Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Eagles, The #2 Artist of the Seventies*

(Editor's Note:  We have mentioned the methodology and the "error rate" associated with compiling the numbers for this special, and where possible, have informed you of the closeness between artists in each range.  The "error rate" here is 0, meaning the #2 artist is definitely #2 no matter which factors you view most important, and the artist at #1 can only be #1 when you consider all of the important factors.   The #1 and #2 artists are miles ahead of everyone else in the decade--it isn't close at all.)

If you thought this incredible group would stand a great chance at being #1, give yourself a pat on the back.  They formed in Los Angeles early in the decade (1971) and remained one of the top acts in the world through the end of the decade.  The Eagles were the top American act of the decade--no one from the U.S. sold more records than the Eagles did in the Seventies.  Originally, the band consisted of Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner.

The Eagles had their beginning when Henley moved from Texas to Los Angeles with his group Shiloh in 1970, and Frey moved from Michigan to form the group Longbranch Pennywhistle.  The two met that year at The Troubadour in Los Angeles, and both bands happened to be on the same label, Amos Records.  Linda Ronstadt recruited Henley and Frey as backing musicians in 1971.  Soon, Meisner, who had been a member of Poco and at the time was a member of Ricky Nelson's backing group, the Stone Caniyon Band, and Leadon, a member of the Flying Burrito Brothers, joined Ronstadt's backing band for her summer tour.

The four members played together just once, at a July concert at Disneyland, but all played on Ronstadt's self-titled album.  After their work was done on the album, Henley and Frey asked Leadon and Meisner to form a group, and with their credibility, they were signed to Asylum Records.  David Geffen, owner of Asylum, and partner Elliot Roberts originally managed the group, and the Eagles were born.

The Eagles released their eponymous debut album in 1972, and they took flight immediately with three hit singles.  Frey wrote "Take It Easy" with neighbor Jackson Browne.  While the first single stalled at #12 at the time, it is today recognized as one of their signature songs.

The debut album has now sold over one million copies, and the Eagles were nominated for Best New Artist at the Grammy Awards.  They didn't win, but the Eagles are The #2 Artist of the Seventies*, and the winner is not, not exactly a ringing endorsement of the Grammys.  "Witchy Woman" went where "Take It Easy" did not--namely, the Top 10 at #9.

The Eagles released the single "Peaceful Easy Feeling"--at #22, one of The Top Unknown/Underrated Songs of the Rock Era*

Irving Azoff eventually took over management of the group, which released the album Desperado in 1973.  "Tequila Sunrise" is vastly underrated at #64, although it did reach position #26 on the Adult chart.  The song gets huge airplay to this day.

Desperado is now officially Double Platinum, despite the lack of "a big hit". The title song is one of the great unreleased songs of the Rock Era.

For the album On the Border in 1974, Henley and Frey, who at this point had begun to assume more control of the group, wanted the Eagles to break away from their Country Rock roots.  Glyn Johns, who had produced the first two albums, was replaced by Bill Szymczyk after just two songs were complete.

While working on the album, Leadon suggested his friend Don Felder, who had jammed backstage with the band in 1972, join the group.  Frey called Felder and invited him to play slide guitar on the track "Good Day In Hell".  The band was so impressed with Felder that they invited him to join the Eagles the next day.  Felder also played on "Already Gone", and his great guitar playing gave the group a harder edge.  "Already Gone" is another of The Top Unknown/Underrated Songs of the Rock Era* at #32 in the U.S. and #12 in Canada.

The group had better luck on the charts with their next single, "Best Of My Love", a #1 smash in both the United States and Canada.

On the Border gave the group their second consecutive Double Platinum album.  But they were about to fly to the stratosphere.

The Eagles received great exposure at the California Jam Festival in April, as over 300,000 fans attended.  Portions of the show were broadcast nationally on ABC-TV.

In 1975, the group began to move to the top of the rock world with their album One of These Nights.  The tasty title song went to #1 in the U.S., #3 in New Zealand, and #7 in the Netherlands.   

The album quickly went to #1.  "Lyin' Eyes" reached #2 in the U.S. (it was #1 in most markets) and #7 in New Zealand, and earned the Eagles a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.

The single "Take It To The Limit" gave the Eagles a third Top 5 song from the album at #4.  

One of These Nights was nominated for Album of the Year at the Grammys and has sold over four million copies in the U.S. alone.  The Eagles supported the LP with a massive worldwide tour.  Another solid track is "After The Thrill Has Gone".

The group was flying high, but Leadon, who preferred the Country Rock music of their beginnings, left in December.  What happened next can only be described as one of the greatest coups in the Rock Era, as elite guitarist Joe Walsh was hired by the group to replace Leadon.  While the Eagles to this point were superstars and immensely successful, the addition of Walsh solidified their place in music history.

First, the group released the compilation Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975.  If the media and the Eagles' peers in the business didn't already recognize how phenomenally popular the Eagles were already, they would come to know now.  The album became the highest-selling album in U.S. history, selling over 29 million copies in the United States alone and over 42 million worldwide.

Meanwhile, the group was prepared to work more magic.  In 1976, they released the album Hotel California.  The single "New Kid In Town" won a Grammy Award for Best Arrangement for Voices and has sold over one million copies.  The song hit #1 in the United States and Canada, #6 in New Zealand, and #9 in Norway. 

