The musicians that hated working with the Eagles

the eagles

Working for the Eagles would never be easy. The band may have sung about the life and times of living in sunny Los Angeles. But the reality of making all those records took a toll on each band member. It was with everyone developing a particular animosity toward one another. When they were recording their first serious songs, Don Henley recalls a few musicians being dissatisfied with him while in the studio.

Henley approached music from a different perspective than most. Rather than learning music theory, Henley preferred to listen to music instinctively. He had taken one music course in college but was always more interested in English.  He abandoned any musical studies in favor of learning about the written word.

When Henley moved to Los Angeles, he realized the value of collaborating with Glenn Frey on the first few Eagles albums. In comparison to the classical pieces, he was used to learning in his classroom. Henley only needed to throw basic chords woven together with a sharp melody to get by, taking the reins for massive hits like ‘Witchy Woman‘.

When it came time to make the next record, Henley knew he wanted to create something much more severe than their debut. When working on the song ‘Desperado‘, Henley realized he had an ace in the hole for his concept album about gunslingers on the wrong side of the law.

In the style of country music’s lonely ballads, Henley understood that the song needed full orchestration when it entered the studio. He first pitched the idea to producer Glyn Johns. But the session musicians were less than enthusiastic about playing a song by a rock ‘n’ roll amateur.

Henley recalled that the atmosphere in the studio was icy cold from the classical musicians. He told Howard Stern, “The London Philharmonic was sitting behind me and I was scared shitless. I was trying to sing, and a lot of these guys were older. They brought chess boards and set them up in between their chairs so they could play chess between takes. They weren’t into it”.

Henley executed the performance the way he wanted while maintaining professionalism. But he did admit to facing some ridicule from the classical musicians, explaining, “They have done everything. They probably collaborated with The Beatles. And as I sat there, I could hear them making occasional remarks. One would say to another, ‘I don’t feel like a desperado.‘”

The song came together in a matter of hours. But Henley would later admit that he wished he could sing it again to overcome any raw nerves he felt while laying the proper track. ‘Desperado’ may have seemed like a piece of cake to classical musicians. But there aren’t many musicians who can deliver the song with the same authority as Henley could.

3 comments
  1. The read story is how much Henley and Frey were greedy jerks to the rest of the band, especially don felder. Felder wrote so much of the music but they withheld royalty money from him. Being a co-equal band member, he contacted the accountant to see all the money (he had suspicions), they (henley and frey) fired him the next day. All of this lead to the courts where they were force to settle something like $50 million and because they couldn’t actually fire him, he continues to get his cut of Eagles revenue today. Even though those two didn’t want him even on tour with them. When I hear that Henley song talking about the greed of reagan and that 80s era, I just roll my eyes and think “what a hypocrite.”

    1. Not to mention he employs a team of 60 people to make sure no Eagles song appears on YouTube or anywhere else online without royalties. God forbid you grab an 11 second snippet of an Eagles song for your Top 20 songs Ever video. And nevermind that videos like that are shown to significantly drive UP sales and legal (read: paid) downloads. But dammit, I love his voice. May be top 5 in rock music.

    2. Of course he’s a hypocrite. A number of other musician/performers are the same way. They pretend to be for the everyman, but their attitudes and actions toward roadies & production crew members is appalling. Bruce Springsteen is in that mold.

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