Glenn Frey: Eagles Album Saved Band
Author: Steve Kroft
Date: November 25, 2007
Abstract: A transcript of the band's interview on 60 Minutes where they discuss Long Road Out of Eden.
(CBS) Here is a good trivia question for you: what's the biggest selling album in American history? You're probably not going to get it.
It's the Eagles' "Greatest Hits 1971-1975," which was released, ironically, a year before some of their greatest hits. Along with the Beatles, Elvis Presley, Led Zeppelin and Garth Brooks, they are among the top five all-time best selling artists in the U.S.
As correspondent Steve Kroft reports, what's new is that three weeks ago they released their first new material in 28 years, a double album called "Long Road Out Of Eden," which opened at number one on the Billboard charts and has already gone platinum. But like everything else the Eagles have ever done, the process wasn't easy or peaceful, which is probably why you have never seen them sit down together for a television interview. Until now.
Kroft and the 60 Minutes team met them last month at a stripped down rehearsal hall in Los Angeles. Four lead singers, with just as many styles, careers and egos, were honing the first new Eagles songs in nearly three decades, saving harmony for their music.
"There's a certain sound that we make when we sing together. That over the past 35 years has become ingrained in people's minds. And you know, I can't sound like that with anybody else except these guys," Don Henley explains.
Co-founders Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh, and Timothy B. Schmit are all pushing 60 now, and have been in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for nearly a decade. There is nothing left to prove except that they can do it again, one last time.
It all began in 1971 with a smooth California sound that was part country, part rock, and an antidote to the turmoil of the late 60's. Their debut album produced three of their many hits.
Thirty-six years later, Glenn Frey and the Eagles look different, but they still sound the same. And fans line up to pay hundreds of dollars for their rare three-hour concerts.
Asked why he thinks the band is still so popular, Frey tells Kroft, "Take It Easy, Witchy Woman, Peaceful Easy Feeling, Desperado, Tequila Sunrise, Already Gone, Best of My Love, One of These Nights, Lying Eyes, Take It to the Limit, Hotel California, Life in the Fast Lane, New Kid in Town, I Can't Tell You Why, The Long Run, Heartache Tonight."
"It was important for you guys to come up with new material and not just go out and play the old songs?" Kroft asks.
"Well weren’t gonna, we were gonna be done. We’d been the guardians of the Eagles legacy for some time now and I wouldn’t wanna have it end - you know you're just sort of doing a caricature of yourself, your just doing a tribute to yourself. We either had to fold our tent or make a record. And fortunately, and I'm so glad we did, we decided to make a record," Frey says.
There are 20 new songs crafted to fit with their body of work, and they feel comfortable and familiar. In Los Angeles, they were still learning how to play them in a drill they call the "circle of fear."
Why is it called the circle of fear?
Says Frey, "There's nowhere to hide. You like to kinda come out here and see that everybody's got it and we're all, you know, singing the right things."
"And to do that it's repetition. You have to do it over and over and over," Schmit explains.
"Yeah, just 'cause you wrote 'em don't mean you can play 'em," Walsh adds, laughing.
Over the years, most of the writing has been done by Henley and Frey, but all of them have made their contributions
"We've been through probably every trip a band can go through. And what is left now is working at our craft," Walsh tells Kroft.
By the time legendary guitarist Joe Walsh joined the band in the mid 1970's, the Eagles were already flying in private jets, with more than enough money to indulge all of their appetites, at a time when sex couldn't kill, and getting high was considered expanding your consciousness. Walsh gave them a harder edge -- less country, more rock, and he contributed a guitar riff that seemed to sum up their circumstances.
"We were just setting up to rehearse, you know, we hear this," Frey says, singing a riff. "And we go, 'Hey, that's a song. That's a song. Save that. Save that, man.' So then we actually started jammin' on it."
In some ways, "Life in the Fast Lane" would become their musical epitaph, written at the zenith of their career, part of a rock masterpiece so successful it would lead to their undoing.
"Hotel California," Kroft remarks. "Everybody wants to know what the song means."
"I know, it's so boring," Henley tells Kroft. "It's basically a song about the dark underbelly of the American dream, and about excess in America which is something we knew a lot about."
