Triple Played: Eagles went across the pond, out of comfort zone for first LP

After watching the “History of the Eagles” twice, I realized that it is going take more than one column to report on it, and I should do it one LP at a time.

When Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Randy Meisner and Bernie Leadon were ready to record their first Eagles LP, they looked to Glyn Johns to produce the record, on Frey’s recommendation. Johns had produced the Who, the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, among others.

He went to Aspen to see the band and he wasn’t impressed. In fact, he turned them down, saying that they were confused and he didn’t see what all the fuss was about. Johns was persuaded to attend another rehearsal and was still not convinced until, during a suggested break, the band broke into an a capella version of the old folk tune “My Daddy Was A Handsome Devil.” He then accepted the band’s offer under the condition that they record in London’s Olympic Studio.

None of the Eagles had ever been to England and there was some trepidation. Frey was excited to go to where the Beatles were from. Henley couldn’t believe that he was going to record in the same studio where Led Zeppelin recorded their iconic fourth album. Henley told Johns he wanted his bass drum to be louder. Johns told him to hit it harder. Henley said he hit it as hard as he could, but he couldn’t hit as hard as Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham.

Johns also forbid the Eagles to bring any drugs or alcohol into the studio. Don Henley agreed with Johns on that issue, but Glenn Frey did not, referring to the fact that Johns was burned out from babysitting the Stones in the studio as they sat and waited for Keith Richards to emerge from the basement with some new guitar riff for them to work on. After the recording was finished, the band returned to Los Angeles for the cover shoot.

Someone asked Stephen Stills about the Eagles and he said, “they just want to be us,” referring to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

However, he did recommend the band use artist Gary Burden and photographer Henry Diltz for their cover shoot. These guys had shot covers for CSN&Y, Joni Mitchell and the Mamas and Papas, among others.

They decided to do the shoot at Joshua Tree National Park because Burden liked to get them out of their comfort level. After playing at the Troubadour in Los Angeles, the band and their three-person crew headed out for Joshua Tree, arriving at 4:30 a.m. According to Frey, they took with them peyote buttons, trail mix, tequila, water, marijuana and blankets.

When they got there, they each took one peyote button, hiked up to where the shoot was going to be, lit a campfire and made some peyote tea. They started to feel the peyote as the sun was starting to rise and the shot was set to begin.

Frey had to excuse himself to “use the bathroom” and as he was finishing, everybody from the campfire started yelling “eagle, eagle, eagle.” As he looked up, an eagle flew over him towards the campfire and sort of looked down at him as if to say, “Eagles, huh? I don’t think so.”

I always thought their eyes looked funny on that LP cover. You can see it for yourself at Triple Play.


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