The Eagles were under pressure to produce something special after the staggering success of Hotel California and, despite the personal and professional stresses, they delivered The Long Run (24, September 1979; Asylum), which sold over eight million, hit number one in the US, and spawned several top 10 singles.
In the context of punk rock and criticism about their perceived ‘soft rock commercial style’, The Eagles sought to make a strong statement about who would be remembered in the future. However despite their enormous songwriting depth and versatility as musicians and singers, things were not just not gelling in the studio for Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh, Don Felder, Timothy B. Schmit and Don Henley. Originally conceived as a double album, the band instead spent a lot of time sitting around in five different studios looking for inspiration, and the whole process took over 18 months to complete. "I suppose we'd eventually finish some songs if we didn't have the pressure, but up to now it's been that way," Don Henley admitted in a 1977 interview. "I remember an interview I read a long time ago where Lennon and McCartney said that the only way they ever finished anything was to have a deadline, some kind of pressure […] [But] we were completely burned out physically, emotionally, spiritually and creatively,” he said.
However with the help of producer Bill Szymczyk and songwriting friends J. D. Souther and Bob Seger, the band knocked together an album that contains several transcendental hits; with the title track among them. The Long Run strongly kicks off the album, with a bluesy rock rhythm and Don Henley on lead vocals, and soon made the top 10 on the US billboard charts. The next song, I Can’t Tell You Why, co-written by Schmit, Henley and Frey, goes in a completely different direction, but was also a worldwide hit. This heavily romantic number is particularly notable for ending with a great guitar solo by Frey.
The third single from the album was Heartache Tonight, sung by Frey, which reached number one on the singles chart and won a Grammy. When founding member Randy Meisner left the band following an argument in June 1977, Timothy B. Schmit was recruited, and he brought with him this unfinished song that Frey and Henley immediately warmed to. Seger and Souther also contributed to a melody that worms its way into your head and has you humming it, whether you feel like it or not.
Joe Walsh co-wrote and sang on In the City, which was first recorded as a contribution to The Warriors film soundtrack. The tune, which talks about the challenges of living in urban locations, was noticed by other members of The Eagles, who decided to re-record it. On a live version of the song, which seems to be from 2009, it looks like Joe Walsh is playing a Gibson Les Paul Deluxe Cherry Sunburst, while Frey also strums away on a Les Paul. Either way, “Get in your car, merge onto the freeway, roll down the windows and crank this song all the way up,” aptly recommends one fan.
The Disco Strangler and King of Hollywood however produce mixed feelings, as the themes centre around sexual predators and women’s vulnerability. Were the writers compounding sexist culture or were they being ironically critical of the mores of the time? In the context of today’s #MeToo social movement everything is being reviewed with a more analytical eye, and if it leads to greater awareness then surely that’s no bad thing. There is nothing bad either about the heavy and aggressive guitar playing on The Disco Strangler, which gives the song its edge.
The closing ballad, The Sad Café, was reportedly inspired by a Hollywood nightclub where the Eagles once played, and is regarded by many as the strongest cut on the album. Henley certainly contributes outstanding lead vocals, but for this critic it is the beautiful and soulful sax coda by David Sanborn that provides a fitting end to an album that began a 15-year hiatus for the band.
“Who is gonna make it, We’ll find out in the long run,” The Eagles sung, and despite the rows and the other challenges, you have to admit, as Frey said, they “got the job done better than ever imagined.”