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Eagles- On the Border 50th- the late Glenn Frey and Randy Meisner

It’s odd, but until this golden anniversary of The Eagles‘ third album, On the Border, released in March 1974, I had not really noticed how little each Eagles album sounded like its predecessor. For a possible explanation as to how that might be the case, we tapped the In the Studio interview archive for the insights of two original Eagles bandmates, co-founding singer/songwriter/guitarist Glenn Frey and original bass player/singer/songwriter Randy Meisner, both now gone. Like the first two Eagles efforts, On the Border was begun in London England and supervised by veteran English producer Glynnis Johns. But those sessions only yielded two usable recordings. Glenn Frey was so at odds with producer Johns that one of the two salvaged songs, “Best of My Love”, was sequenced dead last, buried on side two. Neverthelss, through a quirk of fate, Frey reveals how “Best of My Love” became The Eagles’ first #1 hit, eventually propelling the On the Border album to over two million sales.

The dedication to songcraft which is evident from the first note of “Doolin Dalton”, on through “Tequila Sunrise”, “Certain Kind of Fool”, “Outlaw Man”, “Bitter Creek”, and the timeless “Desperado”, would later bear bountiful fruit for Frey, Meisner, Don Henley, and Bernie Leadon on the Eagles’ 1975 #1-selling One of These Nights. That effort was their first album to soar that high, a cosmopolitan country/ R&B hybrid that generated three Top 10 hits and effectively founded uptown Modern Country music as we now know it, fundamentally changing the course of contemporary music. Hotel California in 1976 and The Long Run  in 1979 closed out the Seventies in colossal fashion for the Eagles, remaining undiminished deep into the 21st Century.

(Playing possum L-R: Bernie Leadon, Glenn Frey, Randy Meisner, Don Henley, J.D. Souther)

But in this interview Glenn Frey waved off the initial success of the first album to the songs of Jackson Browne, Jack Tempchin, and beginner’s luck, and placed the later record-setting success of The Eagles hinging on his 1973 decision, along with band co-founder Don Henley and songwriters Browne and J.D. Souther, to write a cinematic “cowboy concept” album. Heavily researched and historically accurate, the Eagles’ second album was recorded, arranged, and orchestrated in London, topped off back in Hollywood with tintype photography and period clothing for the cover, and even a guns-blazing promotional video a decade before MTV that would have made Quentin Tarantino envious. So did their handlers like what The Eagles had hatched on Desperado ? “(Co-managers) David Geffen and Elliot Roberts were really kind of against it, in a lot of ways”, admitted original Eagles bass player/singer/ songwriter Randy Meisner, “because they didn’t like it after we’d finished it. It wasn’t the kind of album you’d think we should have had for the second album. They thought it should be more down the line of the first album with more rock’n’roll songs, and it shouldn’t be a theme album. That it was chancey, that it was a big chance to take.”

Until the day that he died in January 2016, Eagles co-founder Glenn Frey was exceedingly proud of  their second album, 1973’s Desperado. But Desperado did not have three Top 20 hits like the Eagles debut, nor did it contain the Eagles’ first #1,”Best of My Love”, that distinction belonging to 1974’s On the Border  album released fifty years ago in March 1974. Purely in popularity and chart stats, that sophomore record had the lowest glide path of any Eagles effort, yet in this exclusive In the Studio  interview, Frey and original Eagles bass player/singer/songwriter Randy Meisner make a detailed case  for why Desperado  may be their most formative one of all.

On the Border is also notable for an eleventh hour personnel addition, Don Felder on lead guitar, and Randy Meisner is quick to note that Felder was, in fact, suggested by Eagles guitarist Bernie Leadon from their earlier Florida days. Songs include “James Dean”, “Already Gone”, the Tom Waits chestnut “Old ’55”, “Best of My Love”, and the title song, “On the Border” hosted by the sincerely missed Glenn Frey and the dearly departed Randy Meisner for the fiftieth anniversary of The Eagles’ On the Border. –Redbeard