November 1980: Eagles Release EAGLES LIVE

Friday, November 6, 2020
Eagles Live (1980) cover art
Joe Walsh, Don Felder, Timothy B. Schmit, Alan Cranston, Don Henley, Glenn Frey, and Norma Weintraub attend an event in 1980. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

By the time Eagles saddled up to the band’s first live album in 1980, Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh, Don Felder, Randy Meisner and Timothy B. Schmit were already rock stars of the highest order. The group’s two previous studio albums Hotel California (1976) and The Long Run (1980) both peaked at #1 on the Billboard 200 for multiple weeks, producing massive chart and radio hits.

EAGLES LIVE, released November 7, 1980, should have been a victory lap for the Eagles, a celebration of rising from the streets of Los Angeles in 1971 to become one of the biggest bands in rock. Instead, it signaled the death knell for the group as the world knew it at the time.

Behind the scenes, tensions within the Eagles reached a boiling point on the night of July 31, 1980 in Long Beach, California, at a fundraiser for Senator Alan Cranston. Before taking the Long Beach Arena stage on the night known as "Long Night in Wrong Beach," the band engaged in a meet and greet with the senator and his wife, Norma Cranston. That's a photo of the scene with the band and the Cranstons on the left of the page. When Glenn Frey overheard Don Felder make a rude remark after meeting the couple (“It’s nice meeting you...I guess”), he exploded and confronted the guitarist.

The two spent the show antagonizing each other between songs, and detailing the inevitable physical confrontation that would ensue after the show. “We walked onstage and Frey came over while we were playing ‘The Best of My Love’ and said, ‘F—you. I’m gonna kick your ass when we get off the stage,” Felder recalled in his autobiography, Heaven & Hell: My Life in the Eagles (FUN FACT: according to multiple setlists from the show, the Eagles did not perform “Best of My Love” that night).

“As the night progressed, we both grew angrier and began hissing at each other under our breath,” Felder continued. “The sound technicians feared the audience might hear our outbursts, so they lowered Glenn’s microphone until he had to sing. He approached me after every song to rant, rave, curse — and let me know how many songs remained before our fight.” As the band launched into Joe Walsh’s “Rocky Mountain Way,” Frey gave Felder the heads-up: “Only three more songs before I kick your ass, pal.”

While the show ended with no blood shed, the Eagles were effectively over. The band had just played its last show until they reconvened in 1994 for the aptly titled “Hell Freezes Over” tour.  

Some of that tense energy spilled over onto EAGLES LIVE, with the group’s performance of “Life in the Fast Lane” from that fateful night appearing on the record. The other live recordings were captured at shows in Los Angeles at the Forum (October 1976), and Santa Monica at the Civic Center (July 1980). Between 1976 and 1980, the group's lineup changed. So the tracks from '76 feature original bassist, Randy Meisner. Songs recorded in the 1980 featured his replacement, Timothy B. Schmit.

Putting EAGLES LIVE together, however, would prove to be a Herculean feat, due in large part to the Eagles band members no longer speaking to each other. Glenn Frey was sequestered in Los Angeles. The rest of the group was in Miami. Overdubs and edits were made by sending tapes across the country between the two cities. The acrimony was so strong that the Eagles flatly rejected a cool $2 million dollar offer from their record label to record just two new tracks to help bolster EAGLES LIVE.

Still, the double-LP EAGLES LIVE release was a hit, peaking at #6 on the Billboard 200 over the week of December 20, 1980, perched between Pat Benatar's Crimes of Passion (#5) and Bruce Springsteen's The River (#7). The #1 album in America that week: Kenny Roger's Greatest Hits.

There was just one single released from EAGLES LIVE: "Seven Bridges Road," a cover of the 1969 outlaw country classic written and recorded by Steve Young. The Eagles' version made a strong chart run, peaking right on the edge of the top 20 at No. 21 over the week of February 7, 1981. The No. 1 song in America that week: Kool & the Gang's "Celebration."