The title song won the prestigious Record of the Year honors at the Grammy Awards.  The dual guitar work of Felder and Walsh became famous, and the Eagles were wildly successful on tour.  "Hotel California" sold over two million singles, and was a #1 smash in the U.S. and Canada, and hit #5 in New Zealand and Norway, #6 in the Netherlands and #8 in the U.K. 

The album topped charts in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, and Norway, and was a Top 5 album in every major country in the world except Austria.  "Life In The Fast Lane" stopped at #11.

An album that sells over ten million copies usually has plenty of other great songs on the album besides the hits most hear on the radio.  "Wasted Time" is an excellent song on Hotel California.

Another huge favorite among Eagles fans is the track "Victim Of Love", but it also represents the souring of relations between Felder and the rest of the group.  Felder has said that he was promised the lead vocal on the song, for which he had written most of the music.  However, several attempts to record Felder's vocal were unproductive.  Azoff was asked by the band to take Don out for a meal, and while this was happening, Henley overdubbed his lead vocal.  Felder never forgave his bandmates for the snub. 

Another of The Top Unknown/Underrated Songs of the Rock Era* is this prime cut--"The Last Resort".   

Hotel California has now sold over 16 million copies in the United States and over 32 million worldwide, and gave the Eagles another nomination for Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards.  The only album that beat it out--Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, which, as Rumours is The #1 Album of the Rock Era*, is certainly nothing to hang your head over. 

Once again, the Eagles enjoyed a tremendous world tour, but the hard work strained personal and creative relationships.  Meisner suffered stomach ulcers and the flu by July, and refused to sing "Take It To The Limit" during the tour as he could not hit the high notes demanded in the song.  One night, when Frey demanded that Meisner sing the song as an encore, the two members got into a physical confrontation backstage and Meisner left.  Randy decided to leave the Eagles at the end of the tour. 

Ironically, the Eagles chose Timothy B. Schmit as Meisner's replacement, the same musician who had succeeded him in Poco.  The group, with the exception of Felder, performed backing vocals and instrumentation for Randy Newman on his album Little Criminals, including the song "Short People".

While working on their next album, the Eagles released the single "Please Come Home For Christmas" in 1978.  It reached #5 in the Netherlands and #18 on the Popular chart in the U.S., a rarity for a Christmas song.

Although it took two years to complete, the album The Long Run was arguably the group's best studio album to date in 1979.  The first single, "Heartache Tonight" went Gold, and topped charts in the United States and Canada, and reached #7 in New Zealand.  The Eagles won a Grammy Award for Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group. 

The title song reached #8 in the U.S. and #9 in Canada.

The Long Run has gone over the seven-million mark in sales, despite not having the huge hit that Hotel California had.  The Long Run hit #1 on the Album chart in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Japan, and Sweden, and also was a Top 5 album in every major country in the world except Austria.  As more people discover the hidden gems on the album, I suspect the sales gap between the two classic albums will fade. 


I Can't Tell You Why by Eagles on Grooveshark
The third single from the album, "I Can't Tell You Why", spilled over into 1980 and is not eligible for the rankings of the Seventies.  But we will feature several Top Tracks* from The Long Run--this is the great Walsh song "In The City".


King of Hollywood by Eagles on Grooveshark
Henley wrote this song about the excesses and perversion of Hollywood.


Those Shoes by Eagles on Grooveshark
"Those Shoes" also received considerable airplay on album-oriented rock stations.


The Sad Cafe by Eagles on Grooveshark
"The Sad Café" is another great song on the album.


Joe Walsh recorded the song "In The City" for the soundtrack to the movie Warriors. The Eagles rerecorded it for The Long Run.
Frey, Henley and Schmit all sang vocals for Boz Scaggs on the 1980 release "Look What You've Done For Me".  But the tensions between Felder and Frey reached a breaking point before a show in Long Beach, California.  California Senator Alan Cranston was thanking the band backstage for performing a benefit for his reelection, when Felder said "You're welcome - I guess" to Cranston's wife.  Felder and Frey feuded on stage during the entire show. 

It was the end of the Eagles, at least temporarily. Although Frey quit the band, the group mixed the album Eagles Live on opposite coasts, with Frey remaining in Los Angeles and the other band members working in Miami, Florida. The album contains the popular concert song "Seven Bridges Road".

To their credit, however, the group bridged gaps and reunited in 1994, unlike groups such as the Eagles and Creedence Clearwater Revival.  In fact, they recorded one of their best career albums, Long Road Out of Eden, in 2007, and have been one of the world's greatest concert attractions since their reunion.  

In 1998, the Eagles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  In 2001, the band which has given us some of the best group vocals in history was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.  

Eagles own two of the Top 20 albums of all-time in the United States, Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 with 29 million copies sold and Hotel California, having sold 16 million.  Further, Eagles Greatest Hits, Volume 2, released in 1982, has sold over 10 million.  The compilations Selected Works 1972-1999 and The Very Best Of/The Complete Greatest Hits have sold one million and five million, respectively.

No one in the decade sold more records than the Eagles, with 72 million in album sales.  The Eagles had phenomenal success on the charts, and had tremendous Top Tracks* in addition to their hits. They were incredibly successful on tour.  The group is far, far ahead of The #3 Artist*.  Nine of their 17 hits reached the Top 10, with five monster #1 songs.

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