The History of the Eagles

Everybody, through this band, wants to remember a 70’s that they may or may not have had… – J.D. Souther

Eagles Documentary

There are some people out there who have an insane amount of disdain for the Eagles. I’ve commonly seen this kind of dislike and vitriol associated with the New York Yankees. It’s almost as if some people feel they do not deserve the success that they earned. I’m definitely not one of them and this is something I’ve never understood. Interestingly enough I’m a N.Y. Yankee’s fan as well (3rd generation!)

I’ve been an Eagles fan for as long as I can possibly remember. My parents were very musically appreciative when I was growing up and there was always a radio or stereo on in the house. Because of this, I tended to associate a good deal of memories from my childhood with the songs that were playing at the time. Since the Eagles were one of their favorite bands and were played with more frequency than other albums, I have more memories connected with their music than any other band from that era.

The above quote from the documentary by J.D. Souther was both very poignant and very accurate. I may have only been a small child during the 70’s but I remember the 70’s because of the Eagles nonetheless.

History of the Eagles: The Story of an American Band is easily one of the best rock documentaries I’ve ever seen. It captures the essense of the band that I was too young to understand during the 70’s and am now finally able to appreciate as an adult. The first thing I noticed was how much fun the band members seemed to be having as they told their story. They genuinely seemed to enjoy contributing to this endeavor even when they were relegating the tales of the darker moments in the group’s history prior to their 1980 break-up.

The amount of old footage they included was staggering and I was kind of amazed at how many other artists and bands from the 70’s were instrumental in the formation of the Eagles. It was cool seeing the interviews with Bob Seeger, Kenny Rogers, Linda Ronstadt and Jackson Browne and footage from bands like Poco, the Byrds and the Flying Burrito brothers. Especially impressive was all the footage from the famous Troubadour Bar and Music Hall. Other video footage I found really impressive was the old 70mm camera rolls from their album cover photo shoots of both their title album and Desperado. It was also nice to see the outside perspectives from people who were involved in the band like producers Glyn Johns and Bill Szymczyk and manager Irving Azoff.

The music steered the narrative which is a directorial decision I really agree with. It didn’t delve into much of the band members personal lives but instead stayed on course by only discussing how their lives both drove and were affected by the music itself. I loved seeing the story of the formation of the band unfold, but what really stuck out in my mind was how the director focused on the creative genesis of most of their songs; what drove them, what influenced them and what inspired them. Glenn Frye’s account of how he learned to write songs by listening to Jackson Browne through the floor of his apartment was a phenomenal device.

While it was clear that Don Henley and Glenn Frye drove the narrative of the documentary, it was nice to see them give plenty of interview time to ex-members of the band, Bernie Leadon, Randy Meisner and Don Felder as an acknowledgement of how much they contributed to the success of the group. And while I think they painted a little too big of a target on Don Felder I have to imagine he signed off on what was portrayed before it went public which to me is almost an admission of guilt.

The Blu-Ray pack is broken down into three discs.  The first disc is Part 1 which documents their formation and leads all the way up to their 1980’s split. The second disc is Part 2 which deals with the band members solo careers and their eventual reuniting in 1994. The third disc is bonus footage from their 1977 show at the Capital Theatre in Maryland. I was a little disappointed that it was only 8 songs and not the full concert, but a bonus is a bonus so I’m not really going to complain about it.

Love them or hate them, the Eagles are a pillar of rock and roll and you can’t talk about 70’s rock without them.  To this day I’m still making memories as their music continues to provide a soundtrack to my life. You can’t get any more seminal than that…