A lot of music, I think, is really about time and place. I tend to associate certain bands or songs with particular points in time, when they seemed to capture and even help to define the moment. So it was with the Eagles and 1975-76. My high school friend J.D. was a huge Eagles fan who might croon “Take another shot of courage” at any point. In 1976, when I worked at Alpine Village in Lake George, New York, the first three Eagles albums — Eagles, Desperado, and On The Border — formed the soundtrack. (It’s funny how the memories associated with songs can change, however. Ol’ 55, one of my favorite songs from On The Border, took on a different set of memories when Russell was assigned 55 as his uniform number on the Columbus Academy football team.)
The Eagles were a great country rock band that also could play straight ahead rock, folk, and ballads. They wrote songs with great hooks and refrains, and penned one of the great opening lyrics of any American rock song with Take It Easy‘s “Well, I’m a-runnin’ down the road trying to loosen my load, I got seven women on my mind.” In addition to the excellent music, the Eagles also were embodiments of the great arc of many successful American bands. They recorded wonderful early albums, became increasingly popular, and soon started playing enormous venues and moving away from their roots. Some of their members left, new members joined, and they recorded huge-selling albums that seemed a bit more rote and a bit less interesting than their early work. Soon there were personality conflicts between band members, recording and touring became more difficult, and ultimately the band broke up in a cloud of acrimony, vowing never to play together again — only to break that vow years later.
While the Eagles were at their best, however, they recorded some tremendous songs. The trusty Ipod attests to that fact, with songs like Take It Easy, Witchy Woman, Peaceful Easy Feeling, Desperado, Tequila Sunrise, On The Border, Ol’55, James Dean, Good Day in Hell, and Already Gone. I’m not alone in my admiration for the early Eagles music, by the way. Their first greatest hits album, which was released during my early college years, is one of the best-selling albums of all time.
Edited to add: Time to Vote for your choice for Best American Band!