The Eagles: The epitome of ’70s ego, excess and “the dark underbelly of the American Dream”

By on December 11, 2017

Rather than being a profile of the band, Night Flight’s Eagles Video Profile — which first aired on August 31, 1985 — documents the solo careers of Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmit, and Joe Walsh through videos they’d released during the first half of the ’80s. Watch now on Night Flight Plus.

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Pat Prescott concisely describes what happened to them by the end of the ’70s, saying: “The Eagles disbanded abruptly in 1980, beset by ego problems and overwhelming pressure to live up to Hotel California.

Our video profile begins with a live performance of the title track from their 1977 album, in fact. It was filmed at the Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland, on March 21, 1977, a month after their over six-minute single had been released.

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Left side: The empty hotel lobby of a cleverly re-decorated flop house, the Lido Hotel, located at Yucca & Wilcox in Hollywood, CA, as seen on the back cover; Right side: The front cover of the Eagles’ Hotel California album, showing the iconic Beverly Hills Hotel at “magic hour” (both photos by David Alexander)

This footage — starting with their pre-show vocal warm-up of “Seven Bridges Road” — was filmed several years before promo videos were de rigueur for major label artists.

It was their first official video, although if there was ever a song that deserved an expensively-produced concept video, it’s “Hotel California.”

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Don Felder — one of their two lead guitarists, Joe Walsh being the other — once described the song as“our interpretation of the high life in Los Angeles.”

Don Henley, meanwhile, has said it was about the “the dark underbelly of the American Dream, and about excess in America, which was something we knew about.”

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Don Felder and Joe Walsh

We’ll tell you more about our “Eagles Video Profile” below, and why a lot of music fans actually hate the fuckin’ Eagles, below.

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We realize a lot of you out there reading this are probably loudly repeating The Dude’s exhortation from The Big Lebowski (or some variant) right about now, as shitting on the Eagles has become something of a national pastime.

The hater-ade started flowing right away, following their 1972 self-titled debut, Eagles, likely in part because two of its Top Forty hits — “Take It Easy” (#12) and “Peaceful Easy Feeling” (#22) — had the word “easy” in their titles, prompting a kind of weird anti-west coast bias against them from the jump.

So many of the Eagles’ hits were so “easy-going,” mellow and laid back — typifying what many hate about L.A. — that by the time punk rock appeared on the NYC scene in the mid-70s, the Eagles were the band everyone seemed unified against just as a matter of principle.

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In his June 1972 Newsday essay, NYC rock critic Robert Christgau said the Eagles were “the ultimate in California dreaming, a fantasy of fulfillment that has been made real only in the hip upper-middle-class suburbs of Marin County and the Los Angeles canyons.”

Christgau also called their debut album “suave and synthetic—brilliant, but false,” referring to how their watered-down SoCal country-rock sound had actually smoothed off country-rock’s rougher edges.

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Out in L.A., though, Robert Hilburn — pop music critic of the Los Angeles Times — called the Eagles “the most consistent makers of quality hits of any American band since Creedence Clearwater Revival.”

He also singled out Hotel California as a song that “chronicled the attitudes of a generation trapped between the fading idealism of the ’60s and the encroaching greed of the ’80s.”

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Indeed, many seem to hate them for being rich, self-absorbed Hollywood Hills hippies who dared to write songs about selfish Hollywood decadence, and also for doing things like lecturing ecology-minded college students about their own carbon footprints while flying around on their own private jets (they were rivaled only by Fleetwood Mac during their ’70s cocaine and hot tubs phase).

By 1980, the band members obviously weren’t having any more fun.

Glenn Frey was the first to go solo, naming his 1982 album No Fun Aloud as a way of letting the world know he was making changes to his lifestyle, musical and otherwise.

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Frey with first wife Janie

As Pat Prescott tells us, “Frey changed musical directions drastically with his second solo LP The Allnighter, and the pop single “Sexy Girl,” written for his wife Janie, who’s an art dealer.”

They were married for just five years, 1983-1988; Frey was still married to second wife Cindy (as of 1990) when he died in 2016.

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Also featured here is Frey’s “Smugglers Blues,” the title of the “Miami Vice” episode he appeared in as Jimmy Cole, a guitar-playing Vietnam vet pilot (it aired on February 1, 1985).

Frey had seven Top Forty hits, including two #2 pop hits, “The Heat Is On” (from Beverly Hills Cop) and “You Belong to the City.”

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Don Henley also charted seven Top Forty hits, including “Dirty Laundry” (#3), and “Boys of Summer,” #5 on Billboard‘s Hot 100 and #1 on Billboard‘s Rock Tracks chart for five weeks in 1984.

The “Boys of Summer” video was directed by French director and former graphic designer Jean-Baptiste Mondino, who drew inspiration from French New Wave films.

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It featured then-16 year old Audie England, who we got to know briefly because she’d occasionally shop at the Licorice Pizza record store in Lakewood, CA, her hometown (read more).

This was Audie’s first acting/modeling job (she made $300): she later appeared in videos for Eddie Money, the Blasters, Adam Ant and Stewart Copeland (and many others), and numerous TV movies and indie films.

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Henley’s “All She Wants to Do is Dance” video is also featured, along with Timothy B. Schmit’s “Playing It Cool,” and Joe Walsh’s psychedelic cowboy odyssey “The Confessor.”

Watch Night Flight’s Eagles Video Profile on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, assistant editor for the When You Awake blog, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.