Everything That's Left to Know About the Eagles Is Here
The first lineup of the Eagles (or, just "Eagles," depending on who you listen to) on the interior of their first LP: Bernie Leadon, Don Henley, Randy Meisner and Glenn Frey.
The Eagles FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About Classic Rock’s Superstars
By Andrew Vaughan
Backbeat Books, 352 pp. $24.99
I’ve long written the praises of Backbeat’s “FAQ” series on many of music’s (and, in particular, classic rock’s) biggest performers and bands. This latest entry is on the fractious feathered friends out of California, the ultimate rock band from of the Golden State. However, in just one little tidbit of trivia we learn that only one out of the seven band members (Timothy B. Schmit) is actually a native of the area.
Vaughan, who has also penned books on Shania Twain, Beyoncé, Taylor Swift and another on the Eagles, thankfully eschews the list-heavy format of some of the FAQ books. This one is more or less a straight chronological bio, albeit in chopped-up segments.
Relying on his own original interviews over the years and previously published sources, he casts a much wider narrative net in telling the band’s story. That means there are a lot of pages…a lot...given over to musical performers, movements, managers and social/geographical information that has something to do with group, in some way. It’s not always effective or necessary, and sometimes derails the main narrative, but at least the casual fan/reader gets a lot of story for their bucks.
The book has plenty of nuggets of info. For example, Don Felder originally envisioned the song “Hotel California” as a sort of “Mexican reggae” number. The chapter on the whole Eagles-are-Satan-worshippers — based on the album’s lyrics, artwork, and purported backward-masking messages — is especially good.
Another nugget is the detailing of the love affair between Don Henley and Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks, as their respective bands towered over ‘70s radio, album sales and concert tours. Vaughan’s assessment that it was largely a “series of luxury booty calls” between the two (Henley would send a Learjet to bring Nicks to whatever tour stop the Eagles were at) is priceless. Lesser known is her later relationship with Joe Walsh.
Also, while accepted Eagles History is that guitarist Bernie Leadon angrily left the group due to dissatisfaction with the band’s veering away from country to a more rock sound (with the addition of Felder and Don Henley/Glenn Frey’s career ambitions), Vaughan quotes Leadon as saying that’s not the case at all. Instead, Leadon insists he merely thought the Eagles should take some time off to regroup their energies and minds rather than plow into another recording-touring cycle.
That Leadon has rejoined the current band — Henley, Frey, Schmit, and Walsh — for part of their long-running (and still running) “History of the Eagles” tour speaks volumes as to how time heals wounds (though, not for Felder, still on the WAY outs due to lawsuits and his autobiography). Meisner’s health issues have prevented his participation.
The Eagles FAQ also covers all members’ careers pre- and post-involvement with the group. (That is, except for their Kennedy Center Honor, announced last week.) And while this was a band whose “peaceful, easy feelings” were often anything but with each other, this book is a fine addition to both the FAQ series and Eagles biographies already out there.
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