light must inevitably come, but sometimes it is a long time in the coming.

"Well I'm a standin' on a corner in Winslow Arizona . . ."
So, where ya goin' to next?
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