The album would sell 16 million copies. But the Eagles had already become "prisoners of their own device." Too much money, too much fame, and too many parties.
"We weren't the Stones, but we weren't the Osmonds either, somewhere in between," Frey says.
"Closer to the Stones?" Kroft asks.
"Closer to the Stones than the Osmonds, that's right," Frey agrees.
Asked if they ever got in any trouble, Henley tells Kroft, "Yeah, we've all been in trouble. Everybody in this group has been in trouble."
"Like, 'need a lawyer' kinda trouble?" Kroft asks.
"Yeah, oh, yeah," Henley says.
"Had your picture taken at the police department?" Kroft asks.
"Oh, yeah, yeah. Glenn and I both," Henley says. "We did some stupid things. I mean, I did some incredibly dumb things, you know, but managed to get through it."
After "Hotel California," there would be one more album, "The Long Run," which took nearly three years to produce. By the time it was finished, so were the Eagles.
"It was turmoil in this group from day one. There were disagreements and dramas, and you know once we started to have some success, we were all freaked out about losing it," Henley remembers.
"All we felt was the pressure to do better than 'Hotel California.' And, you know, it ate us up," Frey adds. "And then throw in the fact that we were able to afford and do whatever kind of drugs we wanted. You know, that sort of thing brought out the worst in everybody."
In the summer of 1980, they finally split up, and for 14 years, went their own way. They all had successful solo careers, especially Henley, but nothing like their success with the Eagles. In 1994, sensing they had they money on the table, they agreed to a reunion tour called "Hell Freezes over."
The tour grossed a quarter of a billion dollars, got them thinking about a new album, and helped ease some but not all of the tensions.
"We've never been what I would call conflict free," Frey says.
"It's the typical, quintessential normal stuff that every band on earth goes through," Henley tells Kroft.
"Power struggles," Schmit remarks.
"How many songs am I gonna have on the album? What do I get to sing? Am I, you know, are you going to co-write with me? Are you not going to co-write with me?" Henley says.
"Why don't you like this song? You know?" Schmit says.
"Yeah, Why don’t you like my song?" Henley says. "It's a myth to think that a band can be a complete democracy. Glenn started the band. And he's the one that had the vision. He's the one who named the band. He's the one who found the first hit single and sang it. And, you know, it's basically his band."
"Has that always been like a source of tension between the two of you?" Kroft asks.
"That has been a source of tension. It can be again, that's one of those things that ebbs and flows. I don’t always agree with the decisions he makes and he doesn’t always agree with what I wanna do. So again, it's always a compromise. You know, and as long as you're willing to compromise, that's fine. But, there are days, when you just get tired of compromising," Henley says.
Even today, the body language during the rare joint interview speaks volumes -- prompting Kroft to ask the obvious: are these guys friends?
"Yes," Frey says.
"Yeah. Yeah," Henley says.
"Complicated friendship, though, I take it," Kroft remarks.
"It's a little bit like brothers," Henley says.
"You know, we're in business together. We're in the business of song - we will forever be associated. You know, we might as well get along," Frey says, laughing. "You know, because there's no getting away from each other."
The business of trying to market their new album within a dying record industry, presented all sorts of challenges. It's hard now even to find a record store, and copyright infringement and online piracy seem to be unstoppable.
So the Eagles decided to press their own records, and signed an exclusive distribution deal with the nation's largest music retailer, Wal-Mart. The chain agreed to buy three million copies directly from the band, sell the double set album for the bargain-basement price of $11.88, and spend tens of millions of dollars to promote it.
"Everybody thinks that the reason you are doing this is for the money. You’re going back out, you’re touring, you got a new album. You must need some more money," Kroft remarks.
"Well, I won’t say that that’s not part of it. There’s something greater than money about this and that’s the sense of satisfaction. There’s no greater, more satisfying thing for me than hearing a song that I’ve written or co-written come to fruition in a recording studio," Henley says. "It’s addictive. And you wanna keep doing it."
"I think a great many of the songs on it will stand up with the best work we’ve ever done. So it took 28 years. So what? You know? That’s my answer to that. So what?" Henley adds. "I’d much rather make what I consider to be a really good album every 28 years than to make a mediocre album every year. I’m proud of the album. And I’m glad we did it. And if we never make another one, that’ll be fine too."