The Eagles – Zoo World

Flying High, Fueled By Tequila

Glenn Frey, guitarist-vocalist and songwriting staple of the Eagles, is the amiable and personable type who – whether or not he actually is – always appears to be teetering on the verge of sobriety. Although Frey, and Eagles for that matter, may very well be the antithesis of all that is platform heels, guitar-smashing and general rock-stardom, the sole image he does radiate is one of extreme painlessness.

“Eagles is just a synthesis of four L.A. writer-singer-songwriter musicians (bassist Randy Meisner, guitarist Bernie Leadon, drummer Don Henley and Frey) who decided to get together,” Glenn decided backstage at the San Diego Community Concourse a little over a year ago. At that point, Eagles…still a relatively unknown band..were third on the bill. Now, with two nearly flawless albums to their credit, they invariably headline.

“We were great,” Frey said, looking back on the Eagles’ cross-country jaunt. “That last night at the Santa Monica Civic was incredible. It was probably the best thing to hit L.A. since ‘Mad Dogs and Englishmen.’

Eagles played a lot of new album material during the tour, and I asked Frey if he considered the new album, Desperado, to be a concept album.

“Well, strangely enough, it turns out that way. We’re kind of hesitant to talk about it as a ‘concept album,’ though. I don’t think it’s really…well, overt isn’t the word I’m looking for, but it just isn’t obvious enough to promote it as such. But it has its moments where it definitely draws some parallels between rock ‘n roll and being an outlaw. Outside the laws of normality, I guess. I mean, I feel like I’m breaking the law all the time. What we live and what we do is kind of a fantasy.”

Have you been wanting to explore that subject for a long time?

Yeah. A lot of people, amongst our friends, have been talking about it for years. J.D. (Souther), Jackson (Browne) and Ned Doheny, all of us, have been discussing that for awhile. It just finally..well, I guess you’d say that Eagles were the ones to finally do it. We had all talked about it as a distant project for me and Jackson and J.D. at one point, but it came to be our lot to do it now. The story could always be continued, that’s for sure.

Why aren’t Jackson, Ned or J.D. on the album?

Well, we were recording in England and they didn’t make it. We had all worked out the story-line together. The instrumentation and arrangements had been together for sometime…only thing missing were the lyrics. We all took a hand in that. We’d talk on the phone, or whenever we saw each other, we would discuss lyrical ideas.

“Doolin’ Dalton” has been around awhile hasn’t it?

Yeah. Me, J.D. and Jackson started that song about three years ago when there was till Longbranch Penny-whistle (the duo of Frey and Souther) and there wasn’t a Jackson Browne album and stuff. We wrote it one night, kicked it around, and never got much done on it until that Outlaw concept got to be a serious thing. Then (drummer Don) Henley helped the three of us finish it up. Bernie (Leadon, guitarist) had “Twenty-One” already written and there we had the start of our album. We just took it from there.

“Dooling Dalton,” thought, has a bunch of verses. We might do the whole thing if we ever get a shot at a media piece like television or a movie.

Was there any problem with both Eagles and David Blue releasing “Outlaw Man” at the same time?

Naaw. Ours isn’t a single, David’s is. I hear “Tequila Sunrise” is getting a lot of air play in San Diego, though. A lot.

Well, alright. That’s close to the border, no wonder they like it. No, I like that song…the old Drifters kind of thing really appeals to me.

How have the new tunes been going down in rehearsals?

Real good. Rehearsals are like doing exercises, it gets a bit tiring to play them again and again to get them down cold, but the tunes still sound alright.

Do you ever plan on taking any direction with the stage act?

Only if we do it without prostituting our individuality. In other words, I don’t think we’d do anything on stage that wouldn’t fit our image off-stage. I’d like to get into a back-projection thing with 35 millimeter film. We’ve also got a good lighting guy, Jim Moody, who did David Bowie’s American tour. We’re gonna have really fine lights to go with the music. I think that, and just the spirit we have on stage will turn it into a very theatrical show. Plus, we now employ more instruments on stage…mandolins, piano, a lot of twelve-string acoustic guitars and more.

Why do you think Eagles have been able to break as big as they have while Poco is still bubbling beneath the surface?

Boy, that’s hard to say. I imagine it’s an incredible combination of things that I shouldn’t make a limp-wristed attempt at trying to analyze. I’m pretty befuddled by it myself. Not our success as much as Poco’s lack of success. They had Hollywood set on fire when they were first together. I’ve told you before about how I used to hang around them and watch them rehearse with my mouth hanging open. I really don’t know. Time sure changes a lot of things. You want to edge your way to the top. You never just want to slam-bang your way up there because the only way to go from there is down. You want to take your time getting up and enjoy yourself on the way.

Desperado seems to be a little more involved musically that the first album. Does that indicate any direction for Eagles?

It sure does. We’re a little more involved musically now as well. It was a natural thing to happen. The thing about writing the songs, too, after the band was really together…all the songs, with the exception of “Doolin’ Dalton,” were written since the Eagles were together whereas on the first album some of those songs had existed for quite awhile…were collaborations. There was much more inter-band communication. The songs were written tailor-made for the talents that we observed in each other.

So the second album is much more of a band effort rather than four individuals playing together.

For sure. This is definitely a band album, Desperado. I’m a very firm believer in group efforts. I know of very few solo artists who can pull it off well…on their own. Joni Mitchell does a real good job and so does Jackson and J.D. It’s that whole thing about being one singer and one voice and one frame of reference. Like Al Green is a really good example of what can happen. He’s a great singer, with a great riff..but he’s writing the same song over and over. That’s the reason I’m not gonna do a solo album. I’m just gonna play with the Eagles and look for people to write tunes with.

Courtesy of Zoo World – Cameron Crowe – September 13, 1973